Rethinking Agency in Literacies: Malawian children’s and teachers’ perspectives

Kucirkova, Natalia; Rodriguez Leon, Lucy and Chinula, Neema Mwenda (2023). Rethinking Agency in Literacies: Malawian children’s and teachers’ perspectives. International Journal of Early Years Education (Early access).



This qualitative study contributes theorised and empirically enriched insights from local practices into children’s agency. The authors trace a converging interest in multimodal literacies, postcolonial philosophies and early childhood pedagogy to document and critically engage with children’s agency in stories experienced by Malawian children in their primary schools. Agency is understood as the identities that children assign to their stories and understandings of self [Pahl, K. and Rowsell, J., 2012]. Interviews with twenty-five children and two teachers from two primary schools in semi-urban Malawi and drawings from 49 children were analysed using the Sense-making Method [Weick, 1995]. Children’s drawings and interviews revealed children’s positive portrayals of collective agency in contexts typically associated with subdued identities (domestic chores). Gendered, age-restricted and otherwise limited agency in orchestrating diverse stories in the classroom were explicit in the teachers’ accounts. The discussion imbues contemporary early childhood studies with a new understanding of children’s agency, as a communal and context-dependent phenomenon.

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