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    Respect & Recognition: What’s the Story?

    Nolan, Suzanne (2012) Respect & Recognition: What’s the Story? PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    How do adults experience disrespect and respect in education? How do these experiences affect their identities, relationships and life choices? Has this return to learning had an impact on confidence, self-esteem or personal worth? What does education mean to the learner? In an attempt to answer these questions this research study explores the experience of respect in the lives of 8 students on a pre-access course in inner-city Dublin. My intention is to understand how the experience of respect or indeed the lack of respect affected their learning journeys and their life choices. The work of the American sociologist, Richard Sennett, informed my reading of respect and its impact on the individual in the new capitalism. This thesis introduces Sennett’s work as offering a wealth of observations and concepts important to adult educators struggling to navigate the fragmented and shifting waterways of neo liberal, instrumental education. This study is embedded in the recognition theory of Axel Honneth and Sennett’s research concerning respect over the past four decades. The methodology is grounded in social constructionism and the theory contributing is from the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. The experiences of the research participants were accessed using narrative enquiry in one to one interviews. The research produced is qualitative and gleaned from the stories these individuals shared concerning their learning journeys, both in childhood and as adults. The primary sensitizing concept used in this research is respect. As such, learners’ life histories will be interpreted as containing moments of respect and disrespect and the consequences investigated. The research participants were positive in their views and experiences of returning to education. Each participant affirmed that education had increased her self-esteem and instilled in her the confidence to continue to engage and pursue further study at third level. The research clearly shows how little monetary reward is considered in the return to education. The primary aim of the participants is a general one of self improvement and development. As early school leavers the individuals in this research considered the path to third level a magical one that only the learned few could attain. The re engagement with education demystified this outlook and demonstrated how much could be achieved with the crucial ingredient of support. The findings of this research attest to the central role of respect both in the learning process and in the development of the individual. Relationships are at the centre of these learners’ stories; relationships that are interpreted as either respectful or disrespectful. These relationships are filled with incidents that are intensely personal and impact on how the individual perceives herself, forms relationships and makes life choices. The increase in confidence and self-esteem of the participants in this research has two aspects that inter relate; this is the connection between relationships and successful learning. The experience of respect is telling someone that they can achieve, that they are intelligent, they have value. In these interviews this happens in the classroom and replicates moments these research participants did not experience as children or young adults. Recommendations include raising awareness of the dynamics of intersubjective recognition for positive learning and self-esteem and the central role of respect for an adult education that seeks to promote citizenship and democratic participation. As such, the interpersonal space must now replace student centred learning as education is recognised as a mutual act that takes place together; it is not an individual process. And finally, educational relationships that are grounded in respect increase the self esteem of the learner and allow for the growth of confidence and personal worth so essential for the well-being of the individual and of society. This thesis is part of a re-defining of the concept of curriculum; lifelong learning is not a servant to the economy but is an essential element of being well and well being.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Respect; Recognition;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
    Item ID: 4779
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2014 14:00
      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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