Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

Human Agency and Learner Autonomy Among Adult Professionals in an Organizational Context: Towards a New Science of Autonomous Leadership and Development

Sharon E. Norris
February 2011

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how human agency and learner autonomy contribute to or inhibit leader action and leadership development. Bandura (1986, 1997) identified four core features of human agency (forethought, intentionality, self-regulation, and self-reflection) and three modes of human agency (personal, proxy, and collective). Confessore (1992) identified four conative factors of learner autonomy, including desire (Meyer, 2001), resourcefulness (Carr, 1999), initiative (Ponton, 1999), and persistence (Derrick, 2001). Six adult professionals in an organizational context participated in this qualitative study. The findings show that desire has a profound influence on the formation of intentions. The findings also show that desires, beliefs, and intentions influence goal formation. The path of goal pursuit resides between need-meeting goal formation and goal attainment. The pathway of goal pursuit represents the domain within which leader action and development takes place. Within this leadership domain, resourcefulness, initiative, and persistence represent self-control mechanisms that leaders utilize in the context-specific self-regulatory process of taking leader action. The exhibition of human agency within this leadership domain influences the manner in which the conative factors of learner autonomy are utilized. Leadership and leadership development represent a self-efficacious and autonomous self-regulatory process of learning that takes place on the path of goal pursuit. A theoretical model illustrates self-efficacious autonomous leadership and leadership development among adult professionals in the organizational context.