‘Becoming your best’: student perspectives on community in the pursuit of aspirations

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Reid, A & McCallum, F 2014, '‘Becoming your best’: student perspectives on community in the pursuit of aspirations', Australian Educational Researcher, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 195-207.

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Achieving equitable schooling outcomes for young people living in communities of low socio-economic status is a prominent issue that assumes focus in educational policy, theory and practice both in Australia and internationally. This paper draws upon the narratives of five secondary school students living in the northern urban fringe of Adelaide in South Australia, a region that is characterised by socio-economic challenge (Prosser et al. in Connecting lives and learning: Renewing pedagogy in the middle years, 2010). Specifically, the participants’ understandings and perspectives about community are used to examine their aspirations through the analysis of qualitative data obtained from a focus group, visual methods, a storying activity and semi-structured interviews. Discussion on students’ construction and pursuit of aspirations is framed by Appadurai’s (Culture and public action: 59–84, 2004, p. 67) conceptualisation of aspiration as a cultural capacity influenced by one’s social, cultural and economic contexts. This paper demonstrates that students from low socio-economic backgrounds have aspirations for their future which are influenced by their schooling experiences and the positive trust relationships they develop with teachers in community. As such, connections between place and learning are highlighted as critical factors in achieving more equitable schooling outcomes. The research identifies factors in ‘community’ that shape young people’s aspirations and ways in which young people can be supported in navigating toward their aspirations.

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