The Development of Professionals’ Perceptions and Practices in a Community-Oriented Primary School

Parr, Elizabeth (2016) The Development of Professionals’ Perceptions and Practices in a Community-Oriented Primary School. PhD thesis, The University of Manchester.

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For as long as education has been accepted as a public good, responding to the challenge of deprivation and its impact on educational attainment has been a significant worldwide educational policy and practice concern. One significant approach to dealing with such challenges is for schools to work beyond their gates, utilising the resources and support that can be provided by the communities within which children and their families live (Cummings, Dyson and Todd, 2011). Despite a wealth of ‘how-to-do-it guides and advocacy texts’ (Cummings, Dyson and Todd, 2011, p. 72) for this approach, there is little detailed research into how community-oriented schools are understood and enacted by various core educational professionals, particularly those working in primary schools. Given the centrality of educational professionals’ practice in this policy arena, this study aimed to respond to such a gap and provide case evidence about the orientations and practices found in community-oriented schools.

In order to generate the case evidence, this study focused on an in depth analysis and reflection on the ways in which community-oriented schooling was understood by professionals and what has influenced their thinking as well as their ensuing action in one particular primary school. The overarching research question was: what are professionals’ perceptions and practice of a community-oriented approach in the context of a primary school located in a socio-economically disadvantaged community? This required a research design that allowed a sample of school staff, including teachers, teaching assistants and senior leaders to articulate and reflect on the formative processes around community-oriented work as well as see them in action. To do this, a case study design was used which was ethnographic in approach and used the professionals as the units of analysis. Within this, a suite of research methods was applied, including interviews, observations and analysis of key school documentation to explore multi-level factors that impact on professionals. Finally, a synthesising tool was developed to examine the interrelationships between the factors.

The findings highlighted that the way individual professionals respond to the proximal and distal factors is not linear or straightforward to understand. Instead the data suggested a dynamic complexity where a spectrum of factors intersected for individuals in distinct ways. Such findings point to the use of an ecological approach to help explain the various perceptions and practices of community-oriented schooling. In conclusion, this study suggests that policy development and enactment of community-oriented schooling cannot be generalised in any unilateral way but instead needs to be understood within localised settings. This suggests that schools and their leaders might need to develop strategies and approaches which recognise potential diversity in enactment that enable professionals’ articulations of community-oriented approaches to be made explicit in order to develop them and subsequently to utilise them as part of school-level policy decisions and practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Education > Teacher Education
Depositing User: Philippa Williams
Date Deposited: 20 May 2020 16:02
Last Modified: 20 May 2020 16:02

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