Plugga stenhårt eller vara rolig? Normer om språk, kön och skolarbete i identitetsskapande språkpraktiker på fordonsprogrammet
Sammanfattning: The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between language, identity construction and learning in the context of the Vehicle programme, a vocational program in Swedish upper secondary schools. The study focuses on language practices and the norms of language, gender and school work that are negotiated in conversations between pupils and between pupils and teachers. The language practices are considered as talk-in-interaction, and identity construction and learning are understood as processes in socially situated activities. The Vehicle programme has its basis in mechanics with links to the vehicle and transport trades, and can be identified as a male-coded program in several respects. The pupils participating in this study were both boys and girls attending a school situated in the North of Sweden. The study was conducted through an ethnographic approach, employing plural methods including observation, field notes, audio-recordings of conversations, and interviews with pupils in focus groups and individually. Recorded conversations were analysed using tools from conversation analysis. The analysis is based on Judith Butler’s theory of gender as performance, Raewyn Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity, and Penelope Eckert’s theory of the heterosexual market. A socio-cultural theory of learning describing communities of practice, by Lave and Wenger, which has also been applied to linguistics by Eckert and McConnell-Ginet, forms the basis of the theoretical framework.The analyses of conversations show that the language practices were confrontational, direct and humorous; characteristics that have strong connections to notions of a masculine conversational style. The pupils were not as aware of interactional patterns as they were of the words they used. Thereby the norms in the community of practice, which were based on notions of masculinity and heterosexuality, were not noticed, and worked as undercurrents in the interaction. The girls participated in the language practices in the same ways as the boys, but contrary to the boys, the girls interpreted the language practices as effects of other things than gender, for example as signs of being independent or daring. They also experienced that adjusting to the expectations of normative middle-class femininity was more oppressive than adjusting to the norms that were negotiated within the community of practice. The conversation analyses also show some of the complexity in teachers’ work and their role as mediators of norms and values. Peer reactions to individual pupil turns in the classroom conversations were of more importance for the development of the conversations than teacher responses. Thus there was usually a homogenization of the expressed perspectives. Norms of heterosexuality were constantly reconstructed in interaction within the community of practice and they controlled the pupils’ understanding of what was perceived as normal or deviant behaviour. Thereby the pupils constrained each other’s school performances in the core subjects and reconstructed a difference between being theoretical and practical, a process that was partly supported by the school as an institution. Generally, the pupils in the community of practice had to balance their identity constructions in relation to the peer group, teacher expectations, and their own ambitions, for which reason learning turned out to be more than just a process of acquiring knowledge.
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