Kids in Space : Social and Moral Positioning in Parent-teacher

Year: 1993

Author: Keogh, Jayne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper analyses extracts from three parent-teacher interviews which took place at a state secondary school in Brisbane. Students, as well as parents and teachers, were present at these sessions. The analysis of such talk is of interest in that parent-teacher interviews are one of the educational sites in which the institutional identities of parents, teachers and students are assembled and talked into being. Participants are seen to be mutually positioning each other during these sequences in which they offer moral accounts and versions of home and school for each other. This paper proceeds from an earlier paper (Baker and Keogh, 1992) which discussed how topics of talk are assembled by participants, mainly at the beginning of parent- teacher interviews.

This paper focuses on extracts from interviews wherein space becomes topicalized. Of particular concern is where, and with whom the students (Donna, Barry and Christa) are sitting. Movement of students within classroom and/or outside (home) space is proposed as the possible solution to the problem of student achievement. Such work might be likened to a game of chess wherein the students are moved around hypothetically amongst an array of moral types (other students), like pieces in the game by the players (interview participants).

Both the classroom and outside (home) space are geographical spaces with definite boundaries. However, the boundaries shift, and at times the school is seen to colonise home space through this talk. During the interviews the participants are mutually positioned as being morally accountable for practices within these spaces. In this way geographical and social space becomes moral space for fixing the problem of student achievement. Talk in the interview extracts position and reposition the students' bodies within different hypothetical spaces. The positioning of the body within social and moral space might be viewed as a means of surveillance (McHoul,1989). Foucault (1977) has suggested that institutional discourses constitute a means of regulation and control. Talk within these parentteacher interviews demonstrate how the adult interview participants maintain their prefse interviews works in positioning students, I will consider four recurring features : the constitution of moral spaces inside and outside the classroom, the accountability for practices, the constitution of moral categorizations of student types, and the apparent aligment and student marginalisation within these extracts of parent-teacher talk. For the purposes of this paper, all names have been changed to protect the identity of the participants. Fully informed consent of all participants was obtained before the project commenced.