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Not capturing voices?

By Charlotte Chadderton


This chapter makes a contribution to the debate on the potential, or otherwise, of student voice research to have a social justice impact. It draws explicitly on insights from poststructuralist theories in order to interrogate some of the theoretical assumptions which underpin the concern to privilege and capture ‘silenced voices’ in research with social justice aims. Most of the poststructural theorists whose work is referred to have not written specifically for the field of student voice, rather they engage more generally with the question of marginalised voices in research. The chapter discusses the impact of poststructural notions of truth, subjectivity and power on issues such as voice, representation and empowerment in research, and draws on data from a recent ethnographic study of Key Stage 4 (aged 15-16) students’ experiences of education in secondary schools in Manchester, England, to illustrate some of the tensions which arise. It is argued that a more complex notion of voice as shifting and fluid should be adopted, as well as a notion of researcher as unreliable narrator, in order to try and avoid naive or even potentially damaging research being conducted in the name of student voice research. It concludes with some suggestions for a more complex understanding of student voice research based on these poststructural insights, and argues that this may help us both appreciate the potential of student voice initiatives, whilst being sensitive to the very real limitations

Publisher: Emerald
Year: 2012
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