An Ordinary School Child : Agency and Authority in Children’s Schooling

Abstract: The aim of this doctoral thesis is to explore the position, and the restrictions and possibilities for action available to children in a Swedish mainstream school class. With focus on everyday activities the questions generated were: whether being a member of a specific school class has significance; how the children position themselves in negotiations of time and space; in what manner the children can claim, and be granted, command over their school day activities; and what happens when the adults’ right to control becomes visible.The main data are fieldnotes generated through participant observation where the researcher was positioned as a student participating in the children’s activities. Two theoretical discussions underpin this study, the concept of generation which is used to explore the relationship between children and adults in school at a general level, and positioning theory which is used to understand the multiplicity and fluidity of this relationship on the individual and specific level.It was found that the children’s positioning in relation to the adults in school occurs within two relationships, generational and institutional, and that the two merge and reinforce one another. While the institutional relationship orders the staff–student positioning in school activities the participants are producing and reproducing the generational categories of children and adults, linking this to a generational order.It is further shown that in relation to this the children may be positioned both as vulnerable and incomplete children and as professional pupils. The positioning as professional pupil indicates that although the children are positioned as subordinate within both relationships, this subordination does not exclude children agency. In the study class the teacher encourages agency and the children are found to be active in their positioning, in their participation and in their schooling.