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Doctoral defence at School of education Valgerður S Bjarnadóttir

Tue, 04/06/2019 - 13:00 to 16:00


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Valgerður S Bjarnadóttir defends her doctoral thesis, from the Faculty of Education and Pedagogy, University of Iceland:

The Complexities of Student Influence in Upper Secondary Schools in Iceland:

 Pedagogic Practice and Subject Hierarchies

The current national curriculum for upper secondary education in Iceland frames student influence more explicitly than before. However, the current power structures within the upper secondary school, some of which are strongly related to traditional subject hierarchies, only vaguely support student influence through their pedagogic practice. In four separate articles, this study gives insight into students’ and teachers’ perspectives, reflecting the complexities of student influence in the school setting. Bernstein’s theory on pedagogic codes informed the study.

Four individual data sets are used to explore student influence from different perspectives, using diverse empirical methods. Those include interviews with students and teachers from a research project on upper secondary school practices in nine schools in Iceland, ethnographic data from one school, and interviews with returning-to-school students from one school.


The findings indicate that students do not view representative approaches as legitimate channels for influence. Therefore, students experience inconsistent opportunities to participate in decision-making within their schools. Variations in students’ opportunities to exercise influence within different academic programmes and subjects reveal subject hierarchies within the upper secondary school system. The natural science subjects, particularly mathematics, are on the pinnacle of the hierarchy. Strong framing in mathematics, particularly in the natural science programme, was a gatekeeper to students’ further educational opportunities. The study also suggests that student influence can challenge students’ learning, as it can result in some students losing out on important knowledge. The thesis, therefore, reports on the complexities of student influence and how it can both interrupt and reproduce power structures within the upper secondary school setting, depending on the context, students’ targets, and outcomes.


Doctoral defence at School of Education Valgerður S Bjarnadóttir

Doctoral defence at School of education Valgerður S Bjarnadóttir