The main empirical research question of this thesis is: how do children’s personal narratives influence their choices at school and more broadly? This question is supported by supplementary research questions which are concerned with exploring the development of children’s personal narratives and how they influence the choices that children make at primary school. The current scope of research in this field is limited. This study explores children’s personal narratives in relation to their lived experience of success using two main theories, Ricoeur's prefiguration, configuration and refiguration model (Ricoeur, 1988; Ricoeur, 2002) and Bourdieu’s ‘field theory’ (Bourdieu, 1977a; Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977b; Bourdieu, 1986; Bourdieu, 1990b). These theories are then combined with Priestley, Biesta and Robinson’s (2015) ‘ecological model’ of agency to examine how personal narratives influence practice or the choices that young children make at school. The empirical research component of this study took place in four English primary schools in the South-west of England. Ten semi-structured interviews, informed by a hermeneutic-phenomenological approach, were conducted with pairs of twenty 10 or 11-year-old children. An interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to explore the narratives produced by the interviews. The findings of this thesis provide some evidence to demonstrate how personal narratives, the stories that children tell about themselves, are important in influencing the choices that they make at school. The findings also point to how the good work that could be done in English state primary school’s to promote the development of useful personal narratives in children has been overshadowed by issues of neoliberal performativity (Ball, 2006; Keddie, 2016).

Document Type


Publication Date