Understanding Student Disengagement within a Caribbean Context

Laurent, Uthel Joseph (2012). Understanding Student Disengagement within a Caribbean Context. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ee52


Previous research on disengagement has usually treated it as 'disorderly', 'disruptive' or 'deviant' behaviour. As a result, the varied and subtle ways in which disengagement may be manifested at school have been overlooked. This thesis seeks to draw on insights from the interactionist tradition to explain how forms of disengagement are displayed within various situations and the diverse factors that may engender it. These issues are explored in the distinctive context of the Caribbean.

The research was undertaken at a secondary school in St. Lucia and ethnographic methods were used to understand students' actions, along with their interpretations, explanations and evaluations of themselves and their circumstances. Hence, the research relied on a range of data sources including lesson observations, informal interviews, and questionnaires. Personal and official documents were also analysed. Moreover, the perspectives of teachers and parents were used to enhance and corroborate students' experiences.

The research revealed that students engaged in different forms of both quiet and disruptive disengagement, either on an individual basis or as collective acts. In order to explain these, I examined the demands made on them by teachers, home concerns, as well as peer-related and other institutional factors. A major finding of this research is that while many students expressed a positive orientation to school, they engaged in diverse behaviours which amounted to forms of quiet disengagement. This is important because of its likely consequences for their educational development and subsequent life chances.

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