ERG SES D 12, Social Aspects of Education
Why do some students perform well and succeed in school in spite of unfavorable conditions? From this apparent paradox I conducted the present PhD research focusing on the social and environmental factors contributing to educational resilience. The central assumption is that social relationships in schools (between students and their teachers, educators, guidance counselors, psychologists, etc...) do "count", that they can play a compensatory role for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them surmount educational problems, and allowing them to access cultural, material and symbolic resources of which they are originally deprived in their family environment.
On the one hand, this perception is shared by a lot of school officers, especially in disadvantaged schools areas, where staff think they can help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to overcome the problems they face (Deniger & al., 2011, 2012). On the other hand, several researchers have come to the conclusion that there’s a strong link between social relationships and academic success (measured as performance, perseverance and pro-academic behaviours) (Dika & Singh, 2002; Yan, 1999). In the latter case, social relationships are seen as a protective factor for resilient students (Kamanzi & al., 2007; Zhang & al, 2008). Some, in positivist perspectives, apprehend relationships in terms of resources and are interested by the added value of the social ties (Lin, 1999; Yan, 1999). Others, in an interpretive approach, consider social relationships in terms of socialization and focus on the process of integration of common norms and values (Dubet & Martuccelli, 1996; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Stanton-Salaazar & Dornbusch, 1995).
However, the empirical studies about social relationships have certain “limits” on the conceptual and methodological levels. Some researchers take a rather normative and prescriptive approach by defining what is a relationship without taking into account the student’s perspective, the defining categories being often drawn from scientific literature. They also may not take into account the participation of the student in the negotiating process and thus fail to make a distinction between the access, the use and the real activation of social relationships. Finally, the theoretical frameworks and methodologies hardly report the dynamic and interactional strategies uses by students in interaction with their environment.
As a result of these conclusions, the main question of the present research is: how do students negotiate their social relationships when they are facing difficulties in an educational context? The main objective is to understand how students use their relationships when facing educational problems, in order to better define and target the interventions in their school environment, the school being seen as an interface between differing social spheres (school-family-community-kins) (Becker, 1982).
The related theoretical framework is dual: structuration theory (Giddens, 1987) lays the foundation for the framework for action; symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969) provides access to the different meanings given by students. This theoretical framework has three main consequences on my research. It firstly emphasizes the representations students have of their social relationships, considering them as being part of the activation process. Secondly, this framework describes those representations as being the results of the interactions students have with theirs environments, which allows me to examine the educational and organizational capacity of the school. Thirdly, the conceptual structure describes the students as competent and reflective participants, who can activate their social relations and are can be accountable for this activation (at least to some extent).
Becker H.S. (1982). Les Mondes de l’art. Paris : Flammarion. Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionnism: Perspective and method. N.-J.: Prentice-Hall. Coleman, J. Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital. The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 94, Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structure (1988), pp. 95-120. Deniger, M.A., Lemire, V., Vidal, M., Mainich, S., Rodrigue, S., Noumi, C. (2012). Évaluation de la qualité d’implantation du plan Réussir de la CSDM. Rapport de la 2e année. Rapport remis à la CSDM. Deniger, M.A., Goulet, S., Lemire, V., Mainich, S., Vidal, M. (2011). Évaluation de la qualité d’implantation du plan Réussir de la CSDM. Rapport de la 1e année. Rapport remis à la CSDM. Dika, S.L, Singh, K. (2002). Applications of Social Capital in Educational Literature: a Critical Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 72(1), 31-60. Dubet, F. & Martuccelli, D. (1996). À l'école. Sociologie de l'expérience scolaire, Paris, Seuil Giddens, Anthony (1984). The Constitution of Society. Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Kamanzi, C., Zhang, X. Y., Deblois, L, Deniger, M.A. (2007). L’influence du capital social sur la formation du capital humain chez les élèves résilients de milieux socioéconomiques défavorisés. Revue des sciences de l’éducation, 33(1), 127-145. Lareau, A.& Horvat, E. (1999) Moments of Social Inclusion and Exclusion Race, Class, and Cultural Capital in Family-School Relationships, Sociology of Education, 72(1), 37-53. Lin, N. (1999). Building a Network Theory of Social Capital. Connections, 22 (1), 28-51. Piette, A. (1996). Ethnographie de l'action. Paris : Métailié. Stanton-Salaazar, R. & Dornbusch, S. (1995). Social capital and the reproduction of inequality: information networks among Mexican origin high school students. Sociology of Education, 68, 116-131. Vienne, Ph. (2005). Mais qui a peur de l’ethnographie scolaire ? Éducation et Sociétés, 16, 177-192. Woods, P. (1990). Ethnographie de l’école. Paris : Armand Collin. Yan, W (1999). Successful African American Students: the Role of Parental Involvement, Journal of Negro Education, 68(1), p.5-22. Zhang, X., DeBlois, L, Deniger, M.A, Camanzi, K. (2008). A Theory of Success for Disadvantaged Children: Re-conceptualization of Social Capital in the light of Resilience, Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 54(1), 97-111.
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