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Reflection as confession: discipline and docility in/on the student body

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This article examines the reflective turn in student education. It draws on Foucault (1977, 1979, 1980) to analyse a student response questionnaire using a methodology derived from textual analysis. The articles investigates the idea of self-governance and situates the student within a regime of self-examination and self-surveillance. This is linked to a notion of power that operates from within the student, rather than from above. In the process of becoming a ‘student subject’ the student becomes a self-monitoring agent. The author argues that the imperative of confession is used to situate the student within a particular nexus of power. The article interrogates the idea of the rational subject of the enlightenment that is constructed by the questionnaire, and argues that the ‘student’ is a product of discursive educational practices. The notion of learning that is implied by the questionnaire does not directly address issues of class and cultural capital, but these issues can be unpacked from the questionnaire, which also offers up an idealized, masculinized subject position for the learner.
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Keywords: confession; discourse; power; reflection; student; subjectivity; surveillance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Thames Valley University

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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