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Title: Conformity, transgression or transformation? : a study of the impact of oral storytelling in three Warwickshire secondary schools
Author: Parfitt, Emma Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 6350 8485
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This study investigated the following question, ‘What are the constraints and/or empowerments placed on the emotions and behaviour of young people from similar and different backgrounds?’ To address this question I investigated whether storytelling could be used to explore narratives of conformity, transgression and transformation in young people’s conversations. Data were obtained through an innovative research method I called “the storytelling space” in three Warwickshire schools (2013). Fairy tales were selected, from written and stable literary texts, for their emotional and behavioural themes relevant to young people’s situation. Storytellers told tales orally over five subsequent weeks to six groups of four young people of mixed gender, ethnicity, academic ability and socio-economic background. Young people aged 12-14, led subsequent focus group conversations guided by a facilitator, which were recorded and transcribed. To answer the questions posed above, storytelling was a valuable way to gather knowledge about young people’s experiences. A range of conformative, transgressive and transformative associations were formed between the stories and the students’ lives. The students discussed constraints placed on behaviour by legal and adult authority; raised transgressive concerns by refusing to accept fairy tales gender stereotypes; and discussed the transformation of emotion into socially appropriate displays. Education appeared to empower students where teachers were reactive to student needs, and seemed to disempower them when teachers were strict or used language which alienated pupils. Young people’s behaviour appeared conformative to adult-figures yet students gained power and justified transgressive acts, such as stealing, via their emotions, such as jealousy. A comparative analysis between schools demonstrated young people’s responses to oral storytelling were shaped by social processes, such as wider legislation and class inequality. Some responses to story were connected to the reproduction of inequality in educational practices illustrated in the way that rural-mixed students discussed and questioned the stories, experienced positive student-teacher interactions and, engaged with after-school or beyond school, activities. These were factors which enriched the students’ interpretations by providing additional experiences to relate to the stories. Some all-female and urban-mixed students had access to out-of-school experiences. The storytelling space offered those groups of young people flexible ways in which to broaden their perspectives, increase confidence and create friendships through the social discussion of story. Storytelling appeared adaptable to student needs, therefore more empowering than constraining, because groups constructed knowledge from the stories in relation to their own experiences. They also identified that the contrasting opinions of others’ were valid. There was more evidence of conformity, and transformation towards conformity, in student conversations than transgression. I conclude that there was a tendency in the discussions for young people to respond to storytelling with examples of conformative and transformative emotional and behavioural “norms” rather than transgressive acts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Adam Smith Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology