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Just whose story is it? Investigating the discourse of otherised at-risk youth

Carr, Donna Just whose story is it? Investigating the discourse of otherised at-risk youth. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This research aims to illuminate the ways in which students and teachers understand, experience and respond to the discourse of 'at-risk' within West Australian (WA) high schools. It addresses the central premise that a hegemonic covert/overt curriculum is at play within schools. This curriculum leads to the construction of deviant deficit victim-blaming labels and the otherising of non-dominant at-risk youth. It examines the contribution that deviant deficit labelling makes to the development of narrative self-identity and the subsequent negative impact on life trajectories. Further, it investigates to what extent 'deviant' behaviours is evidence of resistant cultural capital.

Improving the educational outcomes for otherised at-risk youth requires an unfettered examination of lived-experience and this is achieved by breathing life into the research participants’ personal stories of schooling. When researchers bear witness to the lived-experience of non-dominant young people their culture is validated and transformative possibilities unfold. My research is based on a critical ethnographic tradition in which the voices of the research participants were actively sought during dialogic focus group interviews. Narrative vignettes were utilised to illuminate the lived-experiences of the research participants. The vignettes allowed me to co-jointly paint the image of lived-experience as I merge student voice and critical theorising. The vignettes are contextualised with a rich thick description of the 'setting' of schools through a document analysis of select federal and state government education field texts.

An analysis of the narrative vignettes identifies that systemic and ongoing class injury occurs for non-dominant youth within West Australian high schools. This research posits that the antithesis is the active promotion of the socially just school and the thesis makes recommendations that facilitate the development of socially just schools within Western Australia. These recommendations include the development of policies and pedagogical practices that redefine non-dominant youth as at-promise rather than as at-risk; the development of pedagogical strategies that facilitate youth positively re-storying their narrative identities; the development of curriculum, pedagogy and learning experiences that promote community engagement; and the introduction of critical pedagogies that facilitate the development of learner identity, self-efficacy and academic resilience.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Down, Barry and Glass, Christine
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