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Managing student behaviour: A study of moral regulation in a disadvantaged urban Australian school within a modernist bureaucracy

Anderson, Norrine (1993) Managing student behaviour: A study of moral regulation in a disadvantaged urban Australian school within a modernist bureaucracy. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study is a critical ethnography, set in a Western Australian state secondary school in a low socio-economic area of Perth. It began by examining the documentation resulting from the Managing Student Behaviour Programme, a programme designed to provide a consistent approach to discipline in a school where resistance to schooling is very strong, It explores the factors which lead to the penalising of some student behaviour, and of some students, but not others. It questions the role the school itself plays in generating resistance.

The data was generated using a grounded theory series of cycles of data collection, reflection and theorisation. The researcher, as Deputy Principal of the school in question, began with her own theories to test and moved on from there. The study's sample is larger, and its five year time frame - one cohort through its five years of high school - is longer than others in this field.

Following the empirical investigation of the Managing Student Behaviour data, the study moved on to examine classroom relationships. Interviews provided a picture of the student world. Staff data were examined, with reflection on the teachers' beliefs and assumptions.

The study also examined the broader system context beyond the school: the school is embedded in a bureaucratic system with its own underlying discursive frame, a set of beliefs and assumptions which have become incorporated as commonsense, taken-for-granted ‘truths' about school.

In attempting to explore how the relations and outcomes in student behaviour and performance might be theorised, the study examines the debate in the literature on student resistance. It then goes on to weigh the insights provided by poststructuralist theories of discourse, and of the construction of subjectivity. It looks at the discursive positioning of students in the school as a way forward for resistance theory.

The study concludes that a discourse of moral regulation is used to sort out 'right of access' to learning and certification: a student who does not accept the positioning of teachers as the only subjects (initiators of action) in the school is denied access to education. Emphasis is on moral regulation first, and learning second. The school discourse is discriminatory towards all students, but particularly towards 'working/underclass' students who see no reason to accept their object (acted-upon) status and are marginalised and depersonalised by the education system.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Collins, Cherry and Currie, Jan
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