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Cultivating agency and self-efficacy in tertiary students

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 4:30pm – 5:30pm parallel symposium



Room 9 – 3030-G23 MLT1



Dr Amabel Hunting
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Associate Professor Gayle Morris
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Dr Andrew Withell
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand



Today’s students are under increasing pressure to develop a burgeoning list of 21st century capabilities, mindsets and dispositions needed to engage productively and to flourish within an uncertain future. Within our own subject area of design/design thinking, we seek to create graduates who are resilient, adaptive, creative thinkers with growth-orientated and collaborative mindsets. Learning of this kind requires a significant investment of a student’s being; it requires taking responsibility for their own learning, sense of agency and self-efficacy.

For the purposes of the symposium, we draw on Smith et al (2000) conceptualising of (personal) agency as achieving desired outcomes on one’s own behalf. We draw a distinction with interpersonal agency, which denotes obtaining positive ends through interactions with others, for example expressing needs or behaving  cooperatively. Agency is influenced by self-efficacy, that is the belief in one’s ability to perform the tasks necessary for attaining valued goals (Bandura, 1977).

As educators, how best to support and cultivate such human dimensions is challenging. In reflecting on the view that curriculum should encompass knowledge, practice and being (Barnett, 2007, 2011; Barnett and Coate, 2004), Knight, Tait and Yorke (2006) observe that such ‘…analyses place considerable emphasis on elements that are seldom prominent in applications of theories of learning’ (p. 335).  If we accept the proposition, there are significant implications for the models of learning called upon and the learning experience where matters of ‘being’ are brought in to view and engaged with.  This symposium will explore and discuss ways to design curricula and enact learning environments that support the development of these dispositions or ‘ways of being’.


Target audience

This symposium is aimed at academic and professional staff who are interested in the design of curricula and other strategies that have the potential to cultivate greater agency and self-efficacy in tertiary students.


Intended outcomes for participants

Participants will have the opportunity to

  1. explore the key ideas of cultivating student agency and self-efficacy
  2. reflect on their role as curricula designers and discuss ways of designing learning environment, including co-design to support greater student agency and self-efficacy.


Outline of discussion format

The first part of the session will involve a brief introduction of key ideas including the approaches used in the design of a new design thinking minor. We will then use a design thinking approach to explore key themes with participants in working groups.



Bandura, A. (1977) Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioural change’, Psychological Review, 84: 191-215
Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning, Edcuational Psychologist, 28:2, 117-148
Barnett, R. (2007). A will to learn: Being a student in an age of uncertainty. SRHE and Open University Press: Berkshire.
Barnett, R. (2011). On being a university. Boston: Beacon Press
Barnett, R. and Coate, K. (2005). Engaging the curriculum in higher education. Open University Press: Berkshire.
Knight, Tait and Yorke (2006) The professional learning of teachers in higher education, Studies in Higher Education, 31:03, 319-330
Smith, G., Kohn, S., Savage-Stevens, S., Finch, J., Ingate, R. and Lim, Y. (2000). The effects of interpersonal and personal agency on perceived control and psychological wel-being in adulthood, The Gerontologist, 40:4, 458-468


Presentation topic


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