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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences eTheses
Title: ‘Bucking the trend’: exploring schools that exceed expectations
Author(s): Hughes, Tracey Lynn
Supervisor(s): Priestley, Mark
Emond, Ruth
Keywords: young people
mixed methods
case study
school experiences
poverty-related attainment gap
Issue Date: 9-Aug-2018
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis outlines an exploratory study which was undertaken to gain an understanding of the factors influencing good educational outcomes in areas of disadvantage. This empirical study adopts a mixed methods and staged approach in order to: firstly, identify schools located in areas of disadvantage which achieve better than expected outcomes for their students; and, secondly, conduct case study, ethnographic research in selected schools identified at stage one. The research is framed in the Scottish policy context where a key political aim is to raise attainment, with a particular focus on narrowing the poverty related attainment gap. Furthermore, the wider global and macro context of performativity and accountability procedures are noted, alongside a critique of school effectiveness research and the ‘what works’ debate. Next, the theoretical underpinnings of this research study are offered. This theoretical position draws upon the social-ecological model and the work of Pragmatist and Neo-Pragmatist thought, through the work of Mead (1932, 1934a, 1934b, 1938), Dewey (1916, 1938, 1939), and Joas (1996), to highlight the transactional nature of individuals with their environment. Subsequently, a comprehensive review of the themes emerging from academic, policy and theoretical literature are provided. In line with the theoretical position of this study, the ecological nature of schooling and education is a prominent theme. Subsequently, the innovative mixed method approach of the first stage of the research is discussed, alongside the findings from this first stage. Then, the multiple methods drawn upon in the second stage of the research study (in three case study schools) are outlined, with reference to case study and ethnographic intent (Wolcott, 1987) research, and methods drawing upon the mosaic approach (Clark and Moss, 2011). Through these three case studies, the findings detail: young people’s agency and their support systems; the value of positive relational and cultural resources; and, the adverse effects of ‘what works’ approaches and performativity and accountability measures. Key findings which emerge from this research study include: diversity in the understanding of what it is to be successful; the importance of school culture in promoting engagement, providing a sense of belonging and empowering young people, staff and local community; and, the perils of the global phenomenon of performativity for schools which need contextualised solutions to local problems. Possibilities for future research and possible directions to promote individual voices, such as young people and teachers, in the policy making process are then noted. However, as will be emphasised throughout this thesis, the key takeaway idea is the need to allow for more nuanced understandings of each school’s unique ecological context.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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