Exploring institutional change through practice-based institutional work
: the emergence and decline of activity based learning (ABL) in Tamilnadu, India

  • Anisha Shanmugam

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This research draws on the concept of institutional work that refers to the purposive actions of individuals aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions in order to explore institutional change. As approaches to institutional change were either mechanistic and contingent (caused by external structural forces) or voluntaristic and dramatic (brought about by individual agency), this research responds to the call to develop a micro-dynamic approach to institutional change which can be exhibited through individuals’ daily work practices. Although numerous studies have explored institutional change through an institutional work lens, they loosely draw on the concept of practice and fail to explore in-depth the elements that constitute work such as skills of individual, material used; the latter element having gained prominence amongst institutional scholars. Based on the practice foundation of institutional work, this research adopts a three-element framework (meaning, material and competence) to foreground the elements that constitute institutional work. As a theoretical framework, it responds to the demand to account for the role of materials within institutional work and change and through this micro-perspective, it contributes to the growing institutional scholars’ interest in exploring the ‘coalface’ of institutions. The unfolding nature of institutional change is explored in the context of ABL, a teaching-learning practice implemented in Government schools in two cities- Chennai and Puducherry in India. Based on a case study methodology, semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to gather experiences of participants involved in the implementation of the ABL practice. Empirical findings explore the different forms of institutional work that contribute to creating and maintaining the ABL practice and also highlight the role of materiality in relation to the decline of ABL that occurred sooner in the case of Puducherry than Chennai. Theoretical contributions of these empirical findings are discussed in relation to different facets of institutional change.
Date of Award23 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorHumphrey Bourne (Supervisor) & Deborah Wilson (Supervisor)

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