Dissertation Abstracts

The Restaurant: A space for social learning? An ethnographic case study of an Academy school

Author: Gurpinder S Lalli, glalli@wlv.ac.uk
Department: School of Education
University: University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Professor Hilary Burgess
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: School meals , Ethnography , Surveillance , Social learning
Areas of Research: Social Transformations and Sociology of Development , Community Research , Education


This thesis investigates the impact that food has on social learning in one UK school. The school dining hall is a space often neglected in research, and this thesis demonstrates that there is much to be gained for both pupils and staff from interaction in eating spaces. The key focus is to explore the social and life skills that pupils develop through meeting, making choices, modelling behaviours, eating, and conversing together in a space in the school known as the ‘restaurant’. An ethnographic case study approach alongside a social constructivist framework is adopted. Furthermore, notions of discipline and surveillance are introduced using the work of Foucault. The findings emphasise the tensions and challenges between the aims of the school - to create an eating space that promotes social values and encourages the development of social skills - and the activities of teachers and catering assistants, who face the challenge of managing and providing food for a large number of pupils daily. The thesis concludes that, like the traditional classroom, a school dining area also requires conscientious environmental adaptation in order for social learning opportunities to take place.