Learning from experience: the case study of a primary school

Ashford, E. (2012) Learning from experience: the case study of a primary school. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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This thesis is a case study about learning from experience in a primary school. The enquiry applies a psychoanalytic idea in an educational context. The focus arose from Bion’s idea: ‘Container-contained’ (Bion, 1962) which proposes that the capacity to think is emotionally rooted in our first relationship, which informs the qualities of our subsequent ‘learning relationships’ (Youell, 2006). Within a psychosocial, interpretivist framework, research questions ask: How does the learning that children bring to school affect their relationships and learning? How can school provide flexible-enough containment for thinking and learning from experience? What have I learnt about learning from experience?

As a researcher/mentor, an interpretation of Bick’s (1964) clinical observational method was deployed to generate data, including written-up observations of four case study children who communicated their stories of everyday events in school during mentoring sessions. An auto/biographical approach complementarily composed part of the methodological bricolage. The inductive method supported evolution of a relational approach to mentoring, permitting reflexive interrogation of the observational texts. Interviews with teachers and parents added a biographical dimension. Mentoring took place during half-hour, weekly, individual mentoring sessions with children over two terms.

Findings confirmed that children brought early experiences of learning to school which affected relationships and posed barriers to learning. The research method provided a subjective tool for making unconscious qualities of relationship in the transference and countertransference between researcher, children and adults at an institutional level, explicit. RefIexive interrogation illumined the interrelationship between researcher and children’s learning. Findings showed a need for flexible boundaries for supporting children’s self-efficacy and personal agency, and teacher’s learning about learning, when school is seen as a ‘container’. Findings confirmed the need for time and space for children and adults to reflect on experience in school, towards fostering emotional well-being and the capacity to think and learn.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2013 08:31
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 14:29
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/12022

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00