Student participation and school culture: a secondary school case study.
Rationale and conceptual framework For the concept in aesthetics and art criticism, see .
A conceptual framework is used in research to outline possible courses of action or to present a preferred approach to a system analysis project.
Research generally indicates that students are still poor participants in secondary schooling. Despite this, student participation in schooling is critical to meeting student needs because quality educational outcomes are best achieved by harnessing student motivation through participation (Boomer, Lester, Onore, & Cook, 1992; Broadfoot, 1991; Glasser, 1990; Nixon, 1996). Holdsworth (1996) suggests that educators need to understand how student participation can be fostered in schools.
In this study, distinction was made between forms of participation that are tokenistic and those that are `meaningful'. The concept of meaningful participation has its roots in the writings of Habermas (1972, 1990, 1993) and others (Kemmis, Cole, & Suggett, 1983; Roberts, 1991; Young, 1990) who endorse emancipatory e·man·ci·pate
tr.v. e·man·ci·pat·ed, e·man·ci·pat·ing, e·man·ci·pates
1. To free from bondage, oppression, or restraint; liberate.
2. processes of communicative action Communicative action is a concept associated with the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Habermas uses this concept to describe agency in the form of communication, which under his understanding is restricted to deliberation, i. in which all stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. have a voice. Meaningful forms of participation have meaning for the participant, and contrast with disengaging dis·en·gage
v. dis·en·gaged, dis·en·gag·ing, dis·en·gag·es
1. To release from something that holds fast, connects, or entangles. See Synonyms at extricate.
2. forms of student participation often employed in schools (Holdsworth, 1988). Forms of participation which have such meaning have been labelled `active' participation (Holdsworth, 1997), `authentic' participation (Cumming, 1994; Soliman, 1987), and `deep' participation (Wilson, 2000). These forms of participation are about students being active, taken seriously, listened to, and doing work of consequence. The notion of student voice is fundamental to deep participation. If students are to be accepted as participants in and practitioners of education (Holdsworth, 1996; Kelley, 1993; Kemmis et al., 1983), it is clear that student `voice' becomes a critical factor in allowing students to participate (Farrell, Peguero, Lindsey, & White, 1988; Young, 1990). Students can exercise participation in a variety of contexts within schools, most notably through their learning experiences, through involvement in formal school governance processes, and through student governance and other student-operated organisations within schools (Holdsworth, 1988).
Nature of the research site
Barracks bar·rack 1
tr.v. bar·racked, bar·rack·ing, bar·racks
To house (soldiers, for example) in quarters.
1. A building or group of buildings used to house military personnel. High School (a pseudonym pseudonym (s`dənĭm) [Gr.,=false name], name assumed, particularly by writers, to conceal identity. A writer's pseudonym is also referred to as a nom de plume (pen name). for the research site) is a state high school that had 840 students at the time of the research. It is situated adjacent to a thriving central business district in one of Sydney's most rapidly growing satellite cities. The school is relatively old, having celebrated 120 years of continuous education on the site. The school made much of its history, maintaining archival records and an active ex-students association. The make-up Make-up
The amount of deficiency when a cash flow or capital item is deficient. For example, an interest make-up relates to the interest amount above a ceiling percentage. of the student population was multicultural mul·ti·cul·tur·al
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.
2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture. with only 10 per cent of students having Anglo-Saxon origins. The remainder represented some 60 different ethnic and religious groups.
At the beginning of the study, Barracks High had a newly appointed principal. He felt that the school had a strong ethos e·thos
The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement: "They cultivated a subversive alternative ethos" Anthony Burgess. of pastoral care, a justified emphasis on multiculturalism multiculturalism or cultural pluralism, a term describing the coexistence of many cultures in a locality, without any one culture dominating the region. , a traditional 1960s curriculum which needed modernising, almost non-existent management structures which required re-structuring, and an out-of-date perspective on student participation. The study began during a period of quite significant change as the school sought to tackle these issues under the new principal's leadership. The school context was relatively turbulent during this period. This research was conducted at the invitation of the new principal, and after agreement by staff.
The research was conducted over a 25-month period with a total of 78 days spent in the school. Data collection methods included many in-depth interviews, participant observations participant observation,
n a method of qualitative research in which the researcher understands the contex-tual meanings of an event or events through participating and observing as a subject in the research. documented through the writing of field notes and field journals, and the collection of many documents and school artefacts (Merriam, 1988). These methods helped to uncover the multiple realities which existed in the site among the various stakeholder stakeholder n. a person having in his/her possession (holding) money or property in which he/she has no interest, right or title, awaiting the outcome of a dispute between two or more claimants to the money or property. groups (students, teachers, executive teachers, senior executive teachers and non-teaching members of staff), and allowed the nature of school cultural practices and their impact on student participation to be identified. A particularly interesting method used in the study involved sets of interviews conducted separately with students and teachers as `hermeneutic her·me·neu·tic also her·me·neu·ti·cal
[Greek herm circles' (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). Consolidated summaries from these interviews, using the power of participant voices as text, were disseminated disseminated /dis·sem·i·nat·ed/ (-sem´i-nat?ed) scattered; distributed over a considerable area.
Spread over a large area of a body, a tissue, or an organ. throughout the school during the research and resulted in much interest and comment on student and teacher ideas. This provided further valuable data. Data analysis involved the development of grounded theory based upon systematic coding of data through constant comparison (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). This identified a number of key themes or stories in the school, some of which related to school image, reputation and traditions, teacher and student views of learning, school decision making and leadership, the nature of student organisations in the school, and notions of school change and development. These issues were constant, of concern to staff and students, and provided rich data over the life of the study.
Cultural context: Broad themes
Research findings identified five broad sets of data categories, each indicating a key cultural theme within Barracks High School which impacted on student participation.
Development of school ethos
The principal and teachers felt the need to develop the school's ethos because Barracks was situated near a number of older state and private schools. Barracks felt the need to compete with these schools by building a comparable school image and ethos. The symbols chosen to underpin this ethos were the school's multicultural nature, its school uniform, strong discipline, and its history. Students and teachers generally supported these directions, though some conflict resulted as teachers and students felt that efforts to enforce the wearing of school uniform were overdone o·ver·done
Past participle of overdo.
Adj. 1. overdone - represented as greater than is true or reasonable; "an exaggerated opinion of oneself"
exaggerated, overstated .
School governance and decision making
School governance and decision making comprised an important theme in relation to student participation. A range of school management groups were accessible to teachers (though not to students); however these groups were not empowered to make decisions. Teachers began to see management groups as forums for discussion rather than action, and believed that power lay outside of them. Teachers felt disempowered. They perceived that, although the decision-making style of the principal was outwardly out·ward·ly
1. On the outside or exterior; externally.
2. Toward the outside.
3. In regard to outward condition, conduct, or manifestation: outwardly a perfect gentleman. democratic, in reality it was consistently directive. These feelings were also held by some executive teachers, and caused cynicism Cynicism
See also Pessimism.
(444–371 B. C.) Greek philosopher and founder of Cynic school. [Gk. Hist.: NCE, 121]
churlish, sarcastic advisor of Timon. [Br. Lit. , withdrawal, low morale and lack of motivation.
Student Representative Council
The Student Representative Council (SRC (SouRCe) Contrast with DST, which is an abbreviation of "destination." ) at Barracks contained many talented students but was ultimately a frustrating frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: experience for its members. The SRC was not integrated into school decision-making processes Presented below is a list of topics on decision-making and decision-making processes:
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v. con·fined, con·fin·ing, con·fines
1. To keep within bounds; restrict: Please confine your remarks to the issues at hand. See Synonyms at limit. of school expectations, upholding the traditional and confining con·fine
v. con·fined, con·fin·ing, con·fines
1. To keep within bounds; restrict: Please confine your remarks to the issues at hand. See Synonyms at limit. orientations of school ethos. Even low-level student initiatives put forward by the SRC, including requests for school dances, non-uniform days and changes to the school uniform, were ultimately deemed unacceptable because they were perceived to threaten the desired image of the school.
Place of student voice
Student constructions of schooling comprised views and theories touching on many areas of school life, including teaching methods, relationships with teachers, bullying Bullying
Chowne, Parson Stoyle
terrorizes parish; kidnaps children. [Br. Lit.: The Maid of Sker, Walsh Modern, 94–95]
bully; becomes thief in Fagin’s gang. [Br. Lit. and teasing teasing
the act of parading a male before a female to see if she displays estrus, and is therefore in a state where mating is likely to be fertile. , safety in school, and the wearing of school uniform. Students often developed theories about school that were insightful and efficacious ef·fi·ca·cious
Producing or capable of producing a desired effect. See Synonyms at effective.
[From Latin effic (see Wilson, 1998), and many students had quality ideas that would allow them to participate meaningfully in school development and decision making. However, despite the power of their ideas, most student voices went unrecognised and had no access to forums for discussion or decision making.
Approaches to teaching and learning
Classroom-related learning activities provide the greatest opportunity for the greatest number of students to engage in participation in school, yet teaching at Barracks High was generally found to be `traditional', textbook textbook Informatics A treatise on a particular subject. See Bible. centred and didactic di·dac·tic
Of or relating to medical teaching by lectures or textbooks as distinguished from clinical demonstration with patients. . Barracks was more concerned with curriculum development processes, especially the implementation of a `semesterised' curriculum, than with teaching and learning practices in classrooms. Few executive teachers, even those at the faculty head level, saw it as their role to lead changes in classroom practice, despite teaching and learning being identified as focus areas in school planning documents. Despite student voices during the research clearly pointing to the nature of `good' and questionable teaching practices at Barracks, teachers were reluctant to change and there was a lack of urgency among school leaders to accept teaching and learning as the core business of the school.
Cultural dimensions Cultural dimensions are the mostly psychological dimensions, or value constructs, which can be used to describe a specific culture. These are often used in Intercultural communication-/Cross-cultural communication-based research.
See also: Edward T. influencing student participation
Data analysis resulted in the identification of the broad cultural themes outlined above, the sub-components of which were coded and given substance through processes of grounded theory data analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). From this process of coding were identified sets of cultural phenomena (ultimately labelled `dimensions') which were found to be significant influences on student participation. These dimensions were able to be grouped into four distinct clusters of cultural dimensions at Barracks pertinent to student participation. One cluster comprised three dimensions which were found to be fundamental and pervasive cultural dimensions in the school. These were labelled `primary' dimensions. A second cluster was labelled `socio-political' dimensions. These relate to external social and political pressures on the school and to internal dimensions concerned with decision-making structures and ways in which individuals were positioned in terms of power and autonomy. A third cluster of dimensions was labelled `curricular' dimensions. These describe conditions and processes which influence curriculum development and classroom teaching. A final group was labelled `personal-participant' dimensions, and describes dimensions relating to relating to relate prep → concernant
relating to relate prep → bezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc the belies and attitudes of participants at Barracks--most prominently, students, teachers and executive teachers.
Each of these clusters of dimensions influenced student participation in a way that was neither simple, nor linear. The relationships between cultural influences on student participation at Barracks are best regarded as an ecological ecological
emanating from or pertaining to ecology.
the state of balance in an ecosystem when its inhabitants have established their permanent relationships with each phenomenon. This ecology was complex and was beyond the resources of the study to engage fully. Its components are therefore presented in this paper as a matrix which outlines dimensions as distinct rather than inter-related entities.
Figure 1 presents the matrix containing each of the cultural dimensions identified at Barracks High and the relationship each had to student participation. These dimensions were found to either enhance or inhibit student participation, and were named according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the properties they were found to exhibit during formal data analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). There were 24 cultural dimensions identified at Barracks that related to student participation. For every dimension that enhanced participation, there were two that acted as inhibitors. It is not possible in this paper to give a detailed treatment of each of these dimensions and the way they influenced student participation in the school. However a brief overview of each is provided below.
Each of the three primary dimensions identified in the study acted to inhibit rather than enhance student participation within Barracks. `Paradigm boundedness' relates to literature which suggests that secondary schools generally conform to Verb 1. conform to - satisfy a condition or restriction; "Does this paper meet the requirements for the degree?"
coordinate - be co-ordinated; "These activities coordinate well" a model of schooling which emphasises the study of academic subjects, meritocratic mer·i·toc·ra·cy
n. pl. mer·i·toc·ra·cies
1. A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.
a. structures and processes, and didactic teaching methods (Connell, 1994; Edwards, 1995; Hargreaves & Earl, 1994), and in which student constructions are generally unacknowledged or undervalued Undervalued
A stock or other security that is trading below its true value.
The difficulty is knowing what the "true" value actually is. Analysts will usually recommend an undervalued stock with a strong buy rating. (Kemmis et al., 1983). At Barracks High, there was a general acceptance of this paradigm, evident in both teacher and student comments and teacher practices, and in the school's emphasis on its history and looking backward Looking Backward
Julian West awakens more than a century later to enjoy a new life in the Boston of A.D. 2000. [Am. Lit.: Looking Backward in Magill I, 520]
See : Time Travel to its past to define its present. Despite rhetoric in the school about student futures and student centred activities, an unproblematic acceptance of the traditional paradigm positioned students in traditional roles where they had little opportunity to define the school and were expected simply to `fit in'. Paradigm boundedness was an inhibiting cultural dimension for student participation.
The term `fragmentation' is common in the literature and identifies phenomena in secondary schools including fragmentation (1) Storing data in non-contiguous areas on disk. As files are updated, new data are stored in available free space, which may not be contiguous. Fragmented files cause extra head movement, slowing disk accesses. A defragger program is used to rewrite and reorder all the files. of the curriculum (Hargreaves, 1994; Hargreaves & Earl, 1994; Stodolsky, 1993) and fragmentation caused by departmental structures leading to teacher separation and isolation (Eisner, 1988; Stodolsky, 1993). Fragmentation existed at Barracks as a lack of organisational cohesion cohesion: see adhesion and cohesion.
The tendency of atoms or molecules to coalesce into extended condensed states. This tendency is practically universal. and communication leading to fragmented understandings and courses of action among school stakeholders. It existed in school governance, leadership, and in school approaches to teaching and learning where few teachers were aware of the teaching and learning practices of their colleagues. Fragmentation inhibited student participation because school policies relating to participation were able to be ignored due to fragmented leadership and accountability processes.
1. Of or relating to rhetoric.
2. Characterized by overelaborate or bombastic rhetoric.
3. Used for persuasive effect: a speech punctuated by rhetorical pauses. ambiguity' relates to literature which identifies a tension between the ideas espoused by practitioners (their espoused theories), and their actions, which are often at odds with their espoused theories (Argyris, 1993; Argyris & Schon, 1996). A feature of the Barracks High culture was the extent to which words, both spoken and written, were attributed a subtext sub·text
1. The implicit meaning or theme of a literary text.
2. The underlying personality of a dramatic character as implied or indicated by a script or text and interpreted by an actor in performance. where outwardly intended meanings were not necessarily those accepted by participants. This dimension has been labelled `rhetorical ambiguity', and is defined as the preparedness pre·par·ed·ness
The state of being prepared, especially military readiness for combat.
Noun 1. preparedness - the state of having been made ready or prepared for use or action (especially military action); "putting them of participants to say, or expect and accept others saying, sentiments that were not intended to be believed or acted upon in practice. At Barracks it was a primary dimension, stemming from the principal's espoused belief that `image is reality', but evidenced in a variety of ways in school life. This dimension was rhetorical in the sense that much written documentation and statements emanating from Barracks were regarded as being for `show', for an external audience that had to be convinced that the school and its participants were functioning at an expected level. Teachers indicated that many of the sentiments in school policies were there to satisfy accountability requirements and convince external authorities that acceptable change was occurring. Barracks's Student participation policy was an example of a document seemingly seem·ing
Outward appearance; semblance.
seeming·ly adv. developed for show. If the cutting-edge sentiments expressed in this policy had been taken at all seriously, student participation would have been very different at Barracks High. Rhetorical ambiguity was a powerful, inhibiting dimension for student participation, resulting in a lack of action by teachers and students (especially on the SRC) on initiatives which would have increased student participation. Not knowing what was to be believed or taken seriously, teachers and students were often not committed in their efforts in what they saw as token projects.
Socio-political dimensions relate to external social and political pressures, and to internal political or power relations in the school, that were found to be important influences on student participation. Six of the eight socio-political dimensions acted to inhibit student participation.
Being under the microscope This describes perceptions by teachers that they were under observation from outside the school; that they were subject to external expectations that impacted on their work yet they could not control. The literature indicates it is common for teachers to feel under these kinds of pressures from parents (Dellar, 1992; OECD OECD: see Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. , 1989), bureaucracies (Dinham, 1995; Larson, 1992; Raebeck, 1992) and media (Raethel, 1997a, 1997b), resulting in confusion and ambiguity concerning the role schools and teachers are expected to play. At Barracks, feelings of being under the microscope were identified by participants as pressure from media interest in events involving gangs and fights, and in the need to prepare students effectively for examinations so that public expectations of acceptable Higher School Certificate
Non-pedagogical orientations to leadership Some literature points to school principals becoming alienated al·ien·ate
tr.v. al·ien·at·ed, al·ien·at·ing, al·ien·ates
1. To cause to become unfriendly or hostile; estrange: alienate a friend; alienate potential supporters by taking extreme positions. from their staff by placing administrative concerns before pedagogical ped·a·gog·ic also ped·a·gog·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.
2. Characterized by pedantic formality: a haughty, pedagogic manner. considerations (Ball & Bowe, 1992; Seay & Blase bla·sé
1. Uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence.
2. Unconcerned; nonchalant: had a blasé attitude about housecleaning.
3. Very sophisticated. , 1992), leading to staff disenchantment dis·en·chant
tr.v. dis·en·chant·ed, dis·en·chant·ing, dis·en·chants
To free from illusion or false belief; undeceive.
[Obsolete French desenchanter, from Old French, with change and decreasing teacher motivation (Fraatz, 1987; Hargreaves, 1992). This study identified a widespread non-pedagogical orientation to leadership among the majority of the school executive, although it was not directly related to the principal. Few school leaders at Barracks took the opportunity to lead other teachers in pedagogical practice. Leadership perspectives were focused on other areas. The principal saw his main responsibility as working to `sell' the school, develop its physical environment, emphasise its history, and encourage major public events such as historical celebrations. A succession of deputy principals focused primarily on the development of a `semesterised' curriculum structure rather than pedagogy, and these curriculum initiatives did not translate into pedagogical reforms. Faculty heads saw their role as managerial: maintaining faculty programs, managing resources and making sure school and systemic systemic /sys·tem·ic/ (sis-tem´ik) pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole.
1. Of or relating to a system.
2. policies were adhered to by staff. The development of teaching and learning was seen as something that would be nice to engage in if there were time, but faculty meetings were usually spent on managerial issues and disseminating dis·sem·i·nate
v. dis·sem·i·nat·ed, dis·sem·i·nat·ing, dis·sem·i·nates
1. To scatter widely, as in sowing seed.
2. information from executive meetings. Few people consequently took responsibility for developing more active approaches to teaching which may have led to improved student classroom participation.
Sink or swim Sink or swim describes the tendency of some participants at Barracks to expect students to demonstrate competence without being taught the necessary skills. This was apparent at a number of levels, and in each case constituted an inhibiting dimension for student participation. The most obvious level was in the SRC, where it was common for teachers to expect students to succeed on their own (swim), without help or training from staff. If students were not capable of autonomous success, they were allowed to fail (sink), and as a result were often considered disinterested Free from bias, prejudice, or partiality.
A disinterested witness is one who has no interest in the case at bar, or matter in issue, and is legally competent to give testimony. in the SRC or not capable of success. Perceived failures of the SRC to succeed in their projects (planning camps, raising money for charities, running meetings effectively) tended to reinforce a view among some teachers that students were not interested in, or capable of, accepting responsibility.
Going cap in hand School leaders often adopt hierarchical decision-making structures in which they are vested with significant power (Cohen cohen
(Hebrew: “priest”) Jewish priest descended from Zadok (a descendant of Aaron), priest at the First Temple of Jerusalem. The biblical priesthood was hereditary and male. & Harrison, 1982), often sponsor those initiatives with which they are personally comfortable (Fullan, 1991), and act as significant `blockers' of initiatives with which they do not agree (Cohen & Harrison, 1982; Smylie & Brownlee-Conyers, 1992). At Barracks, going cap in hand related to the principal's leadership style. Teachers and SRC members had to seek out the principal's personal approval for many courses of action, despite the rhetoric of participation which the principal employed. This led to feelings of disempowerment and disinterest dis·in·ter·est
1. Freedom from selfish bias or self-interest; impartiality.
2. Lack of interest; indifference.
To divest of interest.
Noun 1. among teachers and SRC members and a lack of agency, commitment and innovative behaviour. Going cap in hand was an inhibiting dimension for both student and teacher participation at Barracks which related strongly to another socio-political dimension of the Barracks context, `learned helplessness'.
Deflecting agendas This was a dimension related to going cap in hand, and to literature which shows principals are able to be effective `blocking' agents in schools (Cohen & Harrison, 1982; Smylie & Brownlee-Conyers, 1992). Both the principal and the teacher adviser of the SRC engaged in deflecting agendas, to the detriment Any loss or harm to a person or property; relinquishment of a legal right, benefit, or something of value.
Detriment is most frequently applied to contract formation, since it is an essential element of consideration, which is a prerequisite of a legally enforceable contract. of student participation. SRC proposals to have school dances, camps, changes to the girls' uniform and non-uniform days were each rejected or stalled stall 1
1. A compartment for one domestic animal in a barn or shed.
a. A booth, cubicle, or stand used by a vendor, as at a market.
b. on grounds of safety or because they did not fit with the desired image for the school. Students became frustrated frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: with these tactics because they were usually encouraged to put submissions to school leaders, often with a lot of work and energy behind them, only to have them rejected at the end of the process. Students often minimised or terminated their participation in the SRC as a result.
Learned helplessness learned helplessness
In psychology, a mental state in which a laboratory subject forced to bear aversive stimuli becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent applications, even if they are “escapable,” presumably through having learned that situational Learned helplessness was a socio-political dimension that relates to literature on micropolitics in schools which indicates that teachers can become fatalistic fa·tal·ism
1. The doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable.
2. Acceptance of the belief that all events are predetermined and inevitable. about change and lack initiative as a result (Fullan, 1991; Roberts & Blase, 1993; Seay & Blase, 1992). Participants at Barracks expressed their helplessness helplessness,
n a perception held by a person because of which he or she feels powerless or unable to act independently. Typically associated with persons diagnosed with chronic disease. by displaying a lack of initiative, interest, motivation and action. Although most were keen and willing in relation to those aspects of their work they felt they could control, they also developed a view that it was pointless trying to influence events in the wider arena. This helplessness was not a trait trait (trat)
1. any genetically determined characteristic; also, the condition prevailing in the heterozygous state of a recessive disorder, as the sickle cell trait.
2. a distinctive behavior pattern. that necessarily resided within individuals: it was a result of a school culture in which individuals learned that it was difficult to influence events. At Barracks learned helplessness contributed to a form of stasis stasis /sta·sis/ (sta´sis)
1. a stoppage or diminution of flow, as of blood or other body fluid.
2. a state of equilibrium among opposing forces. where no one in authority felt they had enough power to influence events and so little of substance occurred. This closely reflects research by Cohen and Harrison (1982), which found that competing but fragmented power relationships among teachers could lead to a vacuum in decision making in secondary schools. Consequently, in this study, those teachers and school leaders who were theoretically disposed to improving student participation in the classroom did not act to do so. Learned helplessness was also a potent force within the SRC at Barracks and inhibited student participation through the SRC. Lacking encouragement, students found it difficult to complete projects, which resulted in a lack of confidence among the SRC and having to wait to be told what they were allowed to do.
Two socio-political dimensions were identified as enhancing of student participation: seeking out empathetic em·pa·thet·ic
empa·theti·cal·ly adv. power and scaffolding. The former was initiated by students, the latter by teachers.
Seeking out empathetic power Seeking out empathetic power describes the political activity, adopted by some students at Barracks, of circumventing political impediments IMPEDIMENTS, contracts. Legal objections to the making of a contract. Impediments which relate to the person are those of minority, want of reason, coverture, and the like; they are sometimes called disabilities. Vide Incapacity.
2. by identifying staff members they felt were sympathetic to their cause and had the power to help them achieve their goals. Examples of students seeking out empathetic power were unusual because it required a level of confidence that most students did not seem to have, but they included SRC members by-passing the SRC coordinator for advice, and students enlisting the help of a deputy principal who would support their projects. Seeking out empathetic power provided an important enhancing dimension for student participation at Barracks. It initiated students into political processes of persuasion PERSUASION. The act of influencing by expostulation or request. While the persuasion is confined within those limits which leave the mind free, it may be used to induce another to make his will, or even to make it in his own favor; but if such persuasion should so far operate on the mind that were usually denied them and was an important act of participation in itself. It also allowed students to apply pressure to teachers and caused teachers to reflect on the issue of student participation and their personal responses to it. The few discussions about student participation were usually held between, or initiated by, adults. Seeking out empathetic power provided students with an opportunity to begin the dialogue from their perspective.
Scaffolding At Barracks, when meaningful student participation did occur, it did so that with the support of a teacher who provided structured and targeted support to students so that they could participate. The act of providing structured forms of support is defined as `scaffolding', drawing from constructs developed by Vygotsky (1978) and Bruner (1986) in relation to cognitive growth. Scaffolding was an important dimension of the Barracks context that acted to enhance student participation. Scaffolding was critical to student participation at Barracks because other cultural dimensions such as paradigm boundedness and learned helplessness had helped to create passive students unused to taking initiative or achieving success. Without scaffolding, student projects were often marked by poor planning, poor team work, a lack of goal clarification and poor success rates. Scaffolding helped students to develop the skills to overcome these obstacles.
A number of curricular dimensions at Barracks influenced student participation. Of these, the primacy pri·ma·cy
n. pl. pri·ma·cies
1. The state of being first or foremost.
2. Ecclesiastical The office, rank, or province of primate. of institutional values, curriculum as the province of the professional, and spoonfeeding were found to be inhibiting dimensions for participation. A fourth dimension, student theorising, was found to be an enhancing dimension.
Primacy of institutional values Primacy of institutional values was an important curricular dimension at Barracks where the emphasis on discipline, school uniform and school history communicated that the values of the school stood above those of the students and teachers, and were not negotiable NEGOTIABLE. That which is capable of being transferred by assignment; a thing, the title to which may be transferred by a sale and indorsement or delivery.
2. . The school's values were essentially meritocratic, emphasising success in relative and competitive terms and drawing attention to high achievers. These values required students and teachers to conform, to sacrifice individuality individuality,
n collective characteristics or traits that distinguish one person or thing from all others. for the reputation of the school and the benefit that school participants would derive from this reputation. These values were not shared by significant numbers of participants, particularly students, who saw the world with themselves more at the centre and whose values focused on personal relevance, experience and growth. The primacy of institutional values also inhibited classroom participation. Teachers who did share institutional values found in this dimension a reason not to change their views of curriculum and teaching, whereas teachers who did not share these values found conflict in the way they perceived their roles as teachers. These teachers referred to their hesitancy hes·i·tan·cy
An involuntary delay or inability in starting the urinary stream. in using active learning approaches and group work. They were worried about poor exam results and the responses of their more conservative peers to noisier classrooms. For many teachers, the primacy of institutional values had the effect of limiting opportunities for students to participate in the classroom because many teachers did not consider adopting teaching approaches which may have enhanced participation.
Curriculum as the province of the professional Research indicates that teachers generally feel comfortable when they use transmission models of teaching in which teachers possess privileged knowledge (Lewis, 1995; McNeil, 1988b; Young, 1990), and situations where they are in control of their work practices and matters of curriculum (Blase, 1990; Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Lewis, 1995; Nias, 1987). A dimension was identified at Barracks that is related to this literature, and has been labelled `curriculum as the province of the professional'. Curriculum as the province of the professional describes the assumption held by numbers of participants that those in the school best placed to understand curriculum and make decisions about its development were teachers. Curriculum as the province of the professional also resulted in limited opportunities in classrooms for students to help determine the nature of content or learning experiences: there was little evidence of student choice or negotiation in classrooms at Barracks High, although one positive example of student negotiation arising from this study has previously been documented (see Rabone & Wilson, 1997; Wilson, 2000).
Spoonfeeding `Spoonfeeding' was a term used by teachers to describe the teacher practice of giving unmotivated or under-performing students structured, unchallenging classwork, characterised by students having simply to copy or learn `right' answers. Spoonfeeding was a reflection at Barracks of trends among teachers, also identified in the literature, to expect less of students from culturally diverse and economically deprived backgrounds (Beiser, Lancee, Gotowiec, Sack, & Redshirt red·shirt
tr.v. red·shirt·ed, red·shirt·ing, red·shirts
To keep (a college or school athlete) out of varsity competition for one year in order to extend the athlete's period of eligibility. , 1993; Cooper & Good, 1983; Meade, 1983; Tollefson, Melvin, & Thippavajjala, 1990). Many teachers felt that spoonfeeding was rife rife
adj. rif·er, rif·est
1. In widespread existence, practice, or use; increasingly prevalent.
2. Abundant or numerous. at Barracks, and attributed it to student disinterest in academic work, poor literacy levels among students, and student resistance to more active and rigorous learning approaches. Teachers reasoned that, without spoonfeeding, students with low literacy levels would do poorly in examinations, especially the School Certificate and HSC. Spoonfeeding acted as an inhibiting dimension for student participation by providing students with unstimulating, repetitive low-level work which deprived students of the opportunity to engage in critical and creative thought, discussion and expression. It positioned them as passive consumers of information rather than as active interpreters and critics, and dispossessed dis·pos·sessed
1. Deprived of possession.
2. Spiritually impoverished or alienated.
dis them of the opportunity to participate in rigorous intellectual endeavour.
Student theorising This dimension enhanced student participation. Some literature indicates that students in schools are capable of theorising about school practices and contributing to school processes of curriculum change (Cumming, 1996; Cummins, 1997; Furtwengler, 1985a; Roberts, 1991; Young, 1990). At Barracks, student theories about curriculum, elicited e·lic·it
tr.v. e·lic·it·ed, e·lic·it·ing, e·lic·its
a. To bring or draw out (something latent); educe.
b. To arrive at (a truth, for example) by logic.
2. and published through the hermeneutic circles hermeneutic circle (hurˈ·m , indicated that students could develop sophisticated insights into the nature and consequences of curriculum and teaching practices (see Wilson, 1998). Students effectively critiqued teaching practices, approaches to learning, classroom management and assessment, and the nature of classroom environments. Additionally they often offered their visions of better practice. Student theorising was an enhancing dimension for student participation at Barracks, particularly when, through teachers who were able to provide scaffolding, students were able to present their theories. Occasionally during the study, students presented their ideas in formal contexts, which gave them the opportunity to formalise their ideas and express them carefully and logically. These acts in themselves were participatory, indeed emancipatory for some of those students involved, and of significant benefit (Wilson, 1998).
Personal-participant dimensions derived from the attitudes and beliefs of school participants. Most of the enhancing dimensions for student participation were of this type. Key inhibiting personal-participant dimensions identified were: dismissing student participation, a distrust of participant maturity, tuning out, and withdrawal. Enhancing dimensions were: celebratory perspectives of youth, a desire for equity, desire for meaning, wanting partnerships and wanting in.
Dismissing student participation Case reports of teacher innovation show that effective teachers adopt strategies which enhance classroom participation by students (for example, Daugherty, 1995; Levin lev·in
[Middle English levene, levin; see leuk- in Indo-European roots.] , 1994; Renzulli, 1997). However Cumming (1996) found that some teachers find it difficult to accept that students should participate or should be given increased decision-making power. At Barracks it was evident there was a general lack of belief among teachers that student participation ought to be valued as a core school purpose. This was labelled as `dismissing student participation'. Teachers commonly perceived schooling in traditional terms as the learning of academic content. For them, students had little to bring to the definition or development of schooling. Teachers were the experts, students were there to learn. Student participation was a nice idea, one which fitted into the realm of rhetoric but could reasonably be forgotten in the real world of examinations and community pressure for acceptable academic results. Even teachers who espoused ideas compatible with student participation often failed to pursue their implementation in the hurly-burly of daily practice. There was a general lack of practical interest and action concerning student participation.
Distrust of participant maturity The literature on student participation suggests that students are often not considered by teachers or principals to have the capacity to engage in meaningful forms of decision making (National Association of Secondary School Principals The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is a United States educational advocacy organization consisting of secondary school principals. To promote excellence among middle school and high school students, NASSP founded and still sponsors the National Honor , 1989; Nayano-Taylor, 1987; Spence n. 1. A place where provisions are kept; a buttery; a larder; a pantry.
In . . . his spence, or "pantry" were hung the carcasses of a sheep or ewe, and two cows lately slaughtered.
- Sir W. Scott. 1993). At Barracks, this came through strongly as a distrust of participant maturity. This distrust was experienced by teachers and students alike at Barracks High, and helped to create an atmosphere in the school which inhibited student participation.
Rather than challenging students to improve their work ethic work ethic
A set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence.
a belief in the moral value of work and standards of classroom behaviour, some teachers tended to respond to student disinterest and management problems by narrowing down the range of classroom activities, focusing on book work, and limiting interactive learning experiences. At the institutional level, the school's discipline and school uniform policies and the manner used to enforce them assumed that students could not be trusted, that coercion coercion, in law, the unlawful act of compelling a person to do, or to abstain from doing, something by depriving him of the exercise of his free will, particularly by use or threat of physical or moral force. was required to make students conform. Members of the SRC came to believe they were not trusted to make decisions, and at different times felt they were not trusted either by the principal or the SRC teacher adviser, as many of their projects were denied or not supported.
Students, teachers, and to a lesser extent head teachers all felt this mistrust. The outcome of this dimension for student participation was student and teacher resentment and frustration at the way mistrust led to infrequent in·fre·quent
1. Not occurring regularly; occasional or rare: an infrequent guest.
2. opportunities to participate meaningfully in decision making and classroom activities. Feelings of mistrust deprived many participants of opportunities to participate and accept responsibility, helped to entrench en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. the dimension of learned helplessness, and inhibited student participation both in its direct effect upon students and through the general non-participatory climate it helped to create in the school.
Tuning out Many students in secondary schools do not value the academic agenda of schools, valuing sports (Freeston, 1993, Suitor SUITOR. One who is a party to a suit or action in court. One who is a party to an action. In its ancient sense, suitor meant one Who was bound to attend the county court, also, one who formed part of the secta. (q.v.) & Reavis, 1995), other extra-curricular activities (Nieto, 1994) and social interactions with friends over other aspects of school life (Cairney et al., 1992; Walton & Hill, 1987). Observations of student behaviour in classrooms indicate widespread student disinterest and boredom Boredom
See also Futility.
Aldegonde, Lord St.
bored nobleman, empty of pursuits. [Br. Lit.: Lothair]
(1821–1867) French poet whose dissipated lifestyle led to inner despair. [Fr. Lit. with academic work (Fullan, 1991; Nieto, 1994; Sarason, 1995; Siddle Walker, 1992). The literature also identifies similar characteristics amongst teachers who become dissatisfied dis·sat·is·fied
Feeling or exhibiting a lack of contentment or satisfaction.
dis·satis·fied with their work and retreat into minimalist min·i·mal·ist
1. One who advocates a moderate or conservative approach, action, or policy, as in a political or governmental organization.
2. A practitioner of minimalism.
1. roles in their schools (Blase, 1990; Dinham, 1995; McNeil, 1988a; National Board, 1993). Similar feelings about school were identified among students and teachers at Barracks High. These were collectively labelled as the dimension of `tuning out'. At Barracks, tuning out described the phenomenon of teachers and students not wanting to be involved in school decision making, development or change, or limiting their involvement to areas where they had influence. For students, this often meant limiting their real commitment at school to subjects where they perceived their agendas were being met, to sport, or just to maintaining their social networks. Students also tuned out from their work on the SRC, losing motivation and productivity as their agendas were deflected de·flect
intr. & tr.v. de·flect·ed, de·flect·ing, de·flects
To turn aside or cause to turn aside; bend or deviate.
[Latin d by those with power. For teachers, tuning out meant ignoring school change initiatives and focusing on their classroom teaching or a faculty responsibility. Signs of teachers tuning out included teacher positions on school working groups remaining unfilled, and teachers expressing that they now stayed out of school decision making and politics. Tuning out was a significant inhibiting dimension for student participation beyond the obvious consequence of causing students to cease their participation in classrooms and student initiatives in the SRC. Tuning out helped to reinforce an emerging culture of non-participation at Barracks.
Withdrawal As students and teachers in schools tune out from school life, so the literature finds they also withdraw completely from it. Dinham's (1993) study demonstrated that teachers can become so dissatisfied with aspects of their work that they resign from the teaching service as a result. Literature on students in schools deals with student alienation alienation, in property laws: see tenure.
In the social sciences context, the state of feeling estranged or separated from one's milieu, work, products of work, or self. and finds that significant numbers of students in secondary school are `alienated' (Ainley & Sheret, 1992; Australian Curriculum Studies Association, 1995), leading to non-performance or non-attendance at school (Farrell et al., 1988; Gibson-Cline, 1996). At Barracks, a dimension was identified among students and teachers that is related to concepts of alienation (for example, Cormack, 1995) which has been labelled `withdrawal'. Withdrawal was an inhibiting dimension for student participation, and describes a choice made by some participants to cease their involvement in some or all aspects of school life. Tuning out was a more common form of participant response to the school context, but withdrawal represented a more serious response by participants who chose this option. Students who withdrew did so by simply not attending school, by leaving early, or by ceasing to participate in particular aspects of school life. Often the reason for withdrawal was the failure of the school to provide them with participatory opportunities. An example was a Year 10 male who left school to work with the railways. He cited the reason as four years of junior education in which teachers failed to understand his problems, capacities, or to provide an appropriate standard of work. Like tuning out, withdrawal was an inhibiting dimension because it added to the general malaise malaise /mal·aise/ (mal-az´) a vague feeling of discomfort.
A vague feeling of bodily discomfort, as at the beginning of an illness. of non-participation at Barracks.
Celebratory perspectives of youth A number of personal-participant dimensions were found to enhance student participation. The most significant was celebratory perspectives of youth. The literature identifies certain qualities that in the minds of students determine good teachers, and usually these qualities revolve around Verb 1. revolve around - center upon; "Her entire attention centered on her children"; "Our day revolved around our work"
center, center on, concentrate on, focus on, revolve about teachers having positive perspectives of young people (Abbott-Chapman, Hughes, Holloway, & Wyld 1990; Disadvantaged Schools Program (DSP (1) (Digital Signal Processor) A special-purpose CPU used for digital signal processing applications (see definition #2 below). It provides ultra-fast instruction sequences, such as shift and add, and multiply and add, which are commonly used in math-intensive ), 1992; Hughes, 1994). There were teachers at Barracks who placed students squarely square·ly
1. Mathematics At right angles: sawed the beam squarely.
2. In a square shape.
3. at the centre of their teaching. These teachers tended to listen to students, treat them equitably and fairly, and reflect on and modify their teaching to meet student interests and needs. These teachers were reflective, empathetic, and appeared intuitively to use constructivist con·struc·tiv·ism
A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects. approaches to learning. Whereas other teachers may have liked students (especially well-behaved and academically capable students), these teachers valued young people, academic and non-academic alike. Students in turn knew who these teachers were, enjoyed being in their classes (even if they did not like the subject), participated and were motivated mo·ti·vate
tr.v. mo·ti·vat·ed, mo·ti·vat·ing, mo·ti·vates
To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.
mo . Students could articulate why these teachers were good teachers. The efforts of teachers who held celebratory perspectives of youth led to improved student motivation, enthusiasm and participation. These teachers routinely provided scaffolding to students to help them succeed in their projects inside and outside the classroom--a key example was the leading teacher, a senior executive member who believed in the students enough to convince the principal to let a group of students present to a full staff meeting on teaching methods in the school. Where meaningful student participation existed at Barracks (in the form of students discussing their own issues, being listened to, and encouraged to make their own decisions) facilitating the process was generally a teacher who held a celebratory perspective of young people.
Desire for equity The literature indicates that secondary school students would often like to change school practices to make them more equitable. These feelings of unfairness about the status quo [Latin, The existing state of things at any given date.] Status quo ante bellum means the state of things before the war. The status quo to be preserved by a preliminary injunction is the last actual, peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. and desire for change have been identified among students in relation to reforming the relevance of academic subjects (Cairney et al., 1992; Cumming, 1996; Nieto, 1994; Walton & Hill, 1987), teaching practices (Shann, 1990), and teacher behaviours (Harris & Rudduck, 1993). These feelings were also evident among students at Barracks High, and represent a personal-participant dimension labelled as a `desire for equity'. Desire for equity was a key dimension for participation among students at Barracks, manifest in their expressed need to be understood by teachers, to be treated fairly as emerging adults and to have their points of view listened to. Desire for equity was significant because it helped to mediate MEDIATE, POWERS. Those incident to primary powers, given by a principal to his agent. For example, the general authority given to collect, receive and pay debts due by or to the principal is a primary power. the quality of student participation and the ways students chose to participate. It essentially acted as an enhancing dimension for student participation. However, when other cultural dimensions such as going cap in hand and deflecting agendas acted to block change, the desire for equity could quickly lead to non-participation among students. At Barracks the desire for equity appeared to be linked strongly to other personal-participant dimensions of wanting in, tuning out and withdrawal.
Desire for meaning Secondary school students want to take subjects that are relevant and meaningful for them (Farrell et al., 1988; Gibson-Cline, 1996), want to improve their understanding of these subjects (Kempa & Orion, 1996; McNeil, 1988b), and want to participate in them through active and applied learning experiences (Shepardson, 1993). Such a dimension was evident in the Barracks context as students expressed the view that their learning needed to be meaningful if it was to be valuable and stimulating. This dimension has been labelled as a `desire for meaning', and it constituted an enhancing dimension for student participation at Barracks High.
Students desired meaning in relation to their classwork. They saw little point in the content or learning methodologies associated with much of their classwork. It was common for students to differentiate between theoretical and practical subjects and to express a preference for practical subjects. Practical subjects had meaning, either because they emphasised contemporary, useful or interesting content, were associated with vocations or vocational skills, or because they provided active, applied forms of learning. Practical subjects were more likely, in the minds of students, to meet their needs. Theoretical subjects were associated with content that was obscure, poorly explained or not readily applied to students' lives, and teaching methods which depended almost exclusively on the reading of textbooks and the making or copying of notes. Where students' desire for meaning was realised, they were generally more motivated and performed better in their classwork. However, like their desire for equity, when students' desire for meaning remained unfulfilled students often reacted by withdrawal or tuning out. Confronted with an unfulfilled desire for meaning in their schoolwork, many of these students maintained minimal levels of participation in their academic work, as testimony from teachers verified.
Wanting partnerships The literature on the secondary school context indicates that teachers and students share many mainstream values associated with schooling, with both wanting cohesive cohesive,
n the capability to cohere or stick together to form a mass. classroom climates (Raviv et al., 1990) where friendly supportive relations exist between students and their teachers (Abbott-Chapman et al., 1990; Cohn & Kottkamp, 1993; Dinham, 1993, 1995; DSP, 1992; Hughes, 1994). In this study, this need was expressed powerfully by some participants and transcended a simple sharing of values. At Barracks both students and teachers expressed a strong desire to be understood by the other group, and wished they had the opportunity, based on improved understandings, to work with each other for better schooling. This dimension has been labelled `wanting partnerships' and was an enhancing dimension for student participation.
Some teachers felt that students did not understand that they were real people as well as teachers, whereas students wished that teachers could appreciate things more from their perspective, understanding that they were more than students, they were people with other lives, family pressures and part-time jobs. Wanting partnerships was an enhancing dimension for student participation because of its potential to provide transactions between students and teachers and a basis for dialogue and negotiation. Wanting partnerships was something about which students and teachers were concerned and shared views. The issues were common ground, waiting for an opportunity to become dialogue between students and teachers, to be negotiated into a more commonly accepted and improved standard of relationships between them. Unfortunately at Barracks, impeding im·pede
tr.v. im·ped·ed, im·ped·ing, im·pedes
To retard or obstruct the progress of. See Synonyms at hinder1.
[Latin imped cultural dimensions ensured that these opportunities were not realised. None the less the feeling of wanting partnerships represented a potential lead-in to better student teacher communication and subsequent student participation in redefining student-teacher relationships and work practices.
Wanting in The literature indicates that students in secondary schools like having the opportunity to be involved in schooling in ways that transcend classroom activities and the learning of academic work (Furtwengler, 1985a, 1991; Lewis 1995). Students enjoy the responsibility provided by these opportunities and want the power to influence school decision making (Connors & Epstein, 1994). At Barracks, a dimension labelled `wanting in' was identified which describes this feeling among some students and teachers who wanted to have real power in the school by being part of meaningful processes of decision making and change. Wanting in was a strong desire to be involved in change, a belief by participants that they had the right to participate, and a tenacity to persist in Verb 1. persist in - do something repeatedly and showing no intention to stop; "We continued our research into the cause of the illness"; "The landlord persists in asking us to move"
continue the face of difficulties. Few students and teachers displayed this characteristic: in the face of other cultural dimensions at Barracks, many students and teachers settled into relatively non-participatory routines. The importance of wanting in for student participation was that those few students with this strong desire provided the potential leadership for student government at Barracks, taking the initiative and persuading teachers to work for student agendas.
Framework for building student participation
Cultural dimensions at Barracks High represent a complex ecology in which the beliefs and attitudes of individuals interacted with various structural and procedural constraints CONSTRAINTS - A language for solving constraints using value inference.
["CONSTRAINTS: A Language for Expressing Almost-Hierarchical Descriptions", G.J. Sussman et al, Artif Intell 14(1):1-39 (Aug 1980)]. in the school, and acted to inhibit participation. Teachers and administrators did not see student participation as a priority. Added to this belief were other general beliefs about teachers, teaching and education which existed at Barracks--the importance of academic (as opposed to applied) work, concerns about discipline and student appearance, and the feeling that students should fit into the traditional paradigm of secondary schooling. These beliefs were set against structural features of the school which also militated against participation--the dominance of the principal in decision making, the fragmentation between faculties and within school development structures, and the lack of leadership in developing effective student learning.
Those dimensions which acted to enhance participation came from the realm of participant beliefs, values and actions. None of the enhancing dimensions can be regarded as structural: there were no entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. processes or policies at Barracks that promoted student participation, no common approaches that endorsed active learning, no strategies to guarantee student decision making. Enhancing dimensions depended upon the beliefs and agency of individuals. Unfortunately individual students, like teachers, found the dimensions that inhibited general and student participation too pervasive to overcome. This raises a critical issue for student participation at Barracks and in other secondary schools: the issue of how to foster individual agency in an organisational context.
A sense of agency, or autonomous action Autonomous Action, Avtonomnoe Deystvie, (AD) is a revolutionary anarchist federation in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine that was founded in January 2002. AD is comprised of anarcho-communists, syndicalists, autonomist-marxists, and radical ecologists. in human beings (Bandura ban`dur´a
n. 1. A traditional Ukrainian stringed musical instrument shaped like a lute, having many strings. , 1986), triggers participation. Bandura (1986) suggested this is true of both children and adults. When human beings achieve success through participation, their feelings of self-efficacy rise. `The stronger their feelings of self-efficacy', wrote Bandura (1986), `the more vigorous and persistent are their efforts' (p. 394). A lack of these feelings triggers non-participation. Bandura drew similar conclusions about agency among children and adolescents, suggesting that young people in schools often lose motivation and agency because school `all too often ... undermines the very sense of personal efficacy needed for recurring re·cur
intr.v. re·curred, re·cur·ring, re·curs
1. To happen, come up, or show up again or repeatedly.
2. To return to one's attention or memory.
3. To return in thought or discourse. self-development' (p. 416). Argyris (1993) found it common for organisational leaders to espouse the rhetoric of participation in organisations while engaging in behaviors which acted against participation. The solution, suggested Argyris, was to `create a new theory of action [which] would facilitate learning at all levels, ... drastically reduce their organizational defensive routines and ... build routines for effective organizational learning' (pp. 4-5). The concept of organisational learning has application to this study. To increase agency among their student and teacher stakeholders, schools need to construct themselves as effective learning organisations which stress collaborative communities working in critical, participatory and supportive relationships (Astuto & Clark, 1995; Burkhardt, Petri, & Roody, 1995; Fullan, 1995; Hough n. 1. Same as Hock, a joint.
v. t. 1. Same as Hock, to hamstring.
imp. & p. p. os>
p. pr. & vb. n. os>
n. 1. An adz; a hoe.
v. t. 1. To cut with a hoe. & Paine, 1997). Such learning communities need to be inclusive of inclusive of
Taking into consideration or account; including. students.
The Barracks High School culture was unique. Despite its uniqueness, there is considerable congruence con·gru·ence
a. Agreement, harmony, conformity, or correspondence.
b. An instance of this: "What an extraordinary congruence of genius and era" between the dimensions identified at Barracks and those found in the literature to describe the general culture of secondary schools. In many ways, Barracks High can be considered typical. Therefore, although the findings of single-site case study research may often be inapplicable in·ap·pli·ca·ble
Not applicable: rules inapplicable to day students.
in·ap to other settings (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), there are cases in which findings may be generalised Adj. 1. generalised - not biologically differentiated or adapted to a specific function or environment; "the hedgehog is a primitive and generalized mammal"
biological science, biology - the science that studies living organisms (Sturman, 1994) and, in this study, they can be tentatively applied to suggest a framework for building meaningful participation in secondary schools.
At Barracks, the majority of dimensions acted to inhibit student (and indeed teacher) participation. Any framework proposing to build participation in schools needs to build on dimensions which enhance participation and respond to those dimensions which act as inhibitors. By using the clusters of dimensions identified in this study, it is possible to conceive of Verb 1. conceive of - form a mental image of something that is not present or that is not the case; "Can you conceive of him as the president?"
envisage, ideate, imagine a framework of principles and strategies which would help to establish collaborative learning Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches in education that involve joint intellectual effort by students or students and teachers. Collaborative learning refers to methodologies and environments in which learners engage in a common task in which each cultures in schools which could facilitate meaningful student participation. This framework is outlined in Figure 2. The framework rests on the assumption, arising from this study, that meaningful student participation in schools depends upon creating conditions which support participation by teachers and students alike.
Figure 2 A framework of principles and strategies for building participation in secondary schools
Strategies for the socio-political dimension
* clear processes to encourage students to say what they think about all aspects of school life;
* student representation in all school forums and committees and on each faculty;
* student government bodies have equal status with other organisational groups and equal access to decision making;
* student involvement in appointment or election of teacher advisers on student bodies;
* student learning experiences are the focus of all planning;
* `open' and problem-based approaches to organisational problem solving problem solving
Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error. and decision making (Robinson, 1993);
* school ethos and underpinning un·der·pin·ning
1. Material or masonry used to support a structure, such as a wall.
2. A support or foundation. Often used in the plural.
3. Informal The human legs. Often used in the plural. values continually discussed and developed by all stakeholders, including students;
* external constraints and pressures are identified, discussed and responded to in the context of formal planning;
* integrated `bottom up' and `top down' approaches to planning and school development processes;
* targeted scaffolding is available for teachers and students involved in school development;
* clear communication about forward plans, etc.
Strategies for the curricular dimension
* student representatives involved in all discussions about learning experiences and curriculum in faculty meetings, whole-school meetings and committees;
* regular discussions in all classrooms about learning and learning experiences, including classroom-based student participation in curriculum negotiation and decision making;
* provision of academic credit for student representation in school governance;
* student learning experiences are the focus of all planning;
* consistent, planned discussion about student learning occurs in faculties;
* consistent, planned discussion about student learning occurs between faculties;
* curriculum development is secondary to the development of effective learning experiences;
* use of active learning approaches including problem solving, experimentation, research, use of non print-based resources and activities, discussion and cooperative learning cooperative learning Education theory A student-centered teaching strategy in which heterogeneous groups of students work to achieve a common academic goal–eg, completing a case study or a evaluating a QC problem. See Problem-based learning, Socratic method. ;
* `bottom-up' and `top-down' processes of developing learning experiences and curriculum;
* scaffolding for teachers and students in techniques for promoting and valuing student voices, including developing critical thinking and discussion skills.
Strategies for the personal-participant dimension
* school leaders model organisational and personal tenets of schools as learning organisations;
* teachers resolve to value all students as learners and to challenge them to learn;
* celebratory perspectives of youth are developed by celebrating academic achievements of the full range of students, and by celebrating student successes achieved outside of school;
* teachers resolve to talk to students about themselves and their worlds; they look to connect the meaning of academic work to the personal worlds of students;
* all participants encourage trust and openness in dialogue between students and other participants; they discourage arbitrary resorts to power and status;
* encourage the belief in all participants that their ideas have value, are valued by the organisation, and can make a difference.
Note: It is difficult for schools to enact strategies to influence the beliefs and attitudes of participants. Generally, experience of efficacious new approaches will encourage teachers to change their beliefs (Fullan, 1983), as will collaborative approaches of critique and dialogue within supportive groups of teachers (Nias, 1987). Such strategies are believed to be natural outcomes of the socio-political and curricular dimensions of schools as participatory organisations.
The strategies outlined in Figure 2 are underpinned by a fundamental premise, reinforced in this study, that student learning should be the core purpose of schools and represents the most potent means of providing opportunities for student participation. The actual learning experiences of students need to be the central consideration of schools if participation is to be meaningful. Secondary schools need to reflect a concern with appraising existing practices in student learning and with continuously developing new practices. This should be done with students as participants whose voices are valued. Because school curriculum and teaching cultures are powerful determinants of the quality of the school experience for students, in an effective learning community students will have representation at all levels where curriculum decisions are made, including faculty discussions, inter-faculty discussions and at whole school meetings. Regular amounts of classroom time should also be devoted to discussions of curriculum, teaching and learning issues which can involve all students (Glasser, 1990). Further strategies in Figure 2 place students as participants in school political processes which give them access to school decision-making forums, integrate the SRC into school decision-making processes, allow students to select or elect their own advisers, and which encourage students to say what they think. Schools operating as genuine promoters of student participation are also likely to implement participatory approaches to school change and development, including open and problem-based approaches to school development (Robinson, 1993) which explicitly target school purposes, external constraints and pressures acting on schools.
To promote environments which in turn promote meaningful participation for young people, school leaders must manage both `bottom-up' and `top-down' processes of planning, provide scaffolding so both teachers and students can develop the confidence and skills to enable them to participate and, through clear, understandable forward plans and communication, provide participants with an informed basis on which to participate. In this way, participation may be accepted by participants as a genuine opportunity to contribute their voices to school development, and school leaders have an essential role to play in facilitating this environment. There is evidence, in this study and in other literature (Gabella, 1995; Harris, 1994), that young people positively change their attitudes to schooling when supported by engaging school practices. It is important for school leaders to model behaviours of openness and inclusion. It is also important for teachers and other participants to enact values that communicate a caring about and trust of students and each other. Communicating that all participants can achieve and are capable of success is also important, and can be achieved through strategies such as celebrating the success of student learning at every level, and celebrating successful teaching practices.
Had such principles and practices for building student participation guided school development at Barracks High, it would probably have contributed to increased agency and motivation among participants at Barracks, led to more meaningful forms of participation by students and teachers, and to enhanced learning outcomes for students. It is something that should be considered and taken seriously by secondary schools. Only by including students as meaningful participants in the learning community of their school are we likely to resolve issues of decreasing motivation and academic performance amongst young people in the secondary school years.
Keywords educational environment school organisation student participation qualitative research secondary school teaching process curriculum Dimensions which Dimensions which ENHANCED INHIBITED student participation student participation Primary * paradigm boundedness dimensions * fragmentation * rhetorical ambiguity Socio-political * seeking out * being under the microscope dimensions empathetic power * non-pedagogical * scaffolding orientations to leadership * sink or swim * going cap in hand * deflecting agendas * learned helplessness Curricular * student theorising * primacy of institutional dimensions values * curriculum as the province of the professional * spoonfeeding Personal- * celebratory * dismissing student participant perspectives of youth participation dimensions * desire for equity * distrust of participant * desire for meaning maturity * wanting partnerships * tuning out * wanting in * withdrawal Figure 1 Cultural dimensions at Barracks High and their relationship to student participation
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