School disengagement: Its constructions, investigation and management

Year: 2007

Author: Atweh, Bill, Cavanagh, Rob, Bland, Derek, Carrington, Susan

Type of paper: Refereed paper

School disengagement, and hence its remediation can be constructed by focusing on either side of individual/social debate. Much research into social and academic factors associated with students at risk places the individual student (or subgroups of students) as the focus of the problem and leads into remedial activities done to or on the student(s). Often students are passive recipients of the activities that tend to reinforce their alienation and lack of agency and reinforce the very regimes that alienate them in the first place. Alternatively, disengagement can be constructed as a totally social problem of exclusion or as a "political resistance" by students. While such understanding avoids the trap of blaming the victim, students in this case, it raises the possibility of shifting the blame to the system and its institutions rather than provide a solution to the problem affecting both the student and the system. This paper argues for an approach to conceptualise disengagement as discursive interaction between the individual and the social. It also discusses methodologies for research and action that are based on this discursive interaction between the social and the individual.