Reconstructing Agency in Developmental and Educational Psychology
Inclusive Systems as Concentric Space
This book reconstructs the foundations of developmental and educational psychology and fills an important gap in the field by arguing for a specific spatial turn so that human growth, experience and development focus not only on time but space. This regards space not simply as place. Highlighting concrete cross-cultural relational spaces of concentric and diametric spatial systems, the book argues that transition between these systems offers a new paradigm for understanding agency and inclusion in developmental and educational psychology, and for relating experiential dimensions to causal explanations.
The chapters examine key themes for developing concentric spatial systemic responses in education, including school climate, bullying, violence, early school leaving prevention and students’ voices. Moreover, the book proposes an innovative framework of agency as movement between concentric and diametric spatial relations for a reconstruction of resilience. This model addresses the vital neglected issue of resistance to sheer cultural conditioning and goes beyond the foundational ideas of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, as well as Vygotsky, Skinner, Freud, Massey, Bruner, Gestalt and postmodern psychology to reinterpret them in dynamic spatial systemic terms.
Written by an internationally renowned expert, this book is a valuable resource for academics, researchers and postgraduate students in the areas of educational and developmental psychology, as well as related areas such as personality theory, health psychology, social work, teacher education and anthropology.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Part I: Setting the Scene: Key Features of a Concentric Spatial Turn for Developmental and Educational Psychology: Agency and Inclusive Systems. 1. Introduction: From Empty Space to Patterned Space through Concentric and Diametric Spatial Systems. 2. Interactive Differences between Concentric and Diametric Spatial Systems: Beyond Bronfenbrenner’s and Lévi-Strauss’ Concentric Systems. 3. Agency as Movement between Mediating Conditions of Concentric and Diametric Spatial Systems at Different System Levels: Key Problems of Agency. Part II Spatial Transitions for Inclusive Systems: Reconstructing Resilience, Early School Leaving and Bullying. 4. From Resilience to Inclusive Systems: Search in Psychology for an Agency of Mediating Conditions. 5. Challenging the diametric spatial condition underpinning ‘the other’ to change systems of exclusion for early school leaving prevention: Agency as movement from diametric to concentric spatial systems. 6. The emotional-relational turn for early school leaving prevention as promotion of concentric spatial-relational systems to challenge diametric spatial systems: Beyond emotion as the other for inclusive systems in education. 7. The emotional-relational turn for early school leaving prevention as promotion of concentric spatial-relational systems to challenge diametric spatial systems: Selected and indicated prevention strategies of system supports for moderate risk and chronic need. 8. A Spatial Hermeneutic Approach to System Change for Transitions and Developmental Cascades. Part III Concentric and Diametric Spaces as Deep Structures of Experience. 9. Spatial Phenomenology and a Protolanguage of Concentric and Diametric Space. 10. Intrapsychic Systems and a Protolanguage of Concentric and Diametric Space.
Paul Downes is Professor of Psychology, School of Human Development, Institute of Education, Dublin City University. He has over 100 international peer reviewed publications across areas of psychology, education, philosophy, law, anthropology and social policy and has given keynotes and invited presentations in 29 countries.
"...Downes successfully brings together a remarkably broad range of perspectives relevant to human agency as it is encountered in an array of sub-disciplines in psychology and education. This work makes contact with a truly impressive range of perspectives from cognitive and structural approaches of various sorts to contemporary phenomenological schools of thought. Few texts manage such a range of insights.. Throughout the volume the author weaves the key aspects of agency in and out of the narrative in insightful ways and offers new analytical insights, makes innovative connections to related bodies of scholarly work, and develops new intellectual models, successfully offering, in the end, a sort of "protolanguage," to use the author’s own term for dealing with human agency across a broad intellectual landscape ... The signal contribution of the work is the introduction, into the scholarly conversation on agency and its related topics, of the dimension of spatiality in a sophisticated form. This aspect of the book, I predict, will be taken up again and again for quite some time, and be recognized as a substantial lasting contribution."
Nominated for the American Psychological Association (APA) William James Book Award 2021 by Professor Richard Williams, Brigham Young University, USA
"On the background of the decline of theory in psychology, Paul Downes provides a highly original and philosophically informed interpretation of developmental and educational thought that opens new possibilities for research and practice. The book is a unique piece of empirically and experientially grounded theorizing that does justice to the complexity of what it means to become human. His call for a spatial turn and his focus on agency identify lacunae in the dominant developmental and educational frameworks, while opening new horizons on significant topics such as resilience, bullying, or early school leaving. Downes provides an intellectual tour de force through the most important theories in developmental psychology, making the case for spatial systems being central to human experience."
Thomas Teo, Professor of Psychology, York University, Canada
"Professor Paul Downes' theory about the fundamental nature and importance of spatial relations in psychology and in social systems, particularly for him in education, is embedded in an extraordinary scholarship...psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, geography, art history and more. This fits with his desire for expansion and his refusal to be hamstrung by boundaries...he is calling upon us to rethink something we rarely think about that is our existence in space...he revitalises the ubiquitous diagram [of Bronfenbrenner] ...of concentric levels of systems that influence the child's development...agency is enabled through this concentric organisation of space...this is a stimulating, challenging thought-provoking book...of an original mind..."
Professor Sheila Greene, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Psychology
"This is an erudite work of reconstructing and reconceptualizing foundational assumptions, standing on the shoulders of tradition and referring to many years of empirical research but, at the same time, presented with a sharpness of argumentation and a unique freshness that makes the reader aware that this is in no way just another book about education and development... Downes's contribution is putting intellectual energy into such a new culture [of education]...Downes's book can be recommended to researchers in a broad range of fields, both educational psychology and, for example, the field of professional learning where I have added a few perspectives and examples. The use of these additional examples mirrors the inspiration I have felt when reading the book."
In Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (2020). Dr. Birgitte Lund NIELSEN, Senior Associate Professor, Research Centre for Pedagogy and Bildung, VIA University College, Aarhus, Denmark.
"In this innovative, scholarly book, Paul Downes proposes a different conception of development that depends on space rather than time... He presents a powerful argument that challenges the domination of time over space by developmental psychologists... he considers movements from one space or system to another as offering a much deeper understanding of agency and lived experience...His illustrative examples really help you to understand the theory and encourage you to apply his thinking to the aspects of children development and education that are of specific interest to you. This is a valuable resource for academics, researchers and post-graduate students of psychology, sociology, education, anthropology and psychotherapy."
In International Journal of Emotional Education (2020), Professor Helen Cowie Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey
"Paul Downes provides an integrated and relational perspective to envision the complexity of the educational system within the wider range of systems, appreciating its various layers and hidden and overt aspects in an inclusive, productive and creative way."
Associate Professor Ozden Bademci, Psychology Department, Maltepe University, Istanbul, Turkey
"From Introduction to the last chapter…the reader’s "familiarity of space" is challenged...In a constant dialogue with Bronfenbrenner and other systems theoretical analysts from the field, this work might be of interest not only to psychoanalysts or teachers, but to all of those worried about social exclusion in modern societies enough to debate issues regarding bullying, agency, resilience, expulsions and other very much alive topics on these pages… much of the theoretical and practical methods to study interpersonal relations must start taking this spatial systems analysis into consideration. Such a change will not however come without a review of our own preconceptions over the structures in both the concentric and diametric spaces, all of what constitute our protolanguage to deal with this world… the hypothesis that Paul Downes has boldly explored in this book towards the relative openness or closure of spaces to human action through interaction... a great start for those seeking to address space as more than just a ‘blank page’ in our societies"
In Interpersona: An International Journal on Personal Relationships (2020)
Beatriz de Barros Souza, Social and Development Psychology Department, Federal University of Espirito Santo, Espirito Santo, Brazil.