A discursive approach to relationship practices in classrooms: An exploratory study
Kecskemeti, M. (2011). A discursive approach to relationship practices in classrooms: An exploratory study (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/5548
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/5548
In today’s increasingly diverse classrooms it is well accepted that the relationship practices employed by teachers have consequences for the quality of the learning environment. Well chosen relationship practices are thought not only to help teachers to manage their classes but they can contribute to achieving desired educational outcomes. The principles and processes of restorative practice (RP) are seen by many to offer a significant contribution to relationship practices in schools. One of the challenges of realising this potential is to adapt RP for daily classroom use. However, increasing heterogeneity in the student population makes the classroom a complex environment where teachers and students are likely to operate from a range of paradigms of relationship. This study proposes that a discursive conceptualisation of relational identity supports the development of more equitable relationships. It is argued that this then manifests in greater individual and communal well-being. The research involved the development of specific conversational moves adapted from narrative therapy, which were taught to 39 teachers in two schools through a series of four workshops. Following the workshops, a series of seven focus group meetings were held in which teachers engaged in a process of guided deconstructive reflection. The study set out to investigate the contributions of both the conversational moves and the reflective group practices to teachers’ capacity for relationship management (with both students and adults), teaching, and maintaining their own well-being. The focus groups had a triple function of skill practice, reflection and sharing concerns. The group discussions were audio-taped. Examples given by participants of the effects of using the conversational moves were documented. The teachers’ concern narratives were analysed using Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. The study suggests that the use of both discursive conversation practices and deconstructive reflection increased the participants’ capacity for dialogue and tolerating differences. Deconstructive readings of the teachers’ concern narratives identified teacher-student conflicts as a product of multiple positionings and confusion about their respective roles. Deconstructive analysis exposed a range of discourses of care, professionalism, pedagogy and gender as problematic, often placing teachers and students in opposition, and undermining teaching and learning. These findings suggest that systematic deconstructive reflection can usefully inform teachers’ relational strategies in the classroom. It can provide the opportunity for individual teachers to develop an understanding of themselves as teachers, and at the same time it offers useful appreciation of the discursive influences operating in the wider school culture. Some of these discourses deserve critical attention as they are central to the development of teachers’ professional identities. This thesis argues that a discursive approach to relationship practice can support the development of teachers’ capacity to manage the complexities of their work, and as such it is also restorative practice. This critical theoretical approach offers significant potential for explaining how a collaborative relationship paradigm can be understood, practised, and studied.
University of Waikato
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