Pupils from a low SES differ in their development within the same school context. It is argued that the mechanisms through which education and the school environment as a whole can contribute to the successful development of children from a low SES should be identified and mapped. Therefore a focus on the mechanisms that lead to children with a low SES succeeding, in addition to discussing the reasons for these children not succeeding is proposed. The present research is drawn upon bio-ecological and symbolic interactionist theories of human development in an effort to understand resilience as involving person-context transactions. Specifically, the resilience of adolescents in the school context is studied as a joint function of personal characteristics and social contextual affordances that either promote or thwart the development of person-level, resilient-enhancing characteristics. The study employed inductive as well as deductive methods for knowledge development. Firstly, the concept of “resilience” was defined and operationalized in a Resilience Questionnaire (VVL). This questionnaire was validated on 399 middle-adolescents from five Educational Opportunity Schools in the Netherlands. Secondly, the inductive “Grounded Theory” method was followed with 21 middle-adolescents from three of the five Educational Opportunity Schools. In answer to the main question “How does the school environment contribute to the resilience of middle-adolescent students?”, the school environment can contribute to resilience through facilitating safety and good education. Resilient and Not-Resilient middle-adolescents differ in their dependence on the school environment for their access to these resilience-enhancing circumstances and factors. In relation to the first sub question, “What are resilient middle-adolescents’ perceptions of the contribution of the school environment to their resilience?”, the school environment contributes to the resilience of resilient middle-adolescents by challenging them (e.g with high expectations) and by offering opportunities to create constructive relationships with adults and fellow students in the school environment (e.g through informal conversations and through keeping order in the classroom). In answer to the second and third sub questions, “What are the perceptions of not-resilient middle-adolescents of the contribution of the school environment to their state of resilience?” and “How can the comparison between these two perceptions be explained?”, Not-Resilient middle-adolescents identify and utilise the services and potentially protective factors in the school enviroment less of their own accord than Resilient middle-adolescents do. The school environment can contribute to the resilience of Not-Resilient middle-adolescents by facilitating an overview, insight and positive future expectations in a very direct, controlling manner: An overview over risks for one’s own development and the presence of potential resources to assist one’s own development; insight into his or her own abilities to deal with possible risks; and positive future expectations on the improvement of a situation after a problem or risk has occurred. In summary, the daily situations in the school environment offer enough tools to contribute to the resilience of resilient and not-resilient middle-adolescents. These should, however, be recognised by both the middle-adolescent and the adults in the school environment as opportunities for development, which should subsequently be grasped in order to learn to deal with these challenges constructively.
Thesis (PhD (Learning Supoort, Guidance and Counselling))--University of Pretoria, 2007.