Pupil resistance to their schooling experience

  • L.C. Russell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The thesis explores the nature of pupil resistance; it investigates what constitutes it and how it can be explained. Various ethnic and national group, male and female working-class resistance if analysed in two secondary schools in Birmingham (England) and one school in Sydney (Australia). It focuses on the pupils’ experience of school. ‘Compressed ethnographies’ (Walford and Miller, 1991) were conducted in each school to examine pupil resistance. The research found that structural societal state factors, regional, community and formal, informal and physical characteristics of each school, together with the teachers and pupils characteristics and background all influence resistance. The class, gender, ethnic and national identity of each pupil shapes resistance. In all three schools that were involved with the research, girls were more likely to exhibit overt, collective forms of resistance, whereas lads were more likely to operate alone. Islander pupils in Sydney and African-Caribbean kids in Birmingham were more likely to display engaged forms of resistance. Girls tended to show more engaged forms compared to their male counterparts across all ethnic and national cultures. Resistance is complex and dynamic, the definition alters depending upon context. Dimensions of resistance are developed; including overt, covert; individual, collective; intentional, unintentional; engaged and detached forms. Resistance operates within a structure and agency framework, the pupils can shape their own schooling experience mediated within the structures of their school, community and society. Some pupils manage their resources and the structures better than others; how the pupil manages and operates within the structures influences their resistance response. Resistance is contradictory and can reinforce the status quo. To fully understand resistance, it must be contextualised.
Date of Award2005
Original languageEnglish


  • pupil resistance
  • schooling experience

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