The primary school as an emotional arena : a case study in collegial relationships

  • Lucy M. Jarzabkowski

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The thesis is an exploratory and descriptive study focusing on the emotional dimensions of collegial relationships in a primary school. The research is timely given the current pressures to develop cultures of collaboration and shared leadership in schools today. The study concentrates on the non-classroom work of teachers and investigates three particular areas of school life: the collegial practices of staff; the emotional milieu of teachers' work; and the contributions of members towards an emotionally healthy staff community. An interpretive tradition has been used in conducting the research, thus giving voice to the perceptions of research participants about their work. The research was conducted as an ethnographic case study. Data were gathered largely through participant observation and interviews. The researcher visited the school on a regular basis through the course of one school year, averaging over one day per week working in the school. Eighteen staff members were formally interviewed, the principal and assistant principal on several occasions. Extensive fieldnotes and interview transcripts were created and, aided by NVivo, a computer package for the analysis of non-statistical data, data were broken down into categories and resynthesised to bring to life a picture of the lived reality of collegiality for staff members in a primary school. The study adds to new knowledge in several important ways. First, it allows for a reconceptualisation of teachers' work. It shows how many different practices contribute to a collegial culture within a primary school and demonstrates how the social and emotional dimensions of collegiality are significant in the development of professional relationships. Second, the study develops an understanding of emotional labour for school personnel and contributes importantly to a broader picture of how emotional labour can be practiced, particularly for the sake of collegiality. It is posited that different kinds of emotional labour exist within the school setting, and that emotional labour in schools may be different from that in some other service organisations. The study explores bounded emotionality as a cultural practice among staff, suggesting that it allows expression of emotions about classroom work while at the same time constrains negative emotional displays so as to build and maintain community. The study suggests that the principles of bounded emotionality, as they operate within the primary school, present both benefits and burdens for a collegial staff, but may encourage an emotionally healthy workplace.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMarie Brennan (Supervisor) & Mike Gaffney (Supervisor)

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