Parent Participation, Action Research and Government Through Community: Lessons from a 1990s Queensland Case Study
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis examines the historical relationship between government and self-government, and the contemporary role that Action Research (AR) occupies as a liberal technology of government. It draws upon the Teaching for Effective Learning in Senior Schooling (TELSS) project as the example. This project, which was based on a 'collaborative' AR methodology, was just one of the many national post-compulsory schooling reform initiatives that emerged during the late 1980s and 1990s. At that time, AR and Participatory Action Research (PAR) were preferred methodologies by education faculty personnel, and some teachers, as practical alternatives to 'positivist' social science approaches. This is still the case, both locally and internationally. The initial focus of the thesis is to trace the role of the school and the family in the government of populations, and show how AR is currently positioned as a mechanism for establishing and installing new forms of self-management within these historical institutional arrangements. This includes enticements and inducements to participate in one's own self-management. The AR perspective seeks to make a practical intervention in the re-organization and management of schools, as well as other workplaces and organizations, as a means to promote and develop ongoing professional learning within these organizations. The thesis highlights some confusing issues surrounding contemporary attempts by schools to open themselves to the community, however. AR has achieved considerable success to the extent that expert AR consultants have been commonly employed by Education Departments in many countries to foster new ways of attaining educational goals. Drawing upon other examples, as well as this case study, the contrast between the high expectations of project participants, and their limited outcomes, suggests the need to query AR's representations of participation. This includes some contemporary conceptions of how 'the school community' operates. Is there another way that we can understand this particular territory, and parent involvement in schools more generally, other than in political terms such as the need to 'democratize the community'? The AR commentary focuses on the 'egalitarian' ideal of emancipation and empowerment via participation. AR's preference for participation through human self-determination over that of statist instrumental rationality is questioned, however, by drawing upon empirical evidence generated by the case study, as well as other theoretically informed material. The thesis moves to an account of the role of different forms of government which enable self-management, particularly the role of the school community within the field of education and its administration. By situating the TELSS case study and its limits in what Michel Foucault (1991) terms the history of 'governmentality', AR is described as part of government and an aid to social reform programmes. Inside this discussion, some of AR's self promotions and understandings will re re-defined. These include an anti-bureaucratic rhetoric, concerns about hierarchical power relations, and aspirations of self-autonomy, emancipation and social justice. How is it that educational bureaucracies are so amenable to taking on board goals for educational reform expressed in the form of frequently anti-bureaucratic radical critique? The thesis undertakes the task of investigating this peculiarity, as well as some of the negative outcomes of such liberal governmental undertakings.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Arts, Media and Culture
Item Access Status
education and state