University of Oulu

Student perceptions of choice and opportunities in Finnish schooling : relating dispositions to the schooling field

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Author: Knowles, Sophie1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
Pages: 78
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Language: English
Published: Oulu : S. Knowles, 2016
Publish Date: 2016-05-16
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Pesonen, Jaana
Reviewer: Pesonen, Jaana
Haapakoski, Jani
Bourdieu’s theory of relationalism moves beyond the objective and subjective, to analyze a field, or social space, and unearth the perspective of individuals within society. Individuals operate these settings with an ongoing tension, as they determine whether to struggle against or reproduce valued principles, objectives and dispositions. In this way, they negotiate sometimes obvious, sometimes unwritten, expectations. This theoretical framework offers a unique opportunity to examine inculcation during schooling, by considering relational aspects between education policies and students, their intended targets. The main objective of this thesis is to investigate how Finnish education policies’ aims and principles for basic education relate to what students perceive is expected of them. This necessitates a reflexive examination of students’ perceived purpose of schooling itself. The investigation is thus conducted from two data sets: a field analysis of education policy documents, and then a congruent categorization of dispositions and perceptions that the students voiced in semi-structured interviews. The latter culminates in a habitus investigation, or consideration of their choices to struggle or reproduce societal characteristics. The analysis extracts emergent themes along societal principles, characteristics and the purpose of schooling, and student dispositions from both data sets. Statements that relate to these subcategories are then discussed congruently, with consideration of similarities and differences within and among data sets. Overall, policies describe a school system that is flexibly designed, in order to maximize inclusiveness and individualization, and to promote agency and student self-knowledge. Students describe how they are personally unstressed by external pressures, and feel self-efficacious and able to determine their own paths based on personal motivation and effort. Schooling purposes range from the intrinsic to its role in formulating a knowledge economy. While students’ roles and expectations are barely described in the examined education policy documents, the great amount of agency and self-responsibility prescribed to them is indirectly thematic in its statements. Many overlaps exist among what is intended by policy and what students perceive, but the differences inform the complex nature of influences on any sociological field. By considering the struggles and self-beliefs of students, policy makers may surface unanticipated barriers or obstacles, lessening the gap between the theoretical and practical design of policies. This lends itself to the inclusion of students’ voices, and particularly of qualitative semi-structured interviews, in education policy evaluation.
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