Conceptualizing a More Communal Agent: Locating Selfhood and Agency Within Sociality and Perspective Taking

Concerns that have been raised about the individualism and general absence of constitutive social-psychological theorizing evident in the self-related studies of educational psychologists are reviewed. Against this background, the relevance of these studies to the education of communal agents capable of contributing to our collective well-being is considered. Particularly troublesome in this regard are tendencies to separate personal development from social development, self-development from curriculum content, moral and political from educational concerns, and enhancement from appropriateness of self-esteem, self-concept, and self-regulation. The mostly neglected social developmental, educational psychology of George Herbert Mead then is presented as a possible source of ideas and approaches that might avoid such bifurcations. More recent extensions to Mead’s approach that are found in the developmental and educational theory and research of Robert Selman also are considered. In conclusion, the possible advantages and limitations of a Meadian approach to the education of communal agents are considered briefly in relation to important contributions of social-cognitive and Vygotskian theorizing and practice directed to the same end.

Paper related to the conference.