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Students as policy actors: the student perspective in the establishment process of a new school
The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology, Department of Educational Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology, Department of Educational Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Malmö University, Faculty of Education and Society (LS), Department of Culture, Languages and Media (KSM).ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2390-0338
2022 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

When a new school is established, the role of the students is of decisive importance (Blennow et al, 2021; forthcoming). They may buy into the ideas and visions presented. They may show resistance. They may even be totally indifferent or uninformed. In any case, the students’ reactions and actions on policy initiatives are crucial in the creation of a school culture or campus ethos. In policy enactment research however, there is a tendency to overlook the students’ role as policy actors (Tanner, 2016).

This paper draws on an ongoing study, where we investigate the policy enactment processes that are set in motion at the establishment of a new, strongly profiled municipal upper secondary school (Blennow et al 2021; forthcoming). The school is situated in a marketized educational landscape in a middle range Swedish university town. It has an entrepreneurial approach and a “challenge-driven” pedagogy and the vision of the school goes like this:

“We solve the challenges of the future now – with knowledge and creativity”.

Given the assumptions above, this paper focuses the student perspective in the establishment process of the school. The questions we seek to answer are:

How do students take part when the vision of the new school is enacted?

How can the student perspective contribute to policy enactment theory?

To answer the research questions, we use policy enactment theory. The theory offers a perspective on policy as something that institutions as schools do (Ball et al 2012). Policies usually aim to prevent or solve problems and have people as their objects. Simultaneously they produce policy subjects: the ones that are supposed to enact the policy. Seeing policy as something enacted, instead of implemented, entails that policy is continuously translated, transformed and negotiated by different actors in social interaction (Maguire et al, 2011; Ball et al 2011a; b; 2012; Braun et al 2011 a; b).

In our analysis we use a perspective on policies as either imperative or exhortative (Ball et al, 2011a), that is, as either something to obey or something that can be used by policy translators in a creative way. We also draw on their gallery of different roles in the policy enactment process (Ball et al 2011b, 2012). Different actors take different roles but are also placed in different subject positions in relation to the problem a certain policy is created to solve (Bacci, 2009).

We are especially interested in how the students relate to the vision of the school, adapt to it, ignore it or make resistance to it, and how they in some cases come to represent different positions and belong to different coalitions. Some previous research has addressed the role of students in relation to policy and viewed the policy enactment process from the student´s frame of reference. For instance, Tanner (2016) study a process where students are both policy subjects and objects, Löfgren et al (2018) frame students as policy translators and Rönnberg (2014) shows how students use policy to benefit their own interests.

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used

In the paper we analyse two student cases, which are chosen as examples of radically different student positions in the enactment of the policy of the school. The data used in the analysis are fieldnotes, transcribed interviews and a survey with all the third-year students at the school in the spring of 2021.

The data used in this paper is part of the material gathered for the ongoing study of the establishment of the school. We have studied the school since its start in 2018. Ethnographic methodology is used to capture social interactions, focusing on power and resistance, conflicts and conflict management, the school as a physical meeting-place, emotions and emotional labor. Much time is spent in the environment, in order to get as wide a perspective as possible, collaborate with the staff, and get behind the scenes. We conduct observations of both planned and formal activities, such as instruction and meetings, and we “shadow” whole work/school days focusing on informal processes and unforeseen events (Czarniawska, 2007). Observations and shadowing are alternated with semi-structured interviews, to better understand the participants’ interactions, feelings and thoughts, as well as widening and controlling the interpretations of the observations (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2011).

To study the relation between the vision of the school and the community and society at large, different kinds of documents, such as protocols from the City Council, local documents, information booklets, media texts, and marketing material are analysed. Using critical discourse analytical methods (Fairclough, 1992), the texts are related to local and global contexts.Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or FindingsWhen the school opened in 2018, the staff lined up for the vision. But the students turned out to be a more diversified group than expected, making evident that the utopian vision had cracks. A group of students refused to engage in school projects built on the vision. Other students became advocates of the school and vision.  

Despite the turbulence of the first years, the vision did not change. The school started in preliminary premises, and it seems that the vision has been preserved while the staff is waiting for the permanent and pedagogically adapted school building.  

The character of the vision is exhortative, with some imperative aspects. By including all actors, whether they want it or not, in a “We”, as in “We solve the challenges of the future now ...”, the vision imposes itself on everyone who belongs to the school and expect of them to make a creative translation into action. It seems to announce that being a teacher or student at this school also means being a part of the vision.  

Teachers and students tell different stories about the first years. Where teachers see resistance, lack of interest and great needs of pedagogical support in the student body, the students contribute to a richer and more complex answer to what has happened. The roles they take in relation to the vision differs significantly.

The analysis of the two student cases offers insights into the complexity of this role taking and makes visible how students can take the role as enthusiasts, while silently or in closed rooms simultaneously being critics.

Preliminary answers to our research questions are that students in our case are important policy actors and that the reflection on the enactment processes become more complex and multifaceted when the students' perspectives are included.  ReferencesBacchi, C. L. (2009). Analysing policy: what's the problem represented to be? Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson.

Ball, S.J., Maguire, M, Braun, A & Hoskins, K (2011a). Policy subjects and policy actors in schools: some necessary but insufficient analyses. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. Vol 32:4, p. 611-624. DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2011.601564  

Ball, S.J., Maguire, M, Braun, A & Hoskins, K (2011b). Policy actors: doing policy work in schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Vol 32, p. 625-639. DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2011.601564

Ball, S.J., Maguire, M, Braun, A (2012). How schools do policy. Policy enactments in secondary schools. London/New York: Routledge.  

Blennow, K., Bosseldal, I., & Malmström, M (2021). Visions and Resistance. The Establishment of a New School in a Marketized Educational Landscape. Conference paper, ECER 2021.  

Blennow, K., Bosseldal, I., & Malmström, M. (forthcoming). Parallel Lines: The enactment of the vision of a new school in a Marketized Educational Landscape.  

Braun, A., Ball, S. J. & Maguire, M. (2011a) Policy enactments in schools introduction: towards a toolbox for theory and research, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32:4, 581-583, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2011.601554

Braun, A., Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., & Hoskins, K. (2011b) Taking context seriously: towards explaining policy enactments in the secondary school, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32:4, 585-596, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2011.601555

Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education. (7.ed.) Abingdon: Routledge.

Czarniawska, B. (2007) Shadowing and other techniques for doing fieldwork in modern societies. Malmö: Liber.

Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and social change, Cambridge: Polity.

Löfgren, H, Löfgren, R, Pérez Prieto H (2018). Pupils’ enactments of a policy for equivalence: Stories about different conditions when preparing for national tests. European Educational Research Journal. Vol. 17:5, p. 676-695 DOI: 10.1177/1474904118757238

Maguire, M., Hoskins, K., Ball, S., & Braun, A. (2011) Policy discourses in school texts, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32:4, 597-609, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2011.601556  

Rönnberg, L. (2014) Att ta inspektionen i egna händer. Hur lokala aktörer använder skolinspektionen. Utbildning och demokrati, vol 23, nr 1, 85-106 Tanner, M (2016). Att visa vad man kan. Elever som medspelare i förändrade policypraktiker om bedömning i år sex. KAPET Karlstads universitets Pedagogiska Tidskrift, årgång 12, nr 1.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2022.
Keywords [en]
school establishment, policy enactment, students
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-56224OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-56224DiVA, id: diva2:1713726
Conference
ECER - European Educational Research Association2022/08/23 → 2022/08/26 Yerevan, Armenien
Note

Malmström har deltagit i författandet av abstract men deltog inte under den muntliga presentationen.

Available from: 2022-11-27 Created: 2022-11-27 Last updated: 2024-06-11Bibliographically approved

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