Perceptions and experiences of teacher surveillance: a case study of an independent school

Unsworth-Hughes, Charlotte Elizabeth (2022). Perceptions and experiences of teacher surveillance: a case study of an independent school. University of Birmingham. Ed.D.

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My research looks at education in the context of today’s ‘surveillance society’. It aims to conceptualise flows of surveillance in the independent school context, and to establish their impacts. The positioning of the teacher has undergone a significant shift as a result of the increasing role of surveillance in our liquid-modern and increasingly consumer-driven society; the historically one-way process of the teacher surveilling the pupil has been replaced with a complex web, or assemblage, of surveillance, with the teacher of the centre of it, and surveilled by various stakeholders, such as parents, pupils, management, colleagues, and even intrapersonally.

This thesis outlines my case-study of one independent school in the South of England amid a move to a ‘glass walls culture’, and offers findings from twenty-three interviews undertaken with teachers, Heads of Departments, pupils, parents, and Senior Leadership members regarding their experiences of, and views on, the surveillance of the teacher. Using Page’s (2017a) work on teacher surveillance as a valuable starting point, my research outlines more than thirty different ways that teachers are surveilled in schools, as demonstrated by my diagram ‘the Surveillant 360’, which outlines ways in which knowledge is accessed, generated and shared. The application of Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) theorisation of desire lines shines a light on ways in which teachers are surveilled by different surveillant stakeholders, and how power relations are destabilised. The case is made that the surveillant assemblage is characterised by liquidity, multiplicity and exchangeability, and that there is a shift from surveillance undertaken by external stakeholders to more intrapersonal surveillance.

Ultimately, surveillance is shown to be neither positive nor negative in and of itself, yet it is the ways in which the surveillant knowledge is used, and individuals’ perceptions of such, that is significant. The surveillance of the teacher can lead to feelings of validation, a sense of care and protection, and have developmental benefits. However, my findings also suggest that the surveillance of the teacher can result in suspicion, frustration, increased workload, and, perhaps, most concerning of all – an ontological insecurity and shift in focus of the teacher whereby they put the ways in which they are seen by others above the needs of their pupils. This study is significant not only in that it treads new ground by being located within the independent sector, but also because it is the most in-depth application of assemblage theory to surveillance in education to date, and it can be of great use to policy-makers.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ed.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ed.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools


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