Marginalized, Misunderstood, and Relatively Unseen: Using Institutional Ethnography to Explore the Everyday Work of Learning Mentors in an English State Secondary School

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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Abstract

This chapter reports an Institutional Ethnography (IE) which seeks to explicate the everyday experiences of learning mentors (LMs), introduced into English secondary schools fifteen years ago. Within the context of the New Labour (NL) policy agenda characterised by an analysis of the relationship between ‘risk’ and ‘social exclusion’ as the root cause of many social problems, LMs were part of a transformative agenda which elevated ‘low level’ workers into quasi or paraprofessional status across a range of public services. The official narrative embedded in policy documents / role descriptions talked of LMs ‘raising achievement’ by ‘removing barriers to learning’; but this tells us little about the way in which such texts are mediated in the sites where they were enacted.
The starting point of the IE was to establish how the work of learning mentors was practised, viewed and understood within the school by all parties. The enquiry did not start with pre-existing conceptualisations of ‘pastoral care’ or ‘disaffected youth’ but tracing the genealogy of LM practice became more significant as the research developed, thus attention was paid to the legacy of the US tradition of mentoring and how that was re-imagined in the ruling texts of NL policy.
The problematic of the study which emerged was that although warmly received by pupils, LM practices were marginalised, misunderstood and relatively unseen; casting doubt on the influence suggested in formal prescriptions and giving rise to wider questions regarding the increasingly liminal nature of work undertaken by people working in similar roles in other institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Perspectives on and from Institutional Ethnography
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Qualitative Methodology, Volume 15
EditorsJames Reid, Lisa Russell
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Chapter7
Pages125-46
Number of pages21
Volume15
ISBN (Print)978-78714-653-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017

Publication series

NameStudies In Qualitative Methodology
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Volume15

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  • Cite this

    Sanderson, P., & Bishop, J. (2017). Marginalized, Misunderstood, and Relatively Unseen: Using Institutional Ethnography to Explore the Everyday Work of Learning Mentors in an English State Secondary School. In J. Reid, & L. Russell (Eds.), Perspectives on and from Institutional Ethnography: Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Volume 15 (Vol. 15, pp. 125-46). (Studies In Qualitative Methodology; Vol. 15). Emerald Group Publishing Ltd..