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Transforming our practice: Listening to student voice

Robinson, J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0958-4973 (2012) Transforming our practice: Listening to student voice. In: 27th Annual Research Forum (Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Inc) Transforming practice: The value of educational research, 11 August 2012, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Western Australia


Official responses by education ministers and executive directors to issues of student disengagement from schooling all too often become an exercise in labelling and blaming students as defiant and the cause of "the problem". Such approaches, I argue, shift the focus away from the broader sets of structural, organisational, cultural and pedagogical conditions leading to student alienation and disengagement from schooling. Recent media stories reinforce this kind of victim blaming analysis whereby "troublesome" students are seen to be "nicking off at lunchtime, having a smoke down on the oval and disappearing" (Emerson, 2012). In response, we witness short-lived and ineffectual threats such as "police return students to school to reduce crime" and "they should never forget that attending school is the law" (Oliver, 2012).

In this paper, I argue that these kinds of simplistic policy responses to the phenomenon of student truancy and behaviour urgently require a more sophisticated and theoretically robust form of analysis. As educators, we have a responsibility to move beyond individualistic deficit and pathologising responses to young people and search a more critical analysis capable of helping us to better understand the complex social, historical, cultural and economic factors at play. Throughout this paper, I use critical ethnography as a research methodology to unsettle simplistic versions of student behaviour in schools and instead use student voice to help inform and reposition educational policies and practices from the perspectives of young people themselves (Pasco, 2000).

Keywords: student voice, student engagement, critical ethnography

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
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