Bailey, Gillian (2013) The erosion of good education? The impact of liquid modernity on trainee teachers’ experiences in further education. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis explores the question of what constitutes ‘good education’ in the 21st Century, particularly in the context of the further education (FE) sector, and argues that an intensified regime of performativity in FE colleges has resulted in the dominance of an increasingly impoverished model of education. This ethnographic study, undertaken from 2009 to 2012, analyses the experiences of two cohorts of trainee FE teachers as they progressed through their Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) years. The methodology explicitly foregrounds the role of serendipity in the research, and its role in revealing critical moments in the students’ encounters with the FE workplace. The data include field notes of PGCE class discussions, students’ reflective diaries and my own reflections.

An initial literature review explores the notion of ‘good education’ and the sociopolitical policies which have reshaped it, with a particular focus on their impact on FE teachers. My readings of other relevant literature are then integrated with the research findings, providing a context against which to interpret the data. The thesis also draws on an eclectic range of theory including critical pedagogy, social theories of time and analyses of consumerism in contemporary culture in order to offer a multi-layered explanation of the findings and to identify three key themes: the scripting of teachers and their practices; time pressures on teachers and students’ sense of consumer-driven entitlement. These themes are then synthesised using the overarching framework of Bauman’s (2000) concept of liquid modernity. I argue that this concept offers a holistic explanation of the forces impacting negatively on teachers and their practices. The study concludes by exploring opportunities for teacher resistance to such negative impacts and recommending strategies which might be adopted in a bid to reinstate a model of good education in colleges of further education.

The thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge in a number of ways. It is innovative in its explicit use of serendipity in the field of FE research. It contributes new knowledge about the recent intensification of instrumentalism in FE, showing that this is not simply a static phenomenon. It provides evidence of new intensifications of managerial control over the teacher and his/her practice, shifting from broad prescriptions to direct scripting. This is linked to an innovative application of social theories of time to FE teachers' initial education and workplace experience, revealing the intensification of time pressures and their impact. I also link these to the emergence of a consumerist sense of entitlement among students, and its impact on student-teacher relations and the nature of education, which have not previously been discussed in depth in the literature on FE. Finally, the thesis offers an original and holistic interpretation of all three themes using Bauman's (2000) concept of liquid modernity, and utilises this synthesis to offer strategies for transforming the nature of education in FE.

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