Forstyrret og forstyrrende: Analyser af velfærdsarbejdets viden om elever, som skolen har vanskeligheder med

Publikation: Ph.d. afhandling/ kandidat/ diplomPh.d. afhandlingForskningpeer review


The thesis is a study of knowledge in welfare work addressing the issue of pupils regarded as being troublesome in school: the disturbing pupil. On the basis of fieldwork at two Danish municipal primary schools, interviews with welfare professionals and material consisting of pedagogical journals, the thesis analyses the knowledge as various forms of practice. The knowledge concept and methodology of the thesis are based on Pierre Bourdieu’s field and practice theory, while further drawing on perspectives from Science and Technology Studies, Actor-Network Theory and New Materialism. Confronting the idea of knowledge of welfare work as a neutral competency, the thesis establishes an understanding of knowledge of the disturbing pupil as the dissemination of middle-class reason and the expression of modern efforts to establish order.
The thesis comprises two empirical field studies, which constitute a historical-sociological analysis of the knowledge of the disturbing pupil in welfare work. In the first part of the thesis, the analysis is based on classroom observations, examining how efforts to have a group of children act as a class constitute both general and specific action knowledge across the two schools. The analysis illustrates how this special action knowledge constitutes a socio-material practice that emerges through divisions and the interconnection of elements such as space, objects, time, activities and bodies. The analyses indicate that knowledge practices in classrooms aim at establishing an order that appears to be fragile. There is a constant risk that the disturbing pupil will pop up.
The classroom study involves an examination of processes, in which pupils become disturbing in school and in which efforts are made to stabilise the disturbances in one or several causes: explanation knowledge. The analysis indicates how a number of basic understandings constitute field logical orientation points for what can be thought and done in relation to the disturbing pupil. Interviews with employees from both the school psychologist counselling departments and the child and adolescent psychiatry departments demonstrate how basic understandings constitute more general logics, which are given varying significance depending on institutional vantage point. Such basic understandings are seen to form part of tugs-of-war vis à vis where and how problems should be handled as a result of efforts to protect resources, task areas and status. The analysis also demonstrates that the occurrence of disturbing pupils is associated with the specific pupils and parents in the area and is thus based on collective narratives on characteristics of the individual schools in the municipality.
The second part of the thesis examines the nature of field logics and order-seeking processes in the period 1960-1970. This period was chosen, because it is expected that new school legislation and the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools will entail a clearer expression of ideas about the disturbing pupil and the school. Based on a broad review of pedagogical journals from the period, a number of texts were selected as empirical material. Through analyses, field logics are identified as a number of figures, which, like basic understandings in the current study, are seen to function as orientation points in the field. Another analytical perspective looks at processual aspects of the ways in which operators seek to establish something as knowledge of the disturbing pupil. Here, via extensive descriptions, the analysis demonstrates how knowledge practices as observed through the journals are aimed at “being in control of” the disturbing pupil. One of the characteristics of these practices is the effort to observe signs of deviations, arrange such signs in groups and link them to a cause. It is a practice that attempts to establish order by coupling behavioural signs in types (typologisation), while at the same time creating ambiguities and disorder. The analyses thus indicate that processes, which establish something as knowledge, are associated with a certain degree of arbitrariness: behavioural signs may be attributed to several causes. The discussion of the characteristics relates to Latour’s concept of ‘purification’ as an expression of a modern effort to establish order in the social world.
The thesis analytically develops a number of figures, which can be considered important for the explanation knowledge of the field across the two periods. In the 1960s and in the current study, the disturbing pupil is explained on the basis of a number of different causalities: parents and upbringing; social conditions and development in society; psychological conditions in the child and the family; bodily functions and predispositions; and the layout of the classroom. The analysis shows a relatively stable presence of such basic figures, indicating a certain historical inertia in the knowledge of welfare work. The configuration of the field also shows changes: in the 1960s, the emergence of a socio-psychological under-standing of disturbances; and, in the current study, the absence of psycho-dynamic thinking and the presence of ’culture’ as an explanation that is linked to upbringing in migrant families. At the same time, the analyses show that several of the figures of the field draw on thinking, which functions as an implicit knowledge: notions of the mother and the home. The thesis finds that these underlying figures constitute a social and cultural knowledge that infuse several of the other figures in the field with meaning and substance. Analytically, the mother and the home work as a prism, making it possible to observe how problematic forms of upbringing and home are associated with an absence of middle-class reason.
Thus, overall, the thesis underlines that the knowledge of welfare work is a complex, composite and ongoing effort to create order, which, across various practices, is preoccupied with separating and connecting elements, and establishing explanations. The analyses indicate that this general effort to establish order is based on some relatively stable field figures that provide the disturbing pupil with meaning and set the course for how to handle pupils.

Bevilgende institution
  • Det Frie Forskningsråd/ Kultur og Kommunikation
ISBN'er, trykt0909-9174
StatusUdgivet - 25 jun. 2019


  • Læring, pædagogik og undervisning
  • Uddannelse, professioner og erhverv