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Young offenders, school and learning Martin Hugo Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy Malmö - Friday September 27 th.

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Presentation on theme: "Young offenders, school and learning Martin Hugo Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy Malmö - Friday September 27 th."— Presentation transcript:

1 Young offenders, school and learning Martin Hugo Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy Malmö - Friday September 27 th

2 Approximately 1000 individuals, aged 11 to 20, are annually committed to SiS Rehabilitation Institutions designated for young offenders in Sweden There are 25 institutions in Sweden of that kind 2/3 are boys, 1/3 are girls Nearly all of them have failed at school before in the Swedish school system Rehabilitation work also includes school and education-related activities 91% of these youngsters are going to school every week

3 One of the aims of this study was to understand how these young individuals experience school, their motivation for studying and possible future goals in terms of learning The research was based on a phenomenological worldview. Within this framework the notion of Life Worlds was of significant importance.

4 The life-world researcher has to be in the place where the experiences, the opinions and the doings are materialized in real situations where the researcher participates in the activity that is done and then even in a natural way in the speeches. By using natural speeches in the research the possibility is diminished of beeing put in a situation that discourse analysts have pointed to: that the interview creates its own social reality which is not reaching outside the interview situation (Bengtsson, 1999, p. 37).

5 Eight groups of pupils and their teachers were observed by a researcher for a period of three years. Data collection methods used in this study are: Close observation in school activities Casual conversation 49 Research interviews

6 Van Manen (1990) – Researching Lived Experience: Close observation involves an attitude of assuming a relation that is as close as possible while retaining a hermeneutic alertness to situations that allows us to constantly step back and reflect on the meaning of those situations (p. 69). The method of close observation requires that one be a participant and an observer at the same time. (p. 69).

7 As I and Natasha arrive in the morning the ward is in chaos. There have been two suicide attempts. One girl has swallowed a razor blade and another has gulped a bottle of bleach. Both girls survived the attempts and are doing reasonably well after having received intensive care at hospital. We participated in a crisis staff meeting focussing on the ward situation. Every pupil’s situation is scrutinised. Apart from the two suicide attempts there have been many conflicts and two of the other girls refuse to get out of bed. As we enter the common room of the ward we ran into one of the girls returnig from the hospital. She looks knackered and apprehensive. She is sitting in front of the telly, next to one of the orderlies, without looking up. On our continued way towards the school room we pass the exercise room. ”Hello Martin … how are things today?” someone calls out. It is Emmie sweating it out on a stationary exercise bike. I stop for a moment to exchange a few words with her; to ask how she is. She then tells me: Martin!…. XXXX’s Hospital seems to be a popular place to visit right now … XXXX has swallowed a razor blade and XXXX has drunk something nasty … Fuck, this place is horrible … I just want to get out of here.

8 -This will be great (Teacher) -Hell, yeah! (Pupil) -You’re soon done with the course (Teacher) -What bloody course?! … there can’t be courses for this! (Pupil) -Of course there is … See! … (Teacher shows the syllabus) -Oh shit! … I had no idea (Pupil) -You are almost done with the entire course in casting (Teacher) -Are you serious?! (Pupil)


10 Many of them have a dark and negative feeling about school and teachers. Experiences of meaninglessness are frequent among participants. Whatever the school was all about, it was simply not intended for them. Their negative experiences had generated negative attitudes towards school in general and everything associated with it. The accounts tell of meaninglessness, truancy, failures, incomplete grades and for many also difficulties in relating to teachers. Many of the pupils think that that they are “bad pupils”. As a consequence they could not see themselves as individuals in school to learn useful stuff.

11 “From year one to six I went to school every day … but then I moved to XXXX for year seven and this ended in a disaster after two months. I stopped going … I had to do year seven all over again. Then I moved to … XXXX for year eight, and to my foster family. I stayed there half of year seven and all of year eight … Then I returned to XXXX to start year nine, but after two months I was sentenced to this place” (Pupil 21)

12 I have seen a different Sweden; a Sweden I didn’t know existed. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t know of its existence […] In this place they are treated with respect. I guess they have been badly treated before … in school and outside school […] (Karin)

13 I have many a time stood by the door to greet new pupils who told me … Just so you know, David, I hate this bloody shit, so just don’t you try anything. And just to let you know … we are decided on this even before entering the classroom. (David)

14 It is essential that they acquire self-confidence and that they understand that they are actually able to achieve something. They need a more positive outlook. Many are quite sombre after too many previous failures. They simply cannot believe that they are capable of something successful … Self-confidence is important; to know that they are good enough (Kerstin)

15 “They sort of get you … you can tell if a teacher is there to want to help you or if a teacher is just ‘present’ to do a job. You can easily tell […] At least I notice it at once, if they actually care or not … It’s important …in a place like this they have to patient like hell. Most pupils here have not been much to any school before." (Pupil 5)

16 “The best thing is that the teacher … she is not at this ward … when you come here you feel free somehow … It’s nice when someone new arrives and you have school to go to” (Pupil 13)

17 “School is the best, I think … because it means having something to do … in the ward there is nothing … nothing …just the telly and the staff … so it is much better here” (Pupil 3) “School is better because we can think and focus on things, and teachers allow us to listen to music … there is more going on here than on the ward … more action, you know” (Pupil 9) “ School is great … mostly to get away from the ward … you feel so confined in the ward, but here you can move around and you get to think on other things than being locked up” (Pupil 25)

18 ”I make music … reggae mostly … it’s fun … it makes me happy … I play the bass and the guitar, and I could not play before coming here” (Pupil 22). “I left school with 70 merit points […] I think I have almost 200 now since coming here. The exams I took here […] they sort of gave me 100 merit points more, almost twice that which I had before. I have done a lot since coming here and I have put in lots of effort” (Pupil 15)

19 When I started here, they told me—being a young woman—that I had to be extra strict, structured and tough towards the pupils; be very clear on everything and decisive. And so this is what I did: I was strict and decisive. Structure was prioritised and my relationship with the pupils came second. However, I have now learnt how it actually works … it is much more important to create a relationship first and gain their confidence, then add the structure. Having established a relationship they will listen and trust you (Kicki)

20 As a pupil is occupied with something and is really focussed … not to interrupt this and disturb … I usually say ”is it OK for me to tell you to start working in about five minutes?” They often respond ”Yes, but give me ten minutes” … I then give them this extra time. You have to. It is far too easy as a teacher to make demands and expect obedience. However, such an authoritarian attitude rarely works. (Teacher 17)

21 Many pupils find it difficult to focus. They have previously been diagnosed with concentration difficulties such as ADHD … So you have to work with including distractions into your strategy … small breaks or something else entirely. In my experience it takes a bit of time to get these pupils along when introducing another part of your teaching. Strategy usually means being clear, allowing time and allowing distractions – just to help pupils transfer from one task and to the next. (Jesper)

22 Some important conclusions You must like them! Teachers’ expectations will invariably impact the outcome. Always focus on the positive. Pupils who strongly resist school often learn both practice and theory by hands-on experience. Pupils must experience belonging and engagement through active participation

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