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Professional Life and Work

The Life of a School

Studying the Life of a School


In the past decade or so, there has been an increasing interest in employing a combination of archival and life history methods to understand the complexities of schooling. This book uses our own exploration of the history of a particular school (Beal Technical School) to discuss the methods and problems of researching the story of a school. It seeks to offer the new researcher a series of practical guidelines and examples for doing such research. At the same time, it includes elements of the case history of a case study, leading to an extended discussion of complex issues of representation which will hopefully be of interest to the new and the more experienced educational researcher.

The introduction is quite short, with just a brief description of the project, but after describing the format of the book, it explains why we chose to write it.

Each of the chapters in section 1 includes an introduction to the range of possible resources, a reflective description of our own experiences, and some suggestions to others. Discussion includes thoughts on the biased nature of all sources and questions on the nature of source survival. Besides discussion, it will be important to include examples of original sources.

Each of the chapters in section 2 comprises at least one representation that we have constructed from the history of Beal and discussions of the process by which it was constructed. We are thereby trying to provide examples of different ways of representing the school and in doing so, we illustrate how the particular nature and form of our sources affect our subsequent accounts.

Chapter 5 tells a conventional historical narrative which covers the broad sweep of the school’s history. It is based primarily on traditional archival sources and also includes some statistical sections.

Chapter 6 discusses an approach based on critical incidents and provides an example based on one such incident in Beal’s history. Discussion includes a search for sociological models and a review of the potential of methods of the Annaliste historians.

In chapter 6, we also talk through the details of “life inside a research project.” There are few studies of the strange and compelling process conducted within research projects. Partly with this in mind, we decided that keeping a “methodological diary” would aid our reflexivity and offer insights into the research process for a wider audience.

In chapter 7, we go through the classroom door and examine a particular curricular subject as it was taught at Beal. Discussion of this reconstruction refers to recent developments in curriculum history and especially, to the social construction of the school subject (Goodson, 2009).

In chapter 8, we discuss the way in which popular memory constructs an alternative history of a school. Using a specific myth from Beal, we examine the collectivising ability of an institution and the repercussions this has on individual memory. We also touch on the role of newspapers in this regard.

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The Life of a School
  • Date of publication: 01/05/2011
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 154
  • Publisher: Peter Lang
  • Co-author: Goodson, I. F., & Anstead, C.
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    The Life of a School
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £19.10
  • ISBN: 978-94-6091-538-3
  • Buy used and new from: Amazon UK