Emancipatory research with children in Pupil Referral Units: a Foucauldian perspective on policy and practice

Prof Doc Thesis

Browne, Lucy 2013. Emancipatory research with children in Pupil Referral Units: a Foucauldian perspective on policy and practice. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.3489
AuthorsBrowne, Lucy
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This critical psychology research is set within current education reform and focuses on
children attending Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) in one local authority. A systematic
literature review indicated that, whilst there is research into interventions in PRUs, there
is limited research into the abilities of children in PRUs or their constructions. To
address this, three subsidiary research questions were developed, within the central
research question of ‘What are the characteristics, beliefs and Foucauldian themes of
children in Pupil Referral Units?’. Mixed methods emancipatory and exploratory
research was conducted with 14 children (11-15 years old). Data collection involved
cognitive assessment, assessment of their attitudes towards school and themselves, and
conversational-style interviews. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics and a
semantic deductive Foucauldian informed thematic analysis. Findings indicated
children generally had positive attitudes towards their PRU teachers, with some
negative attitudes towards their competency in learning. Participants were
heterogeneous in terms of their cognitive ability, but with a trend of below average
verbal abilities. Spatial abilities were a relative strength. Governmentality was
concluded to influence institutional practices within education and children’s lives.
This served to create and maintain a ‘norm’, thus enabling the ‘abnormal’ to exist. As a
result the children self-disciplined, subjectified and problematised themselves against
the ‘norm’. This was made possible through relationships. Therefore, the importance
of relationships in education is central to the research findings and conclusions. The
thesis concludes with reflections on the researcher’s learning journey and plans for
sharing the findings to inform practice and policy within education and Educational

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.3489
Publication dates
PrintDec 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jan 2014
Publisher's version
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