Adult refugee learners in the Norwegian school system. An exercise in mental contortionism?
Are the aims of competence in Social Studies, LK06 applicable to adult refugee learners? This thesis aims to answer this research problem by investigating how different discourse perspectives interfere in the production of text in the classroom, and how connotations to topic relevant words affect academic achievement. Basil Bernstein’s theory on agent and structure offers the main theoretical framework of which to discuss how power relations and framing of the educational system affects learners’ academic success. The cognitive and psychological aspects of identity are explained through Jack Mezirow’s concept of transformative learning and George Herbert Mead’s theory on “the self”. These theoretical concepts are further linked with socialisation theory. The study combines document analysis of the curriculum and criteria of academic achievement with Critical Discourse Analysis of informants’ utterances, inspired by Norman Fairclough’s framework. Critical Realism forms the scientific orientation of the study, where multi-level analysis discloses how invisible, yet causal powers produce empiric events. A focus group of five refugee learners, individual follow-up interviews of the same informants, and individual interview of the subject teacher have provided new empirics to the analysis. The study shows that the aims of competence in the curriculum in Social Studies are unrealistically hard to achieve at higher grades to this specific group of learners. Culturally developed connotations and a strong presence of moral discourse influences the learners’ conception of words and the meaning they add to them. Time and space issues affect learners’ ability of expression and thereby their access to higher grades. Knowledge considered mundane in the Norwegian educational culture, seems to be esoteric to the informants in this study. This, in combination with a school system that appears weakly framed, but is actually strongly framed by requirements that the learners are not able to identify, makes the acquisition of relevant skills such as critical thinking a hard task to carry out. The Educational Act manifested in LK06 seeks to promote re-socialisation and transformative learning in this specific group of learners, and by that a change of identity, of which the educational facilities do not provide sufficiently. Consequently, the curriculum discriminates learners on the base of cultural background.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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