Making sense of disengagement in the primary classroom : a study of perceptions of pupil learning behaviour
This thesis details and explores the findings of an interpretive, school-based study of pupil, teacher and parent perceptions of 'disengaged' behaviour in the primary classroom (years four to six). 'Disengagement' is defined as any recurring off-task response to learning such as chatting, playing, socialising, daydreaming, etc., that contributes directly to chronic underachievement The study is set within a social constructivist framework. The findings are discussed in relation to the educational research literature on classroom interaction, pupil and parent rights and perspective, behaviour management and emotional literacy. The work of Andrew Pollard and his theory of pupil and teacher 'coping strategies' is of particular relevance and is explored in detail. A central finding of the study is that pupil, teacher and parent perceptions of disengaged behaviour show a striking lack of intersubjectivity. In particular, the linkages between pupil and teacher surface behaviours and underlying feeling states emerge as being of critical significance. Indeed, poor emotional literacy accounts for perception gaps across the spectrum of teacher perceptions of pupil disengagement. The findings also indicate that a lack of intersubjectivity within the pupil/teacher dyad tends to skew ongoing interactions and obfuscates teacher intervention. As a corollary, the pupils and teachers in this study become locked into negative, repetitive cycles of disengagement and intervention in which coping, as defined by Pollard, completely breaks down. It is postulated that pupil and teacher 'survival strategies' replace prototypical coping mechanisms. A theory and model of the dynamic and interactive nature of pupil and teacher survival strategies is developed and explored in the final section of the thesis. The role of parents as mediators of pupil and teacher perspectives is integrated into this model. In the concluding chapter, the implications of the model are discussed with regard to the modernist and late-modernist contexts of pedagogical theory and practice. The shifting nature of the concepts of 'power' and ‘participation’ within these contexts are highlighted as key explanatory themes.