Youth Disaffection – A report by Dr Fidelma Hanrahan

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Youth Disaffect ion

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundat ion University of Sussex


Photograph by flickr.com/photos/dgjones/ Cover photograph by flickr.com/photos/46635911@N00

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Youth Disaffect ion: An Interplay of Social Environment, Mot ivat ion, and Self-Construals A report by Dr Fidelma Hanrahan Funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundat ion and University of Sussex

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Photograph by flickr.com/photos/lit tlesourire/


Contents What is this booklet all about?

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What is school disaffect ion and why is it an important issue to understand?

6

Our research quest ions

8

The theor y

9

An integrated model

10

Behaviour and emot ion

11

Aspirat ions and mot ivat ions

12

Feelings about myself

14

Home, school and community environments

16

The research: methodology

18

Study 1: ‘I think educat ion is bulls**t’: The voices of pupils with experience of school exclusion

21

Study 2: Test ing the model

29

Study 3: ‘It makes me feel alive’: The impact of drama and theatre on marginalised young people

43

Overall conclusions

52

What now?

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Photograph by flickr.com/photos/rocher


What is this booklet all about? Sharing the main findings of a programme of doctoral work that aimed to increase our understanding of disengagement from school from a psychological perspect ive Tr ying to understand the psychological processes beneath the stat ist ics Learning from the experiences of ‘disaffected’ young people and staff working with them Understanding ‘what works’ in projects which (re)engage young people considered to be ‘at risk’ or ‘marginalised’

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What is school disaffect ion? The term ‘disaffect ion’ is commonly interchanged with ‘disengagement’. However, researchers have described disaffect ion as being ‘more than the absence of engagement’ 1 ; that is, disaffect ion describes a form of disengagement where part icular behaviours and emot ions are also present 2 . Thus, disaffect ion can be thought of as lying at the extreme end of a spectrum of disengagement/engagement. 6

Within the school environment indicators of disaffect ion include passivity, withdrawal from part icipat ion, poor at tendance and disrupt ive behaviour – as well as the emot ions of boredom, anxiety and frustrat ion 3 .

1. Skinner, Fu rrer, Marchand, & Kindermann, 2008, p. 767 2. Skinner, Fu rrer et al., 2008; Skinner & Belmont, 1993 3. Skinner, Fu rrer et al., 2008; Skinner, Kindermann, & Fu rrer, 2008


Why is school disaffect ion an important issue to understand more about? School disaffect ion can lead to unhappy future pathways for some young people. Research shows that young people who have been excluded from mainstream school are less likely to be in educat ion, employment or training at age 18 4 . Other research shows associat ions bet ween school disengagement, dropout, and subsequent involvement in crime, arrest and problem substance use 5 . 7

4. DFE, 2012 5. Coles et al., 2002; Maguin & Loeber, 1996; Pritchard & Cox, 1998; SEU, 1999


Our research quest ions What can we learn about disaffect ion from understanding the experiences of young people who have been excluded from school? What processes predict disengagement? What experiences may ‘re-engage’ disaffected youths? 8

What role can drama and theatre play in support ing youths in finding pathways out of disaffect ion?


The theor y What do we know from exist ing research? We know that each of the following can tell us something about disaffect ion: –

Young people’s home, school and community experiences

How they feel about themselves

Their aspirat ions and mot ivat ions

Their behaviour and emot ion

What can each of these processes tell us about disaffect ion? How do these processes work together to lead to different types of mot ivat ion?

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An integrated model

Feelings about myself 10

Home, school,

Behaviour and

and community

emot ion

environments

Aspirat ions and mot ivat ion


Behaviour and emot ion Disaffected young people have been described as: –

Having a sense of failure

Lacking in a sense of ident ity

Being ‘depressed’ and ‘difficult’

H  aving social and emot ional problems including involvement in crime and ant isocial behaviour 6

Within the school environment indicators of disaffect ion include part icular behaviours and emot ions that reflect their mot ivat ion: –

B  ehaviours include: passivity, withdrawal from part icipat ion, poor at tendance and disrupt ive behaviour

–

Emot ions include: boredom, anxiety and frustrat ion 7

6. DETR, 1999 7. Skinner, Fu rrer et al., 2008; Skinner et al., 2008

Behaviour and emot ion

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Aspirat ions and mot ivat ion Aspirat ions and Research provides evidence in support of a link bet ween: –

T  he kinds of aspirat ions and goals young people have (e.g. having the goal of want ing to learn more vs. want ing to avoid showing that one can’t do something).

T  he reasons given for successes and failures at school (e.g. I passed the test because I am good at this subject vs. I passed because it was easy) and for behaviours at school (engaged vs. disengaged behaviours) 8 .

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Achievement goal theor y 9 and At tribut ion theor y 10 can help us understand this link bet ween aspirat ions and mot ivat ions, and behaviours at school.

8. A mes, 1992; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Thompson, 2004 9. Dweck, 1986; Dweck & Leggett, 1988 10. Weiner, 1985

mot ivat ion


Achievement goal theor y

At tribut ion theor y

Having different goals leads to different emot ions and different types of mot ivat ion

How people explain successes and failures leads to different types of mot ivat ion

Learning goals – these goals include want ing to learn more and get bet ter at doing something or at a subject:

Different types of explanat ions:

W  hen pupils who have this goal fail at a task they put in more effort or use a different strategy the next t ime so that they do bet ter. Failure doesn’t mean defeat, but is an opportunity for greater learning, leading to greater determinat ion.

Performance goals – these goals include want ing to look clever or avoid looking stupid in front of peers or teachers: W  hen pupils who have this goal fail at a task this is interpreted as meaning that they are not ver y clever, which leads to feelings of anxiety, depression, and shame.

A  success or failure at school can be explained by some personal failing (e.g. I am stupid) or by an external cause (e.g. The exam was difficult). T hose explanat ions can either be thought of as something that can change over t ime (e.g. I can get better at this subject) or that can’t be changed (e.g. My brain can’t do maths). F inally a pupil can think of the reason for a failure to be something they can act ively do something about (e.g. I can put more effort in), or not (e.g. The teacher will never give me a good mark).

So... If a pupil thinks that their failure is because of a lack of ability and this cause is perceived as a personal failing that cannot change over t ime, and is beyond their control, then this is likely to lead to lack of mot ivat ion and effort.

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Feelings about myself Feelings Research provides evidence in support of a link bet ween different ways of seeing the self and levels of disaffect ion. School-excluded pupils think of more impossible future selves and have more negat ive thoughts about their futures compared to mainstream school pupils 11 . 14

Possible selves theor y 12 and Self-discrepancy theor y 13 provide an understanding of how inconsistencies bet ween different ideas about self can lead to different types of mot ivat ion and behaviour.

11. Mainwaring & Hallam, 2010 12. Markus & Nu rius, 1986; Oyserman & Markus, 1990; Oyserman, 2008 13. Higgins, 1987, 1989

about myself


Possible selves theor y

Self-discrepancy theor y

These are an individual’s imagined future selves

Proposes that inconsistencies bet ween how we view ourselves and how we want to be, or feel we should be, leads to negat ive feelings

W  hat they envisage they will become W  hat they would like to become W  hat they fear they could become These selves represent goals, aspirat ions, and fears. They mot ivate and incent ivise part icular behaviours.

When there is an inconsistency bet ween how we are and how we want to be, this leads to: F eelings of deject ion: disappointment, dissat isfact ion, and sadness.

When there is an inconsistency bet ween how we are and how we feel we should be, this leads to: Inconsistencies bet ween imagined future selves can lead to feelings of determinat ion or hopelessness.

When posit ive imagined future selves also come with plausible strategies, they are mot ivat ing.

F eelings of agitat ion: fear, threat, and restlessness.

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Home, school, and community environments Research provides evidence in support of a link bet ween: –

E  nvironments in which individuals feel valued, competent, and where they have agency and choice

and –

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Home, school, and community

bet ter well-being.

Dropping out of school is associated with percept ions of teachers and parents as not ver y support ive of choice and agency, and with not feeling autonomous or competent 14 . Self-determinat ion theor y 15 provides a way of understanding how environments which do not support psychological needs lead to different mot ivat ions and behaviours.

14. Hardre & Reeve, 2003; Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997 15. Ryan & Deci, 2000

environments


Self-determinat ion theor y Social environments can support or undermine people’s sense of mot ivat ion, and ult imately their well-being and performance  SDT proposes that there are three psychological needs which if unsupported will have a negat ive impact on wellness: 1

C  ompetence: the experience of engaging in challenges that are not too difficult or too easy, feeling confident and able when tackling challenges, and receiving encouraging feedback.

2

R  elatedness: a feeling of being connected to others, of belonging, and of being cared about.

3

A  utonomy: having a sense of agency and choice, rather than feeling controlled.

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The research: methodology

Interviews with 10

Study 1

school-excluded pupils and 6 pract it ioners

Study 2

working with them 18

Pupils: 6 female 4 male

Pupils aged 14-20 years

Interviews transcribed and analysed to find pat terns in what people said.

Quest ion topics –

S chool and PRU* experiences; experience of exclusion

R  elat ionships with teachers, peers and others

A  t t itude to educat ion; aspirat ions

Feelings about themselves

*PRU = Pupil Referral Unit. This is an alternative education centre which caters for children who are having problems in other schools, including students who have been excluded for anti-social behaviou r and emotional and behaviou ral difficulties.

107 mainstream school pupils

102 schoolexcluded pupils

Analysis invest igated links bet ween environmental experiences, feelings about the self, aspirat ions, and behaviour.


Quest ionnaires filled out

Interviews with 4 young

by 209 school-excluded and mainstream school pupils aged 11-16 years

part icipants in a drama

Study 3

3 interviews with each part icipant over a 2 year period

Quest ion topics –

Life events

P ercept ion of parent and teacher support

Aspirat ions

Academic self-efficacy

Self-worth

Self-presentat ional style

Behaviour

and theatre project

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Quest ion topics 3 female 1 male

Part icipants aged 15-21 years

Interviews transcribed and analysed to find pat terns in what people said.

M ot ivat ion for at tending drama workshops

Experience of involvement

R elat ionships with theatre pract it ioners

C haracter played in theatre product ion


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Study 1: ‘I think educat ion is bulls**t’: The voices of pupils with experience of school exclusion Themes from interviews with school excluded pupils and their teachers

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Study 1 Themes Behaviour and […] I went to college to do A-Levels; I think I lasted about t wo weeks. […] I was just like, ‘aw this is just like school, why bother?’, so I didn’t bother with it. (Female, 20)

Behavioural from school D  isinterest

fighting a lot with other kids, and I was bunking , like, quite a lot, and I wasn’t really, I was

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never really hardly went in. [The temporar y exclusions] were for all different things like walking out of school , or arguing with someone, or get t ing rude to someone [...]. (Female, 15)

The people here [at the PRU] [...] they’re wild, they’re angr y [...] some of them… they don’t care , some of them don’t care about work, nothing. (Male, 16)

When it’s really hard I don’t understand it and I get frustrated. (Male, 16)

emot ion

disengagement

A  nt i-social behaviour R  esistance to authority

A  bsence D  istract ion H  elpless behaviours

Negat ive emot ions A  nger

F rustrat ion

S adness

A  nxiety

H  opelessness

E  mbarrassment


Study 1 Themes Aspirat ions and I’ve tried to go to college, [...] I don’t think it would’ve ever worked out… because

there’s nothing that I’d say I’m so interested in that I’d go and study for years and stick to it […] it’d just piss me off, I wouldn’t be able to do that… if I’m going to do something now I’d want to know, well that’s going to get me a job right at the end of it. (Female, 20)

Performance goals

mot ivat ion

F ocused on outcomes of learning i.e. qualificat ion for job

23 I think [educat ion] is bulls**t. [...] Int: And what keeps you doing it then? The money really, t ill you get a job. (Male,16)

Extrinsic mot ivat ion M  oney as mot ivator L ack of intrinsic mot ivat ion and task enjoyment

YP-1: I’m not as smart as you think, [...] there’s a certain limit there… that’s as smart as I can get. (Female, 20)

‘Fixed’ mindset I ntelligence as ‘fixed’


Study 1 Themes Feelings I thought [get t ing sent to the PRU] meant that I didn’t… I wasn’t going to get nothing, go nowhere in life [...] I wasn’t going to be able to achieve any thing [...] that’s what I thought anyway. (Female, 17)

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I see myself in the future as, like, not get ting a job and stuff. Something really bad . (Male, 16)

Self as Failure L ack of believed in ‘hoped-for’ self

about myself

Possible selves L ack of ideal self U  nrealist ic ideal self or ideal self with no realist ic strategies F eared self as expected self

I’ve always got a brick wall around me. [...] you’ll never see me … you’ll never see the true – who I really am , who I always want to be but don’t feel that I’m able to. (Female, 16)

Inauthent ic/’False’ self D  etached self-reliant self C  onflict bet ween want ing to be perceived as ‘nice’ and wishing to be feared


Study 1 Themes Home, School, [The school staff] didn’t care. [...] They knew that the school was bad; they knew that the people there was bad, so they just didn’t really care [...]. (Female, 14)

School Environments F ailure to understand circumstances and experiences of young people

and Community Environments

C  ontrolling responses

[Pupils who have been excluded] probably don’t even care that they’ve been kicked out of school. They’re more worried about what’s going on at home. (Female, 16)

Chronic instability at home and community disadvantage L ack of posit ive parent ing N  o posit ive, realist ic role models N  orm of disadvantage & ant i-social behaviour in community

I mean I was involved with a gang when I was like 13 [...] I was just running around with like people, just doing bad things but… y’know, you don’t have to be in a gang to, beat someone up or, y’know, rob someone. […] Had problems at home [...] it’s a way of dealing with things really, a coping mechanism. (Female, 16)

P  arental expectat ions lacking or unachievable

Peer Pressure T  o be perceived as ‘bad’ P  ursue needs through ant i-social behaviour and relat ionships with deviant peers

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Study 1 Themes Room for

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I felt people [in the PRU] listened to you more [...] obviously they’re more understanding because they know people that’s coming there is got… problems, or troubles [...] so… if something was wrong they’ll tr y and find out or they’ll tell you to calm down or they’ll make you go and speak to someone and… stuff like that. So it was really really good. (Female, 17)

Positive

hope

responses to the PRU environment S upport ive school environment F ocus on building relat ionships bet ween staff and pupils T  eachers’ understanding of pupils’ experiences outside of school environment R  ealist ic goals set R  ecognit ion of achievements S taff belief in pupils’ competence and posit ive futures

Posit ive choices R  ealist ic posit ive hoped-for self S ense of autonomy in making posit ive choices


Photograph by flickr.com/photos/asiandevelopmentbank/


Photograph by flickr.com/photos/hazza96/


Study 2: Test ing the model 29

Invest igat ing links bet ween social experiences, feelings about the self, aspirat ions and mot ivat ions, and behaviours, using data from a survey study with school-excluded and mainstream school pupils


Study 2 Results Research quest ion 1: Do school-excluded and mainstream school pupils differ? School-excluded pupils reported less... Home and school support 30

Perceived parental involvement, warmth, and support for their child’s agency or choices E  xample item: ‘My parents, or the adults I live with, put time and energy into helping me’ and ‘My parents insist upon my doing things her way’

Perceived teacher support at mainstream school for a pupil’s agency or choices  xample item: ‘My teachers give me choices E and options’

Posit ive or helpful aspirat ions and mot ivat ions Learning goals at school E  xample item: ‘I tr y to learn as much as I can in class’

Greater sense of being able to accomplish school work E  xample item: ‘Even if the work is hard, I can learn it’


School-excluded pupils reported more... Negat ive environmental experiences Negat ive life events experienced E  xample item: ‘My parents divorced or separated’

Unhelpful aspirat ions and mot ivat ions Explanat ions for academic successes and failures associated with helplessness and hopelessness E  xample item: ‘Suppose you did badly in a test. This is because... the subject is difficult / you always do badly in tests’

Aspirat ions that centre around money, fame, and appearance (‘extrinsic’ aspirat ions) E  xample item: ‘In the future it is important that you will have lots of money’

More anger following potent ial scenes of conflict, and posit ive at t itudes to aggressive responses Angr y responses to scenarios of potent ial conflict E  xample item: ‘Imagine that you are late for the same class for a third day running. Your teacher tells you your time keeping is not good enough and that you need to be on time the next day. How would you feel?’

Posit ive at t itudes to aggressive responses  xample item: ‘Now imagine that you shout at E the teacher and tell him that he can’t tell you what to do… what would happen then?’ ‘ I would feel bet ter / more liked / more respected / that would solve my problem’

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Study 2 Results Research quest ion 2: What are the direct and mediated pathways bet ween psychological processes ident ified by model? False-self Parental support

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+

+

Self worth

Learning goals +

+ +

+

Feeling angr y

+ Life events

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+ +

+

Teacher support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Self worth predicted by:

+

What types of social environments are associated with posit ive self-feelings?

More perceived parent support

False-self predicted by: Less perceived parent support

False-self False self Parental Support support

+

+

Self worth

Learning goals +

+ +

+

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Feeling angr y

+ Life events

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+ +

+

Teacher Support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Learning goals predicted by:

+

What types of social environments are associated with learning goals? Parental Support support

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+ +

False-self + + Self worth

+

Learning Goals goals +

+ +

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

Feeling angr y

+ +

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

+

Teacher Support support

 M ore perceived teacher support for mainstream school pupils, but not for school-excluded pupils

+ +

+ Life events

 M ore perceived parent support for school-excluded pupils but not for mainstream school pupils

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Helpless at tribut ions predicted by:

What environments and self-feelings predicted helpless at tribut ions?

 L ess self-worth for mainstream school pupils, but not for schoolexcluded pupils  L ess perceived parent support for school-excluded pupils, but not for mainstream school pupils

False-self Parental Support support

+

Learning goals +

+

Self worth

+

Life events

+

+ +

+

+

 L ess teacher support for both groups

35

Feeling Angr y

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+

+ +

+

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic aspirat ions

+

+

Teacher Support support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+ +

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Self-Efficacy predicted by:

+

What predicts self-efficacy in pupils?

 M ore perceived teacher support for mainstream school pupils, but not for school-excluded pupils  F ewer helpless at tribut ions for both groups

False-self Parental support

36

+

+

Self worth

Learning goals +

+ +

+

Feeling angr y

+ Life events

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+ +

+

Teacher Support support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Extrinsic Aspirat ions predicted by:

What predicts aspirat ions in pupils?

+

 More helpless at tribut ions

False-self Parental support

+

+

Self worth

Learning goals +

+ +

+

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Feeling angr y

+ Life events

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+ +

+

Teacher support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic Aspirat aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Feeling angr y in interpersonal situat ions

What predicts angr y responses to scenes of potent ial conflict?

predicted by:

+

 More helpless at tribut ions

False-self Parental support

38

+

+

Self worth

Learning goals +

+ +

+

Feeling Angr angr y

+ Life events

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+ +

+

Teacher support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results

Seeing aggressive behaviour as posit ive in interpersonal

What predicts posit ive at t itudes to aggressive behaviour?

situat ions:

+ +

 More extrinsic aspirat ions  M ore feelings of anger in interpersonal situat ions

False-self Parental support

+

+

Self worth

Learning goals +

+ +

+

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Feeling Angr angr y

+ Life events

+

Helpless at tribut ions for success/ failure

+ +

+

Teacher support

+

Academic self-efficacy++ ++

+

+ +

Aggressive behaviour viewed posit ively Extrinsic Aspirat aspirat ions

+

significant for both groups significant for mainstream school pupils only significant for school-excluded pupils only


Study 2 Results An unexpected finding The experience of Life Events did not predict any thing else in the final model, once other factors were taken into account.

Why? One possibility suggested by this result is that: 40 –

The  accumulated stress of life experiences was NOT the most important factor in predict ing feelings about the self, aspirat ions and mot ivat ions, and behavioural and emot ional outcomes at school.

–

R  ather, it is the response and nurture of parents and teachers which mat ters the most for posit ive outcomes for young people.


Study 2 Results Research quest ion 3: Are pathways from environmental experiences to mot ivat ion at school different for school-excluded and mainstream school pupils? Firstly, our results show, as expected, that: –

S ocial environmental experiences are linked with behavioural and emot ional responses to potent ial conflict situat ions through feelings about the self, helpless at tribut ions, and extrinsic aspirat ions

However – different pathways for mainstream school and school-excluded pupils were revealed: –

F or school-excluded pupils:  Perceived support from parents mat tered more for predict ing learning goals and at tribut ions rather than perceived teacher support

F or mainstream school pupils: Perceived teacher support and self-worth predicted master y goals and academic self-efficacy

However for both groups of pupils it is worth not ing that: –

P  erceived parental support, not perceived teacher support, was involved in the mediated pathways to behavioural and emot ional responses. This means that for both groups posit ive views on aggressive responses were predicted by low perceived parental support through helpless at tribut ions and extrinsic aspirat ions.

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Photograph by flickr.com/photos/shehal/


Study 3: ‘It makes me feel alive’: The impact of drama and theatre on marginalised young people

43


Photograph by flickr.com/photos/fixersuk/


Study 3 Themes Drama and theatre project run by charitable theatre company Weekly or bi-weekly workshops with four ‘at-risk’ or school-excluded young people over a six month period focused on: –

Improvisat ion using a wide range of scenarios and roles

Devising scenes and parts for the product ion

Act ing skills learned and honed

Workshops culminated in a semi-improvised product ion: –

Based on the life experiences of the young people taking part

Parts acted by the young people

Three nights at theatre venue in October 2011

Intense rehearsing of newly scripted version of product ion over a 12 week period: –

Culminat ing in a three-week run at a different theatre venue in September 2012

45


Study 3 Themes Something for myself Self-expression

Room to unexpectedly achieve

When I’m on stage […] it makes me feel alive . […] My inner self, the real me , comes out.

46

A positive activity to fill time focus on things that I actually love to do , and then

I think that was like

one thing that I’ve actually stuck at and actually finished . […] Literally, never finished a thing. So it was nice to do something, and ride it out t ill the end.

[I] started to

it [drama] just channelled all that energy that I was put t ing in on being that hard rude girl into now doing what I actually wanna do, and it’s constructive .

Intrinsic enjoyment Oh my god, this [performing] is so good. I really,

really liked it.


Study 3 Themes A nurturing space Supportive boundaries He [the director] was always on t ime. He always showed up. He never missed a session. […] if we had a director that only came somet imes, or didn’t turn up on t ime, you’d be like: ‘Well, he’s not taking it seriously, so we’re not going to take it seriously’. He took it

ver y seriously.

Growth of trust He didn’t give up on us.. […] he took a risk with us, and he believed in us. […] It feels

good for someone to actually put their trust in us… someone that come from the PRU.

It feels like we’re all a family The best part of it was just … it’s almost … […] it feels like

we’re all a family.


Study 3 Themes

Changing the stor y My life’s so different 48

My life’s so different, it’s completely, completely, completely different to how it was. […] it feels really, really distant […] it

feels like that’s a whole lifetime away […] ever y thing’s so different.

Desire to move on It’s hard for me to be that person, it’s really hard for me to act that person […] because you know it’s yourself and that’s not

how you want to be anymore , and it kind of reminds you of how you don’t want to be.


Study 3 Themes So what did this study tell us? Self-development appeared to occur through involvement in a drama and theatre project... The drama and theatre workshops seemed to provide a nurturing space in which new insight and self-awareness could grow, as well as providing a space where new roles, ident it ies, and ways of behaving could be explored This self-development occurred through the internalisat ion of a support ive environment in which the young people involved felt valued and accepted, as well as a sense of belonging The young people experienced new self-belief and competence from posit ive feedback from pract it ioners, which appeared to result in a re-connect ion with core values and mot ivat ion

49


The opportunity to experience working at something that was inherently enjoyable and rewarding for the young people resulted in new achievement experiences which are often not experienced by marginalised and school-excluded young people Playing characters based on their past selves created an opportunity for the young people to reflect on the way they had changed, as well as on reasons for past 50

behaviour and experiences The young people’s descript ion of feeling distant from the past self of their character in the play suggested that the inconsistencies bet ween how they are and how they want to be had lessened The young people also expressed a desire to cont inue to move away from those past ident it ies they thought of as undesirable


Relat ionships provided a foundat ion for self-development‌ This self-development was possible because of the theatre’s environment which supported a sense of agency and choice, belonging, and competence The relat ionships with pract it ioners and peers in the theatre company were crucial for establishing a space where feelings of confidence, self-belief, trust, belonging, mutual respect, and equality could grow Clear structures and expectat ions of the theatre environment created a solid foundat ion upon which posit ive relat ionships could develop and personal growth occur

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Overall conclusions The programme of doctoral work presented supports our model of the development of youth disaffect ion and furthers our understanding of the factors underpinning disaffect ion by talking to and learning from school-excluded young people, and by test ing our model through a survey study. Our results show that feelings about the self, and aspirat ions and mot ivat ions bridge 52

the link bet ween home and school environments which do not support the basic psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness, and behaviours and emot ions associated with disaffect ion in secondar y school pupils. However, our results also show that support ive home environments are part icularly important for school-excluded pupils in leading to more posit ive behaviours and emot ions, compared to mainstream school pupils.


In addit ion, findings from this research highlight the potent ial for nurturing social environmental experiences to provide a warm and stable basis for young people already excluded from school to engage in a process of self-development. Encouragingly, these results suggest that alternat ive educat ion set t ings, and extracurricular work involving drama and theatre, can provide a support ive social context within which young people can experience intrinsic mot ivat ion, enjoy new experiences of achievement, and express a more vulnerable self within a safe environment, leading to internalisat ion of this support ive environment and a process of self-development from which a new belief in posit ive possible future selves can grow.

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What now? Together with Prof Robin Banerjee, I am currently working on a project – Beating the Odds – which seeks to learn more about how specific intervent ions – both creat ive arts projects and local family support work – that target young people experiencing marginalisat ion, can (re)engage them, or influence their future trajectories in a posit ive way. 54

We are also developing a tool which could be used by services working with young people to track their self-development over t ime in order to work with them more effect ively. Beating the Odds has received funding from Artswork, Brighton & Hove City Council, the Hollick Charitable Family Trust, and an alumnus of the University of Sussex.


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Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 22, (pp. 93–136). New York: Academic Press.

Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theor y relat ing self and affect. Psychological Review, 94(3), 319-340. Maguin, E., & Loeber, R. (1996). Academic performance and delinquency. Crime and Justice, 20, 145-264. Mainwaring, D., & Hallam, S. (2010). “Possible selves” of young people in a mainstream secondar y school and a pupil

referral unit: a comparison. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 15(2), 153–169. doi:10.1080/13632752.2010.480889

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References Oyserman, D. (2008). Possible Selves: Ident ity-based mot ivat ion and school success. In H. W. Marsh, R. G. Craven, & D. M.

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112-125.

Pritchard, C. & Cox, M. (1998). The criminality of former “special educat ional provision” permanently “excluded from school”

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and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

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or Training: Report by the Social Exclusion Unit. London: HMSO.Skinner & Belmont, 1993

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larger mot ivat ional dynamic? Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 765-781.

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Acknowledgements A huge thanks firstly to the many schools whose pupils, teachers and parents contributed their t ime, energy, and thoughts to this research. Without their interest and support this work would never have been possible. Thanks also to THE PROJECT’s director, Ray Harrison Graham, and producer, Giles Stogdon, who let me follow their theatre work, and most importantly to the young actors who generously shared their experiences with me for the benefit of this research. My heartfelt thanks also to Prof Robin Banerjee at the University of Sussex for his wisdom and encouragement throughout my t ime as his PhD student, and who cont inues to support me in all my research work. I am also enormously grateful to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundat ion for their unfailing support and belief in this PhD research. Finally, thank you to Phil Wellington who was my rock throughout the PhD, and who has now outdone himself as a husband, and graphic designer, by craft ing this beaut iful booklet and making my research look so pret ty.

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Research funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundat ion and University of Sussex

For more informat ion contact: Dr Fidelma Hanrahan F.Hanrahan@sussex.ac.uk

Designed by Wellington Graphic

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