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    ‘Education will set you free?’ – A creative exploration of the experience of educational exclusion, from the perspective of prisoners and youth

    Sarah, Meaney Sartori (2020) ‘Education will set you free?’ – A creative exploration of the experience of educational exclusion, from the perspective of prisoners and youth. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

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    This thesis is a study of educational exclusion, and the complex ways this is connected to social exclusion, based on extensive research with prisoners and youth in Ireland. Drawing on the practices and ideas of adult and community education and taking a critical Freirean (1970) approach it positions the prisoners and youth that participated in the research as the ‘experts’ and co-producers of knowledge. At the heart of the thesis are the voices of the people I worked with using participatory and arts-based methods including theatre of the oppressed, ethnodrama, forum theatre, transcript/research poetry and performative research (Boal, 1995; Faulkner, 2007; Prendergast, 2009; Richardson, 1993; Saldaňa,1999). The core of the thesis is a research play which is a creative re-presentation of what was learnt through the research in a form which retains the vitality and truth of people’s stories, and where the expression of meaning becomes central (Butterwick & Roy, 2018). The play has also been crafted as a problem-posing device (Freire, 1972) which bears witness to the complex, layered ways educational exclusion occurs, how it is rooted in wider social circumstances, and the impact, often severe, that this has on individuals and communities. The foregrounding of stories in this manner, both individual and collective, is based on the conviction that research can and should speak in a direct and accessible way to the people who participate in such processes (Leavy, 2013; Pelias, 2015), and seeks to break new ground in how research is pursued and presented, and in how we seek to learn and theorise from research. Grounding and presenting the study in this way; a 'bottom- up' perspective, is markedly and consciously different to how most research on educational exclusion has been approached, and comment and reflection on this is woven throughout the thesis. As such, the thesis not only offers a new perspective, rooted in participants’ experiences and stories, on the topic of educational exclusion, but it also documents and critically explores the craft of participatory research and creative dissemination. It makes a case, and offers an example, that the means we select to carry out and share our work can be simultaneously a methodology and a pedagogy; an instrument for social change. It approaches theory and methodology and form and content dialectically, in resistance to the dominant modes of research and dissemination which reinforce existing hierarchies in knowledge and power (Leavy, 2015). The process of inquiry and the research play aim seeks to overcome these hierarchies, but also reflexively explore the limits of critical research in the context such as prisons and in the face of deeply rooted, intergenerational inequality. The thesis comprises an introduction and three parts. Part one outlines the construction and conceptualisation of the research play. The second part is the research play ‘Education will set you free?’ based on five years of intensive, recursive, participatory research with prisoners and youth and which draws on transcript interviews, notes, reflections and participant interactions to problem-pose an array of issues with social justice, educational and policy implications. In describing the research process that took place before the writing of the ethnodrama, and new research that followed after, and in articulating and foregrounding participant voice through the medium of transcript poetry, part three examines and argues for the power of arts-based research to engage with social research questions in holistic and embodied ways. This is offered as a both a personal reflection on the research and the pleasures and challenges of the process, and also as a resource for others interested in creative and participatory methods of exploration and dissemination.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: creative exploration; educational exclusion; prisoners and youth;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 14863
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2021 15:03
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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