The silent voices: Pupil participation for gender equality and diversity

Britt-Inger Keisu, Björn Ahlström
2020 Educational Research  
The international body of research on student voice concludes that active pupil participation has multiple positive effects on the work environment and learning for pupils. In a large study on gender equality and diversity work in Swedish schools, it became evident that pupils wanted to be active participants. However, pupils considered that their wishes were, to a large extent, ignored. Therefore, it is important to try to understand this further by investigating pupils' perceptions of their
more » ... ceptions of their experiences. Purpose: The purpose of the study was to explore how discourses of participation and power are practised, not practised, and materialised, by focusing in-depth on pupils' representations of gender equality and diversity work within a small sample of Swedish schools. Methodology: The study is based on data from 10 focus group interviews with 43 pupils from 4 different schools, 2 compulsory schools (pupil ages 6-15) and 2 upper secondary schools (pupil ages 16-18), in Sweden. The thematic analysis utilised a gender perspective anchored in a critical policy analysis approach. Analysis and Findings: The analysis of focus group data identified three pupil representations of gender equality and diversity work: a onetime occurrence, longing for participation and the (un)fair teacher. These representations were derived from and intertwined with discourses on pupil participation and power. Three sub-discourses were found within the discourse on participation and power: normative barriers to participation, structural barriers to participation and openings in the barriers to participation. The first two subdiscourses support the maintenance of unequal power relations between adults and pupils, while the third challenges these power relations. Conclusions: Our study suggests that no substantial levels of participation or power among the pupils were represented at the schools. Instead, the analysis visualises pupils as expressing powerlessness and disengagement. However, the discourse Openings in the barriers to participation, together with pupils' democratic abilities, has the potential to enable change and the development of pupil participation in schools. ARTICLE HISTORY
doi:10.1080/00131881.2019.1711436 fatcat:regsigunrbf5finj4ozpmqk2ry