The Main Stage: The main action took place in the examination audience, where some students were passing the exam. When I entered that audience, I saw around ten students who were passing the exam in philosophy. They all were very nervous and looked very concentrated, probably trying to revise something useful. I would like to give an interpretive analysis of the first three students who managed to pass the exam. Also, it should be mentioned that the timeframe of this process was about two or three hours.
The Second Stage: The second stage was in the street, outside the university. When these three students successfully passed the exam, they went outside the university, and I followed them. They all were exhausted and tired, but the Student 3 looked upset, while the other two students were excited and satisfied. After some time I realized, that actually, only the Student 1 and the Student 2 managed to successfully pass the exam, whereas the Student 3 failed it because he had some academic debts. The observation lasted for about 15 minutes, and after that these students entered the nearest campus.
The Front Space: The Student 1 was the first one who successfully passed this oral examination. When he was answering the teachers questions, he looked enough confident and well-prepared. He easily answered all the questions, even additional, and he was granted with the highest possible grade. When the second student sat in front of the teacher, I noticed that the teacher was delighted with such a pleasant company. The teacher asked the Student 2 only two questions and thanked him for his productive work during the last term. It looked like that the student worked really hard during the last term. On the contrary, when the Student 3 took his place in front of the teachers desk, the last one had a quite louring look. After that, the teacher started asking the student some difficult questions. I could assume the complexity of the questions only from the students interrogative glances. Therefore, the Student 3 did not pass the exam due to his academic debts. Thus, he will have to retake it. The last what the teacher said to this student was: So, Charles, you didnt work properly during this term. That is why you will have to retake this exam, but I advise you to prepare much better next time.
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The Back Space: When the students had left the university, they started their discussion about the exam. While those who managed to pass this exam were very happy, the Student 3 was unsatisfied and probably a little envious.
While they were heading to the campus, the Students 1 and 2 planned how they would spend their weekend. Meanwhile, the Student 3 was describing his real attitude to the teacher and telling what he really thought about that situation. Afterwards, the Student 1 and Student 2 supported the Student 3 and said that they were really sorry about his failure. When they were telling it, they looked very plausible, and I believed them. Moreover, I think the Student 3 also believed the Students 1 and 2. After these words, I assume that these students are great friends, and they genuinely support each other.
I would like to analyze the situation of passing the exam at the University and the possible consequences which may arise. I saw this very situation by myself, and I truly believe that my analysis would be socially worthwhile. The process of passing the exam could be considered through the prism of dramatism and appeared to be self-explanatory. For instance, some dramatism may appear when students try to look concentrated during the exam so that the teacher can obviously understand that they are thoroughly prepared. That is how these ten students tried to look like during the exam. On the contrary, the teacher usually can understand when students are prepared or not by the manner they act during the exam. Moreover, it should be noted that when the Student 1 was passing the exam, he looked enough confident. Therefore, the teacher could understand that he knew the material. Also, very often, the teacher notices when a student is cheating, and the way how a student behaves in such situations has also a dramaturgical ground. It is also worth analyzing the role of a student in the case of his academic failure at the university, including its consequences.
The dramaturgical approach should have its own system of concepts due to the need for the dialectical development of different forms of social life. According to Goffmans dramaturgical approach, the main term of the situational analysis of human activity is performance. The author notes that the activity of individuals or groups of individuals is always aimed at a specific audience. In this case, the teacher was an audience for the students, and, vice versa, the students appeared to be an audience for the teacher,.
Initially, all the manifestations of such activities are covered with the term performance that is focused on the implementation of daily assignments in ones routine. However, any activity of social interaction eventually leads to a partial or complete reformation of the normal work activities into the representational performance that is communication-oriented and has the most effective self-expression (Kivisto, 2007).
When someone gets into an unfamiliar situation with many participants, he/she usually tends to reveal the surrounding social context as much as possible so that he/she could meet the expectations of the audience. However, information about the scene or the feelings of the audience is not sufficient. Thus, people have to use such casual substitutions as remarks, symbols, and signs. As a result, every performer in a situation of interaction faces a paradox: the more people are interested in reality that is inaccessible to direct perception, the more attention should be paid to external manifestations, appearances, and impressions that other people create during the interaction related to their past and future.
Erving Goffman is one of the best-known sociologists of the twentieth century. As a symbolic interactionist of the dramaturgical tradition, Goffman analyzes human behavior via a theatrical metaphor, in which the ordinary setting is a stage, and people are actors who use performances to make an impression on the audience. According to this influential American sociologist, everyone must somehow make sense of the activities and events that are present in everyday life. He notices that the way people interpret a specific situation helps them create their own definition.
Such definition of a life situation can be divided into strips and frames. The strip is a sequence of activities, for example opening the door, taking milk, pouring it into a glass, drinking it, and putting the glass into the dishwasher. The frame is a basic organizational pattern used to define a strip (Hecht, 2012). In our case, frameworks were based on time so that the main stage continued for three hours, while the second stage lasted for 15 minutes only.
Such frameworks are special models that are used to understand experience and the ways people see things which fit together and create a coherent whole. The primary framework is a basic organizational unit (such as conversing, eating, and dressing), but the primary frames can be transformed or altered into secondary frameworks. Here, the basic organizational principles of the primary frame are used to meet different ends. For instance, the game is a secondary framework modeled after the primary framework of a fight or competition. A large portion of frameworks are not primary at all, though they are modeled after the primary ones. Examples include plays, deceptions, experiments, and other fabrications. Ordinary life is filled with secondary frameworks.
Furthermore, any frame analysis consists of examining the ways of organizing experience within the framework of individual perception. The frame allows a person to identify and understand otherwise meaningless events, giving meaning to the ongoing activities of life. The natural framework is an unguided event of nature, such as a windstorm, with which an individual must cope. On the other hand, the social framework is seen as a controllable event, guided by some intelligence, such as planning a meal. These two types of frameworks relate to one another because social beings act on and are in turn influenced by the natural order. For example, both a student and a teacher can predict possible failure after passing the exam. Thus, this frame would be socially oriented.
In his works, Goffman asserts that the front stage of dramaturgical performance is rather a sustainable part that determines how a specific situation will be seen and understood. He writes about the setting and the scenery of performance, the spatial arrangement of participants during the interaction, and the division of the stage into the back stage zone, where a flawless performance of everyday routine activities is prepared, and the front stage, where the performance itself is set (Cresswell, 2012). I have used these stage zones to make my interpretive analysis. Also, Goffman introduces an analogue of a theater troupe – a special concept of performers who have joined their efforts for the lifetime of the microsystem of interaction to introduce the audience their definition of the situation. According to him, the concept of a social group is replaced by the term team. The team is also a special type of group, but not in the context of historically prolonged and stable relations of the social structure or organization. This definition includes a working agreement (consensus) on the necessity for command ethos, which must be maintained by proper courtesy and decency. The main tasks of such team are to monitor the impressions of performance, specifically guarding access to the backstage area to prevent outsiders see the secrets of presentation (Sinha, 2010). These secrets are known to all the performers in the team and protected by them together from the publicity because if they are exposed, the everyday performance would be disrupted. Therefore, team members usually develop a special solidarity and friendly familiarity in their relations. These notions are the cornerstones of Goffmans dramaturgical approach, and they must be listed before the main part of the interpretive analysis.
Debtor as a Stage in the Students Career
Analyzing the situation I have mentioned above, I would like to use Goffmans career metaphor. Goffman used this term to describe the process of patients formation in a psychiatric hospital, dividing it into three phases: preambulatory, the stage of being a patient, and the postambulatory stage. As a result of this process, one individual was deprived of the wrong identity, and it was required for him to obtain another, more appropriate identity in accordance with the expectations of a normal society. However, the university is not a compulsory institution, and it is rare when students are forced to do something there. Nevertheless, it is difficult to argue with the fact that this facility has an impact on the mutual subordination among individuals (Crable, 2009).
It is not a surprise that higher education system is indicated as an institution of professional socialization. Unlike different coercive institutions, young people express their inner desire to study in the university by submitting applications and passing the entrance examinations. In this case, the preambulatory stage is the time when the future student is an applicant. Then, this individual is granted with the status of the student (the second stage), but after that, his/her status of the debtor or underachieving person is like a transit with an open ending, which may finish either with the loss of status of the student or restoration of his/her good name.
Such educational debtor prototype as the Student 3 is a result of failure to cope with formal academic requirements. In particular, attendance, work on practical exercises, homework, and finally the exam are the main measures of proper academic performance. The specific evaluation rules and criteria are announced far beforehand so that every student has an equal possibility to cope with all the tasks and achieve the appropriate goal in his/her studies. The teacher creates a view for each group or individual on the basis of observations and some introspective thoughts. Moreover, due to such observations, the failure of the Student 3 could be explained.
However, these representations are continuously adjusted during the working process. Despite the same evaluation standards and educational programs from group to group, these assessment criteria significantly vary because they are more guided by common sense rather than educational regulations (Nemiro, 2011).
Therefore, debtors from all student groups create a very diverse combination up to the end of the semester. Most of them tend to close their debts during the semester. Usually, underachieving students who are relatively disciplined but for several reasons failed their exam get the credit in the period after getting the status of a debtor. If an underachieving student identifies himself/herself as strong and meaningful, his/her typical verbal reaction to the failure would be as follows: apologetic tone, awkwardness, and self-irony are common, while aggressive reactions and demands to recheck the work in the presence of the student are not prevalent.
In addition, it is worth noting that there is a tendency that senior students pay less attention and reverence to their academic debts. However, such students are usually taught by the experience of previous terms, and they pragmatically try to get rid of their tails in order to avoid the unpleasant ritual of retake. The end of the semester is characterized by a one-time influx of debtors from different groups who are differently percepted by the teacher. As a result of work, a student closes his/her debt and successfully passes the exam. As a rule, the teacher is guided by a common sense and determination whether an individual appears to be a specialist or not.
Role Rehearsal Process
A good case can be considered as a scenario description that allows creating a practical guide relating to action, by following which one can be accepted in a certain community, without running the risk to be disclosed. This idea can inject one not only into a specific social group, but even into a division of spies. Moreover, it creates a possibility for students to improve themselves. Such interactive social unit is formed in front of the teachers office (Koenig, 2005).
It is noteworthy that many advices apply to the contextual characteristics of future meetings and secret observance of etiquette. On the contrary, teachers keep discussing how to behave with debtors. The official behavior policy is set out at the faculty meetings as part of the university culture. More specific issues are usually connected with difficulties about students assessments, and they are commonly discussed in an informal setting. After analyzing this situation, one can clearly see that there is a special dramaturgical basis, and conversations between students and teachers form a special front stage of their activities (Vliet, 2010).
Registration, scheduling, and the main process of retaking an exam are the same as those used during the first attempt. This process can be considered through the lens of dramaturgical approach. In this case, the process appears to be a special ritual both for students and teachers. By and large, it is a special educational mechanism, which allows a student to prove his/her compliance with the status. However, the students underachievement does not always occur due to lack of his or her knowledge of the subject. In contrast, the reason for such negative attitudes of students is often disciplinary complaints from their teachers.
Sociologists David Sudnow and Harvey Sacks widely used the definition of visibility in their works. According to them, it is the way things are supposed to look like (Brighenti, 2007). For example, the process of writing an exam requires a student to be attentive and focused, do some records in his/her draft paper, and avoid a direct eye contact with the examiner. As well as a student, a teacher also has his/her own representation of an appropriate appearance of a well-prepared student. Therefore, according to the dramaturgical interpretive analysis, both students and teachers understand the meaning of their actions and the way they play their roles. For instance, when the Student 1 looked confident, the teacher understood that he was well-prepared and put him a good grade.
To conclude, humans are all some kind of actors, and, according to Goffmans ideas, people often understand their influence by how they behave with each other. In general terms, people can manipulate situations in a variety of ways to present their own views that may be in opposition to the customary ways of seeing things. It happens because individuals can identify themselves in a variety of antithetical ways. It means that people have to think about situations in which certain images of them may differ. In our case, the roles that students and teachers play must be appropriate to the script of an educational facility where they act.
Therefore, such performances should be properly played and checked afterwards. These life scripts very often appear in real life so that they must be thoroughly prepared. In this case, the rate of life failures, particularly during the educational process, will be quite small.