Eliciting and Foregrounding the Voices of Young People at Risk of School Exclusion: How Does this Change Schools’ Perceptions of Pupil Disaffection?
Sartory, Elizabeth Anne
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis comprises two papers. Paper One: Previous research in relation to young people who are at risk of school exclusion can be criticised for the lack of studies that truly elicit and foreground the voices of these young people within a school context. While retrospective studies have explored their views post exclusion, few have examined their perceptions within a mainstream context prior to exclusion. This can be explained in terms of the inherent difficulties of engaging disaffected young people with research, often attributed to a combination of poor language skills and negative perceptions of adults, and schools’ reluctance to foreground these voices. This paper reports how a participatory research method, which took into account the individual needs of disaffected young people, overcame these difficulties and succeeded in eliciting the voices of ten young people at risk of school exclusion within their mainstream context. Rich, meaningful and contextualised data were generated about disaffected young people’s perceptions of their mainstream school experiences. The data were thematically analysed and then interpreted using self determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000). This revealed that from young people’s perspectives the need for a sense of relatedness was more relevant than the need for a sense of autonomy. The need to feel competent only became relevant in certain subject contexts. Findings showed a more holistic and nuanced perspective of disaffection. The young people perceived their engagement to be context driven and, importantly, were able to view themselves as positively engaged with some aspects of school. This highlights the need for further research into disaffected young people’s voices regarding what they perceive to be positive engagement as this may differ from practitioners’ perceptions. Implications for practice are that Educational Psychologists (EPs) are well placed to foreground the voice of disaffected young people with practitioners. In so doing they help them make better sense of disaffected young people’s school experiences and enhance practitioners’ ability to support these young people. Paper Two: Interventions in relation to young people at risk of exclusion tend to be drawn from education practitioner views which focus on a particular perspective of disaffection such as within child or curricular factors. Consequently interventions are ‘done to’ rather than ‘with’ young people and lack an integrated, holistic approach. In this small case study the researcher facilitated an intervention with seven Learning Mentors (LMs) set within two different school contexts. The aim of the intervention was to engage LMs with the voice of disaffected young people. The LMs met in two groups over two months during which vignettes of disaffected young people’s voices were used as stimuli for prioritising, implementing and evaluating changes to current LM practice. LMs’ personal constructs of disaffected young people were elicited pre and post intervention. The findings reveal that when LMs are facilitated to engage with the voice of disaffected young people it can have a positive impact on their perceptions of those young people. The effectiveness of the impact was dependent on the context of the school, level of training received and the extent to which LMs engaged with the facilitative process. As this is one of few studies which have implemented an intervention to engage schools with the voice of disaffected young people, further research exploring whether the intervention could be replicated in other school contexts would be of value. This study adds to the body of knowledge on school disaffection in young people and indicates that EPs are well placed to manage facilitative processes aimed at engaging schools with the voices of disaffected young people. In doing so they support practitioners to broaden their understanding of these young people and, importantly, enable them to act on their voices.
DEdPsy in Educational Child and Community Psychology