Conceptualising and capturing voices in dropout research

Year: 1998

Author: Shacklock, Geoff

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The qualitative component of the Students Completing Schooling Project focuses upon locating and honouring the 'voices' of students about post-compulsory schooling, early school-leaving, and 'hanging-in' for completion of Years 11 and 12. In the project 'voice' is conceptualised both as a way of knowing and as a way of collecting information. Epistemically, voiced research allows something to be said, with discrimination, against dominant positions by offering anchored, local knowledge in the face of objective, normative, hegemonic, and depersonalised forms of knowledge. In the telling of the experience of early school leaving, previously unheard, or silenced, voices open up the possibility for new, even radically different, narrations of school experience. Methodologically, the challenge has been to find ways in which young people are able to speak the experience of leaving school or hanging-in against the dominant storylines of school completion. 'Purposeful conversation' were used as a means of establishing open research relationships where young people could narrate accounts of events in their lives at school (and beyond) that informed their staying on or dropping out. This paper reports on the research team's experience with this methodological orientation and on the pragmatics of working in the field when doing voiced research.