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Howdoprisonersexperienceandperceivetheeducation

environmentwithinaprison?Aninterpretative
phenomenologicalanalysisapproach
Slide3
Experiencingeducationatvarioustimescanmakeusthinkaboutwhatisimportantinourlives,wherewe
candevelopandhowwecanuseitinrelationshiptoothers.Themajorityofindividualswillexperience
educationalenvironmentsagainstabackdropofdaytodaysocialroutinesandpracticesoutsideofthat
educationalorganisationthatmakesusapplyorreflectononeslearning.Whathappens,therefore,when
anindividualsabilitytomoveinbetweendifferentsocialenvironmentsistakenawayorgreatlyreduced?

Slide4
This research project examines such a situation, when what it is like to experience an educational
organisationwithinanotherorganisation,namelyamaleadultprison,wherethedistancebetweenthem
canliterallybeafewwalkingsteps.

Slide5
As Duguid (2000:49) suggests, prisons are environments where a cultivation of opposites exist,
recognisingprisonsasnotonlyinexistenceasaformofpunishmentandretributionbuttorehabilitate
and develop offenders learning and cognitive skills. With this in mind a dilemma exists between the
objectivesofprisonsaseitherorganisationsthatpunishorattemptstoreformandleadindividualsso
theycanreentersocietyandtheircommunitieswithgreaterunderstandingandskills.
Although the creation of objectives or hypotheses goes against the principles of Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research, it is possible to create objectives in relation to
phenomenologicalexperiencesofasituation.Inthiscasetheywere:

Whatareindividualsexperiencesoftheprisonandeducationenvironmentsandarethere
anyimpactsonthewaytheyperceivethem?

Didtheexperienceofbothenvironmentsmakethemviewtheirperceptionsofself,andif
so,how?

How, if any, did meaning making take place and where in the context of prison or
education?

Slide6
ThedecisiontoemployIPAastheresearchmethodfortheprojectwasasaresultofitsabilitytouncover
peopleslifeworlds,ofwhathappenswhentheeverydayflowoflivedexperiencetakesonaparticular
significanceforpeople(Smithetal,2009:1).
AttheheartofIPAisabeliefthatthewaypeopledescribetheirsituationorexperiencethroughtheirtalk
orlinguisticmannerprovidesarouteintotheirthinkingandemotivestateofasituation.
Itfollowstwomainprinciplesofanalysisinitsprocesses,thephenomenologicalandtheinterpretative.
Firstly, it is phenomenological due to its commitment to studying in detail the particular phenomena
experiencedandgivenmeaningbytherespectiveperson,ratherthanlookingatthesituationfroma
broadertheoreticalperspective.
Thesecondpartoftheanalysis,theinterpretativestage,attemptstolinkwhattheparticipantssay,the
descriptionstheyuseforthesituation,toanunderstandinghowtheymayhavereachedthatpositionof
thought,theircognitiveprocesses.

Slide7
Whilstinmostconventionalmethodsofresearch,theliteraturereviewhasthepurposeofintroducing
previous literature and contributes towards a particular hypothesis to be tested, instead a literature
reviewaspartofanIPAstudyprovidesasnapshotofhowtheresearcherhascometounderstandthe
situationthattheparticipantsareexperiencing,tothebestoftheirabilitytodoso.
Fulcher and Smiths (2001) distinction between organisations and institutions is helpful to
understandinghowprisonshavedevelopedovertimetoplayalargerrolewithinsociety.Institutionsare
thevariousactivitiesthatmakeupsociallife,suchasmarriage,markets,educationalcurricula,religious
ritualsandlaw,providingordertodifferentaspectsofthewaythatwelive.Meanwhile,organisations
areformed,suchasbusinesscorporations,churches,schoolsandprisons,tofulfilsocialinstitutions.They
haveadefinedmembershipandcertainrulesofbehaviour,whilstmoreimportantlytheycarryouttheir
socialactivitywithaclearlystatedandspecificgoal.AnimportantpointthatFulcherandSmith(2001:10)
raiseisthatthereisacomplexitysurroundinginstitutions,wherebytheyareverycloselyrelatedtoeach
otherandthisinterrelationshipmeansthatinstitutionsshouldnotbestudiedinisolationfromeach

other.Asaresult,withtheincreaseofhumanscience,prisonshavehadtoincludeotherinstitutions
asidefromprovidingpunishment.

Slide8
OneofthemostprominenttheoriesaroundprisonsasorganisationswasbyGoffmanin1961whenhe
introducedtheideaoftotalinstitutions,withEtzoni(1975),infact,latercalledthemtotalorganisations.
Goffmanwasinterestedinthecoercivenatureofthepowerrelationsthatoperatedbetweenmembers
deemed as inmates of that institution and those who worked within, in particular the effect it had
individualssenseofself(Fulcher&Smith,2001:544).
Thegreatesteffect,however,wasinwhatGoffmantermedthemoralcareerofaninmate,theabilityto
rewrite inmates identities and their senses of self through physical, spatial, temporal and cultural
enclosure.Theresultofthisprocessistheshapingofinmatesselfidentitiesthroughtheorganisational
arrangements,seekingtoerasenotjustelementsofthepersonbuttheirentireidentity.Thiswasdone
through:

symbolicequipmentbeingremovedfromtheindividualthatemphasisedindividualselfhoodoridentity;

personal possessions are removed and individuals are given standard issue equipment to reinforce
uniformidentity;

boundariesbetweeninsideandoutsideareexplicitlymade

exposuretoobjects,placesandpeoplewhomtheywouldnotnormallychoosetoassociatewith

Slide9
Goffmanhighlightsthatindividualsmakesecondaryadjustmentstoaccommodatethemselvestothe
situation,makingtheenvironmentmorecomfortableandtryingtodefendonesrealself.Subtleforms
of resilience can be made through acts of performance that are consciously performed strategies to
controltheimpressionstheycreateandseektomake.Thesecanbepreexisting,embeddedwhollyforms
ofselfthatarepresentpriortoenteringtheorganisation,whichhaveremainedconsistent.
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The position, however, that previous ideas of self and identity being stripped away appears counter
productivetosomeeducationalthinkingandthatadeterminationnottobeaffectedbythemoralcareer
isusefulforlearningreasonsandpartofreintegrationbackintosociety.

Suchaproposal,wherebyeducationmayhaveasecondaryimpactoncommunitiesandthereforesociety
as a whole,was propelled in the 1990s around the concept of a learning society wherebyeducation
systemscouldencourageindividualstocontinuetheirlearningthroughouttheirlifespanandusetheir
previous experiences as part of that learning. Social constructivism, for example, is when persons are
actively engaged in the creation of their own phenomenal world, in that, rather than everyone
experiencingeventsorsituationsinanorganisedorpredictivemanner,individualsperceivetheworld
differentlyandactivelycreatetheirownmeaningsfromevents(Burr,2003:19).

Slide11
Selectingthesamplewasbasedonguidance,recommendingthatasmallsamplegivesamoredetailed
analysis.Thebenefitsofthisallowedformoreindepthengagementwiththeparticipants,uncovering
theirperceptionsandunderstanding,butalsointermsofsimilarityanddifference.
Astheissuewasquitespecific,intermsofhowindividualsexperiencetheeducationenvironmentwithin
prison,thesamplewashomogeneousinthesensetheywereattendingeducationandimprisonedinthe
prisonwings.Thesamplechosenhadalsoexperiencedbotheducationdepartmentsasitissplitintotwo
sites.Semistructuredinterviewswereconducted,employingquestionsthatwereopen,explorativeand
encouragedparticipantstoreflectonexperiencesandfeelings.

Slide12
AsanIPAstudyisadetailedanalysisofanindividual,onthescreennowarethepersonaldetailsofthe
participants.Theirnameshavebeenchangedforconfidentiallyreasons.

Slide13
Completionofthedataanalysisresultedinfourthemesthatdescribetheparticipantslivedexperience
of undertaking education whilst in prison. In regards to the title of this session, Activity, Agency and
Organisation,themostpertinentofthesefindingswillbediscussed.
Educationasanorganisation
Firstly, using Fulcher and Smiths (2010:10) definitions between education as an organisation and
learningasaninstitutionhelpstounderstandtheparticularroleseducationplayswithinthecontextof
prisons, as ideas about education as an organisational environment or space can have very different

meanings than the idea of education as a learning process, as an individual or social institution and
activity.
Educationasanorganisationwasfeltbyalloftheparticipantstoholdmoresignificancefortheminterms
ofplayingapartintheirlivesuponrelease.ThisfallsinlinewithadistinctionmadebyGoffman(1961)
aboutorganisationalscope,wherebyorganisationscanbeseentotheextentofhowmuchtheycreate
abarriertosocialintercoursewiththeoutside.Educationcontainedandreplicatedelementsofsociety
outsideofprison,includingthebehavioursandattitudesondisplay,familiarroutinessuchasreadingand
discussingissuesrelatedtotopicsoutsideofprison,andobjectssuchascomputersandbooks.

Slide14
Johnwasmostawareofthesedistinction,asyoucanseeinthefollowingquotes.

Slide15
Thespaceineducationalsoenabledtheparticipantsofbeingabletothinkandreflectonpersonalissues
moreproductively,escapingthefeelingofbeinglockedinyourself,asNadifexplained.Thissupportsthe
idea that not only does an individuals previous life experiences provide useful input into education
environments, it also, in a prison context, enables some individuals to process and reflect on these
experiencesinamoreconstructivemanner.

Slide16
For Teige, who throughout the interview saw his level of intellect higher than his peers, not only
benefitted from the debates and learning that took place, he welcomed the idea of being given
responsibilitywithintheclassroom.

Slide17
SothesecondthemegoesontoEducationasanactivity
Education,intermsoflearningasasocialinstitutionoractivity,holdsdistinctdifferencesandappearsin
thisstudytoactasasecondaryadjustmenttowhatGoffman(1961)calledthemoralcareer.

Whilst it is apparent that all the participants felt the need to apply to prison rules and regimes,
acknowledgingthatinappropriatebehaviourwasmatchedbyprisonofficersthroughtherestrictionof
movement and privileges, they felt that through their perceptions of self, including past, present and
futureones,theywereabletomanagethesituationintheirowndiscreteandselfdeterministicway.

Slide18
ForTeige,themostcommondistinctioncomingoutofhisaccountwasthedeterminationandeagerness
topreservehissenseofbeinghuman.Hewasabletodothisbymaintainingandperformingbothinan
intellectualandmoralisticfashion.
Hefoundhumanqualitiesinbeingabletohelpandassistothersthroughouttheprison,suchasthefirst
quotehelpingSpanishinmates,andthesecondquote,preservingspacesfromamoralstandpoint.

Slide19
In Johns case, the motivation for him appeared to be the pursuit of what he perceived as normal
environmentswithintheprison,notonlyincludingtheeducationclassroomsbutalsoattendingchurch
and the library. John perceived normality on a number of different levels, including behaviours from
others, the routines and rituals of certain environments, and through objects in his perceived normal
spaces.FurthermoreforJohn,whohadbeeninprisondecadesbeforeandwhohadreachedretirement
age,herecognisedaculturalshiftintheprisonpopulationandhissenseofselfnolongermatchingthe
abnormalprisonidentityashesawit.

Slide20
Nadifspursuit,especiallythatofeducationandlearning,suggestsanattempttobesomeonewhohe
reallywantstobe,ofreturningtoaprevioussenseofselfbeforeheexperiencedfamilyproblems,feeling
educatedandincontrolofthedirectionofhislife.
Afurtherimagehehadofhimselfappearstobeoneasalearnedindividual,reflectingandgainingnot
onlyfromhisownexperiencesbutthoseofothers.Awisemaninhiseyes.

Slide21
Heactsthisoutthroughouttheprison,preparedtolistenandhelpothersthroughtheirproblemsand
situations.

Slide22
As with IPA, the results of the analysis are discussed further with the help of previous research and
understandingaroundsimilarfindings.Inthiscase,theworkofBhabhasThirdSpaceandDenshires
NormalSpacesinAbnormalPlacesprovidedthebasisforfurthertheoreticalinvestigation.
Third Space, according to Bhabha, describes a psychologically conceived space which sits inbetween
spaces, or environments, made up of conflicting discursive and social interactions. In this case the
retributive makeup of prisons and the rehabilitative structures within education, as divisive binary
opposites,participantscreatedtheirowncombinationofideasandwaysofthinking.
ItwasWilsonin2003whointroducedthisideatotheprisoncontext.
Asthosewhospendtimeinprisonsremainawarebothoftheoutsideworldstheyhaveleftbehindand
theperceivedthreatofPrisonisationwithwhichtheyarefaced.Ratherthanforgettheformerortobe
drawnintothelatter,ImaintainandprisonersvalidatethatacquiredknowledgeofbothPrisonand
Outsideallowsthemtocreateaculturallyspecificenvironmentathirdspaceinwhichtoliveouttheir
everydaylives.(Wilson,2003:5).

Another concept which could be said to be present during these accounts is the notion of perceiving
normalspaceswithinabnormalplacesbyDenshirein1985.Denshireexamineshowhospitalfacilities
andenvironments,drawingupontheideasofnonhumanenvironmentsvoidofoutsideinteractionsand
objects, often demand a passive and vulnerable role from patients, exacerbating feelings of
helplessness.

Alongsidetheideathatprisonersmayexperiencenormalspaceswithinabnormalplaces,suchasJohn
explicitlymentionedinhisaccount,andthatthirdspacemayprovideawayforindividualstomaintaina
senseofidentity,thisstudywouldliketoproposeafurtherdimension.

Slide23
Whilstthesetwoadditionalconceptsdescribehoweducationandlearningcanprovideaspacetoprotect
onesself,considerationcouldalsobemadethatgoesbeyondthespatialfocusonenvironmentsandthe
performancesofotherswithinthesespaces.Incorporatinghowindividualsmanageotherformsofbinary
oppositesthattheythemselveshavecreated,suchashowindividualsperceivenormalandabnormal
perceptionsofselfbasedonpastandpresentevents,orfutureimagesoftheself.Theseideasaresimilar
tothoseofWilson,however,theyincludethedistinctfearsofeachindividualratherthanabroaderthreat
ofprisonisation.So,tofinish,drawingontheexperiencesofJohn,feelinghenolongeridentifiedhimself
withprisons,Nadif,whoenvisionedafutureselfworkinglonghoursinwarehouses,andTeige,concerned
abouttheeffectofprisonsmayhaveonhislevelofhumanity,itcouldbearguedthatattendingeducation
meanttheycouldcounteractagainstabnormalimagesofselfandbuilduponthenewmeaningtheyhad
made.
Thankyouforlistening.