The achievement of potential : an exploration in educational and social contexts

McArthur, Anne (2008). The achievement of potential : an exploration in educational and social contexts. PhD thesis The Open University.



The Achievement of Potential: an Exploration in Educational and Social Contexts outlines a qualitative study conducted in the North East of Scotland within the context of Scottish Education.

This study had four purposes: (1) to explore the meaning of the concept of potential; (2) to consider the factors affecting the achievement of potential; (3) to explore the conditions necessary to enable all children achieve their potential; and (4) to identify implications for Scottish education policy and practice.

The concept of potential presented in the literature was diverse - different constructs were generated at different historical times and within different disciplinary frameworks. Common features suggest that potential is something that everyone is born with and everyone achieves to some extent. It is suggested that potential can change throughout life because of influences from social contexts, personal relationships and cultural factors.

Those who participated in the empirical study had a complex and rich understanding of the term. They understood the concept to refer to people maximising the development and use of a range of capabilities. The three key factors identified and which interacted were: the children themselves with their capabilities, aptitudes and attitudes, the schooling system and the home and wider social, cultural context. With respect to teachers and parents, differences in their values, perceptions of the purposes of education, power differentials and community identity emerged as aspects of the educational and social contexts impinging on relationships with pupils and their level of school engagement.

The conditions necessary for the achievement of the fullest potential for all children and the barriers preventing an increasing proportion of children achieving their potential within the established educational system are identified and discussed.

Educational strategies to promote the greatest possible amount of shared perceptions and values and harmonious interaction among the children themselves, their educational context and their social context to allow the children to develop a secure identity are suggested.

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