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The rhetoric of participation: student voice initiatives in a college of further education - a case study.

Homer, D., 2019. The rhetoric of participation: student voice initiatives in a college of further education - a case study. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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HOMER, Damien_Ed.D._2019.pdf



The growth of the participation agenda is multifaceted and inter-disciplinary stretching across a range of institutions within the public sector. Within the field of education the rise of the student- led discourse has grown through a range of academic institutions from primary education to undergraduate study. The purpose of this research is to consider how student voice practice operates within a college of Further Education, which is predominantly, although not exclusively, populated by 16 – 18 year olds. The significance of participation is central to international and national policy across a range of organisations including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and those introduced by successive British Governments, such as the UK Every Child Matters guidelines which enshrine in law the rights of the child to express their views and be heard. The issue of student participation should therefore be at the forefront of Further Education Colleges’ agenda. Research into Further Education policy and practice has historically been difficult due to the lack of parity that the sector has for scholarly activity, in comparison to other areas of the UK’s education system, for example Higher Education. There has been a development over the last fifteen years of a changing culture of participation, inclusive learning and student-centred learning within Further Education Colleges in the United Kingdom (UK). As part of this change, within Further Education Colleges, student voice initiatives have become wide ranging and can manifest themselves in many ways, for example: surveys, councils, governors, representative groups, committees, alongside well established student bodies, such as the National Union of Students. This research project explores how ‘voice’ is discursively framed, operationalised and the extent to which it is inclusive and how the various initiatives meet the needs of the students. The research will examine this through gauging the impact of student voice initiatives, predominately from a student’s perspective, and the ways in which students are listened to in a Further Education College in Central England. This research project has used a single case study approach involving two groups of media students, along with student enrichment staff who work within the college to understand how student voice practice is operationalised at this Further Education College. The case study drew upon traditional research methods, such as interviews and focus groups to better understand how the discourse of ‘voice’ works at the college, but also an art based method called auto-driven photo elicitation. To understand the inclusivity of the student voice practice a mixed method research design sought to draw out an understanding of the students’ feelings and opinions about the college where they studied. The students were given the opportunity to share how these initiatives met their needs through the use of auto-driven photo elicitation, whereby students take images of their own choosing, which allowed for possibilities of a richer data set than using solely more traditional means, such as interviews or focus groups with students. This research project will investigate notions of social capital, learner agency and empowerment which are all affected by possible institutionalised domination which could impinge on the ability of the students to ‘find their voice’ and enact real change. The objectives of this research project will be to note if governance and hierarchal structures can ever allow a purposeful student voice to be heard, and listened to, in any meaningful sense. The research project is underpinned by reviewing the vast body of work already existing around the changing culture of participation and the student voice, in its differing forms, and considers whether or not it is making any quantifiable difference to young people, and ultimately whether the participatory nature of contemporary education has any long term function. This research project has found that there needs to be a move from student consultation to an active culture of engagement. The students that took part in this research highlighted the need for supportive staff who showed that they cared about the students’ opinions and the students wishes which were that they should be treated like the young adults they perceived themselves to be. The outcomes of this research also demonstrated that students value a ‘feedback loop’ where they are told what is happening after they have spoken and that college staff take both the positive and negative feedback seriously. Furthermore, if students are to be asked for their opinions and views then colleges need to be able to respond to those requests, student voice initiatives should not just be about pastoral concerns. Students have invaluable views on their own education and should be treated as experts in their own lives.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:student voice; further education; bourdieu
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:32926
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:16 Oct 2019 13:07
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:18


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