Details of Thesis

Title An Ethnographic Study of a Victorian Catholic Secondary School
Author Laffan, Carmel Therese
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2004
Abstract This thesis constitutes a study of a Catholic secondary school in the State of Victoria, Australia, in the year 2001. It addresses the issue of the nature and purpose of Catholic schools in situ, the focus of the research being an in-depth analytical description of the participant school. Consequently, the findings are of potential relevance to those interested in the issue of the nature and purpose of the Catholic school in situ from a general and holistic perspective.  Specifically, given the concern of the research with the nature and purpose of a Catholic school in situ, two anticipated areas of focus for the study were identified. These were the defining features of the school, in relation to the concern of the study with the nature of the school, and the ends of the school, in relation to the concern of the study with the purpose of the school. The study was thus governed by 2 two-part general research questions.  1. What are the defining features of the school, and how are they maintained?  2. To what ends is the school oriented, and how is this orientation sustained?  In the form of an ethnographic study, the research describes and interprets the participant school from the perspective of those who constitute the day-to-day community.  The findings of the study are located within a contextual understanding involving historical and prescriptive perspectives for, and literature pertaining to, the contemporary Catholic school.  Given the concern of the ethnography with the development, as opposed to the verification, of theory, data gathered from five major sources over the period of a school  Section headings for the Introduction through to the References have necessarily been deleted for electronic presentation.  Likewise, page numbers have necessarily been deleted for electronic presentation. year were focused and analysed, through the method of grounded theory, to arrive at the findings of the study. These five sources were participant-observation, in-depth interviews conducted with a number of the school personnel, observation of various school meetings, school documents, and a survey of the student body.  The findings of the study, in their descriptive and analytical dimensions, are presented in four chapters. Specifically, these are presented in Chapters Five through to Eight, in relation to four main organising principles pertaining (a) to the description of the school, (b) to predominant perspectives on the school from within its day-to-day community, (c) to the prevailing characteristics upon which the perspectives of the day-today community turn, and (d) to the theoretical construct consequent upon the description, the predominant perspectives, and the prevailing characteristics. As with the descriptive aspect, to which the first two organising principles predominantly pertain, the interpretive dimension of the findings is largely undertaken in two chapters. The first of these chapters (i.e., Chapter Seven), pertaining to the delineation of the prevailing features evident within the perspectives of the day-to-day community, provides an interpretation of the descriptive findings in terms of an autocratic hegemony, a managerial administrative focus, and a bureaucratic organisational culture. Thus, this chapter signifies the primary analysis of the findings of the two previous chapters through completion of the descriptive dimension.  The second of these chapters (i.e., Chapter Eight) places this preliminary analysis of the descriptive findings within a theoretical construct pertaining to concepts of disparity and congruity, opposition and compliance. The concepts of disparity and congruity relate to the school's adherence to ideological and primitive imperatives respectively. Those of opposition and compliance relate to the degrees of consonance, within the day-to-day community, in terms of assent to the prevailing order within the school. Consequently, it is to be observed that the elements of description and interpretation, essential to the in-depth analytical description demanded of the ethnographic methodological approach, decrease and increase, respectively, across these four chapters.  Section headings for the Introduction through to the References have necessarily been deleted for electronic presentation.  Likewise, page numbers have necessarily been deleted for electronic presentation.  The study concluded that the nature and purpose of the school were consequent upon its prevailing autocratic hegemony, its pre-eminently managerial administrative focus, and its profoundly bureaucratic organisational culture. These interconnected elements of the school's practices, disparate from the ideological imperatives advocated for the Catholic school, were found to effect a latent opposition within the school community, principally in relation to the teaching personnel, masked by the overall compliance of the day-to-day community with the prevailing order.
Thesis 01front.pdf  126Kb
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