The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 353–370 | Cite as

Making trouble: ethnographic designs on ruling relations for students and teachers in non-academic pathways

Article

Abstract

Since 2009, all Australian states require young people to be ‘earning or learning’ until age 17. Secondary schools and vocational colleges now accommodate students for whom the conventional academic pathways of the past were not designed. The paper reflects on a project designed to explore the moral orders in these institutional settings for managing such students in extended compulsory schooling. Originally designed as classroom ethnographies, the project involved observations over three to four weeks and interviews with teachers and students in five sites in towns experiencing high youth unemployment. The project aimed to support teachers to work productively in such classrooms with such students, under the assumption that teachers orchestrate classroom interactions. However, it became clear events in these classrooms were being shaped by relations and parties above and beyond the classroom, as much as by those present. Teachers and students were observed to both comply with, and push against, the layers of policy and institutional processes regulating their behaviours. This paper re-thinks the original project through the gaze and resources of institutional ethnography, to better account for the layers of accountabilities and documentation practices that impacted on both teacher and student behaviours. By tracing the extended webs of ‘ruling relations’, it shows both how teachers and students could make trouble for the institutional moral order, and then be held accountable for this trouble.

Keywords

Classroom ethnography Institutional ethnography Compulsory schooling Absenteeism Morality Methodology 

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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SCPL, Faculty of EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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