Silvio Scanagatta
Barbara Segatto

Executive Committee
Ursula Apitzsch, Jean-Louis Derouet, Luisa Ribolzi, Alison Taysum, Carlos Alberto Torres, Catherine Yan Wang

International Scientific Board

Management Staff
Managing editor
Anna Dal Ben

Book review editor
Maddalena Colombo


For Italian Law
Iscrizione n.2165 - 13.02.2009 - Registro Stampa Tribunale di Padova

Direttore Responsabile: Giulia Golo

Educational choices in action: young Italians as reflexive agents and the role of significant adults

TitleEducational choices in action: young Italians as reflexive agents and the role of significant adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsColombo M
Secondary TitleItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Date PublishedFebruary 2011
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
Keywordsdecision-making process; autonomy-heteronomy dialectic; personal agency; adolescence; parents; teachers; guidance recommendations

Issues related to educational choices have recently become topical because of the growing incapacity of people to predict and construct satisfying life paths since childhood. The present paper opens with a brief review of the social representation of the topic; continues outlining a profile of the social actors facing educational choice in post-modern times, highlighting how uncertainty, reversibility, multiple-choice rationality, contradictory thinking, the autonomy-heteronomy dialectic are key elements involved. Several sociological perspectives on decision-making in the educational domain are reviewed, such as the structural, the non-intentional, the limited rationality and the reflexivity approach. A recent nationwide study, carried out on a sample of adolescents and their parents/teachers in five Italian cities. provides the basis for empirical evidence on how educational choices are changing in contemporary Italian society according to new forms of constraint and new degrees of freedom/autonomy which can either limit or expands the set of opportunities available to young people. An analysis of qualitative data is focused on the personal agency that underscores the decision-making process and the reflections on its consequences, both from the side of young people and from that of their significant adults. The essay ends with some recommendations for politics aiming to reduce heteronomy and to increase personal agency in educational choices.