Making Futures, Marking Time: Longitudinal And Cross-Generational Views Onto Schooling And Students’ Everyday Ethics

Year: 2015

Author: McLeod, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper examines initial insights from a new qualitative longitudinal and cross-generational project, Making Futures: Youth identity and educational change. This is an ARC funded, ‘born digital’ study of young people’s journeys through the senior years of secondary schooling and into the world beyond. It is exploring how young people, living in contrasting regions in Australia, navigate their educational, social and familial worlds and imagine and work towards their futures. In particular, it investigates their changing views on educational experiences, social and political values, and future thinking, looking at how young people, living in earlier times and now, think about such matters over time. Themes examined include social differences, gender and sexuality, immigration, place and identity, religion and everyday ethics. Parents are also interviewed separately about these matters and their own educational memories, values and future hopes when they were at school, as well as hopes for their child’s future.
Methodologically, it develops an historical and comparative approach to understand conceptions of youth identity as well as young people’s shifting perceptions of social issues and ethical orientations over time. This is informed by life history and memory studies and the challenges and affordances arising from undertaking qualitative longitudinal research in the digital era, where modes of research work, notions of confidentiality and privacy, and conceptions of the empirical are undergoing massive change. Theoretically, influenced by the ‘turn to time’ in the social sciences, it looks to debates within historical sociology as a route into understanding processes of biographical and generational change and (dis) continuity. Empirically, it compares and considers young people’s perspectives today in light of 1) findings from an earlier longitudinal qualitative study of a generation of young people and schooling conducted by McLeod and Yates (2006) during the 1990/2000s; and 2) their parents’ recollections of their own schooling experiences and perspectives on gender relations and social inequality when they were younger. It explores, for example, what type of social differences and inequalities are recognised as ‘problems’ by younger and older generations and by academic and policy experts.
Finally, the project overall addresses the potential benefits and dilemmas in digitally archiving and disseminating qualitative research data in ‘real time’ (Savage 2010; McLeod & Thomson 2009), specifically the implications of these processes for educational research and practice. Based on this ‘case-study’ of a digitally archived new qualitative project, the paper offers some preliminary reflections on the practical, ethical and interpretive challenges of this endeavour.
Julie McLeod is a Professor in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. She holds an ARC Future Fellowship (2012-2016), is Deputy Director of the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and co-Editor of Gender and Education. Her research is in the history and sociology of education, with a focus on curriculum, youth, gender, and inequality. Books include Rethinking Youth Wellbeing: Critical Perspectives, (2015); The Promise of the New and Genealogies of Educational Reform (2015); Researching Social Change: Qualitative Approaches (2009).