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Secondary school girls in conversation about school success : implications for practice and policy Fraser, Carolyn Jean

Abstract

I sought to gain insight into the meaning of the term "success" as it related to three groups of secondary school girls. There were six girls who affiliated themselves with a Fine Arts group, five girls with an Academic group, and four girls with an Aboriginal group. Utilizing a focus group format, each group met for an hour to have a discussion about what success meant to them. I analyzed the transcripts for themes that emerged, interpreting the girls' views through a poststructuralist, feminist lens. The girls in each group were articulate, engaged, and reflective, able to deconstruct many taken-for-granted assumptions inherent in the dominant discourse on success, jointly constructing meaning on a number of similar themes. These themes included the importance of maintaining some balance in their lives, of making, monitoring, and assessing their own goals for success, and of the positive impact of support from friends and families. There were also some differences among the groups. For instance, the Academic group focused almost exclusively on achievement as a determiner of success, echoing the dominant discourse. They also expressed some ambivalent feelings about this focus. The Fine Arts group discussed the importance of following their passion for the arts as a way to express themselves and to contribute to society. The Aboriginal group deconstructed several notions concerning success, including "enough" money, the importance of developing strategies to overcome obstacles, and of having self-confidence. I placed this study within the context of the Women's Rights and the Aboriginal Rights Movements, examining the literature for the impact of these social movements on Western society generally, and on the education for girls more specifically. I also highlighted some contextual issues that may have affected the Aboriginal girls in the study. I also examined the BC Ministry of Education Gender Equity Policy, including the context for its development, implementation strategies, and the exclusion of important voices. I discussed the tension between conflicting and contradictory discourses concerning the "accountability" agenda and the social justice movement within educational policy and practice.

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