Understanding school cultures : developing participation

Black-Hawkins, Kristine (2002). Understanding school cultures : developing participation. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d4a9


In this thesis I examine the relationship between school cultures and participation. I start by describing the three methodological approaches I have taken to explore these two key concepts. First, I discuss the reading I have undertaken for the study. Second, by reflecting on my existing experiences of schools and education, I present a series of autobiographical tales. Third, I provide an in-depth case study of a single school The study of this urban comprehensive school comprises the main part of the empirical work. By working as a learning support assistant whilst researching at the school I was able to observe closely its cultures and their relationship to processes of and barriers to participation. I focus on three aspects of this relationship: Interacting with Extemal Worlds, Forming Relationships within the Institutional Structures of a School and Supporting Classroom Learning: Valuing Diversity?

Through an analysis of the findings from my reading, autobiographical fragments and the case study, I am able to redefine the key concepts of the thesis and establish si"'{ principal conclusions. I argue that the concept of school cultures is central to understanding participation and that the successful development of more participatory policies and practices requires a concomitant shift in school cultures. I note the importance of understanding members' values and beliefs and suggest that at the heart of developing participation is first, the nature of relationships between members and second, responses to diversity.

I end the thesis with a critique of the study's methodology and a number of recommendations for further research. Finally, I consider the contribution this thesis has made to an understanding of the process of research through its intention to maintain integrity both within and between its methodological approaches and its conceptual development.

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