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School rules and their moral constructions of the good pupil
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education, Teaching and Learning. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9233-3862
2008 (English)In: The European Conference on Educational Research ECER, 2008, 2008Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Regulating pupil's behaviour is an essential part of everyday school life. In traditional as well as progressivist views, rules in school are usually seen as an unproblematic mean to organise and regulate pupils and their behaviour in school as well as teaching them to be good citizens or helping them to acquire moral and social skills. Nevertheless, because rules both serve to protect or safeguard values and function as instruments used in the pursuance of these values, they could be investigated, and thus problematised in terms of a hidden curriculum. The aim of this study is to investigate the hidden curriculum of school rules delimited to the moral construction of "the good pupil" embedded in the system of school rules in two primary schools. A broad interactionist position, based on different traditions such as symbolic interactionism, phenomenological movement and social constructionism, is used as a theoretical framework. Identity, social life, and morality are thus inescapably social, collective and cultural processes, constructed and reconstructed in everyday social interactions. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork in two schools. In total, 141 pupils (6-, 8-, and 11-years old) and 13 teachers participated in this study. Participant observations and audio-recordings as well as interviews with the teachers and group interviews with pupils were conducted. The qualitative analysis of the fieldwork data was accomplished by procedures influenced by grounded theory. According to the findings, the rule system mediates a moral construction of the good pupil to the children, and this actually includes two constructions: the benevolent fellow buddy (a construction of a pupil who complies with the relational rules such as being nice and friendly to others, not bullying, fighting, teasing, and so on) and the well-behaved pupil (a construction of a pupil who obeys the whole rule system). Furthermore, a picture of a final learning outcome of this hidden or implicit citizenship education of school rules emerges: the good citizen who (a) does good to others and does not harm others, (b) functions well in the society and lives by its laws and norms, and (c) takes responsibility and does her or his very best. Critical thinking and the possibility of questioning, critically discussing, and abolishing explicit rules are not parts of this picture. In such a case, moral socialisation does not appeal to pupils' reasoning, feelings, and participation, but to authority and power, and it reduces morality to the valuing of obedience and respect for authority. From a social constructionist viewpoint, this hidden curriculum means that the pupils acquire discourses, which will control them and their opportunities to define themselves. By supervision and disciplining of pupils in school, normality will be rewarded and deviance will be punished which are defined in the discourses. Furthermore, according to the pupils' voice, it is the teachers who create and make decisions about school rules, not pupils. The hidden curriculum of school rules teaches pupils to be non-questioning and non-participating. They have no say and they think they are dependent on teachers' school rules to be able to work together and to function in school. The analysis shows a third moral construction mediated from the school rules: the pupil lacking in moral autonomy, who cannot manage without explicit rules, which are made by teachers and other school staff. The social control function of school rules educates for docility and obedience, subservience to hierarchical authority, and an awareness of one's place in a stratified social system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-42962Local ID: 70259OAI: diva2:263819
The European Conference on Educational Research, Theme: From Teaching to Learning? 10-12 September, Gothenburg, Sweden
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2016-05-04

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