Rethinking the restorative’: ethical relationships in restorative practice.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In the fifteen years since restorative practices – an alternative to traditional punitive disciplinary measures – began to have a strong presence in educational thinking in the United Kingdom, research has shown that it holds significant potential as a means for teaching the skills of conflict resolution and nurturing relational school cultures. Nevertheless, there remains widespread concern that restorative practice risks being abandoned or co-opted and used in ways that encourage a lack of agency, increased marginalisation, and disempowerment. The originality of my research into restorative practice lies in locating the source of its anxieties away from current cultural, and instructional work, and explaining it as a deep philosophical mistrust with what we do with language. By placing educational philosophy directly with current theory and practice, this project aspires to re-think notions of what is restorative, seeing the term not as exclusively redemptive but as an engagement that seeks to problematise, even disrupt entirely, what is seen as its purpose. Part I explores the perception of how worsening behaviour in schools is linked to notions of zero tolerance and the performance agenda, and the rise of restorative practices as a response. Part II – comprising three central chapters – considers the key linguistic restorative concepts: restorative language, restorative story-telling and restorative relationships drawing on the work of Stanley Cavell and his reading of Wittgenstein and the American transcendentalist philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. By opening each chapter in Part II with a scenario from a restorative conference, I show how language that is too strongly guided is ethically harmful to restorative practice’s claims for a relational pedagogy. At the end of this thesis I will make three claims: what it means to be in relation to another, our ongoing ethical relationships with another, and what it means to be in community.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Fulford, Amanda, Supervisor
  • Pike, Mark, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021


  • Restorative Practice; behaviour; schools; voice; community; dialogue; ordinary language philosophy; Stanley Cavell; relationships; ethics


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