Trust me, I'm a student : an exploration through grounded theory of the student experience in two small schools

Hope, Max A.

September 2010

Thesis or dissertation

© 2010 Max A Hope. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The majority of literature about democratic education has been written from the perspective of teachers or educators. This thesis is different. It has a clear intention to listen to and learn from the experiences of students.

Empirical research was conducted using grounded theory methodology. Two secondary schools were selected as cases: one was explicitly democratic; the other was underpinned by democratic principles. Extensive data sets were gathered. This included conducting interviews with eighteen students; undertaking observations of lessons, meetings and social spaces; and holding informal conversations with teachers, staff and other students. Documentary information was also collected. All data were systematically analysed until the researcher was able to offer a conceptual model through which to understand the student experience.

This thesis argues that the quality of learning is likely to improve if schools pay attention to how students feel. In particular, students with a strong sense of belonging and those who feel accepted as individuals are likely to be less defensive, more open, and more able to be constructive members of a school community. A theoretical model is presented which identifies key factors which contribute to these processes. This model presents a challenge to the way in which school effectiveness is assessed within the current education system.

Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
Wright, Nigel
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