Complicating ‘student behaviour’: exploring the discursive constitution of ‘learner subjectivities’

Zsuzsa Millei, Eva Bendix Petersen

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When educators consider ‘student behaviour’, they usually think about ‘problem
behaviour’ such as disruption or defiance. This limited and limiting view of ‘student behaviour’ not only fails to acknowledge children as educational actors in a wider sense, but also narrowly positions educators as either in control or out of control of their classroom. Mainstream educational psychology’s responses to ‘challenging behaviour’ point educators to numerous ways to prevent its occurrence, through, for example, changing their disciplining approaches and techniques. However, much of the advice directed at improving student behaviour fails to interrogate the core notion of ‘student behaviour’ itself, as well as the conceptual baggage that it carries. The focus is squarely on eliminating ‘problem behaviour’ and often resorts to a pathologisation
of students. Meanwhile, when considering ‘student behaviour’ through a
Foucauldian post-structuralist optic, behaviour emerges as something highly complex – as spatialised, embodied action within/against governing discourses. In this opening up, it becomes both possible and critical to defamiliarise oneself with the categorisation of ‘challenging behaviour’ and to interrogate the discourses and subject positionings at play. In this paper, we pursue this task by asking: what happens with the notion of ‘behaviour’ if we change focus from ‘fixing problems’ to looking at the discursive constitution of ‘learner subjectivities’? What does it become possible to see, think, feel and do? In this exploration, we theorise ‘behaviour’ as learning and illustrate the constitution of ‘learner subjectivities’. Drawing on two case scenarios, we explore how
children accomplish themselves as learners and how this accomplishment links the production of subjectivity and embodied action, and illustrate how ‘student/child behaviour’ appears significantly different to what mainstream educational psychology would have us see.
TidsskriftEmotional and Behavioural Difficulties
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)20-34
StatusUdgivet - 2015

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