‘This is my lesson’: Ethnomethodological lessons in classroom order and social organisation for adults with learning difficulties




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Ethnographic Studies



Peer reviewed



Education as practiced is predicated upon order, structure and organisation. This educational order can be ‘found’ in the classroom within lessons, activities, and tasks, and is the collaborative achievement of those present within them (e.g. teachers, students and, in this case, learning support assistants). The pivotal issue is how the various sense-making practices found in the setting (e.g. talk, gesture, gaze, embodied action) enable those present to ‘find their place’ within the present educational lesson. These considerations are made perspicuous in the research reported here as the various students present have attributed learning difficulties and disabilities and are attending a Further Education (FE) College to take part in a course purposefully designed to teach them practical everyday living skills. The specific learning difficulties attributed ranged in type and degree and the relevance of these designations will be documented when necessary. For present purposes issues of order, structure, organisation and authority inundate the opening sequence of a timetabled cleaning lesson in which an individual student verbally dissents and makes an embodied challenge to the authority of the teacher, threatening the organisation of the whole lesson. As a result the teacher (in conjunction with others) successfully reintegrates the stubborn student by utilising a series of methods and resources explicated in the paper to include: cohorting practices, claiming ‘ownership’ of lessons (linked to ‘lesson appropriate actions’) and ‘if/then formulations’ as a warning technique.



Ethnomethodology, Learning difficulties, Daily living skills, Further Education, Unique Adequacy requirement


Elsey, C. (2021) "This is my lesson": Ethnomethodological lessons in classroom order and social organisation for adults with learning difficulties. Ethnographic Studies, 18 (Special Issue on Ethnomethodology and Respecifying Education).


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research