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Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

On-line version ISSN 1445-7377
Print version ISSN 2079-7222

Indo-Pac. j. phenomenol. (Online) vol.12 n.1 Grahamstown May. 2012 

What did you learn in school today?



Carina Henriksson




This article conveys some of the findings from a hermeneutic-phenomenological study on lived experiences of school failure. The informants were students in Swedish senior high schools and teenagers in Swedish juvenile institutions. Contrary to the common belief that school failure is related to low grades or failing exams, the students' descriptions of lived experiences of failure had little to do with intellectual shortcomings. The students' interpretation of my research question did not encompass cognitive deficiencies. They rarely spoke of failure to understand, or failure to meet scholastic demands. Instead, the students offered stories about failure to behave according to expectations and the way in which they experienced their teachers' reactions to this 'deviant' behaviour. Thus, the question of school failure did not revolve around the students' cognitive knowledge and proficiency - or lack of thereof - but around the hidden curriculum. The feelings the students lived through while experiencing failure included lack of trust, confidence, belief, joyfulness, patience, hope, and serenity. The study has moral implications for pedagogical practice and the formative relationship between teachers and students.



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About the Author



Carina Henriksson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education, Psychology and Sport Science, Linnaeus University, Sweden. She teaches phenomenological pedagogy and the philosophy of science as well as qualitative methodology and methods. Carina's fields of interest include student school failure, student drop-out, the pedagogical relationship, hermeneutic-phenomenological methodology, research, and writing. Her most recent publications are Hermeneutic Phenomenology in Education: Method and Practice (2012, in press); Klassrumsflyktingar. Pedagogiska situationer och relationer i klassrummet [Classroom Refugees, Pedagogical Situations and Relations in the Classroom] (2009); and Living Away from Blessings: School Failure as Lived Experience (2008). Carina is also editor of the journal Phenomenology & Practice. After four years at universities in Singapore, Thailand, and Brunei, Carina now lives in Canberra, where she continues to research her field of interest and lecture at different universities in Australia and New Zealand. E-mail address:

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