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Studying spatiality

Jane McGregor

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, 16-18 September 2004
(In the symposium: Investigating space and place: developing a research toolkit)


The salience of space in schools is beginning to be recognised in education. Space is usually cast as physical or social space, with the former commonly constituting an effectively invisible backdrop to the complexity and vibrancy of social space. This paper describes an exploration into what constitutes the spatiality of the school through two case studies of teacher workplace interaction.

Focussing on spatiality as the social production and meaning of space in relation to the workplace required the study of interactions in everyday contexts, investigating the world of the school from the point of view of the (adult) inhabitants, through their situated and embedded accounts and practices. It was thus necessary to use a variety of research methods to both capture the immediately observable and elicit the intellectual and emotional meanings ascribed to elements of it. In addition to observation, document analysis and interview, methods such as photography, drawing ‘mental maps’ and metaphor were employed.

The taken for granted nature of interactions and arrangements in schools makes spatiality particularly challenging to research. Using image-based techniques foregrounds epistemological issues, raising questions around what is in the frame and how mental maps might be analysed. In addition to addressing these issues, following Nespor’s work, this paper discusses the place of anonymity as required by academic space, where schools are often presented as sectioned-out places, with settings as given, rather than as ongoing and contingent relations of power.

1.0 Introduction

A school is a place where children go to be educated, an institution where instruction is given, a building where young people receive education. It is also a place of work for adults. The manner in which the school is framed and the metaphors used in education are critical to how we think about what it is and what it might be. Viewing the school differently, through the lenses of spatiality, offers alternative ways of understanding the institution and thence perhaps reconfiguring some of the practices that create it.

I argue that space is fundamentally implicated in the construction of the school as a workplace for adults. Rather than a pre-determined place, the school is framed as an ongoing accomplishment of relations and everyday, materially-embedded and enmeshed practices, which extend in space-time. Common conceptions of space as a fixed, physical, container for social interaction are inadequate for understanding what goes on in schools: indeed, the silences around space allow it to be mobilised in producing and reproducing practices which maintain persistent and unequal power relations. Spatiality as the social production and meaning of space provides a new perspective on the association and interactions of colleagues in secondary schools, and thence contributes to a critical interrogation of currently fashionable constructs in education, such as collaboration and leadership (McGregor, 2003, 2004a).

Different ways of conceptualising space create different possibilities for (political) action. Understanding space as produced through the social reveals current configurations which maintain and ossify power relations in schools, but which can be contested and changed. The research thus aims to explore the intersection of power and gender in the workplace, through the framework of spatiality, combining three important theoretical perspectives which are substantially absent from much educational literature. Collaborative cultures, communities of practice and learning organisations are part of the educational zeitgeist in school reform literature and policy documents, but while there have been theoretical advances, there is relatively little work on when, where and how they operate in practice within education. I argue that these new orthodoxies in education lack both an understanding of the possibilities of a spatial perspective and a corresponding analytic of power (McGregor, 2004b).

This paper arises from a doctoral study of schools as a workplace for adults. The coincidence of the ‘spatial turn’ in the humanities and social sciences (Massey et al., 1999) and the ‘cultural turn’ in geography (McDowell, 2000) is used as the fulcrum for moves towards re-conceptualising aspects of the school. This is also supported by calls from theorists in critical pedagogy to address ‘critical ontologies of space’ in relation to education (Peters, 2003). The theoretical concerns of the thesis relate to considerations of how practice and relationships may be rethought and enacted, particularly in relation to workplace learning in the associational life of teachers and other adults in schools.

Increasing attention in educational research is paid to the salience of ‘context’, which is commonly seen as a container into which reforms are dropped, success generally being attributed to the reform and failure blames on the context. Relational understandings of space arising from critical geography indicate the value of re-articulating context through spatiality. Rather than being pre-given and simple to change, it is suggested that context (as spatiality) is emergent and recreated through interaction. Empirical work from two case study schools suggests the need to spatialise models such as communities of practice in education.

It is commonly understood that the architecture of schools and classrooms embodies particular ideologies of education and pedagogy through its physical arrangement and the recursive interaction with social space, mobilised through timetables, rules and other habitual organisational practices. Space however, has a ‘taken-for-granted’ quality that blinds us to the fundamental ways in which the school is spatially constituted. The almost ubiquitous orderings of classrooms, laboratories, staffrooms and playgrounds in secondary schools obscures the way in which the setting is active in social production and reproduction. Although we experience (and create) space and place continually as part of our everyday lives, the role of the spatial in actively shaping them receives little of our conscious attention. Nevertheless, as Shields notes:

‘Spatial relations are constantly overcoded with social significance. Except to sociologists and geographers it comes as no surprise to most people that the

where and the when of events are as significant as what those events are’ (Shields, 1997, p.187).

This paper describes the evolving methods and tools employed to make meaning of those spatial relations. Following an outline of the new conceptions of space in play, and their relationship with the methodology, the methods are outlined and discussed. The place of anonymity in research using images is also addressed.

2.0 New conceptions of space

Human use, organisation and imagination transform Euclidean space into social space which is simultaneously material and social, ‘a set of relations and forms’ (Lefebvre, 1991, p.116). This new understanding of space as a product of such interrelations, constituted through processes of interactions, suggests the relationship with power:

‘(Social) space is a (social) product. Space thus produced also serves as a tool of thought and of action. In addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control, and hence domination, of power; yet…as such, it escapes in part from those who would make use of it’ (Lefebvre, 1991, p.26).

Lefebvre conceptualises this through three moments; spatial practices (the perceptions and routinised production of space), representations of space (codifications such as maps or plans) and representational space (symbolic use, articulated through cultural products). Space is thus neither a ‘thing ‘ of itself or a container for society , instead redefined as lived simultaneously within physical and mental realms. He asserts that social relations;

‘project themselves into a space, becoming inscribed there, and in that process producing that space itself’ . In turn, space reproduces and shapes social relations ( Karlsson, 2003, p.23).

In this relational thinking, spatiality comprises power relations. Through locating adult associations (where, when and how they interact), the school as a workplace is investigated through attention to everyday and materially-embedded practices which are relations of power. I employ an understanding of power as a constellation of relations ) rather than a reified possession. This frames interactions such as collaboration and negotiation as lateral modalities which operate in particular space-times (Allen,1999). These relate to capacities to develop practice through opportunities for collective work and learning.

Radical geographers have shown that the production of space is always tied up with questions of power and during the 1990s the importance of ‘power-geometries’ of alignment along axes such as gender, ethnicity and sexuality (as well as class) were demonstrated (Keith & Pile, 1993: Rose 1993; Massey 1994). Such work emphasises the production of space linked to the production of identities, so places are constructed through competing spatialities. Spaces may thus be organised to keep ‘others’ ‘in their place’ (Morgan, 2000). It is these conceptions that I employ in moving to an understanding of the school as spatially constructed.

I use conceptual tools developed through social geography to make more sense of orthodox organisational and cultural perspectives in relation to the workplace of the school. Places are understood as fluid, contested and uncertain:

‘It is socio-spatial practices that define places and these places result in overlapping and intersecting places with multiple and changing boundaries, constituted and maintained by social relations of power and exclusion’ ).

In this conception, place is a unique articulation of social networks, relations and understandings, extensive in space-time. Workplace relations are also interrogated through the making of meaning ‘as embodied, (and) constructed, transmitted, negotiated and embedded within social practices’ )

2.1 Spaces and critical theory in education

The relative lack of research around space and schools reflects conventional conservative and liberal educational writing where schools are cast as apolitical entities engaged in educating (teaching) learners (children) in preparation for a future adult life. In contrast, critical scholars assert that schools (re) produce existing social values and power relations, although they can be sites of transformation if those power relations are collaboratively explored and challenged.

Theorists in critical pedagogy are now seriously engaging with spatiality as a means of understanding the intrinsic relation between space and power ; Edwards & Usher, 2000, 2003; . Although not following the distinctive methodology, I subscribe to the emancipatory aspirations of critical theory. Here research aims at creating concepts which seek to transform understandings of the oppressive relations of power that particularly disadvantage some people, for example, in relation to the hidden coercion of centralised control over curricula . It further aims to enhance the possibilities of collective action in this process .

Current work in this area is developing powerful analytical tools for uncovering the hegemonic regulation of schooling and the curriculum through the operation of space. For instance, Fisher, an international architect, argues cogently for challenging systems of social control through a critical pedagogy of space, examining how ‘active engagement with space and place within schools can demonstrate resistant and emancipatory possibilities for those who are disadvantaged’ , p. viii). Thus challenging the dominant ‘spaces of enclosure’ which characterise modernist educational practices (Peters, 2003; Lankshear et al., 1996; Edwards et al., 2002). Fisher explicitly address this through participatory methodologies aiming at a ‘spatial praxis (which) could also provide a model for an integrated and grass roots ‘architecture of resistance’ (Fisher, 2002, p.36). Karlsson’s study of discourses in school space specifically addresses the neglected spatial relations inhering in post-apartheid discourse in South Africa:

‘Whether spatial relations and practices augment or subvert the formal curriculum, they are powerful vectors for communicating social values to children and youth, stimulating them to construct their identities and understandings of social organisation and control in particular ways, and providing the scaffolding for future careers and road maps for making their way in an adult world’

(Karlsson, 2003, p15).

2.2 Spatiality

The formulation of spatiality employed is derived from the influential work of Massey which extends the understandings of spatiality as the product of intersecting social relations, and powerfully develops the idea that space and time are mutually constituted . She proposes that space ‘must be conceptualised integrally’ as space-time, where the specifically spatial is ‘an inherently dynamic simultaneity’ (Massey, 1994, p.2-3). As: ‘a moment in the intersection of configured social relations’ (Massey, 1994, p.265).

Space is then:

‘the product of intricacies and the complexities, the interlockings and the non-interlockings, of relations from the unimaginably cosmic to the intimately tiny. And precisely because it is the product of relations, which are active practices, material and embedded, practices which have to be carried out, space is always in a process of becoming. It is always being made’ .

Thinking in this way produces a dynamic and politicised understanding of space, it challenges the view of places as pre-existing and bounded, replacing it with an open conception of place as hybrid, provisional and porous.

However, schools are obviously organised in terms of formalised (as well as informal and unrecognised) objectives and thus practices are regularised, sedimenting social relations in time and space - with their inscription recursively acting on their ongoing construction. Hence, ‘formalised’ spaces such as subject classrooms result from the build-up of resources, which leave less room for actors to change established practices (Tooke, 2000). It is this ‘concretisation of power’ that people perceive as space, rather than the processes which construct and maintain it.

2.3 Space hides things from us

There are then some basic assumptions here: that social life is relational and that relations are constituted by power, with power articulated through them. In exploring this as the recursive relationship between physical and social space, I am not seeking simply to uncover hidden geographies of power but also to demonstrate that space is more than merely a backdrop to position and social interaction. Space hides things from us, through our lack of understanding of it as constructed and contestable. This is particularly the case in secondary schools, which are often well away from the gaze of the adult public, yet where space is continually mobilised to maintain power relations. Drawing on Berger, Soja emphasised that:

‘We must be insistently aware of how space can be made to hide consequences from us, how relations of power and discipline are inscribed into the apparently innocent spatiality of social life, how human geographies become filled with politics and ideology’ .

Soja suggests that the significance of space is masked by two illusory perspectives of opacity; an essentially empiricist focus on immediate appearances, and the illusion of transparency, representing spatiality as a mental construct divorced from materially-embedded social relations. The methodology of this study was designed to provide a range of more holistic lenses to capture the spatiality of the workplace

2.4 Conceptions of space in relation to schools

Institutions such as schools may be theorised as ‘precarious geographical achievements’, made and remade by configuring practices and therefore open to change: ‘not pre-given entities but accomplishments whose temporal and spatial co-ordinates are far from incidental to what can (or not) be accomplished’ . But despite the fact that schools are important institutions in terms of their locus and land use as part of a community, and given the significance to a large sector of the population, there has been relatively little work done in human geography on this, although the area of ‘Children’s geographies’ is beginning to develop (Holloway & Valentine, 2000). One of the few published contemporary geographical studies focusing on schools identifies ‘multilayered-institutional cultures which are- shaped by official school policy, teacher practice and pupil culture’ within a series of overlapping space-times . However, the notion of space being created reciprocally with social interaction has been almost absent in literature on education until very recently .

The frame of this study was ‘the everyday context’ of the school, with detailed attention given to the importance of multi-layered relationships in situated social life. Fieldwork was therefore critical to the project, which adopted a microethnographic case-study approach in two schools. I now review the methodological decisions, which guided the broadly qualitative research design, and describe the mixture of methods used to explore understandings of the spatiality of the school as a workplace and the issues that arose as a result.

3. 0 Relational understandings guiding the enquiry

In the relational ontology employed here, space is not pre-given or closed, but the dynamic product of juxtapositions and often happenstance interactions, embedded in material practices . It was therefore critical to develop means of studying interactions in everyday contexts and investigating the world of the school from the point of view of the inhabitants, through relating situated and embedded accounts and practices and the meaning that was made of them. The principal enquiry question the research started with, which informed the initial reading strategy, was: ‘What is the influence of the spatial in interaction between teachers in secondary school workplace cultures?’ Nevertheless, it became clear that it was not the influence of the spatial but the spatiality of the school as a workplace (for adults) that I was examining.

The research challenges the notion of space as pre-given and essentially static, the frame that has dominated post-enlightenment ‘scientific’ thought. Western science (to acknowledge the monolithic iconic status it enjoys) is predicated on the idea that there is a reality ‘out there’ which may be investigated and that by sectioning out and scrutinising elements we may come to understand the whole and the laws that govern it. Hence positivism, with its ‘Cartesian anxiety’ in the quest for certain knowledge (to find out ‘how things really are’) employs objectivist epistemologies, for example using scientific models with artificial engineered contexts designed to test pre-determined hypotheses .

Through positivist approaches, events are deliberately decontextualised, which is an anathema to the situated ontological position ‘here’ in the paper which aims to present schools as ongoing and contingent articulations of relations. An exploratory process was used to elicit the constructions of actors involved, to investigate actions and meanings rather than delineate cause and effect. In much qualitative research however, social events and processes are conventionally explained in terms of their relation to the contexts in which they occur, the ‘naturalistic’ rather than experimental setting, in contrast to the positivistic reduction of meaning to the observable . In this case it was the very conception/phenomenon of context that I was exploring.

Nespor suggests that academic space, one way or another, sections out places and settings as givens rather than ongoing and contingent relations of power.

‘Research that ignores the historical and geographical processes that produce and maintain places in larger networks of practice becomes complicit in the silences and exclusions upon which those spaces are premised’ .

It is precisely such silences in relation to the spatiality of schools that this paper challenges.

The conception of space as ‘the sphere of possibility of the existence of multiplicity’ (Massey, 1999, p.28) implicitly questions monolithic dualities such as inside/outside and formal/informal, hence the utility of creating competing binaries such as positivist/ constructivist paradigms as delineated by Guba (1990). Patton proposes that ideal-typical quantitative and qualitative approaches differ along a continuum in respect of closeness to the data, with the quantitative/experimental paradigm emphasising distance as guarantee of neutrality. Although this is a useful device for thinking about what proximity means, continua imply a linearity and progression which rarely exists and which is disrupted in this work.

The qualitative, relational enquiry which formed the basis of this work was expressed through ‘close’ engagement with certain individuals and situations in the field, exploring the way in which ‘occupants of the same Cartesian spaces may live in very different ‘places’ . However, the mixture of methods for gathering and analysing data was eclectic and flexible, responsive to the messy realities of schools as workplaces, while acknowledging the importance of their systematic application and rigorous and critical appraisal.

The proposition that power is distributed through and constitutive of gendered social relations and spatiality (Massey, 1994, further emphasised the need to study routinised social practices and the minutiae of everyday interactions, by focusing on particular areas such as ‘the office’ and entities such as subject departments. Gender was a fundamental dimension of the project with a major sub-question being ‘How are spatial processes gendered and what is the interaction between gender and space?’ This required being attentive to issues of identity, for instance, in relation to the construction of gendered spaces and boundaries between work and home (Hanson & Pratt, 1995; . The partiality of narratives evidenced by the gendered power-geometry of workers in the school also suggested a broadening of the study to include adults other than ‘full-time’ teachers and classroom assistants; hence, I included part-time teachers, office and caretaking and other support staff in the study, although there was insufficient time to explore the interfaces between them.

4.0 Locating the research in ethnography and case study

Epistemological considerations of the relationship between the researcher and the researched are fundamentally related to the ontological assumptions discussed. If knowledge and ‘the reality out there’ can be separated out and the parts studied in order to gain an understanding of the whole, then the knower/researcher can stand apart, distant, from the field of study. However, if, as is the premise here, knowledge is situationally created, and reality is (co-)constructed by individuals in the research situation, then the interaction between the researcher and researched requires extended proximity in space-time. This guided the decision to employ a broadly ethnographic approach in two case studies.

To state that schools are complex, multilayered phenomena fails to capture the texture of the huge number and variety of interactions between people, materials and technologies that occur in the course of a day. Nor does it reflect the uncertainty that is contingent on individual and group behaviour and the workings of technology plus the demands of planning, marking, administration and development that must be met outside the classroom. It was Nespor’s account of Thurber elementary school as ‘an intersection in social space’ that moved my thinking most decisively beyond the study of the school as a container for social practices and subcultures, and suggested widening the angle of the conventional ethnographic lens through a spatial perspective.

While there is an increasing diversity of approaches within, and definitions of, ethnography, it can be said that ethnographic research involves highly descriptive studies of groups of people and their perspectives on ‘the imagined social worlds that they think they inhabit’ (Hammersley, 1998a, p.8). Behaviours are studied in everyday contexts, with data gathered in a relatively unstructured way from a range of sources. The analysis involves interpretation of the meaning and functions of actions, mostly in verbal and visual descriptions. In education, ethnographic work deriving from symbolic interactionism has had a particular influence in researching the socially-grounded perspectives and experience of the actors involved ‘both in the immediate contexts in which people live and work, and within the wider framework of global society’ . This informed the topological approach to the school suggested by Nespor’s (1997) insistence on the examination of social, economic and political flows that shape identities and constrain or encourage certain actions in schools.

Nespor, an educational anthropologist, suggests that ethnographers (perhaps particularly those in education) are prone to studying sites that are ‘culturally defined as well-bounded and self-contained’ . He critiques one of the few studies which explicitly focuses on issues of spatiality and embodiment in schools on precisely this basis. Gordon, Holland and Lahelma focused on two schools in Helsinki and two in London, but Nespor suggests that failing to acknowledge what goes on beyond the walls of the school led them to see pupils (and teachers) in terms of narrowly school-inscribed attributes. He emphasises that particular sites such as schools are not neutral or ‘natural’ forms and casting them as social and temporal islands allows a re-territorialisation of wider influences as school (or pupil) problems. Hence the need for a ‘topological approach’ to such studies.

4.1 Choice of case-study schools

The two secondary schools used as case studies here had been the subject of the earlier study, so I had been visiting them since 1998 and thus might be said to have the status of a ‘privileged observer’ . I was known by many of the staff as a teacher-researcher and sometimes welcomed as an ‘old friend’. The schools were originally selected on the basis of the ways staff characterised them as workplaces. At Brythnoth there was a common feeling that the staff did not ‘hang together’, while Kingbourn was presented generally as a positive and collaborative environment. As amplified elsewhere (McGregor, 2004a) the schools were more similar than dissimilar in that they were both secondary comprehensive community colleges situated in basically rural areas, built within a decade of each other, and with a fairly typical distribution of staffing. The decision to focus on secondary schools resulted from my involvement with such institutions over 20 years of teaching and practitioner research: also the critical differences with primary schools in size, orientation, organisation and (I would suggest) cultures.

As the theoretical propositions of spatiality developed it became clear that, while it was useful to inform my thinking through examining schools with unusual architectures or socio-economic circumstances , it was the everyday interactions that formed the basis of data gathering. The two schools presented similarities, forming the basis of the exploration of spatialities, while the differences in ways of working provided the stimulus to explore spatiality in relation to communities of practice. The fundamental notion of examining the location of collaboration in teacher workplace cultures meant that pupils1, while being an intrinsic element of the spatiality (and purpose) of the school, were not specifically asked for their views and perceptions. Interactions, formal and informal, between staff and pupils were observed and recorded in fieldnotes and discussed in interviews, but again, fell outside the scope of the project.

This investigation was neither strictly an ethnography nor a case study. It did not attempt to map either of the schools as an entire social/cultural system, nor did it focus on particular events, processes or individuals. Rather, the nature of the exploration was to question what constitutes the spatiality of the school, with the findings then represented through a series of spatial foci. In this respect the study may be called a ‘micro-ethnography’ in exploring situated interactions between staff (Paechter & Head, 1996; Little, 2002). This highlights the need for even finer-grained investigations of school workplace practices.

In focusing on everyday practices which are so entrenched that we take them for granted, in the same way that much teacher knowledge about teaching is held to be tacit , I aimed to access and then problematise the ‘member-knowledge’ of teachers and adults, with the potential of making the familiar unfamiliar and thereby revealing it , Delamont & Atkinson,1995). In terms suggested by geology, I was investigating a conglomerate where the matrix within which the different pebbles of individuals and groups are embedded is itself part of the rock.

5.0 Methodological challenges in researching schools through case study


A common criticism of case study within the academic community is its lack of ‘scientific generalisability’ (Yin 1994; Bassey, 1999). However, I would argue that there is overconcern with generalisation as a goal of social research. Much qualitative research in schools and classrooms is not actually concerned to do this - rather to ‘produce adequate descriptions of educational contexts and analyses which highlight and explain the social processes that shape and influence teaching and learning in schools’ (Hitchcock & Hughes, 1989, p.37). Attempts to produce generalisations form the basis of school effectiveness research which then however, fails to take account of ‘local contexts’ of action as discussed in chapter one, thereby limiting the power to influence the life of individual schools .

The wider application of findings is of course an issue that must be addressed, particularly where educational research has a distinctive and defining purpose (rather than research on, or even in, education), which is that it ‘aims critically to inform educational judgements and decision in order to improve educational action’ . In highlighting ways in which space makes a difference in the study schools, possibilities for making changes in other schools are illuminated, and I would join McDowell who draws on the ideas of Harding’s ‘standpoint epistemology’ and Haraway’s ‘situated knowledges’ to call for the ‘construction of committed passionate, positioned, partial but critical knowledge’ .

5.1 Familiarity

Not only does space hide things from us but the taken-for-granted nature of interactions in schools makes spatiality particularly challenging to research. The school as an educational setting is intensely familiar to most readers and the ordinariness and routine of the classroom particularly so for teacher-researchers who have spent most of their life in such institutions. Particularly given my previous engagement with schools, and the common lack of a spatial literacy recognising the importance of the school as a space and a place , there was scope for misinterpretation. Hence, as commended by Denzin and Lincoln , iterative strategies and multiple forms of data collection were used to explore triangulation of findings but also to get closer to the experience of the spatiality of the school- the meaning made of space.

A further challenge lies in the way that teachers commonly fail to acknowledge gender as an important dimension in schools. Studies of teachers as an occupational group reveal a lack of awareness of ideas of gender as socially constructed and of the school’s role in maintaining sex roles ; . Direct questioning on the influence of gender met with mixed, but

often negative responses. It was here that photographic and ‘artful representation’ (Black, 2002, p.73) techniques to elicit meaning and emotional responses were particularly useful.

6.0 Methods

The design of the fieldwork was emergent and progressively focused across three ‘data collection’ phases. It was organised around four areas suggested by the parallel work of Heather Jacklin and a notional ‘hierarchy’ of common understandings in relation to space and spatiality. These are outlined below, followed by a more detailed rationale for the use of particular techniques in the research process. Appendix I is an heuristic which ‘maps’ the contribution of the different methods to the areas of the main theoretical propositions. This device was used in planning and checking the coverage and congruence of the activities (McGregor, 2004a).

6.1 The school in space

In order to locate the schools in relation to system–wide criteria and policy trajectories, I collected documents at the interface of the school and beyond, such as Ofsted Inspection reports, ‘PANDA’2 data comparing each school in detail with similar others, school brochures, and local newspapers etc. This broadly coincided with the first phase of data collection, although it continued throughout the fieldwork. In addition, throughout the fieldwork I gathered documents such as bulletins, memos and newsletters, many of which were circulated to the staff and reached me through the ‘pigeon holes’ that I had been given in both schools. I thereby became part of the paper communication network.

6.2 The school as (material) space

To understand the physical architecture and location of the schools, the emphasis was on collecting maps, plans and aerial photographs of the buildings including mapping their use at various, formal and informal, times. During the second phase of research, I began to take photographs of the grounds and buildings and also workspaces such as offices and staffrooms.

6.3 The school as a container for social interactions

Staffing structures and teaching loads in terms of time and space were ‘mapped’ from the timetable, using the computerised systems now ubiquitous in secondary schools, to highlight patterns (for example in relation to the movement of part-time staff between different classrooms). There was also the observation of formal meetings such as those of departments and the senior leadership team, and briefings in the staffroom. This extended to informal times such as before and after school, and break-times, and also included the serendipitous interactions that I witnessed in corridors or offices. As part of the second phase of investigation I modified the grid survey of interactions which had effectively been piloted during the collaboration study - see Appendix II. An iterative series of conversations and semi-structured interviews with staff interwove with the developing use of methods such as observation, photo elicitation and ‘mental mapping’.

6.4 The school as social space

This was the closest to the spatiality of the school in conceptualisation and was most congruent with the second and third phases of investigation in each school. Observation of the use of space and interactions between people, events and dispositions, continued, although more guided by following certain ‘leads’ (the mapping of which also formed part of the data collection) than a naturalistic sampling strategy ; these were then followed up in semi-structured interviews. Some staff in both schools had been asked to photograph their workplace using disposable cameras, or to draw it impressionistically, and these photographs and ‘mental maps’ plus the graphs/heuristics resulting from the grid of interactions formed part of some of the interviews.

6.5 Locating interaction - use of a survey instrument

As one means of exploring when and where, how and with whom staff perceived themselves as working together in different ways, volunteers were asked in staff meetings at both schools to indicate on a grid where, when and with whom they commonly engaged in particular workplace interactions. From a list of twelve potential interactions and sixteen ‘locations’ staff (which included learning support staff in both schools and student teachers at Kingbourn) ticked where they perceived this occurring. My previous study on teacher collaboration in the workplace built on the work of Little , suggesting that some forms of interaction between colleagues might be more important than others in building capacity for improvement or leading to workplace learning. (McGregor, 2000b, 2003) From a list of 72 potential interactions, generated through socio-linguistic analysis, Little identified a number of ‘critical practices of success and adaptability’ (1982, p.332) most likely to lead to workplace learning and the development of productive joint working relationships, which might then be indicative of a community of practice. She also indicated that they would be amenable to more quantitative study, which stimulated me to explore the possibility.

These forms of joint work were represented on the instrument in this study by:

  • Design & prepare materials together
  • Prepare work-schemes together
  • Dialogue around teaching and learning
  • Observation with feedback
  • Persuade others to try an idea or approach
  • Make collective agreements to test an idea
  • Mark & moderate work together
  • Joint research/evaluation
  • At Kingbourn, a total of 92 staff – including support staff and students completed the grids indicating where, when and with whom different forms of interaction commonly took place. At Brythnoth 28 staff completed the grids. A template was set up in Excel and individual responses entered, with the resulting grid providing a numerical summary. This was effectively a ‘map’ of perceived interactions and when colour-coded to show rankings, highlighted the pattern of ‘hotspots’ to indicate the location of perceived interaction in space-time.These results further informed choices to focus on particular departments and spaces.

    I experimented with drawing graphs in Excel to represent the numerical findings and engage with staff over their relevance. The line graphs demonstrated the salience of the department and desprtement office for interactions, but other graphs, such as the radial charts enabled some teachers to engage in sophisticated analysis and speculation to explain apparent differences between departments and schools in interview. This provided further valuable data in relation to the meaning that people ascribed to such spatial patterns.

    6.6 The spatiality of the fieldwork - observation

    Ball describes ‘naturalistic sampling’ as the ‘dispersal of the researcher’s time and energy in the organisation by places, persons and times’ (Ball, 1990a, p.162). A crucial element lay in the observation of particular places, such as staffrooms and ‘the office’ but more generally around the school. Following the notion that this gives an indication of social, and therefore power, relations , I drew a series of conventional-style maps at different times indicating where people were sitting in the staffrooms, in addition to location maps indicating where staff were found at different times, such as breaktime . I had thought of ‘shadowing’ teachers for a day, to draw out gendered differences in time-space paths, as suggested by Rose , but my fieldwork time was limited.

    I took copious fieldnotes, which I attempted to type up at the end of every day, although at the intersection of home and work this aim was not always achieved. On some occasions, with permission, I audio-taped meetings and a break-time in the science department at Kingbourn. It is questionable if it is possible (or desireable) to sample staff interactions randomly (for example going into the staffroom) for a short period (Hammersley,1984), and in the event, it was practicalities such as pre-set interviews and meetings that dictated the pattern of such observations over the course of the fieldwork.

    During ‘informal’ times, such as at break in the main staffrooms I occasionally sat and drew seating plans or openly took notes on exchanges and interactions, but more usually wrote up interchanges and conversations afterwards, as I was not focusing directly on staffroom talk like Hammersely or Cunnison . This note taking in retrospect however, raises additional questions of interpretation, as well as the ethics of not being seen to be in researcher role. Nespor (1997) explores the notion of the researcher as context in terms of the impact of their presence and certainly jokes were made to this effect in the staffrooms.

    6.7 Interviews and conversations

    Talking to adults in the school was a crucial element in the fieldwork and this took place in different places and times, creating particular spatialities. In the schools I recorded 50 interviews that could be described as semi-structured in that an overall schedule was prepared and modified on several occasions and 35 ‘conversations’. These were effectively differentiated by (my) intention, with the latter being largely serendipitous; they were, however, sometimes recorded, with permission, if my tape machine was available and if they seemed to be developing at the time. This, of course, raises a question in relation to the respondent’s perception of the value or worth of the interchange (to me), but while people occasionally expressed a dislike of hearing their own voice no-one refused a request to tape record. In some cases photographs that the teachers had taken formed an important element of the interview in eliciting and discussing meanings. Interviews took place wherever the respondent chose, in offices, classrooms, the empty staffroom, all of these being workplaces in themselves, with the very occasional exception of a bench outside in the sun.

    7.0 Representing the school as workplace

    In seeking to observe and reveal what has become ‘the invisible’, and to overcome the lack of a spatial literacy which obscures the influence of space in schooling , a variety of methods was employed to represent meanings of space on behalf of the participants and in the thesis which formed the basis for this paper. Cultures in schools are expressed and created through ‘ceremonies, rituals, artefacts, non-verbal communication and constructed environments’ . They are reciprocally created through the making of meaning in the interaction within heterogeneous networks of people, technologies and objects that construct the workplace . It is therefore necessary to use techniques to both capture the immediately observable and elicit the intellectual and emotional meanings ascribed to elements of it, hence the decision to use photography and drawing and metaphor. I took photographs as an information source and provided cameras to teachers to record their workplace, as described later. Some teachers were asked to draw ‘mental maps’ and I actively sought their metaphors for the workplace. In this section, I explore the rationale for the use of images in the research process and further describe the methods used.

    As a ‘multi-faceted endeavour’ (Black, 2002, p.73) the work of teachers is increasingly demanding and ambiguous . To gain access to teachers’ knowledge and experience of the school as a workplace, a variety of conventional strategies such as interview have been described, aiming to elicit what is often tacit. In addition to the written and verbal narrative which is now widely used in educational research (Connely 1990; , non-linear forms of representation such as metaphor, photographs and drawing were chosen for their potential for revealing perceptions and emotions and stimulating memory and reflection (. ‘Artful representations’ (Black, 2002) were drawn on through the construction of ‘mental maps’ to explore how teachers and other adults in school were making sense of it as a workplace This also enabled a small move away from the privileging of text as words in the paper (Walker, 1998) which Lefebvre overtly links to considerations of space.

    To underestimate, ignore and diminish space amounts to the overestimation of texts, written matter, and writing systems, along with the readable and the visible, to the point of assigning to these a monopoly on intelligibility .

    Weber and Mitchell use ‘image’ to refer to ‘an idea, mental representation, or conception that has a visual or physical flavour, an experimental meaning, a context or history and a metaphorical, generative potential’ (Weber & Mitchell, 1995, p.21). Images may provide a nexus of threads reaching back into the past, drawing together elements of different kinds of experience and feelings and reaching into the future, hence they form a particularly important dimension of the methodology employed.

    In describing recent developments in visual sociology, Harper suggests that using images as well as words evokes a larger universe and different character of information in a research interview or exchange: This helps to bridge the gap between the worlds of the researcher and researched, encouraging collaboration in the discussion of meaning and hence enabling a more lateral power relationship. Educational researchers using visual methods, particularly where respondents generate their own images, point out a fundamental relocation of ownership and authority in the generation and interpretation of images as data, especially where children are involved .

    7.1 ‘Mental maps’

    Past experience with pupils in school suggested that simply asking individuals to draw their ‘mental maps’ of, for example, their school or neighbourhood, was a particularly useful means of both eliciting information and the emotional responses evoked by certain places/space-times. The importance of emotions in teachers’ work is increasingly recognised ( as important and work with narrative and images suggested that this was a fruitful way into the representation of feelings about the workplace. Precisely because of this, caution was counselled by colleagues who had used such devices during in-service work when emotional/power issues could be raised which were beyond the scope of the occasion. Hence, I used this technique in the second phase of the fieldwork in both schools, with individuals with whom I had established relationships.I did not argue with the views of the highly co-operative Head of Department at Kingbourn when he decided that creating a collective mental map would be ‘too risky’ even for his collaborative department .

    At Brythnoth, I used the opportunity of an informal meeting after school to ask teachers to draw ‘their workplaces’. I canvassed the opinion of particular individuals beforehand and adopted the strategy of attending the meeting as usual but equipped with A3 sheets of paper, a variety of felt pens and good quality cream cakes. Ten staff, drawn from five departments took the paper and completed the drawings, largely in silence, diligently and substantially alone, although there were sporadic comments and jokes which I noted. I later used the sheets in discussion with individuals, either during interviews or conversations (Figures 1 & 2). No attempt was made to categorise these representations in the manner of ‘networkograms’ currently being trialled in education (McCormick, 2003).

    Figure 1
    Mental maps - Brian Simon, technology teacher, Brythnoth


    Figure 2
    Mental maps – Hilary Shaw, art teacher, Brythnoth

    At Kingbourn four staff in the humanities curriculum area completed the exercise with me at separate times, so I was able to ask them the meanings of the drawings there and then. The images then had to be scanned onto A4 sheets to be stored electronically. Clarke et al. used a similar technique in exploring concepts of flexibility in higher education through questions in relation to place, time, funding and change. Clarke (2003) comments that ‘spatiality was not the focus of our enquiry but it cropped up everywhere’ with the drawings providing a means of ‘seeing’ an assemblage of factors differently. ‘When we take things apart to look at the pieces, picturing places is just one more way of putting them back together again’ (ibid). The ‘artful representations’ in my study also proved an effective means of triangulating information gained by other methods. Clarke was shocked to find however, that when her study was published as a chapter in a book, the publisher had (drastically) reduced the drawings to geometric symbols- which almost completely robbed them of their significance (Clarke, 2004, personal communication).

    7.2. Use of photographs in the research process

    Ethnography and social anthropology traditionally use film and photography in case studies, but until recently this has rarely happened in educational research . Where photographs have been used they are often ‘found images’ such as pictures of graffiti or illustrations from brochures, lacking important contextual information therefore substantially illustrative. Walker and Becker propose that this is a result of a systematic exclusion of the visual in social sciences, influenced by fears of lack of objectivity and neutrality in the ‘progress’ towards ‘science’ in the study of the social . This leads to the ironic situation where ‘the visual has become silent in the social sciences at the very point in history where it dominates both science and contemporary culture’ . Although Pink critiques the approach of visual sociologists such as Prosser for merely incorporating a visual dimension into established methodologies, there is a growing literature on the use of image-based methods in social and educational research and visual images are increasingly recognised as a form of text that reveals discourse and addresses the multiple meanings and interpretations of a an image - what Harper (2002) terms its polysemic qualities. Bolton et al. (2001) point out that our familiarity with the power of images and their apparent transparency equally leads to them being dismissed as a serious source of data.

    The essentially exploratory photography in the project comprised both researcher and participant generated images which were designed for different purposes. Initially, I took photographs with a digital camera to record and examine situational and ‘proxemic data’ . This included room layout, signs and labels indicating the relationship of space and social patterns such as the location or absence of a teacher’s desk in a classroom. Photographs also provide a ‘cultural inventory' by recording a range of artefacts and their (spatial) relationship to each other, thus suggesting cultural patterns of which they are an expression and a contribution , for example the ‘Staffroom’ notice at Brythnoth which had fallen off the door unreplaced, or the clock drawn on the staffroom noticeboard with its hands perpetually at ‘going home’ time. As the work progressed I became more confident in photographing the juxtaposition of objects, from the same position, generally from the doorway when the room was uninhabited..

    The use of (still) photography cannot, of course, fully represent the way in which space and place are constructed through particular versions of interrelational performances or the intrinsically open and dynamic nature of spatiality. However, they can usefully grasp the complexity and particularity of a moment in time and space, and suggest the discursive nature of spaces . I decided (rather too) early in the project not to photograph people because of the ethical issues involved in getting permission and the distance that a camera creates between the researcher and participants. Several teachers chose to include their colleagues (particularly support staff) and pupils in the photographs of ‘their workplace’ which emphasised the gendered spatial aspects of the division of labour .

    During the study, I was able to explore the ‘backstage’ world of the school insofar as I had access to the staffroom, toilets, office and so on and I was welcomed into department offices and areas on request. In some frequently visited locations such as the staffroom and science departments in both schools, I was able to come and go freely. To access a more authoritative ‘insider’ view of the teachers’ workplace, I gave 11 teachers from selected departments (science, art, P.E. and English) black and white disposable cameras with a flash, and wrote a protocol asking them to take pictures of their workplace. Three of the cameras were lost before any photographs were taken, although subsequent interviews with those staff suggested it was pressure of work and lack of organisation rather than reluctance to participate. They were asked to request permission if they wanted to include pupils and colleagues in the pictures.

    Self-recording has other strengths as a data-gathering method as a dimension of the spatial and temporal process of the research. It foregrounds relations of power in the research process where there is arguably less ‘researcher effect’, with the individual having more power/ownership over what is presented. Participants can take more time to reflect on what the workplace means to them. In practical terms the use of a small disposable camera also allowed greater immediacy in capturing images, including different locations ‘outside’ the school. This generated information and insights that I would not otherwise have had the same access to- for example in the teacher’s images of their ‘workspace’ at home. Thus used, photographs create as well as collect data for the purposes of analysis (Bolton et al, 2001)3. There is also the advantage of ‘storing proxemic data for later analysis.

    In my study, the photographs that teachers took were used as an element in progressive focusing in interview, to elicit the meanings they attached to places , to produce knowledge together, and also in triangulation (Pink 2001). The teachers were at liberty to chose what they put in the frame and what they left out, in contrast to my images, generally taken from the same vantage points. Thus this was a form of data therefore already selected for its significance to the workplace culture of the researcher (Bolton et al., 2001)

    If photographs can be used to elicit a view of the world as well as what an individual initially ‘sees’, then they provide a means of accessing cultural knowledge to highlight ‘the interconnectedness between places, rooms, areas and feelings, emotions and associations’ ). As hoped, the teacher-created photographs did prove ‘especially useful in mapping affiliations and role perspectives of people in the school’ (Prosser, 1998, p.403). The relationship between ‘work’ and ‘home’ was foregrounded, as was the signal importance of support staff in the worklife of the participants in the research

    8.0 The place of anonymity

    The ethics of representing a selection of images of the institutions in a publication is a complex area. As Karlsson reminds us;

    Anonymity of those represented in images is at issue because cameras capture a likeness of faces and settings. Images may be stored and later used and distributed in ways different from the initial research purpose yielding outcomes that may diverge from the wishes of the person photographed. Pink cites the danger to subjects as reasons why researchers need to work ethically (Karlsson, 2003, p.43)

    As previously discussed, I had decided not to photograph people, which I subsequently regretted, however I asked, and was given, permission to reproduce the teachers’ own images although none requested the copies that I offered them. In reproducing some of their images of children, I decided to use the blurring facility now available (which of course raises questions about the possibility of manipulating images and therefore their potential veracity). I also gained permission to use the photographs from the headteachers at the time the photographs were taken, although neither asked to see the final choice of material for the paper.

    While the schools and participants were given pseudonyms early in the research, it is not technically possible to preserve the anonymity of an institution when using images, beyond making sure that identifiable names on noticeboards etc. are erased, which I was able to do digitally. In any case, as Ball found in his ‘Beachside’ ethnography, the extent of anonymity in any text can be debated. Nespor (1997) addresses this issue in his extensive study of Thurber, where he acknowledges that identifying the county and state the school is located in could pinpoint it for a determined person. However, this applies to most such studies and as Nespor (2000) points out, schools studied at particular space-times are no longer the same schools once the study is written up. At Kingbourn and Brythnoth for example, there has been a significant turnover of teaching staff in the last two years, as well as, of course, pupils.

    Nespor argues that the use of pseudonyms and the anonymisation of places and settings ‘naturalises the decoupling of events from historically and geographically specific locations (and with the way location or place itself is conceptualised)’ (Nespor, 2000, p.549). He links this with the privatisation of the public sphere in North America where the contingent and unequal power relations that construct an entity like a school, are obscured by representing it as a discrete spatio-temporal entity. He argues that generalisations that remove indexical references to time and place, reduce the meaning and critical value of the research (Karlsson, 2004).

    ‘When the settings and places where events unfold are simply taken as givens instead of scrutinized as contingent and unfinished outcomes of power and struggles, we detach our accounts from such struggles or, worse, become complicit in the political projects of dominant groups and organizations to produce spaces to serve their own needs’ .

    ‘Anonymisation, by helping transform concrete, historically and politically contingent settings into private, anonymised, taken-for-granted regions, aligns researchers with a politics of space that diminishes the sphere of public discourse and contestation’ (ibid, p.554).

    He proposes that the ideas of spatiality, as conceived by Massey (1994) suggest the possibility of a different approach to theorising:

    ‘Instead of obscuring how activities are anchored in historically situated places and times, a goal of research would be to explicate how such anchored activities, separated in time and space, get linked together to form a shared world’ (ibid, p.558).

    While fully agreeing that their use in relation to place should be more contested,

    I am however continuing to use pseudonyms in this study to honour the promises initially made to participants.

    9.0 Analysis

    This research, while starting with the proposition that space makes a difference, was effectively inductive and discovery based, rather than testing a particular hypothesis. The focus of the research developed through an iterative analysis where the findings from one stage informed the collection of data for the next, although this was not the linear process that invoking a time-frame implies. Progressive coding techniques assisted in developing categories to allow theories to emerge (Miles & Huberman, 1984) as frames such as topologies (Nespor, 2002), Communities of Practice (Wenger & Snyder, 2000), and Actor Network Theory (Law & Hetherington, 2001, McGregor, 2004c) developed in parallel through reading.

    I used a computer aided qualitative data package, which combines computing techniques with methodological perspectives associated with grounded theory. This stores interviews, conversations, fieldnotes and memos and can also be used with images. A series of codes were developed ‘in vivo’ but it became clear that the conceptual mapping tool the programme offered provided neither the time-cost benefits hoped for, nor provided any conceptual advance. Coffey, Holbrook and Atkinson express concern that such tools can give qualitative research a misleading scientific gloss while arguing persuasively for employing computer techniques in representing ethnographic research, such as through the use of hypertext. The statistical analysis of the grid data could also be seen in the same way, but this was an important element in both triangulating with observations and interview data and also ‘hotspotting’ areas for further study .

    The analysis of the images was more complex, although the triangulation they afforded for other forms of data is obvious. As described earlier, the photographs that I took for data collection purposes and those that the teachers generated were different in conception and purpose and consequently were analysed in different ways. In her discussion of visual methodologies, Rose (2001) describes five analytical approaches:

  • Compositional interpretation, developed through Art history
  • Content analysis which is oriented to enumeration and codification
  • Semiology, which is reliant on readings of the image to explore social meanings
  • Psychoanalytic approaches concerned with subjectivity and the unconscious
  • Discourse analysis where meaning is created through observing the organisation of objects and thematic connections within the image
  • In this study, the ‘data photographs’ were primarily analysed for content, proximity of objects etc (although not statistical) with the additional exploration of the discourses of space that they recorded. The photographs taken by teachers depict ‘slices’ of school space rather than discrete units (Karlsson, 2004) and were analysed in relation to the meanings ascribed to them in the interviews where they were used to elicit memories and responses.

    10.0 Representing spatiality

    Representation is taken here to be a process of transforming consciousness/thoughts/ ideas into a public form ‘so they can be stabilised, inspected, edited and shared with others. Representation is what confers a publicly social dimension to cognition’ (Eisner 1993, p.6). Clarke et al., explore ‘the visual turn’ in educational research through alternative forms of data collection and representation in relation to ‘the tyranny of literacy’ in the context of a Sure Start programme. Qualitative research conventionally relies on words to investigate and articulate concepts, for example through fieldnotes, interviews and conversations. The language used in such observations and interchanges creates frames for knowledge, no matter how much we ramble around. This is particularly problematic when investigating the influence of space as spatiality, a concept with which people are unfamiliar. Thus, as Eisner suggests, it is important to ‘exploit different forms of representation to construct meanings that might elude us’ in terms of understanding how schools work spatially, hence the use of visual materials in this study. Spatial cartography as conceptual mapping, Roland Paulston argues, enables us to ‘see something different’ in what we already know , but while the paper was informed by his arguments, the heuristics were not developed.

    The use of images in the text in sociological research with the separation of talk/text and visual images means that often the latter is used as an illustration of the former - supporting the written text. The hegemony of words in representing research arguably ‘others’ the use of photographs. However, Walker (1998) suggests they in turn can undermine the implicit authority of the written word. In the location of a paper, written text is evaluated, policed and controlled, as a means of maintaining hierarchies and the relationship between written and visual text it creates. While Prosser and Schwartz advocate photographs to augment fieldnotes, by showing ‘characteristic attributes of people objects and events that elude even the most skilled wordsmiths’ (Prosser and Schwartz, 1998, p.116), Pink argues for a more distinct approach to making and understanding visual images and technologies ‘in relation to a reflexive approach to ethnography that focuses on subjectivity, creativity and self-consciousness’ (Pink, 2001, p.14).

    The interaction between written text and photographs should be explored at greater length than there is space for here. However, I would echo Karlsson (2003) in recommending that captions need to be approached with care as they may lead the viewer to a narrow reading of the image which may also reduce it to a subsidiary in the overall text. The approach used here does not deliberately privilege one method of ‘data’ collection or representation above another, including graphs from quantitative data alongside ‘mental maps’. However, as Clarke (2003) wryly comments, a picture is worth more than a thousand words in terms of the kilobytes of computer memory they require!

    11.0 Locating myself - research as an intersection

    If research itself is created and recognised as an intersection of flows and trajectories extensive in time and space , then it is particularly crucial to locate oneself in the research process. The conceptualisation and investigation of a research problem, the interpretation and application are intertwined and, in naturalistic research, particularly visible. I was aware that the use of the self as a primary research tool in ethnography requires a reflexive ‘self-conscious engagement with the world’ with particular attention paid to the impact of the researcher on what is being studied, and issues of relations and power in the process .

    Power is central to the research process. How we locate ourselves and others illustrates this, for example in traditional approaches to research, casting people as ‘subjects’ to be studied, controlled and manipulated. . In this PhD project it quickly became clear that locating myself in the research process was fundamental, to identify hidden assumptions and make sense of the interrelations of the schools of which I was, in some ways, a part. As the study progressed (though that is a problematic notion in itself), the social production of knowledge and the situated nature of learning highlighted the importance of the spatiality of the study itself. In this section, I will discuss some of the issues that arose in the power-geometries of the research process and try to give an impression of how I experienced my positioning at various stages of the journey through it.

    The disjunctions and continuities in the space-time that was the school for me, and the social and psychological processes of the fieldwork as I experienced them, thus formed an integral part of the data gathering and interwove with memories raised by the encouragement to write about my own experiences of teaching. Issues around my own identities arose, as I charted my feelings in the journal, stimulating considerable reflection on the ‘exit work’ Maclure interrogates, in the ‘loving and leaving of teaching’ , and movement towards becoming a researcher. It is a common assumption that such a story is linear, cumulative and directional - that the past explains the present. Maclure, however, eloquently describes this experience as a liminal space in which the exit from the confinement of teaching is also a departure from an identity (of being a teacher), such transitions representing ‘movements back to the future’ (ibid p.277). This experience was critical in the research project in understanding how spatiality operates as space-time.

    12.0 Conclusion

    Studying the spatiality of schools is critical to the development of more honest and emancipatory relationships ‘within’ and ‘beyond’ schools as they are commonly seen (McGregor, 2004b). New understandings of space have a significant contribution to make in education, through deconstructing metaphor and scrutinising the relationships between people, ideas, technologies and objects that are implicit in the construction of ‘the classroom’ or ‘the school’. A space where adults and students can research and debate the power relationships instanciated in arrangements such as the typical classroom can only happen through the development of a ‘spatial literacy’ (Fisher, 2004) that allows us to uncover and read what familiarity blinds us to.

    In the research study described here, a blend of visual and verbal approaches, qualitative and quantitative methods were employed in an exploration of what might constitute the spatiality of two schools- the construction and meaning of that space. Interrogating what we mean by ‘context’ foregrounds the importance of debating the methodologies and methods used to research and enquire into the meaning made of space. The boundary work of visual images and photographs is crucial, but should not exclude a mixture of other methods. In moving towards a ‘toolkit’ for researching and enquiring into space and schools the eclectic and rigorous should be valued as beyond the binaries commonly employed to represent school space.


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    1. The importance of naming and categorization is illuminated throughout this paper and the term chosen for young people in school is pupils. While alive to the resonance of words like children, kids and students and aware of the sociological distinctions between them , I used this term to avoid confusion with student teachers.

    2. PANDA data is based on the annual schools census returns and is published annually for each school.

    3. On reflection, having read Karlsson’s (2001, 2004) work with school pupils in South Africa. I would also have liked to ask the teachers who used the cameras to have someone photograph them in a chosen location to illustrate their particular ‘resting place of identity’ (Hanson & Pratt,1995).

    Dr. Jane McGregor
    12 Bishop’s Road
    CB2 2NH

    This document was added to the Education-line database on 29 November 2004