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Title: Challenging 'quality' : an investigation of theoretical and pedagogical conceptualisations of 'quality' in the primary school in England
Author: Riggall, Anna M. Y.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 5903
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis challenges the way the concept of quality is understood, approached and defined. The concept of quality has fascinated me for over a decade. Initially I was shocked by the importance of the concept and the complete absence of any clear understanding about what it means. In recent years I have become increasingly concerned about the emphasis on simple outcome oriented definitions – the acceptance that quality can be measured solely in terms of pupils test scores. The literature depicts the concept of quality as complex and elusive in equal measure, compounded by narrow interpretations that focus on pupil outcomes as an overly simplistic (and problematic) definitional approach. It also suggests ways of approaching the concept that offer broader more humanist interpretations but these do not feature in the dominant definitions. Quality as a concept has received attention from the academic world but the literature is complex and contradictory. I argue that quality is typically treated as abstract but defined as concrete – it has become reified. The evidence would suggest that quality is in fact contested, poorly defined and hard to debate. This has been associated with problematic positioning of teachers and pupils – separately and in relation to each other In my quest to challenge the concept of quality my intentions have been threefold: 1) to explore the literature and reveal weaknesses or gaps in the current understandings; 2) then, to reawaken interest in less prevalent ways of investigating or understanding the concept; and finally, 3) to experiment with investigating quality through interaction in particular. I have done this in four ways: 1) through exploring the way that the concept of quality has been understood and defined in text (the academic literature) arriving at two conceptual frameworks; 2) through exploring with staff and pupils in four English primary schools how they understand the concept of quality (talk) by collating the views 45 staff members and 97 pupils; 3) through observing and interpreting the interactions and enactments of four teachers and four pupils (interaction); and through critical consideration of a connection I think may exist between the work of research-engaged schools and an alternative approach to defining quality that has been proposed but ignored in the literature. Inspired by post-structuralism and social constructionism, with influences from interpretivism and discourse analysis the thesis combines an analysis and synthesis of literature with two phases of empirical work that were conducted in four primary schools in England. The thesis contributes to knowledge theoretically and empirically. First, through the development of two conceptual frameworks from a synthesis of literature; secondly, by privileging in-school voices and exploring what quality means to staff and pupils; and thirdly, by investigating the concept of quality through observation of teacher/pupil interaction and enactment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available