Doing Relationships in a More-than-Human Learning Environment: A Posthumanist Inquiry

Rennolds, Natasha (2022) Doing Relationships in a More-than-Human Learning Environment: A Posthumanist Inquiry. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis explores the ‘doing’ of relationships within a more-than-human learning environment and the learning generated in that context. Research evidence indicates that building supportive and trusting relationships between adults and young people leads to positive learning outcomes for young people. However, what elements constitute the ‘doing’ of relationships and how they are enacted is less evident. This thesis explores how relationships are constituted or ‘done’ on a day-to-day basis and how learning is generated through the assemblage of human and more-than-human elements.

This thesis combines a critical posthumanist framework with an ethnographic methodology to examine relationships and learning within the National Citizenship Service (NCS), a government sponsored, community-based programme. This study attempts to demonstrate how thinking with posthuman practices pays heed to the relationality and interconnectedness of the world, drawing attention to the more-than-human in messy, dynamic entanglements. A cohort of 68 young people, aged 16 years and 11 staff, aged 18-25 years, were followed as they participated in the four-week NCS programme across a range of learning contexts that included an outdoor education centre, a university campus, a college classroom and sites within the local community. Whilst research on relationships and learning predominantly focuses on the human-to-human interaction, posthumanism troubles the anthropocentrism of this approach. This posthuman ethnography moves across these times and spaces to analyse how learning and relationships emerge in these material-discursive iterations.

The substantive chapters focus on the materiality and temporality of learning moments during the programme. By using encounters between young people, adults and the material elements in specific times, the thesis demonstrates the vibrancy and agency of a chair, of noise and the use of mobile phones, and their implications in personal or group learning. Doing this challenges the many binaries of adult-young person, material-human, teacher-taught, individual-environment, thinking-doing, that permeate educational research. This thesis attempts to demonstrate that the promise of posthuman, post-qualitative inquiry may lie in the new/alternative perspectives and insights they offer to practice education in less anthropocentric ways.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 22 May 2023 11:04
Last Modified: 22 May 2023 11:04


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