ERG SES G 13, Youth and Education
Disengagement and eventual drop out of school are significant and ongoing problems across Europe and OECD jurisdictions. The OECD’s Education at a glance (2014)report revealed that an average of 16% of students did not complete upper secondary education across its 29 countries. In Australia, by comparison, the situation appears even more dire, with 28% of the population not progressing beyond the penultimate year of upper secondary education (ABS, 2014). The consequences are significant, as evidence suggests that youth who are disengaged from school are more likely to experience academic failure, school dropout, and a host of negative psychosocial outcomes (Li & Lerner, 2011). Moreover, evidence substantiated in the United States over a period of almost two decades shows that students become increasingly disengaged as they progress through secondary school (Wang & Fredricks, 2014).
The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, we expand upon the theoretical frameworks typically employed to explain the multidimensional nature of student engagement in secondary schools, and second, we present a comprehensive model for conceptualising the diverse nature of students who disengage, and eventually drop out of school.
To achieve these purposes, we report on a research study that explored the journeys of 46 students who entered a program for reengaging high school students in Tasmania, Australia. We articulate how we applied and then adapted the work of educational psychologists Archambault, Janosz, Fallu, and Pagani (2009) who describe students’ school engagement in three dimensions: cognitive, behavioural and affective. Using a range of data sources, we expand upon the conceptualisation offered by Archambault and her colleagues and present a more refined model of disengagement that identifies seven permutations of disengagement emanating from the original three dimensions.
The outcomes of our re-imagining of disengaged students are: first, to gain a greater understanding of the various ways disengagement can be conceptualized; and, second, to use this identification to help decide how best to restore the broken relationship between the student and the school such that it may be repaired before the students reach the point on the ‘continuum of resistance’ (Munns & McFadden, 2000) beyond which the damage becomes irreparable. As Thompson (2002) suggests, rather than describing these young people as at risk, or vulnerable, we should be asking “what is there about the way in which schooling functions which places them at risk, makes them vulnerable?” By seeing these students not merely as ‘at risk’ or ‘disengaged’ (as blanket concepts), our seven permutations of disengagement allows a more refined insight to the range of types of disengagement, allowing a more nuanced understanding of the students, the causes of their disengaging and, most importantly, the ways in which targeted intention may assist in their reengagement.
Our research is guided by the theoretical work of Herbert Blumer (1986) who, within the tradition of symbolic interactionism, was interested in the meanings of social or abstract objects, as derived from one’s interactions. As engagement is primarily concerned with the relationship between the young person and the school (Appleton, Christenson, Kim, & Reschly, 2006), our methodology focuses on the ‘space between’ or the interaction between student and education. Symbolic interactionism sees that the meaning of things not only are formed in the context of social interaction, but occurs through a process of interpretation. It is this interpretation of school engagement, through the eyes of the students themselves as well as their mainstream teachers, that we attempt to depict through our portraiture.
Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: Validation of the student engagement instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44(5), 427-445. Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Fallu, J.-S., & Pagani, L. S. (2009). Student engagement and its relationship with early high school dropout. Journal of adolescence, 32(3), 651-670. Australian Beureau of Statistics (2014), 6227.0 - Education and Work, Australia, May 2014, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6227.0Main%20Features2May%202014?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=6227.0&issue=May%202014&num=&view=, Accessed 22nd January 2014 Blumer, H. (1986). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method: University of California Press. Chapman, T. K. (2005). Expressions of “voice” in portraiture. Qualitative Inquiry, 11(1), 27-51. Finn, J. D. (1993). School engagement & students at risk. Li, Y., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). Trajectories of school engagement during adolescence: Implications for grades, depression, delinquency, and substance use. Developmental psychology, 47(1), 233. Munns, G., & McFadden, M. (2000). First chance, second chance or last chance? Resistance and response to education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 21(1), 59-75. OECD (2014) Education at a glance, OECD indicators. http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm Accessed 22nd January 2015 Smyth, J., & McInerney, P. (2012). From silent witnesses to active agents: Student voice in re-engaging with learning. Adolescent cultures, school, and society. Volume 55: ERIC. Thomson, P. (2002). Schooling the rustbelt kids: making the difference in changing times (Stoke on Trent, Trentham Books). Renovating educational identities, 269. Thomson, P., & Russell, L. (2009). Data, data everywhere–but not all the numbers that count? Mapping alternative provisions for students excluded from school. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(4), 423-438. Wang, M. T., & Fredricks, J. A. (2014). The reciprocal links between school engagement, youth problem behaviors, and school dropout during adolescence. Child development, 85(2), 722-737.
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