New stories of identity: Alternatives to suspension and exclusion from school
McMenamin, D. (2014). New stories of identity: Alternatives to suspension and exclusion from school (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8687
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8687
School suspension and exclusion practices are currently under the spotlight. Many schools go to great lengths before employing these disciplinary options. However even in the midst of practices of care for young people, very little attention is paid to the discursive conditions in which exclusion and suspension arise. In this thesis I theorise and research an alternative response to suspension and exclusion. I engage in post-structuralist discursive analysis to propose that young peoples’ actions, including unacceptable behaviours, are not so much evidence of a personality to be fixed, managed or disciplined, as they are the effect of prevailing discourses about how young people ought to act. Calling on narrative therapy practice I then propose that young people’s discursively shaped identity stories and reputations can be re-authored within communities of care. Such re-authoring produces a range of changes including in a young person’s actions at school.In this study I use case examples from two New Zealand schools to demonstrate how prevailing discourses shape the language and responses of participants at times which may lead to suspension or exclusion from school being considered. I explore how the development of alternative identity stories and reputations for young people can lead to significant changes in young peoples’ actions and those of their teachers at school. To achieve this I analyse interview transcripts and school records concerning a situation which led to a suspension. I highlight the presence and effect of prevailing discourses (discursive analysis), and the way participants’ words intend a desired effect (performative language) and draw on familiar stories to enhance desired effect (intertextuality). In this thesis I offer a critique of rationalist interpretations of young peoples’ actions, and explore alternative discursive and narrative models of interpreting and responding to young peoples’ actions.My research findings highlight: the effectiveness of discursive awareness and re-authoring as a response to young people at times of suspension and exclusion being considered; the need for on-going support for emerging alternative reputations; the need for cultural safety and awareness in providing a place for Pakeha researchers to work effectively with Māori young people and communities; and the need for discursive and narrative practices to be offered in dialogue with schools’ particular ethical purposes. I argue that the practices I research in this thesis offer a way for schools to further reduce the use of suspensions and exclusions at school.
University of Waikato
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