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Examining Agency in Workplace Learning with Cooperative Extension Professionals Open Access

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Examining Agency in Workplace Learningwith Cooperative Extension ProfessionalsThis basic interpretative qualitative study explored the role of individual agency within the learning experience of Cooperative Extension 4-H professionals in their workplace. Learning is a social and individual activity (Eraut, 2011a; Hager, 2011; Hoekstra, Brekelmans, Beijaard, & Korthagen, 2009; Illeris, 2011a; Marsick, 2009). Social experiences lead to learning; however, in order for change to take place, individual action is required (Billett, 2004, 2011; Tynjala, 2013). Illeris (2011a) suggested that social interaction is overemphasized in workplace learning theory and research, and Billett (2011) called for more focus on individual versus social processes in workplace learning. This study employed the basic interpretative qualitative methodology of Maxwell (2013) and Merriam (2009) and involved semistructured interviews with a purposeful sample of 11 Cooperative Extension 4-H professionals. Three significant findings emerged from this study: (1) 4-H professionals experienced agency while learning in their workplace differently based on who or what they were trying to influence by learning; (2) specific dispositions, purposes, and processes for learning were present in groups with different objects, or foci, of learning (i.e., Self, Others, and System); and (3) 4-H professionals’ agency in workplace learning environments concluded with action. Overall, in the 4-H professionals’ workplace, agency is understood as the individual’s own influence on his or her workplace learning experiences.

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