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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interpretations of a classroom culture Davies, Joyce L.


The main purpose of this study was to investigate children's culture in a classroom setting. The following kinds of cultural questions were posed: How much do children reveal about the shared world they live in, in the day-to-day routines of school? How do children learn the things necessary for survival in their classroom world? The specific research questions were: What are the commonplace routines that occur in a typical class day? What is it that children share with each other about classroom routines and rules for behavior? How do young children themselves interpret their own lives in the classroom? The conceptual framework for the study was derived from interpretive social science, ethnomethodology, and ethnography. Techniques included field notes, photography, establishing rapport with students, recording the insider's view, and analyzing interrelationships of the data collected. The focus was the whole class setting as seen from the point of view of participants. To recover the shared meanings in the situation and to uncover how participants constructed their reality and defined their situation, the researcher attempted to see the operating situation as the actors saw it, to perceive the objects as the actors perceived them, to ascertain the meanings for objects in terms of the meanings they had for the actors, to follow the individual's lines of conduct as they organized them, and, to take the role of the child and see the world from his/her point of view. Ethnographic description combined with photography and the interpretive paradigm provided a new way of looking at everyday life in a classroom. The findings of the study are related to the humaneness of classroom life as experienced by the children. Children revealed their conceptions of time, objects, and materials, their understandings of the goals of curriculum, and a consciousness of the duplicity of some of their actions. What emerged was an adult versus children's agenda for the events of the day. The children understood the tacit rules for behavior and action but they interpreted classroom life in terms of restricted communication. While they had strongly felt needs to socialize with one another on the one hand, on the other hand, the children understood the strong emphasis the teacher placed on task completion. To reconcile this conflict the children used visual and verbal cues to communicate covertly. They spoke of manoeuvering around the rules. In summary, what emerged were shared understandings for children's actions used for survival in this classroom setting. Further research is required to refine the use of photography as a tool to gain entry into a situation and to discover how children's and teacher's constructs overlap, the importance of secret sign languages, and the degree of children's internalizations of tacit classroom rules in relation to their observed procedures for carrying them out.

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