Afinlandia 2018: Abstract of Sini Souru’s thesis

My thesis deals with Finnish sixth-graders learner agency in terms of Swedish learning. With learner agency I refer to the learner’s ability and will to control his/her own learning by actively taking advantage of different kinds of learning opportunities the learning environment offers. The study is based on the sociocultural perspective on learning and the ecological view on language learning.

The aim of my thesis is to find out what experiences sixth-graders have of their learner agency in Swedish learning. In addition, I examine what experiences their Swedish teachers have of the phenomenon, and in which ways they try to support the evaluation of learner agency in their own work. I approach learner agency by finding out what experiences the students have of themselves as learners, which types of exercises they find useful for learning, how they would describe their roles at Swedish lessons, and which factors affect their agency positively and which ones negatively. In the end of the study I also compare the students’ and the teachers’ experiences on learner agency.

The research material has been collected from three groups of sixth-graders (59 students) and their Swedish teachers in the Pirkanmaa region. I have surveyed students’ experiences with a questionnaire survey and teachers’ experiences with short interviews. I have also observed a few lessons of each group in order to get personal experience of the ways in which the groups and the teachers work. The material has been analysed using phenomenography, in which it is central to investigate in which qualitatively different ways a group of informants experiences a phenomenon.

The results show that over half of the sixth-graders among my informants find their learner agency strong, and state that they show much agency during the lessons. However, the material also includes students who feel strong agency, but do not show much of it, as well as students who have negative experiences of their agency. The results also show that the more positive an experience a student has of his/her learner agency, the more types of exercises he/she finds useful for learning. According to the students’ experiences, their agency is boosted by factors related to both inner and outer motivation, while the factors that limit their agency are most often related to a lack of motivation, a low level of energy, or social factors in the classroom. When examining the teachers’ experiences, it becomes apparent that all three teachers connect learner agency with a student’s active role in learning, but there are some differences in their experiences of the phenomenon. In addition, it can be stated that the experiences of the teachers and the students on the nature of agency resemble each other considerably.

Keywords: agency, Swedish, experiences, language teaching

Sini Souru:

Att lära sig svenska eller att bli undervisad i språket? Själtteklassares och lärares uppfattningar om aktörskap i svenskinlärningen. Pro gradu -tutkielma. Viestintätieteiden tiedekunta. Pohjoismaisten kielten maisteriopinnot. Tampereen yliopisto. 2018.


Sini Souru,