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Professional Life and Work

The Life of a School

Studying the Life of a School

Representational Events

While a study of events can be justified by claiming that the events are important, it is also possible to base the claim on their capacity to be representative. A representative event is one which provides, in contained form, an illustration of long-term or widespread change. The event in itself may not be critical but provides understanding of critical change. Of course, to make this claim, you need to identify those broader patterns and make a convincing case for them. The degree of fit between your chosen incident and wider patterns is always at issue; readers may object that your chosen institution is not representative but simply the result of idiosyncratic actors and structures.

Critical Events

The alternative to justification based on representativeness is one based on the importance of a given event in itself. The starting point for discovering critical events is to simply search the sources for any reference to occurrences deemed important. Many—but not all—events which alter school history are outlined in press clippings, discussed in the official records of school boards, or commented upon in school newspapers or yearbooks. While it will be your job to judge whether contemporaries were right in attributing importance to a given action, the sources provide a very good starting point.

An alternate approach to identifying critical events involves looking for disjunctures in the discourse surrounding a school. On reading collections of school memoranda, yearbooks, or clippings, you may frequently find a lack of continuity between the rhetoric at one time and at a later time. Tracing back to the point where change first appears provides a milestone for finding critical events connected to the disjuncture.

The lived experience of people who had a day-to-day connection to the school provides an important measuring device for defining critical events. Experiential analysis of the life stories and oral histories collected by your research team is crucial. This sort of analysis can be carried on across lives—comparing those connected with the school before and after a suspected significant turning point. A comparison within the life story of someone who was linked to the school, both before and after, might be identified by you in collaboration with the subject (see Kincheloe, 2004, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004; Kincheloe & Steinberg,1997, 2007).

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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