Hanrahan, Lindsay J. (University of Chester, 2018-08-30)
There is a substantial body of knowledge into the factors that can influence women’s experiences of Higher Education (HE) such as social class, ethnicity and gender. Additionally, there is a significant focus on women and education in relation to their academic abilities such as comparing their achievement in terms of their gender. However, much of this research focuses on attainment between groups such as men and women or explores the impact of one specific characteristic.
The principal aim of my study was to explore the experiences of a small group of women who had returned to education and entered HE. Through a series of conversations their unique stories were revealed, including the challenges and opportunities that they had encountered. The original contribution to knowledge that my study makes is in the way it documents five mature women’s experiences who traditionally would not have been expected to go to university. These women are working class, with caring responsibilities, who did not anticipate a time in their lives when they would continue into HE. To attain an undergraduate degree or professional qualification seemed beyond their particular sphere.
In this study, the stories of five women over the age of twenty-one, returning to HE is captured and reveals the complex issues faced as they navigated their way through unfamiliar territory. During the research recurring themes emerged in the women’s experiences including personal motivations and aspirations, challenges to learning, networks of support and learning communities which shaped their time in HE.
My ethnographic analysis of their stories is framed by my own experience of returning to HE and is viewed through the lens of feminist theory. The overall conclusions from the research reveal that the five women were able to complete their courses successfully and highlights a range of positive factors about returning to education including the opportunity to engage with fellow students, increasing personal confidence and independence and developing understandings, knowledge and skills.
However, my study also illustrates the real barriers and constraints to learning that proved to be tough for the women to overcome both emotionally and practically. By examining several Marxist feminist writers such as Benston (1969) and Putnam Tong (1993), I recognised how women may be oppressed or restricted in their choices based on the numerous roles that they must perform in the home. For some of the women, attempting to study in addition to fulfilling other domestic and caring responsibilities proved to be very demanding. Overall, the research highlights the complexities that this group of non-traditional students face when attempting to improve their prospects and fulfil hitherto latent potential.
Compassion has been associated with the nursing profession since the days of Florence Nightingale. It is a general expectation that nurses should be compassionate when they are caring for people. In the United Kingdom (UK) concerns have been raised recently that nurses are failing to be compassionate as they carry out their nursing duties. There is little evidence within the literature of how student nurses perceive compassion as they engage in the pre-registration-nursing programme. In this study, I use narrative to produce case studies as a vehicle for the students to voice their perceptions of compassion. My ethnographic analysis of their stories is framed by my own experience as a professional registered nurse and nurse educator situated within their learning environment, and applies theories of compassion and learning. In my study, themes emerge that demonstrate commonalities, differences and tensions relating to the students’ individual beliefs and behaviours, and to the impact of their professional development as they transcend from university learning spaces into clinical practice.
McCarthy, Elaine P. (University of Chester, 2016-02-28)
This Ethnographic/Autoethnographic study reflects in rich detail a young teacher’s life as she navigates the changing landscape of her first pregnancy, the birth of her child and her subsequent return to work as a full-time teacher. Using data which has been collected from a personal journal which she kept throughout the eighteen month period of the study, it examines the practical and emotional challenges which she faced, and the commitment, self-sacrifice and dedication required of her for the continuation and advancement of her career. By combining her data with observed field notes, semi-constructed interviews and reflexive narrative, I have been able to offer a holistic and balanced account of her experience and expose the complexities of motherhood today and the impact they have on a woman’s life choices and professional decision making. My study revealed how this new mother faced a myriad of decisions and dilemmas, decisions, which ultimately impacted on her emotional well-being, and her power and identity as a woman, a wife, a daughter and a professional teacher. Its findings suggest that notwithstanding the historical political and legislative policies which have been implemented, in reality, little has changed since my own experience of being a working mother some thirty years ago. It recommends that if the increase in working mothers is to continue to rise, more must be done, both culturally and institutionally to alleviate the physical and emotional pressures which currently only serve to exacerbate the guilt and stress which appear to be an innate characteristic of the maternal condition. It concludes by recommending that working mothers need to harness “their strengths, their ability to learn, their confidence and joy in their work –[because this is] all part of being a woman now, [it is] part of [their] female identity” (Friedan, 1963, p.331), and rather than accepting motherhood as being a moderating factor, they should allow it to become an influence for further personal and professional growth and liberation, so that they can reassert their power and fight back to assume their equal place in society (Kristeva, 2015).
This autoethnographic study investigates my self-perception of my artistic abilities which I posit as my Creative Self Efficacy (CSE). This is a part-practice thesis which uses arts-based research methods to investigate shifting self-perceptions and understandings of creativity and how these may have influenced my visual arts practice. CSE can be defined as one’s view of and belief in one’s creative abilities. Many scholars have written about the power of self-efficacy to condition behavioural choices, motivations and persistence. This research provides an autoethnographic enquiry into how these self-beliefs can shape, limit or enhance the possibilities for creative practice. The primary aim is to better understand the relationship between my own CSE and the influence of these on my creative practice. Arts-based methods enabled me to explore this territory, allowing a self-awareness to be developed through responding to the self-judgements and doubts experienced during the creative process. Reflexive resonances between these experiences of self-efficacy and pedagogical implications were made and framed through the lenses of theories such as habitus and my different roles of artist, teacher and researcher. Main findings include the influences of social comparisons, parental socialisation, and approaches and attitudes to art-making to my CSE, culminating in an experimental shift in practice which embraces a process approach. These findings suggest implications for pedagogical practices and approaches to art-making which demonstrate awareness of self-evaluative judgements and embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and not knowing.
Hughes, Delyth Ann (University of Chester, 2016-03-31)
This thesis seeks to understand how the notion of belonging is experienced by undergraduate residential students. Framing the research against the influence of neo-liberal policy and practices, this study employs a phenomenological approach and theorises the data using a poststructural framework. Throughout the thesis aspects of Lacanian theory are utilised as an interpretive lens, chosen for its ability to reveal that which is usually concealed. Beginning with an exploration of the reasons that ‘belonging to a university community’ is of interest to higher education student support practitioners, I conclude that this is a result of the therapeutic culture we are currently experiencing in education, along with a need to bring together a heterogeneous group of students who do not seemingly ‘belong’ together. This need comes from a desire to maintain higher education in its position as an elite pursuit which guarantees a better life. Yet paradoxically, in the current economic context, the achievement of a degree qualification can no longer guarantee a better life. Notions of belonging and community are therefore argued to be important in this context, as they serve to retain students and meet government objectives (which are to increase the number of students in higher education, thus sustaining the UK’s edge in a competitive global market). The data from nine participant interviews is analysed and interpreted through a poststructural lens. A poststructural framework is chosen based on my own experiences as a practitioner in this field: that our student support interventions which aim to engender a sense of belonging and community in students are somewhat flawed. Thus, my aim in this thesis is to understand from the students themselves how they experience belonging and community, and in doing so, understand if our University practices have had a part to play in this. Data from participant interviews reveals the themes of ‘stories, memories and rituals’, ‘place and home’ and ‘social networks’ and these are analysed with specific reference to Lacanian psychoanalysis, along with other theorists where relevant. Lacan is chosen as aspects of his theory allow me to take account of unconscious human drives, therefore revealing more than language can alone, and providing a more holistic understanding of how the phenomena are experienced. This thesis concludes with a phenomenological description of belonging, which is a pastiche of my participants’ voices. From this I draw the conclusion that the notion of ‘belonging to a university community’ is largely fictive, and symptomatic of a neo-liberal influence. I contend that experiences related to me by the participants suggest that ‘belonging’ is experienced in a way which is independent of any university interventions, and that ‘community’ is not recognised by students as anything other than a familiarity with their surroundings. I end the thesis with recommendations for student support practitioners and with a reflection on my research journey.
Carr, Victoria L. C. (University of Chester, 2019-05-14)
In this thesis I undertake a critical policy analysis in which I place education reform in the UK within the context of a changing social structure, transformed since the advent of neoliberalism in the 1970s, and examine the implications of reform on the role of primary school Headteachers.
In particular, I situate my analysis within increased promotion of global economic competition and policy supported by neoliberal ideology in which the prevailing government seeks to retain legitimacy by claiming to institute reforms to improve education, whilst simultaneously reducing direct funding which is, in fact, destabilising it.
Neoliberalism is a distinct political ideology that has flourished in the Western world over the last four decades and is based on theories of the free market; underpinned by economic efficiency, bureaucracy, rationality and measurable performativity. I look in detail at how the leadership of schools has changed, as a direct result of the implementation of new managerial instruments, and how resistance to these changes has been largely futile.
Lacanian thinking would suggest that ideology which assumes education is a physical state that is inherently part of a democratic process, inextricably linked to politics, positively transformational and measurable, is in fact imaginary (Lacan, 2006). Our imaginary “order is embedded in the material word” and woven into the reality around us (Harari, 2012, p.127). It is within this ‘imaginary’ conceptualisation that my research is positioned.
I present, and analyse, empirical data gathered from a number of primary school Headteachers from a range of contexts that outlines their lived experience as they attempt to navigate the, what could be described as, strongly surreal or ‘Kafkaesque’ (Löwy,1997) educational ‘imaginary’, as it is currently configured and, explore the efficacy of a forum that is used to support them as they therefore attempt the untenable. The significant issue of school context as an effect of how a school performs in testing regimes is substantial. It is clear that context greatly impacts on the extent to which Headteachers must shift their beliefs and practice to satisfy performative expectations.
I conclude with an acknowledgement that to attempt to rationalise the educational ‘hyperreal’ without an appreciation of power and manipulation is impossible and, that the role of primary school Headteachers may only be plausible with the scaffold of forums such as the one examined within this research.
This research explores the processes of learning to teach Modern Languages (MLs) in the rapidly changing landscape of teacher education. It employs a postmodern critical ethnographic methodology (Lather, 1991) to examine the experiences of a group of student teachers and me, as their tutor, over the course of a one year PGCE programme. The focus is on how experiences in University and in School shape their emerging professional identities, in particular how these experiences encourage or discourage the development of a creative approach to the practice of language teaching. There is evidence which suggests that ML teaching is often mundane and does not inspire young people to study Languages (The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), 2011). However, the pressures of ‘performative’ requirements which privilege that which is measurable (Ball, 2003) act as a discouragement to creativity. This thesis finds that whilst student teachers express a desire to be more creative, they find it difficult to implement their ideas in School. I draw on postmodern interpretations of Marx and Freud to problematize the notion of ‘professional autonomy’ and to argue that the early formation of professional identity is a process of acquiescence to oppressive external structures over which individuals have no control, resulting in the alienation of the individual from the work they do. I also explore questions concerning the nature of subjectivity and the relationship between the individual and the external world through Romantic philosophy and poetry. As both subject and object of this ethnographic study, I employ a reflexive methodology to explore the evolution of my own professional identity. The critical narrative emerges from the data, which reveals how professional identities are simultaneously constructed and alienated.
This thesis uses an ethnographic study to interrogate the policy discourse of capturing ‘child voice’ specifically in relation to a ‘looked after’ child. In recent years, attempts have been made to involve children who are ‘looked after’ in discussions and decisions about their care arrangements to ensure that their voice is heard. To ensure this happens, children ‘in care’ are asked about their care placement regularly as part of the care planning review process and their views are incorporated into decisions about their care plan. This study focuses on the lived experiences of a seven-year old female child, who I have referred to as ‘Keeva’, who is ‘in care’ under a Kinship Care arrangement. Over a period of a year, I was based in Keeva’s home one afternoon a week to gain insights about her lived experience as a ‘looked after’ child and how she represented herself. I also observed three care planning review meetings to see how her voice was captured by those charged with her care and how she was represented. I relate Keeva’s experience through seven narrative episodes to capture the rich complexity of the social world she inhabits. I explore aspects of her home and family, her interactions with others and her experience of exploring physical spaces both inside and outside the home. I suggest that these experiences underpin her sense of self and how she relates to others. Drawing on the ideas of Bourdieu, I suggest these experiences and her sense of place in the social order write themselves ‘onto her’ through her habitus and dispositions. Using a Foucauldian lens, I problematise the notion of voice as I contest that the child I observed engaged fully in the statutory processes that surround her. I suggest Keeva, a child who is ‘looked after’, will neither have nor feel she has the agentive properties to influence the care planning process. Instead, as her voice is irrevocably bound up in a bureaucratic process that is uncritically accepted as representative of her, she is obscured as a consequence. I also examine the multivocity in representations of Keeva highlighting the competing discourses of safeguarding, child protection and the ’rights-based’ agenda. I conclude that Keeva was not well represented in care planning reviews and had very little influence in decision-making about her care plan. Despite believing the opposite, those charged with her care failed to hear her or take note of what she said. Furthermore, there was an absence of criticality in representations of Keeva allowing Keeva to be constructed by those professionals involved with her care, in an unchallenged way. As a consequence she was silenced and less visible than the process itself.
Metaphor provides a potentially powerful rhetorical device to help me to tell informed and persuasive stories about mathematics education. In this ethnographic study I consider key episodes that serve to exemplify the complex experience of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students of secondary mathematics education. I use a narrative analysis to shine a spotlight on the experiences of six beginning teachers so that the metaphors in their stories expose the impact that separately situated sites of teacher education have upon their beliefs and behaviour as teachers. Tensions between school and university contributors to teacher education have been well documented over many decades, but recent policy changes in the nature of post-graduate ITE in England bring these issues to the fore. In this study, I consider the influences of school-based and university-based teacher educators upon the beliefs of student secondary mathematics teachers and interpret the students’ perceptions of these influences on their actions as novice teachers. My analysis is framed by a model of experience and education articulated by Dewey as well as a framework of representations of knowledge in a culture of education articulated by theorists concerned with the relevance of constructivism and situated cognition as theories of learning. In this study, disturbances and discontinuities relating to the location and culture of ITE, together with the development of ITE students’ professional knowledge are uncovered, warranting further research.
This thesis examines the complex nature of teacher-led professional development delivered by
Western teachers in a Non-Western context. I use an autoethnographic approach and employ
a range of reflective and reflexive methods, such as visual images, journals, interviews and
sketches to expose and explore the tensions experienced when engaging with CPD in a culture
vastly different to my own and within a post-colonial context.
This thesis employs theories from Homi Bhabha to explore the key concepts of postcolonialism and decolonisation, Zygmunt Bauman to examine the concepts of community and
identity, and Jacques Rancière and Etienne Wenger to explore theories of education and
learning such as stultification and emancipation and communities of practice, all of which are
pivotal in understanding the complexities and tensions of experience throughout this
I scrutinise moments of dis-ease, a term borrowed from Sweetman (2003, p.528), whereby the
programme appears rooted in a form of neo-colonialism fuelled by globalised models of
education that reinforces little more than a discourse of incapacity and a reiteration of a single
story of African Otherness. Conversely, I also observe moments where there emerges a
community of practice that offers an emancipatory model of education and offers participants
the opportunity to reinscribe their identities as part of a global community.
I conclude that programmes such as this have the potential to be both positive and negative
and that, unlike examples of voluntourism in which the participants serve to create and
perpetuate deficit-models of colonialist thinking, there is a need to accept that participants
engaging in professional discourse have the capacity to review and decide whether the positive
impacts are valid and valued enough to make their pursuit worthwhile. It is critical to resist
the urge to make a sweeping generalisation about CPD programmes in vastly different cultural
contexts because too many variables exist to make such a broad stroke accurate, but there
must be an onus on all involved to evaluate the ramifications of participation and to continue
or desist in these programmes as is appropriate.
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