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Title: Scottish secondary education from a critical community psychological perspective: power, control and exclusion
Author(s): Fox, Rachael
Supervisor(s): Fryer, David
I'Anson, John
Keywords: Community Psychology
Critical Psychology
Scottish Education
Secondary Education
young people
discourse analysis
Issue Date: 30-Jan-2008
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Abstract of Thesis Entitled: Scottish Secondary Education from a Critical Community Psychological Perspective: Power, Control and Exclusion This research examines problematic and taken for granted issues in Scottish Secondary Education, from a critical community psychological perspective. Young people are positioned as central to the research, in particular young people experiencing exclusion being the most disempowered group in education, and to fully understand problems they experience the thesis develops a standpoint with young people. Methodologically the research is grounded in a particular approach to praxis. Critical reflection, action and knowledge construction all influence one another cyclically in complex relationships, at times conflicting and at others developing together dialogically and these relationships are embraced and reflected upon carefully. Power and knowledge are viewed as being inextricably linked and knowledge, what is legitimated within a certain frame of reference as ‘truth’ or ‘reality’, is viewed as being constructed by dominant groups with the power to do so. Ethnography was carried out in three educational settings: a mainstream High School; a Special School in a city centre catering for young people experiencing exclusion; and a Youth Project where permanently excluded young people were on an alternative curriculum. Qualitative methods were used in a varied and tailored way for each setting and group of people and included Participatory Action Research and group work with young people, interview and group work with teachers, active participation in settings leading to fieldwork notes, and collection of textual information. Analysis involved careful examination of a wide variety of material, drawing on various methods of discourse analysis. The research material was analysed for the ways in which education made possible and placed limits on legislation, social practices, ways of speaking and ways of being. The assumption that adults must be in control of young people in education was found to be absolute and pervasive, stemming from societal ideas of young people, but also perpetuating them. This emerged throughout my research, from practices in mainstream school to ways of speaking available to adults and young people. Inclusion, while often spoken of in relation to equality and social justice, in practice is often conditional, and is re-positioned in this thesis as a form of control. School exclusion is often described in education as being expelled or suspended, but is repositioned in this research more generally as being excluded from learning and peers, and is argued as inherently problematic. Problematic, institutional, educational discourse is constructed as often placing limits on ways of speaking, such that critical reflection and action within secondary education becomes very difficult for adults and young people. Ways of speaking available to young people are examined and demonstrate that while education imposes particular ways of speaking and being, young people find opportunities to resist and reconstruct. Ways of being are examined, between adults and young people in educational settings, and an account of performance of resistance and compliance between young people and adults is developed. This research draws on a complex and multi disciplinary use of theory, literature, methodology and methods, and in doing so constructs an account of young people’s experiences in education that is based on a standpoint with young people. By grounding the research in the interests of young people, particularly those experiencing school exclusion, it challenges assumptions of dominance and control that have implications for education as a whole and all those operating within.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences

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