But on Whose Scale? Staff and Student Perspectives on Valued and Valuable Outcomes in the ‘Counter-Spaces' of Flexible Learning Programs

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Vicky PLOWS, Victoria University, Australia
Dorothy BOTTRELL, Victoria University, Australia
Kitty TE RIELE, Victoria University, Australia
For marginalised young people alternative education settings, referred to here as flexible learning programs, are thought to provide a powerful ‘counter-space’ to damaging and exclusionary experiences of mainstream schooling. Such programs are, however, inherently contradictory with potential to also re-produce stigma and disadvantage. The provision of secondary schooling via flexible learning programs is significant. In Australia, for example, the sector serves over 70,000 students. To address educational inequalities we need a better understanding of student experiences and outcomes in these educational spaces. Drawing on interview data with staff, students and graduates from two flexible learning programs located in metro and regional Victoria, Australia, this paper adapts Edward Soja’s (1996) theorisation of the conceived, perceived and lived space to explore what outcomes are valued, and how success is measured, in these programs. The paper shows that a diverse range of academic, social and personal outcomes are articulated by staff and students in ways that are meaningful to the students’ experiences but also to external mainstream systems. This diversity of outcomes and measures of success support a more expansive vision of schooling than dominant perspectives. This has implications for traditional and alternative educational spaces, as well as the relationship between them. The paper suggests that these FLPs operate both as counter-spaces, and as third space, a hybrid place bringing together the conventional and the alternative to create a valued and valuable education for marginalised young people.