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Time, space and young people´s agency in vocational upper secondary education: a cross-cultural perspective
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of applied educational science.
Unit of Cultural and Feminist Studies, University of Helsinki.
School of Education and Behavioural Sciences, University of Borås.
2010 (English)In: European Educational Research Journal (online), ISSN 1474-9041, E-ISSN 1474-9041, Vol. 9, no 2, 245-256 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article is based on ethnographic studies in the context of vocational education: two in Sweden and one in Finland. The Swedish data originate from the Vehicle programme and the Child and Recreation programme; the Finnish data originate from the social and health-care sector. In this sense, the authors’ perspective is cross-cultural. The article focuses on temporal and spatial dimensions of these three educational contexts and analyzes how young people exhibit their agency when negotiating their time and constructing their own space. The authors’ analysis elucidates how time–space paths in the context of vocational education are classed and gendered. In the female-dominated fields of vocational upper secondary education, disciplinary practices related to time and space are more visible than in the male-dominated fields. Moreover, it is argued that the political atmosphere in Sweden has been more favourable for promoting equality than that in Finland. Despite this, divisions between students and pigeonholing exist in everyday school life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford, United Kingdom: Symposium Journals Ltd , 2010. Vol. 9, no 2, 245-256 p.
Keyword [en]
vocational upper secondary education, agency, cross-cultural, time-space paths, ethnography
National Category
Pedagogical Work Social Sciences
Research subject
educational work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-37103DOI: 10.2304/eerj.2010.9.2.245OAI: diva2:357934
Available from: 2010-10-20 Created: 2010-10-20 Last updated: 2016-01-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. ”… det vore bättre om man kunde vara med och bestämma hur det skulle göras…”: En etnografisk studie om elevinflytande i gymnasieskolan
Open this publication in new window or tab >>”… det vore bättre om man kunde vara med och bestämma hur det skulle göras…”: En etnografisk studie om elevinflytande i gymnasieskolan
2012 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
“… it would be better if one could be involved in how things should bedone…” : An ethnographic study on student influence in upper secondary school
Abstract [en]

The aim of this study is to explore how young people act and the organisation of school practice, and what possibilities they have of influencing the content and the forms practiced. The study focuses on how the pedagogic practice is organised in two classes in their first year of upper secondary school, one Social Science programme class and one Vehicle programme class. This embraces questions as: How, where, when and for what cause do students act to influence, and then with what result? Are students offered influence, and in that case which students? How does the organisation of and the content in the pedagogic practice prepare students to act in order to be able to exert influence in the future? These questions have been studied with focus on differences between the programmes with regard to social background and gender.

The thesis has its theoretical base in Bernstein’s theory of pedagogy and code (1990, 2000), feminist perspectives (Arnot, 2006; Arnot & Dillabough, 2000; Connell, 1987; Gordon, 2006; Gordon, Holland & Lahelma, 2000) as well as theories of structuration (Giddens, 1984).

The empirical material of the thesis was ethnographically produced during one school year, through classroom observations, individual interviews with students, teachers and head teachers, and the gathering of school and teaching material. The main results in the analysis are that actions taken to gain influence were rare, that the organisation of and the content in the pedagogic practice was mainly focused on students as becoming, i. e. it focused students possibilities to be able to influence in the future and not the present. Furthermore, changing of pedagogic content or pedagogic forms was dependent on students’ own actions.   There was a lack of teacher organisation to promote student influence. Finally, what was evaluated in the pedagogic practice, i.e. factual learning, did not promote student influence.

The thesis demonstrates how pedagogic practice was gendered and classed, which had consequences for how students could influence and how students were prepared to influence in the future. Since the Social Science programme mostly attracts students from a middle-class background and the Vehicle programme those with a working-class background, the content in the programmes contributed to reproducing hierarchical social relations. The content for the Vehicle students proved to be simplified, personal and context dependent, whereas the content of the Social Science programme was more advanced, general and context independent, knowledge which, in argumentation for influence, is usually highly valued.

In previous research, working class masculinities have often been associated with opposition towards study-oriented   subjects.   However, the current  study indicates that there is an interest in studying Swedish, English and maths. The students argued that it was necessary for future employment, and that the Vehicle industry is now asking for this kind of knowledge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2012. 91 p.
Doktorsavhandlingar i pedagogiskt arbete, ISSN 1650-8858 ; 49
, Skrifter från Högskolan i Borås, ISSN 0280-381X ; 37
Student influence, gender, social background, ethnography, upper secondary school
National Category
Pedagogical Work
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60538 (URN)978-91-7459-465-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-11-16, D270, Högskolan i Borås, Borås, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2012-10-26 Created: 2012-10-16 Last updated: 2012-10-26Bibliographically approved

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Hjelmér, CarinaRosvall, Per-Åke
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