University of Tasmania
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Cultural wellbeing in classroom communities : a constructivist grounded theory study

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:21 authored by Sherridan EmerySherridan Emery
Wellbeing is an increasingly important topic of schooling policy and research internationally. There is growing awareness that many young people experience challenges to their wellbeing during their schooling years. Supporting student wellbeing is a stated goal of Australian education policy and is embedded in the Australian Curriculum. While research focusing on wellbeing has extended understandings of its physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual aspects, cultural aspects of wellbeing remain underexplored. The very term culture is one that has various and contested meanings across an array of research disciplines. In educational research, potential convergences between culture (variously conceptualised) and wellbeing, and their role in learning are being realised. This study contributes to this emerging area by exploring educators' perceptions and practices of cultural wellbeing in classroom communities. Three research questions framed the inquiry: (i) What are educators' perceptions of cultural wellbeing? (ii) How do educators support cultural wellbeing in classroom communities? and (iii) What might a typology of cultural wellbeing look like? The research integrated constructivist grounded theory methodology with situational analysis to explore a multiplicity of interpretations of cultural wellbeing, while also interrogating complex power relations that the concept of cultural wellbeing surfaced. The primary data source for the study was a series of interviews with 15 educators from schools across a range of socio-economic settings. The findings revealed that educators constructed varied and multiple meanings of cultural wellbeing which were informed by fluid interpretations of culture. This thesis reveals that educators perceived that cultural wellbeing related to students' sense of connection to school, to people, places and cultures and that educators perceived they supported cultural wellbeing through enabling such connections to form. Three prominent interpretations of culture were evident in the educators' accounts and became the basis for a typology of cultural wellbeing which was produced within the study and employed for analysing the multiple ways in which educators' cultural locations informed their perceptions of cultural wellbeing. The three components of the typology of cultural wellbeing related to (i) school culture, or the ways of life in the school, (ii) processes of recognition, and (iii) cultural participation and production. Considering educators' perceptions of cultural wellbeing in the context of schooling in Australia reveals the many ways that schools continue to reproduce social and cultural inequalities. This occurs through the unequal access to forms of capital that educators in high and low socio-economic locations have for supporting students' cultural wellbeing. Inequalities are also reproduced through the reinscribing of dominant mainstream culture within schools. Schooling is concerned with broad goals of increasing equity and this thesis troubles school cultures, the ways that students are unequally recognised in schooling and the generative possibilities of cultural participation and production. In proposing a typology of cultural wellbeing, this thesis offer insights into how educators' social and cultural locations influence their perceptions of cultural wellbeing and how they perceive they support cultural wellbeing in their classroom communities. These insights may inform strategic approaches for supporting cultural wellbeing in improving the quality of schooling towards greater equality for all students.


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