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Academic resilience and buoyancy in second-level schools: understanding and supporting student success
Comerford, Jason
Despite the reduction in early-school leaving rates in Ireland beginning at the end of the last decade at the onset of the economic recession, there remain persistent social class differences in educational attainment and school completion in Ireland (Ireland 2016). Such differences have given rise to a discourse of defining students from disadvantaged backgrounds as being ‘at-risk’ of early school leaving and the proliferation of support structures such as the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme to support ‘at-risk’ young people in schools. Such differences in attainment can be understood in terms of social practices (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977, Bourdieu 1977). Bourdieu argues that the field of school advantages young people of dominant class origin, in that their habitus allows them to recognise and more freely accept the legitimacy of the values transmitted to them by school, and to modify their practices in school accordingly. These differences have also been described in terms academic buoyancy and resiliency, processes whereby young people thrive in school in spite of the ‘everyday’ and ‘chronic’ adversity which they face. There is, however, a tension between these conceptualisations. Constructions of academic resiliency and buoyancy highlight the necessity for individuals to develop an internal locus of control in order to thrive in schools (Collie et al 2015). However, Bourdieu argues that young people in schools must internalise externally generated values and practices. In order to explore the tension above, a two-phase approach was utilised. The first phase employed qualitative ethnographic methods in two case study schools comprising 34 students to understand their lived experiences. The first case study group, Smithstown, were in the final year of their Junior Cycle, and the second case study group, Goodwin, were in the first year of a Senior Cycle pathway for young people who do not transition directly to third-level education. In the second phase, the Student Buoyancy Instrument (SBI) was adapted from the work of Martin and Marsh (2008a) and validated with a non-representative sample of 581 Irish second-level students to examine these students’ self-reported levels of buoyancy. In Phase One, the individual and group identities constructed by the students in both schools, along with the differential understandings students had of their social world and vocational prospects, impacted on their engagement and decision making within both school fields. ‘Buoyant’ students demonstrated that they had internalised particular values and practices which mediated their engagement in their school settings and reported themselves as likely to complete school. The buoyant students reported upon displayed conformity, rather than meaningful ‘autonomy’ or ‘internal locus of control’ in the process of navigating their school worlds. The findings from Phase Two indicated that students who reported higher levels of confidence (self-efficacy), persistence and planning, were significantly less likely to report themselves likely to leave school early. There was no relationship found between self-reported high internal locus of control and reported likelihood of completing school. The results of both phases of the research raise new questions about how we as teachers afford ‘autonomy’ to our students within neo-liberal discourses of resilience. Accordingly, the intention of the SBI is that it provides a means for teachers to engage young people in a sociological analysis of inequality in society and how, as democratic citizens, we should all respond to same in a way that is affirming for young people.
Keyword(s): early student leaving rate; social class; support; understanding
Publication Date:
Type: Doctoral thesis
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Language(s): English
Institution: University of Limerick
Publisher(s): University of Limerick
Supervisor(s): Tormey, Roland
Batteson, Tamzin
Ryan, Patrick
First Indexed: 2017-09-21 06:33:07 Last Updated: 2017-09-21 06:33:07