This collection contains the Doctoral and Masters by Research theses produced within the department.

Recent Submissions

  • Puddle Jumping: How do young children manage their grief following the death of their sibling and how do mothers use continuing bonds to maintain their children's relationship in the living world?

    Devarakonda, Chandrika; Ravenscroft, Debbie J. (University of Chester, 2023)
    This thesis examines the narratives of four mothers who are bereaved of one of their children and are parenting living children. The study used an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore the lived experiences of bereaved siblings through the stories told by their mothers. Previous research exploring the impact on children following the death of a sibling, indicates the potential long-lasting impact on their emotional wellbeing, but there is a scarcity of research which focuses on the younger child and the practice of continuing bonds by their mother. A review of the literature focuses on the traditions, rituals and practices enacted by mothers as they endeavour to create or to maintain relationships between all their children; those who have died and those in the living world. A case study approach has been adopted across four case studies and includes semistructured interviews with each child’s mother using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to demonstrate their lived experiences. Rich narratives allow an insight into how young siblings can manage their grief and maintain a relationship with their sibling. Analysis of the data revealed the importance of this sibling relationship and the ways in which the children’s mothers incorporated the memories of their dead children into their lives of their living children. The data revealed that grief is felt even when a sibling was not known in the living world and that living siblings share stories and memories and are an important part of continuing bonds. Mothers spoke with love, hope, and confidence about all their children and of their determination to ensure their siblings remained in each other's lives. The thesis also demonstrates the tensions felt amongst educational professionals and western society in talking to young children about death and how their voice can become silenced, contributing to their grief. Mothers play a key role in forging and maintaining the bond between their living and dead children, but further research in this area is needed.
  • A critical autoethnographic study of the experience of the older secondary school teacher in England: a socio-political and emotional model of their Body without Organs

    Moran, Paul; Fenech, Elaine (University of Chester, 2023-05)
    This research explores the lives of ‘older’ secondary teachers as they inhabit an educational landscape that has changed significantly during their careers. It employs a postmodern critical autoethnographic methodology as a vehicle through which to examine their experiences, as professionals who now exist in a neoliberal, marketised model of education, where they have been commodified. The work focuses on how their experiences of education have moulded their values and identities and provides empirical evidence showing that maintaining these fundamentals is challenged and compromised in the educational landscape that they work in. There are imperatives for this study. The UK population is ageing, and people will be forced to work for longer in the future. However, professional challenges that older teachers face are driving them out of the profession prematurely. This is at a time of crisis in education, where there is a failure to recruit and retain teachers, so arresting the exodus of older teachers would partly address the significant, long-standing recruitment issue. The evidence demonstrates that older teachers experience a loss of voice and agency. They are subjected to performative regimes, that measure that which is readily measurable, in an education system that has a functionalist agenda, with an economic purpose. This regime quells their creative desires and limits their opportunities to collaborate and to share their significant knowledge and experience. Older teachers are not afforded the same promotion and developmental opportunities as younger teachers and are subject to ageist stereotypical assumptions about their continued ability to function at a high level in teaching. This is despite their will to continue to develop and seek new opportunities. The evidence demonstrates that they do not feel professionally valued, despite the wealth of experience that they have to offer, and the research reveals their voices and the significant emotional impact of this on them. Drawing on the work of Deleuze and Guattari (2013a, b) and my empirical evidence, I construct a socio-political model of the older teachers’ “Body without Organs”. This Vitruvian Teacher model incorporates aspects of their professional lives that sustain them, together with those that significantly challenge them. The critical narrative that emanates from the research gives rise to suggestions for sustaining these teachers in fulfilling careers.
  • Crafting a Sense of Self: Exploring amateur arts-based practice within a university business school context

    Devarakonda, Chandrika; Adams, Jeff; Marshall, Julie (University of Chester, 2023-12)
    This research uses arts-based practice in a pivotal role both as a research context and methodological means, within a university business school setting. A personal creative rupture, challenging my sense of professional self, prompts the central research aims to: (1) analyse how amateur arts-based practice shapes university business school lecturers’ sense of self; (2) gain new understanding of creative learning processes applied to a business school context, and (3) explore the use of an artefact-based data collection method to elicit rich participant narratives around selfhood. Participant voices of a micro sample of business school educators are at the heart of the research. Narrative accounts of their lived creative experiences illuminate and synthesise perceptions on sense of self and place, both creatively and professionally, and how it can be subject to various practices. Their symbolic artefacts steer conversational style interviews, supporting a social constructivist orientation. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus acts as a central mode of analysis. Case analyses collate and re-frame participants’ stories about shaping of selfhoods. The instrumental nature of artefacts is explored in prompting sensitive, private and potentially inaccessible insights into crafter and professional selfhoods, challenging the role of more conventional research methods. Perceptions of amateur creative practice, from a university business school perspective, reveal how the two seemingly disparate worlds intersect. For some business school lecturers, their creative practice plays a large part in their lives. For others it is more functional. Findings suggest the varying degree of intersectionality is influenced by the inner structures of habitus alongside external structures within fields of practice, drawing on the duality of Bourdieu’s sociology. Through heuristic processes the transformational nature of habitus is investigated. Findings identify the enabling and constraining nature of embodied dispositions. This contributes fresh insights into creative and professional selfhoods, including value systems, attitudes to risk and coping strategies for practice in navigating change and sense of agency. What has been identified are potential alternative routes to gaining insight into creative processes and practice and transformation of selfhoods, within the already fast-growing domain of arts-based methods Findings show unifying and varying benefits and impacts of creative practice on both personal and professional selfhoods as university business school lecturer. Amateur creative practice varies including motives, cognitive and affective benefits, degrees of engagement and attitudes to risk. The research offers a deeper layer of reflexivity on educational philosophy, perceived tensions and the value of creative intelligence within a university business school context. It also offers valuable perspective on the responsibility as educator in creating safe temporal and mental space to nurture business school learner creativity.
  • Performativity and self-efficacy of A-level students during a period of discontinuity

    Lambert, Steve; Bacon, Jo; Thomas, Alex (University of Chester, 2023-04)
    This exploratory case study investigates the impact that the discontinuity to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, had on the students who were unable to take two series of high-stake examinations. The study examines student self-efficacy in the build-up to final A-level exams, interrogating how the teacher allocated grade process and the periods of lockdown impacted on the student body. The study reflects growing concerns about how government decisions aimed to control the COVID-19 virus have manifested in educational settings and may well effect schools and colleges for many years to come. The conceptual framework that underpinned this research arose from the work of Bandura (1977) on self-efficacy with the specific field of interest being how levels of Academic Self-Efficacy (Zimmerman, 1995) were impacted by a disjointed educational journey. An interpretive approach is adopted, utilising mixed method case study to focus on the students at one educational institution. The empirical data was collected through five stages with the first involving longitudinal quantitative analysis of the student body, followed by two focus groups, which enabled purposive sampling to select five final cases. After interviewing the five students to gain a deeper understanding of their experience, three staff from different institutions were interviewed to triangulate the data. The quantitative and qualitative data was scrutinised using inductive content analysis with three resultant themes emerging. The first was the wider impact on wellbeing that the discontinuity has created, the second was a decline in students' attitudes toward education and the third regarded changes to future plans following the experiences of the pandemic. The findings indicate that for some students the return to ‘normal’ education and the potentially inflated GCSE’s, have been as much of a challenge as the pandemic itself. Accordingly, this thesis begins to ask questions about the culture of neoliberalism and performativity which transcends education and whether the pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink. This will bring into scope Foucault’s (1982) concepts of power, surveillance, and regulation and Ball’s (2015) work about educational discourse. This research falls at a time where there is limited existing literature which substantively explores the impact of the pandemic on the ‘COVID-19 class’, therefore the novel findings from this research offer a unique window into the lived experiences of students during the COVID-19 discontinuity. Although this research offers no practical guidance about how to alter educational policy or practice, all educational institutions could apply the findings noted as they set out on strategic planning for the future.
  • Vegan Children in English Secondary Schools: Challenging Norms and Personal Impacts

    Devarakonda, Chandrika; Holt, James; Marshall, Heather (University of Chester, 2023-05)
    As a teacher, teacher educator, and ethical vegan, I have reflected on how animals are used, viewed, taught, and discussed in the school system. Inspired by the work of McDonald, Cevero, and Courtenay (1999), this study aims to explore the experiences of vegans, specifically their ability to challenge normative ideologies. However, unlike previous research, this study focuses on children in UK secondary schools. Giroux's (2001) concept of the hidden curriculum in schools is vital in understanding the experiences shared in this thesis, including the physical environment, school ethos, facilities, and relationships between staff, support staff, and pupils. Schools and education more broadly are viewed as imposing a typical culture that reflects the social structure and power relations of wider society. Importantly, this study highlights how education perpetuates a normalization of consuming animals, replicating existing cultural norms. This thesis provides insight into the experiences of young vegans as they navigate their school life within the context of the broader societal norms and values. The study identifies a gap in the current literature, which fails to consider the experiences of children and young people. The research aims to answer the question of whether vegan children in English schools can challenge the omnivore norm and examines their personal impact. Qualitative research methods were utilized to narrate and understand their day-to-day encounters. The participants are positioned as engaging in parrhesia, or truth-telling, to convey their experiences. This interpretivist practitioner-inquiry draws from a variety of methods, akin to a bricolage, to explore personal experiences and encourage participants to engage in critically reflective conversations. Through the research question "Can young vegans challenge the omnivore norm in English schools, and what is the personal impact?" this study concludes that experiences were predominantly negative, particularly in challenging the pervasive norm of animal consumption within schools. Young vegans faced limited opportunities to challenge these norms and incurred a high personal cost in doing so, which shaped their decisions and identity. These encounters extended beyond the classroom, curriculum, and lessons to the wider school culture. The hidden curriculum serves as a framework for understanding the reproduction and widespread support of overriding norms, including those of omnivores.
  • An illusion of choice: The lived experiences of non-traditional students

    Bamber, Sally; Bacon, Jo; Hopkinson, Sharon C. (University of Chester, 2022-09)
    Students with a combination of A levels and BTEC qualifications make up a small but significant number of students entering higher education (HE) in England. There has been limited research into how these students make the decision to study a combination of qualifications or how they feel the combination has supported the transition to university. This study uses Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore the in-depth lived experiences of three students who entered HE at the study university with a combination of A level and BTEC experiences. The study considers the agency the participants perceive they had during decision-making at 16 and 18. It also explores how assessment methods have acted as a structure limiting agency in decision-making. The study considers how the participants’ combination of qualifications has supported their transition to university. Analysis of the participants’ lived experiences identifies three key themes: the impact of assessment type on the students, an exploration of the structures affecting decision-making at 16 and 18, and how post-16 qualifications affect their academic identity. These themes are embedded within the academic/ vocational divide present within the English education system, where academic qualifications are given greater symbolic value, especially for entry to HE. The study uses Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts of doxa, symbolic violence and social reproduction to identify structures that impact on the participants’ agency in their decision-making. It highlights the doxa of A levels as ‘gold standard’ in post-16 education. The study also provides supporting evidence for the continued academic/vocational divide in English post-16 education, through which symbolic violence is enacted on the participants. Symbolic violence is also identified in the government’s policies on assessment, where a focus on examinations reduces the participants’ agency. Indeed, recent changes in assessment in BTECs may limit future students’ opportunities to enter HE through this route. The thesis argues that government policies on assessment serve to reinforce the academic/vocational dichotomy and this may lead to social reproduction rather than widening participation to HE.
  • Conversations within a nursing home: An ethnographic study of the lived experience of residents, visitors and staff

    Moran, Paul; Chapman, Hazel; Mansfield-Loynes, Kate A. (University of Chester, 2021-09-01)
    This thesis uses an ethnographic study to explore the lived experience of those living, working and visiting a nursing home. This tripartite has traditionally been hidden from view, given no forum to voice experiences in a meaningful way within a sector which is seriously underfunded. By using the work of Erving Goffman as a foundation I utilise a therapeutic reflective Marxist lens to explore the lived experience of the tripartite and examine the neo-liberal practices that abound within health services. I relate the tripartite voices through a series of narratives that underline that care, in and of itself, is significant and that it is emphasised through the everyday-ness of their experiences that cuts through the institutional practices and power imbalances inherent within the social care arena. There are complexities that arise when attempting to understand the messiness of the nursing home and wider social care arena but, as a nurse that has spent the majority of their working life within it, I have been able to navigate and draw some conclusions around what it is to live, work and visit this marginalized sector. I have explored what it means to age in today’s society and the inherent ageism, discrimination and stigma that accompanies the ageing process. I have reviewed what ‘home’ is and that an individual’s personal history of ‘home’ supports an individual’s sense of belonging and continuity which is integral to well-being and thus a literal place and an ideal. However, the legislation and regulation that wraps itself around elderly care inexorably leads to a sense of surveillance which provides a power imbalance. This power imbalance is reviewed against Goffman’s work around Total Institutions (1961). By thematically analysing my data I have realised that the conversations and observations were part of a greater map which, due to its subject matter, was complex but interconnected. Ultimately, there were three themes that took precedence: Death (of self; social death and of life as we know it); Personalization of care and expectations and; Environment and business policy. All the statistical evidence points to a future where there is an ageing population with increasingly complex co-morbidities which will be situated within the reality of a decreasing younger population. I conclude that there is a need to reframe sickness to health-care within the rhetoric around older people and their requirements from a healthcare system, coupled with a necessity of educating the wider population on societal prejudice and discriminations to an ageing population. There is also a need to engage further with the current conceptualizations of care at a deeper and philosophical level.
  • To What Extent do the Approaches to Leadership of General Further Education College Principals Sustain a Culture that Enhances Institutional Outcomes?

    Lambert, Steve; Poole, Simon; McCarroll, Andrew S. (University of Chester, 2021-09-01)
    What educational leadership does - not what educational leadership is. This powerful benchmark statement supports me to tell the stories of principals, middle managers and teachers within different General Further Education College settings. In this interpretive hermeneutical examination of the concepts of leadership and culture from the perspectives of three levels of General Further Education College staff I consider and interpret what they think and believe about contemporary approaches to leadership and the establishment of organisational culture through an examination of their lived experiences. I use a thematic analysis to shine a light on the experiences of three principals, three middle managers and three teachers in three institutions. The impact of the Incorporation of General Further Education Colleges since April 1993 and the subsequent marketisation and significant increase in accountability is well documented over many decades. The recognition of the dichotomy which exists in the further education sector between competing business requirements and approaches to student learning have shaped approaches to leadership and the culture required in individual colleges and the further education sector. My analysis is framed by two leadership relationship models. Nietzsche’s master and slave morality is utilised in conjunction with Graen and Uhl-Bien’s leader-member exchange theory to examine present approaches to leadership and the relationships they produce to inform macro and institutional sub-cultures to meet the competing demands on the further education sector and individual General Further Education Colleges. This framework is supported by theorists concerned with the evolution of further education leadership type and cultural development in a sector driven by market forces and government policy. The thesis highlights the impact of leadership approaches on college direction and how these concepts impact on organisational outcomes.
  • “Hey you there!” An autoethnographic exploration of the impact of neoliberalism on the role and identity of the primary school teacher

    Moran, Paul; Hulse, Bethan; Duncan, Susan J. (University of Chester, 2021-10)
    The purpose of this thesis is to explore the agency of teachers in the development of their professional identities. The research is grounded in my lived experience as a primary teacher, senior leader and mentor of trainee and newly qualified teachers during the tumultuous three decades that followed the 1988 Education Reform Act. It is the result of an extensive period of research into and reflection on my experiences, actions and compromises during this period. Teacher identity is often seen as a dynamic and fluid process; one that is influenced by a range of factors and contexts (Beijaard et al, 2004). I conceptualise the influence and effects of neoliberalism as an example of a dominant ideology on the role and identity of primary teachers through the utilisation of Althusser’s theory of the interpellation of the subject by ideology (1971/2001). Although, Althusser saw schools as the major ideological state apparatus (ISA), he did not provide any detail on what takes place within the classroom (Macris, 2014). This research applies Althusserian theory to the experiences of teachers and explores the extent to which ideology can be seen as constituting teacher-subjects who in turn take up their interpellative roles within the educational ISA. An autoethnographic methodology is adopted making the author’s voice and experience central to the research while also conducting dialogue with professionals at the start of their careers. Data, gathered from a wide range of sources, are presented in the form of a series of vignettes focussing on three main areas which emerged from analysis - centralised curriculum control, Ofsted and performativity. From this emerge questions about the scope and nature of agency exercised by teachers during the course of their professional and personal development which are explored through an Althusserian lens. The findings show how ideology exisiting in the material practices of twenty first century schools have shaped the way teachers construct and communicate their professional identity but also that there exists within this the possibility of retaining personal values and convictions and using the two-way process on subjection in ever changing and innovative ways.
  • Invisible but Exposed: The Lived Experience of Disabled Female Academics in Neoliberal Universities

    Bulkeley, Jane; Devarakonda, Chandrika; Brewer, Gayle (University of Chester, 2021-11)
    Neoliberal academia represents a challenging and competitive environment which privileges long working hours and performativity. Though previous research has addressed the experiences of female academics, there has been relatively little consideration of disabled faculty, who are often marginalised and poorly accommodated. In the present study, I focus on the lived experience of academics with long-term conditions that limit energy levels and / or impact on cognitive function. These conditions may be particularly inconsistent with the neoliberal academic culture and are not easily addressed by institutional accommodations. I interviewed ten female academics; all academics reported a condition that impacted on their energy levels and / or cognitive function (e.g., arthritis, depression). Academics were employed at British Higher Education Institutions, though institution type, role, and subject discipline varied. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, interviews were conducted online via the Zoom platform. Average length of interview was 55 minutes, ranging from 45 minutes to 69 minutes. I employed Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, 1996) to analyse the interviews and six themes were identified. Identity and the Concept of Disability indicated that academics were often reluctant to describe themselves as disabled, with important consequences for the reporting and disclosure process. Dependence and Vulnerability highlighted a lack of institutional support and frequent dependence on individual Managers for access to appropriate accommodations. Legitimacy, Convention, and Conformity described the ‘hierarchy’ of health conditions that influences the acceptability of specific health issues and the privileging of specific forms of academic practice that may disadvantage those with disabilities. Workload, Intensification, and Marketisation focused on excessive academic workloads, the intensification of academic work, and the impact of this on faculty health and wellbeing. Insecurity, Competition, and Comparison highlighted the precarious and competitive nature of academia and the impact of this (e.g., on wellbeing, willingness to disclose), particularly when disabled academics are compared to those without disabilities. Perception, Othering, and Isolation described a lack of understanding of energy limiting conditions and / or those that impact on cognitive function and the extent to which the actions of individual colleagues were exacerbated by ableist policies and practice. I discuss each theme in relation to existing education and disability-oriented literature and make specific recommendations for education practice and policy.
  • Higher education is dead? A Nietzschean critique of the neoliberal higher education system and an exploration into the impact on academe

    Atherton, Frances; Hulse, Bethan; Turner, Ella L. (University of Chester, 2021-09)
    This thesis explores how academic and professional staff experience higher education. This research embraces a creative, ethnographic methodology to open up, through conversations and observations, how staff encounter HE in one university in the North West of England. Conversations with participants and observations of their university environs intertwine to reveal the seemingly multiple contradictory values within HE. These are analysed using Friedrich Nietzsche’s three concepts of Übermensch, amor fati and eternal recurrence. Inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s imaginative and poetic writing style represented in Thus Spoke Zarathustra resulted in a retelling of my conversations and observations with participants in three narrative vignettes. The vignettes reveal and disturb the ideas of tradition and the neoliberal values that confront both academic and professional staff. The thesis offers insights into HE’s ‘will to truth’ (Nietzsche, 1886/2014), the structures that allow its convictions to flourish to form a beleaguered culture of oppositional values that serves to divide the academe. This thesis concludes by offering up the suffering of HE, as redemptive in this life, affirming an enduring joining together of multiplicities in the ring of existence (Nietzsche, 1883-5/1969). All this is necessary for HE to transcend itself in a constant becoming. I end the thesis with a call for the academe not to submit to a nihilistic looking back, nor to become the eager gravedigger (Nietzsche, 1874) for the death of HE, but to be the active, creative force in the revaluation of its values.
  • Exploring the involvement of Patients and Care Givers in Student Nurse Education in a Nursing College in India

    Owens, Allan; Bewley, Antoinette (University of Chester, 2021-08)
    India is the largest democracy in the world, but in contrast to other democracies, notably the UK, the role of patients and care givers in the formal education of student nurses appears to be less clear. The findings of this research demonstrated that despite there being little, or no formal education planned in India, to be delivered by patients and care givers, there is a lot of very useful informal education. A qualitative, case study methodology, was adopted with data collection methods including those of World Café style focus groups, art-based methods, semi structured interviews, and observational questioning. These approaches enabled student nurses across years one to four, in one nursing college, in India, to share their thoughts and reflect on their experiences of direct patient and care giver contact. Data was analysed using an inductive content analysis approach. The resultant overarching meta theme of ‘involvement’ acknowledged during data analysis, signifies not only that there is patient and care giver involvement in student nurse education in the nursing college, but that this is multi-faceted. This encompasses, a ‘tripartite identity’ with a mixed and interchanging role observed in the nurse, patient, and care giver. Education was enhanced by open access to care givers, constantly present in the clinical environment with the patient. The positive impact of this was multi fold, from the provision of assistance to nurses by care givers tending to the physical care of patients, and by enhancing and challenging nurses’ communication skills. This scaffolded the development of student’s emotional skill bases, acquired after reflection on and in situations with care givers, in which students at times felt harassed by care givers and even patients. The outcome, reach, impact, and value of this involvement is apparent by the transformative effect observed on student nurses learning, cultural sensitivity, and social consciousness. The educational philosophy of Paulo Freire underpinned this study, and findings concluded that by harnessing the naturalistic engagement with care givers in practice, student nurses can apply the Freirean pedagogy that states that education is a series of questioning. The findings indicate that it is important for students to recognise and acknowledge that their humanity and transformation is possible, if grounded in the reality of the social, economic, and political circumstances. The use of reflective activities associated with this, may in turn demonstrate how by the application of Freirean principles, students may transform themselves and others. Accordingly, it would be beneficial for student nurses to be tasked with listening to both patient and care givers experiences when they are in practice. This experience could be maximised in educational settings, by the student sharing their experiences with their peers, and reflecting on these.
  • Drama in School - Events of Learning and Processes of Becoming: An example from Sweden

    Owens, Allan; Garratt, Dean; Rosén, Susanne (University of Chester, 2019-10)
    This thesis deals with issues relating to how learning takes place within drama education. The overall aim of the research study described in this thesis is to contribute to knowledge regarding what drama can be and how learning takes place in drama education when it constitutes a recurring part of compulsory schooling in Sweden. A sub-aim is to examine the components that co-produce such learning. A research study was conducted in Sweden where drama is not a compulsory subject in the national curriculum. Throughout the thesis, the focus is placed on the discursive formations and the components of dramatic form, content and processes of becoming. Explicit emphasis is placed on how these both articulate and iterate in drama educational practices. A combination of post-constructionism and drama theory is employed as key conceptual tools to capture and interpret pedagogical processes. Post-constructionism as a tool can be described as moves into and beyond stances of social constructionism and post-humanism. Within the broader frame of social constructionism, Dewey’s educational philosophy has provided a means to understand the role of social interaction and communication in education. Within the post-humanistic field, a nomad philosophical approach provides the theoretical means with which to explore interrelations of discourses, materialities, social interaction and aesthetic symbols and further analyze doings in spaces in-between. A key point of departure is that educational practices on macro- and micro-levels are interrelated. Therefore, a genealogical analysis of discursive formations of drama education as a part of the compulsory school system in Sweden, and an empirical study of local drama educational practices have been undertaken. All schools that participated in the study offer drama as a scheduled subject at some point over time. Four classes in three schools have been followed during drama lessons, and participating pupils have been interviewed. Both individual and group interviews were undertaken, and in the group interviews, drama is integrated as one method to construct data. The study concludes by claiming that drama education can be understood as events where what we perceive and know (the actual) and what potentially may be (the virtual) are working on the same immanent plane. In drama educational practice, the components of dramatic art form, content and processes of subjectivities are interconnected. Learning and becoming take place as processes in-between, in the conceptual AND. The deployment of the analytic conjunction AND implies a non-dichotomous approach to drama education. In drama, the common, embodied creation and exploration of potential ways to act and become lead to engagement and to learning. This together with a focus on the common doing in the work of dramatization contributes to the meaning and simultaneous creation of ‘drama’ and ‘group’. An important corollary is that who we can be, and hence our creation of meaning within the world, takes place as a synchronous process. Thereby, drama education mobilizes a pedagogy of learning and becoming that both challenges and complements the otherwise realized school education. Because drama opens up diverse ways of knowing in one and same educational event, it can contribute to equity in education.
  • Mythical Performativity in Neoliberal Education: The Curse of Ofsted and Other Monstrous Tales

    Moran, Paul; Hanson, Diann (University of Chester, 2021-05)
    Mythical Performativity in Neoliberal Education: The Curse of Ofsted and Other Monstrous Tales conducts an innovative investigation into neoliberal educational policy and its enactment through Ofsted and school leadership practices. Through its focus on a secondary school requiring special measures intervention following an ‘unsatisfactory’ Ofsted inspection outcome, it examines the role of ‘super head’ leadership in embedding neoliberal identities of success in failing schools. The research takes an original theoretical and methodological approach by exploring the role of myth in such ideologically driven practices. This proposes that mythical performances are observable in the positioning of head teachers as ‘rescuing heroes’ in failing schools and questions the monstrous effects of Ofsted-driven transformational practices on lived experience in school communities. Through a novel reading of the research data through the concept of plasticity, the thesis considers the interdependent relationship between discourse and mythical performativity in informing and sustaining ideological principles and normative social structures. It investigates how claims made to objectivity and scientific method in educational practices are, paradoxically, bolstered through enactments of mythical archetype. The research further examines the role of myth in naturalising neoliberal frameworks, rendering alternative socio-economic forms as invisible and absent from collective consciousness. This qualitative study revitalises its ethnographic roots by engaging with plasticity as method, informing a textured analysis of interview and documentary data secured from teaching staff, pupils, and operational documents at the school. Pupil responses develop investigation of identity and the heroic, providing points of comparison with the fabricated identity of neoliberal success modelled through the school leadership and its strategies of improvement. By proposing an interdependent relationship between myth, discourse, mythical performativity and ideology, this thesis extends understanding of the process of transforming failing schools and offers wider insight into structures that sustain social and economic power structures and inequalities.
  • An exploration of creativity in the lives of English teachers: Representing voices through found poetry

    Bamber, Sally; Jones, Luke; Matthews, Martin (University of Chester, 2020-10)
    This arts-based research sets out to explore the place of creativity in the lives of a group of English teachers in one secondary school in the north west of England. More specifically, it uses found poetry to examine creativity in the lives of English teachers who work within the context of an increasingly performative educational system. As well as interrogating the place of creativity in the lives of the participants, the study also explores how found poetry can be used as a research method to represent and analyse data and communicate research findings in a manner that is democratic and illuminating. The words that created the poems came from two semi-structured interviews with each participant. After the first interview, the participants were able to scrutinise and reflect upon the content of the found poems before returning for a second interview. This recursive process helped build confidence in the findings and gave a deeper understanding of the experiences of the participants in relation to creativity whilst eliciting further responses in the interview process itself. The findings suggest that English teachers have limited space to be creative, or to think differently in their teaching practice. The limited space to be creative comes from the normalising practices of a performance culture, but the restrictions are both real and self-imposed by the participants. There is perhaps a need to find a new space for English teachers to act, or think creatively and form notions of resistance in order to re-think English teacher identity.
  • PREOCCUPIED: The role of peacebuilding in formal education in the West Bank

    Evans, Martin; Wright, Anne-Marie; Arya-Manesh, Emma (University of Chester, 2021-01)
    This thesis is an ethnographic study of six teacher educators working in university settings in the West Bank, an Occupied Palestinian Territory. It explores these teacher educators’ perceptions, values, and attitudes about the role of peacebuilding in Formal Education (FE). It focuses particularly on the teacher educators’ practice, which is to train student teachers to be certified as competent to work in schools either managed or run by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE). The research shows that there are tensions surrounding the conceptualisation of the meaning of teacher competency among contributors to teacher education. The tension lies most noticeably between schools and universities. This thesis thus captures the (dis)continuities of an FE system caught between the conditions of colonial and military occupation and performative measures and strategies enforced by the MoEHE. These problems are compounded by the complex associations of FE with Palestinian liberation. From the expressions the teacher educators used to convey their ideas, metaphors provide a powerful analytical device. The thesis employs a narrative analysis to foreground these metaphors as more than a rhetorical device. The metaphors provide reflexive insight into the (extra)ordinary lives of the teacher educators and the specificities of the cultural and political context from which their understandings of peacebuilding arise. The data shows that the teacher educators have individual and shared tensions about the underlying principles of peace, which consequently inform the roles of peacebuilding in FE from complex and contradictory positions. These metaphors expose an FE system that is a victim and a perpetrator both of forms of violence, and of the complex conditions under which peacebuilding either thrives or is diminished. The data also shows that peacebuilding in FE is most contentious where there is a disconnect with social justice and a connection with tatbi’a (normalisation) and counterinsurgency. In its final analysis, this thesis draws on the perspectives of Johan Galtung, Paulo Freire and Pierre Bourdieu to disturb deep-rooted thinking about peacebuilding in the West Bank. As a consequence of exploring the data through these theoretical lenses, the thesis exposes deep fractures in thinking and beliefs which are perpetuated by deeply entrenched, competing discourses that cannot be easily resolved. This thesis encourages academics and policy makers in the fields of critical peace education and education in conflict to consider generative peacebuilding frameworks that focus on conflicts within Palestinian society as well as those arising from the Occupation, and see them as mutually reinforcing rather than treating them purely as separate issues.
  • Drama as an Ecotone in the Ecosystem of Primary Education

    Owens, Allan; Adams, Jeff; Piasecka, Shelley; Einarsson, Anneli (University of Chester, 2020-01)
    This thesis investigates the tensions that emerge as drama is implemented in the teaching at a primary school. The thesis analyses drama practice in relation to a rationalistic and a holistic theoretical framework, and employs the epistemological view that subjectification and socialization are as important as the qualification dimension in education. A metaphorical model was developed, Schooling–Ecotone–Art, in order to deepen the understanding of drama as a subject in relation to the educational discourse. The ecotone, a notion deriving from ecology, symbolizes drama and serve as a tool to explore the tensions created at the borders of the adjacent habitats. The study describes the developing diversity within the drama practice in relation to the staff’s teaching and the pupils’ learning and meaning making. The empirical data are gathered by field studies at a primary school in Sweden, during one year. A project was made possible by a grant from the local municipality, through which the school was able to engage in a collaborative project with a local culture centre in which teachers and drama pedagogues worked together on a weekly basis. The doctoral study was initiated by an invitation from the school and the culture centre. Anchored in critical ethnography, the data include observations, interviews with staff and pupils, video recordings, questionnaires and email correspondence. The findings reveal different levels of tensions as drama is implemented in the teaching, which reflects the materiality of the discursive order and institutional power in education. Further, the study demonstrates the levels of progression as drama is practiced regularly, in which carnival play was a factor in the initial turbulent phase, and thus a major challenge for the staff. The study suggests that the phases in the progress demonstrate that drama comprises a unique and subject-specific content, which is needed in a holistic epistemology in primary education. Additionally, the progress describes how diversity emerges in the staff’s teaching as well as in the pupils’ creative work and that questions of interculturality are illuminated. The study concludes that there is a need to deconstruct a rationalistic epistemology, and develop a holistic epistemology, in order to achieve a sustainable education. The thesis contributes with deepened knowledge of drama as a unique habitat, and the possibilitiesfor diversity asthe tensions created in relation to adjacent habitats, schooling and art, are viewed as possibilities rather than obstacles to avoid. The material being presented for examination is my own work and has not been submitted for an award of this or another HEI except in minor particulars which are explicitly noted in the body of the thesis. Where research pertaining to the thesis was undertaken collaboratively, the nature and extent of my individual contribution has been made explicit.
  • A new felt presence: Making and learning as part of a community of women feltmakers

    Adams, Jeff; Owens, Allan; Spry, Georgina C. (University of Chester, 2020-05)
    The purpose of this qualitative art-based autoethnographic research study is to examine the lived experience of contemporary feltmaking from both collective and individual perspectives and the relationship between personal practice and the learning that takes place in a community of shared practice. The thesis exists as an exhibition of feltworks alongside a written piece, which presents qualitative and arts-based data comprising of my own experiences documenting both my journey through treatment for stage three breast cancer and the learning and teaching taking place as a member of this female community of feltmakers. It explores the principles of tacit knowledge in feltmaking alongside the concept of flow as a key marker of mastery, incorporating an analysis of the collaborative learning elements which facilitate the process of its members’ transformation from novice to expert, within a broad base of abilities, skills and experience. The thesis begins with an examination of the history of feltmaking, and the learned traditions passed through cultural generations. This is followed by an exploration of textile ‘pockets’ in women’s history, examining patriarchy, privacy and interiority through a narrative. Within this context, shared felting projects are presented. The feltmakers’ pockets are displayed as Tripartite Helix, examining international and local felting techniques alongside shared privacy within the physical pockets, the three sections denoting elements of felting as a collective sense. My own work Hushed Reverberations explores privacy, interiority and its exposure to the exterior. My practice and autoethnographic mesearch research are embedded throughout the study to illuminate the experience of learning and teaching of feltmaking in order to appreciate the process as much more than mere material transformation. This art-based research establishes a connection between feltmaking, historical, patriarchal and cultural influences and an autoethnographic, mesearch research methodology. The thesis reveals the affiliation between personal narrative through feltmaking craft and biography as a relational connection between shared journeys, intertwining autoethnographic learning, feltmaking, narrative and cultural history. It also reveals that learning in a collective does not take place simply through increasing participation in an experience, but is also fuelled by pedagogical, social and historical factors. The research contributes to an understanding and an expression of how the process of feltmaking can be used as a way of communicating and conveying a personal journey which can provide the means for individuals to support themselves and each other. However, the basis of the women's experience in crafts cannot be explained in isolation from the environments in which they take place but must be connected through culture, history and gender. The thesis concludes that women can use feltmaking to make sense of life-changing events and adversities, and to begin the healing process, bringing comfort and sense of community during periods of turmoil.
  • Policy 'making' discourses in University sponsored Academy Schools: Radical educational reform through autonomy, accountability and partnership

    Hulme, Rob; Garratt, Dean; Cracknell, David; Hart, Melissa (University of Chester, 2016-05-31)
    Sponsored academies schools were set up in England to raise educational aspiration and achievement specifically in areas of high social deprivation through independence from Local Authority control, and freedoms in governance, staffing structures, space and time, as well as pedagogy and curriculum. The study considers the current education White Paper, 'The Importance of Teaching' (Dffi, 2010), and the discourse of academy school actors in relation to policy rhetoric of educational improvement through autonomy and accountability along with new forms of partnership and collaboration. Given the recent 2015 change in U.K. government from Coalition to Conservative it is a pertinent time to consider current policy discourses as we move into the next phase of educational policy development. This study was informed by 'policy sociology' (Ozga, 2000: 144) illuminating local academy school enactment and critique of broader social change. The study also used Foucault's (1991) notion of 'governmentality' and the disciplinary policy technologies of normalization, dividing practices and surveillance as a theoretical lens to critically analyse academy school actor policy discourse. Throughout an 18 month period the researcher adopted semi embedded participation in two academies sponsored by a University Multi Academies Trust (MAT). A post modem form of radical hermeneutics (Caputo, 1987) was utilised whereby written, verbal and non verbal communication construction and analysis was subsumed into a written account. A reflexive research approach highlighted ethical dilemmas and tensions. The research illuminated a complex discourse of academy actor freedoms and constraints. A 'no excuse' for poor educational performance adopted at academy meso level contrasted with teacher discourse of pupil deficit, failure by self and others, and a perpetual state of low confidence, along with some resistance to change. The sponsor and Academies Trust focused on securing a share of the teacher training market and business survival as opposed to providing direct support for educational improvement. Disciplinary policy technologies were reinforced by the Academies Trust and Partnership Academy as meso level government conduits (Glatter, 1999; Lubienski, 2009), further legitimized by technologies of self. The Partnership Academy encouraged an Ofsted based 'gaming behaviour' as opposed to one directly focused on educational improvement. Autonomy was only prevalent in discourse where teachers saw their professional role as being separate from those dominated by performance regimes. Despite successes in raising educational performance academy achievement above Ofsted base levels had not been established. A business based corporate image, and new building at one academy, and positive discourse of student recruitment existed, yet staff recruitment and retention was surrounded by a discourse of mistrust, competition, and coping with change. There was a limited discourse of changed academy reputation, curriculum development, pedagogic innovation and professional collaboration, and tensions existed between traditional and creative practice.
  • The Plastic Ceiling Project: Representing the Pain of Mothers that Work and Study

    Adams, Jeff; Bamber, Sally; Misra, Sarah (University of Chester, 2019-08-27)
    My previous research around mothers that work and study, showed that many of their everyday, emotional experiences could be regarded as “unseen” in that they were routine, invisible and unnoticed and were often played out in private. For those experiences that could be regarded as emotionally painful, their “unseen” nature was further complicated as tendencies toward denial, withdrawal, and self-isolation were common reactions to deeply felt emotional pain. Thus, these experiences were frequently concealed in two ways as they were both “unseen” and hidden. A fundamental principle of feminist research is to liberate by exposing, that which is concealed and suppressed and to make feminine lived experiences visible. Modern, feminist research uses a wide range of research methods and in recent years, arts-based and narrative research have emerged as disciplines from within the broader field of qualitative research. Feminist scholars have found visual, narrative inquiry methods to be useful tools in obtaining rich data from traditionally marginalised perspectives and have stressed the transformative opportunities for the development of continuities between the “unseen” and the “seen” through potential to reveal and expose hidden oppression, promote empathetic understanding of the ways in which people experience their worlds and present new opportunities for communication, protest and campaign I believe that artists and ethnographers often share strong, emancipatory affinities through their research intentions and so could productively collaborate and learn from each others’ practices. An artist-practitioner and mother myself, I also had responsibility for leading the postgraduate teacher training provision in a local university full-time and studying for a doctorate and I became interested in the potential of using arts-based, ethnographic research to investigate and tell the stories of other working/studying parents. I was particularly interested in findings from previous research which had identified that whilst all parents routinely reported similar issues around practical issues of balancing multiple roles; the painful, emotional aspects of managing life as a working/studying mother were exclusively female territory and had been described by almost every female participant as pernicious, significant and disempowering aspects of their lived experiences. I set up The Plastic Ceiling Project with the intention of developing an arts-based research methodology unequivocally and explicitly grounded in emancipatory feminist principles. My initial research question was simply; “why do mothers that work and study often report painful emotions such as guilt, shame, frustration, anger, and loneliness?” This work is an exploration of The Plastic Ceiling Project and its effectiveness in realising these challenges.

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