Tuure Johannes Tammi
Instrument or actors? children's agency in a community conflict.

Author: Tuure Johannes Tammi, University of Helsinki.

Title: “Instrument or actors? children’s agency in a community conflict”


Last year a concept of “mold schools” appeared in the public debate in Finland. As almost two thirds of Finnish schools suffer from indoor air problems, this debate expresses the worries of the working conditions of the teachers and students. As an example of agency in practice I have chosen a case where a local parents union utilized several strategies, e.g. striking and funding research, in order to get a healthier school building for their children. In the strike, children are more or less tools of influence: the mass that is used to convince the decision makers. However, through involvement in the strike they are engaged in collectively valued activity that can be thought to increase their criticality and agency. In this presentation, the perspectives of eleven 8-12 years old children involved in this “fight” are scrutinized and compared to adults’ (N=12) thoughts on how children experience the fight. Data consists mainly of thematic interviews. With children also narrative research methods and group discussions are used. I use both content analysis and narrative analysis to approach a deeper understanding on what agency means in the data. In the preliminary analysis on agency I have focused on e.g. how children interpret, imitate and utilize nuances of the fight and how they tell they solve mold-related dilemmas they encounter. Despite children do perceive the fight as something happening between the adults, they are generally highly knowledgeable about the issues related to it and their parents’ position in it. Some children also criticize the acts of school staff, municipal decision makers and even their parents. The efforts described above can be seen as engagement to cultural activities through which children can both increase their capability and have influence on the everyday issues.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación