Mediated disaffection and reconfigured subjectivities: an investigation into the use of an alternative learning environment designed to promote re-engagement for 14–16-year-olds.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


One in three 11–16-year-olds is said to misbehave (Sodha & Guglielmi 2009), while students at key stage 4 who are not engaging in their education are often identified as, or at risk of becoming, disaffected (McKendrick, Scott & Sinclair 2007).This paper, then (based on a recent doctoral study), investigates the correlation between perceptions of compulsory education, and disaffection with learning and asks the following questions: • What are the principal drivers of disaffection for the research group? • How do the young people in the study perceive their learning experience? • With reference to the specific teaching and learning practices employed, what impact does the chosen environment have on disaffection? The data are drawn from a project in which a small group of 14–16 participants, undertaking a work-related learning programme in an off-site environment, were interviewed. I begin by foregrounding the student experience with a look at some of the cultural and socioeconomic factors that can impact on attitudes to learning and pupil motivation. I then identify the context of the research by outlining the operationalisation of the alternative learning programme used in the study, and the manner in which it is seen to tackle disengagement. The research utilises a qualitative methodology and data are analysed from an interpretivist perspective. Through the promotion of a pupil voice, common perceptual traits illustrate a typical journey through stages of growing self-awareness and metacognition. A process of engagement, disengagement and then re-engagement is identified and it is argued that an individual pupil’s subjectivity is influenced by their social experiences and cultural surroundings, a finding concomitant with other studies (Davies et al. 2008; Reay 2004; Shildrick MacDonald 2007 Willis 1977). The research also identifies key elements in the alternative learning environment used to reduce disaffection, and the particular dynamics which appear at variance with a typical school. Consequently, the environment is seen to complement the identified cultural thinking that has developed from the students’ milieux, and to encourage a process of reflection on personal status. Thus, three metathemes are drawn from the data: 1. The need to express identity through a student voice 2. The importance of the reflection process that occurs through the change of environment 3. A perception of ‘casualty’ status. These suggest that the pupils view their current educational status as partially resultant from their behaviour and particular mindset, and partly through the system’s inability to relate to their needs. Consequently, through becoming marginalised by the learning process, the students are identified as casualties of education. The conclusion of the paper identifies its contribution to knowledge and aims to open up further discussion.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Apr 2013
EventSubjects and Subjectivities, 5th Annual Education Conference - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jul 201313 Jul 2013


ConferenceSubjects and Subjectivities, 5th Annual Education Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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