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The significance of materiality in shaping institutional habitus: exploring dynamics preceding school effects
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
2015 (English)In: British Journal of Sociology of Education, ISSN 0142-5692, E-ISSN 1465-3346Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

This article examines the objective possibilities of Swedish schools to offer an equal and functional pedagogical practice for students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills. The data consist of policy documents, observations, and interviews with students, teachers, and head teachers in three educational settings distinguished by different social demographics. The focus allows for a comparative understanding of how tangible objects generate formations of schools as a relational phenomenon depending on geographic location and social background of students. The article indicates that the impact of materiality lies in its preceding power. It shapes the condition of institutions visualised in architecture, buildings, and the quality of and design of facilities and artefacts. From this material root emanates schools’ values, appeal, social status, and pedagogical organisations – school effects – that empower or weaken the school’s attraction and self-confidence. Different materialities influence each school’s institutional habitus, producing school effects with unequal educational outcomes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2015.
Keyword [en]
material conditions, institutional habitus, school effects, pedagogy, social class
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-110334DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2015.1093406OAI: diva2:862240
Available from: 2015-10-20 Created: 2015-10-20 Last updated: 2016-05-19
In thesis
1. Den subtila ojämlikheten: Om grundskolors materiella förutsättningar och elevers utbildningsmöjligheter
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Den subtila ojämlikheten: Om grundskolors materiella förutsättningar och elevers utbildningsmöjligheter
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to examine compulsory schools' material conditions in relation to students' learning opportunities and schools staffs’ opportunities to educate. The thesis consists of four published peer-reviewed articles. The empirical data was collected through extensive fieldwork during 2010-2011 in three Swedish schools (ages 14-15), characterized by different social demographics. The material is primarily classroom observations, semi-structured interviews and policy documents. Analysis in the thesis draws mainly on Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical framework, but also on contemporary developments institutional habitus by Diane Reay and positional capital by Jacques Lévy. Also, materiality as an educational concept is used to reflect and discuss schools’ prerequisites as institutions of education. The first article investigates how school practice emerges for pupils and the importance it has on their perceptions of their own lives in the school, it also considers and discusses the utility of the theoretical tool school habitus. The study was furthermore a critical examination of the reproductive and/or social levelling effects that school practice could have on pupils. The second article explores and compares the schools' access to ICT and classroom teaching. The third article examines the role of the family and its importance for school staff and pupils in the daily operations of the school. In addition, it scrutinizes how socioeconomic conditions affect the middle- and working-class schools' abilities to navigate in relation to families. The fourth article examines material conditions in all three schools with a focus on pupils and school staffs’ perceptions and actions in school practices, and how materiality shapes schools' institutional habitus. The analysis displays that schools’ materiality has major significance for the forms of institutional habitus and which ideals and values about education are developed in the different schools. It also displays that schools’ material conditions are closely interwoven with pupils’ educational backgrounds and the socioeconomic structure of the local neighbourhood. Schools’ material preconditions affect the pedagogical work of the teachers in classrooms and principals’ acting space to follow and implement the schools’ missions according to steering documents. Viewed as preworld, the local area and resources in the schools shape pupils’ sense of worthiness and thus their visions of a possible future in regard to educational and- workinglife carriers. The thesis discusses and concludes that the title The Subtle Inequality illustrate a process where phenomenon such as school choice, teacher shortage or schools’ abilities to compete are taken for granted. They are seen as “natural” and given, thus they hide the existing, objective material preconditions as the sources that shape differences in the educational system. To overcome these differences, the thesis reflects on the need to give all schools in Sweden equal material starting points.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2016. 92 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 0281-6768 ; 117
institutional habitus, materiality, pedagogy, compulsory school, social class, institutionell habitus, materialitet, pedagogik, grundskola, social klass
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-120226 (URN)978-91-7601-450-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-06-10, Humanisthuset, Hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-05-20 Created: 2016-05-12 Last updated: 2016-05-26Bibliographically approved

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Isling Poromaa, Pär
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