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Durham e-Theses
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A Critical Ethnography of Pupil Resistance to Authority: How Pupil and Teacher Identities Create Spaces of Resistance in the Contemporary School

FORTUNE, STEVEN (2010) A Critical Ethnography of Pupil Resistance to Authority: How Pupil and Teacher Identities Create Spaces of Resistance in the Contemporary School. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis employs a critical ethnographic method to examine how high ability pupils in a comprehensive school in an area of relative social deprivation express resistance to authority. The identities which teachers adopt in response to pupil resistance are also critically examined. The focus of the study is a group of nine high ability pupils. Data was collected through observing these pupils in forty-three lessons and conducting eleven group pupil interviews. Sixteen members of school staff were also interviewed. The research was conduced over a three month period (May to July) in the summer term of 2009.
Building upon neo-Marxist resistance theory the aim is to inject a degree of construct validity into the concept of pupil resistance. By avoiding the tendency to romanticise pupils’ often petulant and nihilistic behaviour the aim is to revitalise resistance theory by providing a more valid account of how and why pupils resist school authority. The aim is also to critically evaluate how pedagogic practice responds to pupil resistance and to assess the potential for pupil resistance to develop into a wider Marxist transformative agenda.
It is argued that certain high ability working class pupils express a form of constructive resistance. This behaviour challenges the social classifications of schooling through constructively questioning the equity and competence of pedagogic authority. It is argued that constructive forms of resistance reflect the ability of pupils to critically assess their social environment and resist perceived injustice. It is also argued that pupils who express constructive forms of resistance have the potential to question the social classifications of wider capitalist society.
The critical element of this thesis argues that current pedagogic practice is inadequate in engaging with pupil resistance; teachers adopt identities which seek to suppress pupils’ critical awareness. It is further argued that for constructive forms of resistance to develop wider meaning teachers must critically engage with pupils’ cultural expression through developing critical forms of pedagogy which reference pupils’ cultural heritage.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 Dec 2010 16:04

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