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Mobilizing Foucault: history, subjectivity and autonomous learners in nurse education

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DARBYSHIRE C, FLEMING VEM. Nursing Inquiry 2008; 15: 263 –269

Mobilizing Foucault: history, subjectivity and autonomous learners in nurse education

In the past 20, years the impact of progressive educational theories have become influential in nurse education particularly in relation to partnership and empowerment between lecturers and students and the development of student autonomy. The introduction of these progressive theories was in response to the criticisms that nurse education was characterized by hierarchical and asymmetrical power relationships between lecturers and students that encouraged rote learning and stifled student autonomy. This article explores how the work of Michel Foucault can be mobilized to think about autonomy in three different yet overlapping ways: as a historical event; as a discursive practice; and as part of an overall strategy to produce a specific student subject position. The implications for educational practice are that, rather than a site where students are empowered, nurse education is both a factory and a laboratory where new subjectivities are continually being constructed. This suggests that empowering practices and disciplinary practices uneasily co-exist. Critical reflection needs to be directed not only at structural dimensions of power but also on ourselves as students and lecturers by asking a Foucauldian question: How are you interested in autonomy?
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Keywords: Foucault; autonomous learners; history; nurse education; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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