Widening Participation as a process of learning: positional and

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					Widening Participation as a
   process of learning:
positional and dispositional change

        Phil Hodkinson
       University of Leeds
 The ‘Field’ of Higher Education
• The functions of HE include:
  – Social selection
  – Preservation of social inequalities
  – Preservation of (educational) elites
• Unchallenged hierarchies between HE
  institutions & courses
• Links between HE participation & high
  status employment
         Two pathways into HE
1). Smooth, almost automatic transition
     • (White) Middle class youths
     • Embedded choosers

2). HE entry as transformatory turning point
     •   Working class
     •   Some minority ethnic groups
     •   Mature adults
     •   Contingent choosers
                 Entry into HE
• Entry into HE can be seen as:
  – A career decision
  – A lengthy, on-going learning process
  – Boundary crossing
• All entail complex interrelations between
  – Social structure
  – Agency (individual & multiple)
  – Institutional contexts and cultural practices
• Bourdieu’s ideas can help
  – Habitus, field, capital
           Career Decision Making
• Career decisions enabled & constrained by horizons for
   – External (labour market, educational market)
       •   The field of Higher Education
       •   Entry requirements
       •   Cultural norms & practices
       •   Recruiters & selectors
       •   Unequal power relations
   – Internal (dispositions)
       •   Embodied (practical, emotional, physical & cognitive)
       •   Often largely tacit & including the subconscious
       •   Enduring, but can & do change
       •   Develop through living
       •   Represent social structures working through the person
       •   Habitus
     Learning as Acquisition
The WP policy agenda is dominated by an
 acquisition view of learning
    • Enter HE to acquire the
      knowledge/skills/understanding to get a good job
    • Study skills (learning how to learn) to acquire the
      ability to engage in HE acquisition
    • Acquired learning is ‘transferred’ to other situations
    • Focus on ‘official’ course content
    • Emphasis on teaching as a prime acquisition
      Learning as Participation
• Learning entails participation in situated cultural
   – Learn to be an HE student, through living & working
     as an HE student
   – Legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger,
   – Informal learning as well as formal
   – Learning influenced by the interrelations between
     numerous factors
          – A ‘learning culture’ (Hodkinson et al, In Press)
   – Situational specifics matter
          Learning Cultures in FE
• Learning influenced by relations between:
    – Positions, dispositions & actions of students
    – Positions, dispositions & actions of tutors
    – Location & resources of learning site
    – Syllabus, course, assessment & qualification specifications
    – Tutors & students interrelationships
    – College management & procedures, funding & inspection body
      procedures & regulations, government policy
    – Wider vocational & academic cultures
    – Wider social & cultural values & practices, e.g. of social class, gender &
      ethnicity, employment opportunities, social & family life, perceived
      status of FE as a sector.
• None is inherently prior to any of the others
• More synergistic learning cultures are also more effective
• ‘Different’ students can be cooled out of synergistic sites
     Learning as Becoming (1)
• Learning is a process of embodied construction
• through participation in numerous learning
     • Education, work, family, community, leisure etc.
• Learning can change or reinforce the person &
  their dispositions (habitus)
• Learning is a life-long process of becoming
     •   Can be deliberate and/or contingent
     •   Conscious and/or tacit
     •   Personally significant or trivial
     •   Enabled & constrained by prior experience/dispositions
       Learning as Becoming (2)
• Entry into HE (or work, or retirement!) is a
  lengthy, on-going learning process
   – Begins well before the transition
        • Anticipation as well as preparation
   – Continues through the transition
   – Continues after the transition
• Involves complex mixture of continuity & change
   –   Often non-linear
   –   Often uneven in ‘pace’
   –   Partly unpredictable
   –   Strongly affected by a person’s life outside education
                Boundary Crossing
• Entry into HE entails crossing a boundary into a new
• The change can stimulate new learning (Engestrom)
• The change can be alienating & disempowering
• The change into HE is much greater for some than for
       •   Social class, gender & ethnicity
       •   Prior educational experiences
       •   Subject disciplinary cultures
       •   Nature of specific course & university

• Difficulty of legitimate peripheral participation varies
  according to the extent of the challenge
Position, Dispositions & Capital
• Success in boundary crossing influenced by
  position, dispositions & capital
  – Positions may be ‘near to’ or ‘far from’ HE (class,
    gender, ethnicity, age, geographical location)
  – Dispositions may fit strongly or weakly or be in conflict
    with HE culture
  – Appropriate capital facilitates successful entry & on-
    going success
     • Economic
     • Social
     • Cultural
 Adult Engagement with Education
• Adults are more likely to (re)engage with
  (higher) education when:
  – They already have a history of (higher) educational
  – The transition into becoming a (higher) educational
    participant is already underway
  – When major life changes lead to other positional &
    dispositional shifts

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