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

2018-01-09T13:01:51Z (GMT) by Gurpinder Singh Lalli
This thesis investigates the impact that food has on social learning at a school in a Midlands city in the UK that I have chosen to call (for reasons of anonymity) Peartree Academy. The premise of my thesis is that the dining hall of the facility can be utilised as a space for fostering social learning. My research explores what happens when a school organises its dining hall as a restaurant. The school dining hall is a place 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 research questions address the impact of the food environment on social learning. The key focus is to explore the social and life skills that pupils develop through meeting, making choices, modelling behaviours, eating, and talking together in a space in the school known as the ‘restaurant’. This is written as an ethnographic case study and adopts a social constructivist position to frame the theoretical aspects of the research. The study is based on pupils in Years 4 – 11 and uses a qualitative research framework for data collection. 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.

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