Educational choices in action: reflexivity, constraints and personal agency,

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Abstract

Issues related to educational choices have recently become topical because of the growing incapacity of people to predict and construct satisfying life paths since childhood. On the one hand, the broadening of opportunities on offer increases individual aspirations and investments. On the other hand, the increasing delegitimation suffered by educational agencies (i.e., schools, vocational training services, private training services, cultural institutions) leads young people and their parents to underestimate the importance of rational choice-making in education, in terms of both present and future participation in active social life. The present paper opens with a brief review of the social representation of the topic; continues outlining a profile of the social actors facing educational choice in post-modern times, highlighting how uncertainty, reversibility, multiple-choice rationality, contradictory thinking, the autonomy-heteronomy dialectic are key elements involved. Several sociological perspectives on decision-making in the educational domain are reviewed, such as the structural, the non-intentional, the limited rationality and the reflexivity approach. The recent PRIN Study carried out on a sample of adolescents and their parents/teachers in five Italian cities provides the basis for empirical evidence on how educational choices are changing in contemporary Italian society according to new forms of constraint and new degrees of freedom/autonomy which can either limit or expands the set of opportunities available to young people. An analysis of qualitative data is focused on the personal agency that underscores the decision-making process and the reflections on its consequences, both from the side of young people and from that of their significant adults. The essay ends with some recommendations for politics aiming to reduce heteronomy and to increase personal agency in educational choices.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)14-48
Numero di pagine35
RivistaItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Volume3
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2011

Keywords

  • adolescence
  • autonomy-heteronomy dialectic
  • decision-making process
  • guidance recommendation
  • parents
  • personal agency
  • reflexivity
  • school choice
  • teachers

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