Dialogic education for and from authorial agency

Main Article Content

Eugene Matusov
Mark Smith
Elizabeth Soslau
Ana Marjanovic-Shane
Katherine von Duyke


In this paper, we extend Bakhtin's ethical philosophical ideas to education and introduce a dialogic authorial agency espoused approach. We then consider this approach in opposition to the mainstream technological espoused approach, while focusing our contrasting analysis on student’s authorial agency and critical dialogue. We argue that the technological approach assumes that the "skills" or "knowledge" are garnered in pursuit of preset curricular endpoints (i.e., curricular standards). Since the goals of the technological approach are divorced from the students’ personal goals, values, and interests, they are incompatible and irreconcilable with what we idealize as the true goal of education, education for agency. 

The authorial agency approach to education (Dialogic Education For and From Authorial Agency) emphasizes the unpredictable, improvisational, eventful, dialogic, personal, relational, transcending, and ontological nature of education. The authorial agency of the student and of the teacher are valued and recognized by all participants as the primary goal of education – supported by the school system and broader society.  The approach defines education as a learner’s leisurely pursuit of critical examination of the self, the life, and the world in critical dialogue. The purpose of authorial agency pedagogy is to facilitate this process by promoting students’ agency and unique critical voices in socially desired practices – critical voices, recognized by the students themselves and others relevant to the particular practice(s). Ultimately, in the authorial education for and from authorial agency, students are led into investigating and testing their ideas and desires, assuming new responsibilities and developing new questions and concerns.

            Finally, we describe and analyze the first author’s partially successful and partially failing attempt to enact a dialogic authorial approach. It will allow the reader to both visualize and problematize a dialogic authorial approach. We will consider a case with a rich “e-paper trail” written by 11 undergraduate, pre-service teacher education students (mostly sophomores), and the instructor (Peter, the first author, pseudonym) in a course on cultural diversity.  The case focuses on the university students (future teachers) and their professor discussing several occasions that involved interactions between Peter and one minority child in an afterschool center. Our research questions in this empirical study were aimed at determining the successes, challenges, and failures of the dialogic authorial pedagogical approach and conditions for them

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How to Cite
Matusov, E., Smith, M., Soslau, E., Marjanovic-Shane, A., & von Duyke, K. (2016). Dialogic education for and from authorial agency. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 4. https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2016.172
Author Biographies

Eugene Matusov, University of Delaware

Eugene Matusov is a Professor of Education at the University of Delaware. He studied developmental psychology with Soviet researchers working in the Vygotskian paradigm and worked as a schoolteacher before immigrating to the United States. He uses sociocultural and Bakhtinian dialogic approaches to education. His recent books are: Matusov, E. & Brobst, J. (2013). Radical experiment in dialogic pedagogy in higher education and its Centauric failure: Chronotopic analysis and Matusov, E. (2009). Journey into dialogic pedagogy.

Mark Smith, University of Delaware

Mark P. Smith, Ph.D. is a researcher interested in the role of dialogue in fostering student agency and the relevance of the educational environment for life. He has also worked full-time with international students an English as a second language teacher.

Elizabeth Soslau, University of Delaware

Dr. Elizabeth Soslau is an assistant professor in the School of Education. Her research focuses on experiential learning opportunities within student teaching. Her recent work, situated in urban contexts, explores equity issues. She investigates questions such as: How do candidates’ emotional needs interrupt their ability to process learning experiences? What opportunities do candidates have to develop adaptive teaching expertise? In what ways can teacher educators promote candidates’ sense of agency? How do teacher educators manage racial stress when providing field instruction for White candidates in diverse schools? Elizabeth’s work has appeared in journals such as Teaching and Teacher Education, Action in Teacher Education, and Educational Action Research. Her clinical work includes coordinating the student teaching practicum, providing field instruction in urban schools, and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in diversity and action research methodology. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Elizabeth taught middle school in the Philadelphia School District.

Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Chestnut Hill College

Ana Marjanovic-Shane is an Associate Professor of Education at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. She studies meaning making in education and play, dialogic educational relationships and events, dialogic teacher orientation, and the role of imagination, drama, play and critical dialogue in education. She uses sociocultural and Bakhtinian dialogic orientation in her studies. Her articles were published by "Mind, Culture, Activity Journal", "Learning, Culture and Social Interaction", and as book chapters in books on play and education. Her most recent publication is: Marjanovic-Shane, A. (2016). "Spoilsport" in Drama in Education vs. Dialogic Pedagogy. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 4.

Katherine von Duyke, Newmann University

Katherine von Duyke received her Ph.D. in Sociocultural and Communal Approaches to Education from the University of Delaware under the guidance of Dr. Eugene Matusov  in 2013. Her research has focused on innovative educational practices: she has critiqued open democratic schools, analyzed the way student agency is conceptualized in education, and evaluated educational discourses for their ability to connect with student thinking. Deeply influenced by the works of L.S. Vygotsky, and M. Bakhtin she argues that education has traditionally focused on cultural transference, or an ideal of what culture should be. Instead, she suggests education can support students’ meaning making participation in and reflective and creative reinterpretation of culture.