Goals, Identities and Decision-Making: A Model of Pupil Activity in a Comprehensive School

Turner, Glenn Robert (1982). Goals, Identities and Decision-Making: A Model of Pupil Activity in a Comprehensive School. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00011736


This study is an investigation of the processes involved in pupil adaptation to schools It is ethnographic in nature, the setting being a comprehensive school in the South Midlands. The focus is on pupils in top bands and sets who are academically orientated. Existing models present such pupils as 'conformists’ but this conceptualisation ignores the extent to which behavior varies according to its context. Given contextual variability the analysis of adaptations must begin at the level of how pupils respond to specific demands made on them in school and how these demands are negotiated between teachers and pupils. The study also attempts a better explanation of the motivation of pupil actions. Rather than presenting activity as the product of norms and values, as in much existing work, a decision-making approach is adopted which examines pupil goals and interests as the basis for the selection of particular responses to demands. It is argued that pupils do not conform or deviate all the time or in all respects and that a variety of motivations for conformist and deviant behavior can be identified. Activity might be instrumental in pursuit of a goal, or strategic in promoting an appropriate identity or even intrinsically gratifying. Pupil careers, then, are characterised by considerable variation and are subject to the possibility of long term change and 'drift'. Despite constraints such as social background and resources, pupils respond to these in different ways. By building these complexities into a decision-making model of pupil orientations the intention is to provide a much improved analysis of the process of pupil adaptation to school.

Parts of Chapter One have been published in a joint article with Martyn Hammersley entitled 'Conformist Pupils?' in P. Woods, Pupil Strategies, Croom Helm, 1980.

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