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Challenging discourses of aspiration: The role of expectations and attainment in access to higher education

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... More recently, the concept of aspiration-raising has come under additional pressure from a series of large-scale empirical studies that have demonstrated that disadvantaged young people do not have markedly lower aspirations for education, careers, or adult life than their relatively advantaged peers (e.g., Archer et al. 2014;Baker et al. 2014) and that there are many more disadvantaged young people who aspire to higher education than who participate (e.g., Croll and Attwood 2013;St Clair et al. 2013), suggesting that aspirations play a very limited role in influencing educational and wider life outcomes (Green et al. 2018). Rather, empirical data suggest that a focus on expectations rather than aspirations might be more meaningful as they conceptually include an element of the individual's estimation of whether a particular life outcome is likely or not (Harrison and Waller 2018); importantly, expectations among disadvantaged young people tend to be considerably lower than both their aspirations and the expectations of their relatively advantaged peers (e.g., Boxer et al. 2011;Khattab 2015). ...
... Despite these theoretical and empirical challenges to aspiration-raising, it continues to permeate both national policy documents (e.g., Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2014) and practice among professionals charged with widening participation and/or ensuring fair access (Harrison and Waller 2018). It has also proved surprisingly resilient within the academic literature (see the review by Younger et al. forthcoming) and the public discourse about educational disadvantage (Burns 2018). ...
... Such interventions are likely to be longitudinal in nature, focusing on self-efficacy and/or locus of control or be more academically-focused on the development of a 'learning orientation' (Watkins 2010) and metacognitive skills that help young people to understand how they learn; what St Clair et al. (2013, p. 736) call a 'day to day process of supporting students to learn how to attain what they want'. They may also engage particularly with parents and teachers as key influencers to ensure that their own expectations are positive, realistic and transmitted to young people (Cummings et al. 2012;Harrison and Waller 2018). • Intervention Point 3 comes when the young person is beginning to elaborate like-to-be (or like-to-avoid) selves that they feel are probable in their context. ...
Article
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The concept of ‘aspiration-raising’ has been ubiquitous in the discussion of differential rates of participation in higher education in England for many years. Potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds are constructed as setting their sights too low and therefore not considering higher education or ignoring elite universities that they could access. However, it is increasingly understood that aspiration-raising is unable to explain patterns of participation and that it risks ‘blaming the victim’ by failing to appreciate the structural constraints forged through their sociocultural context. The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative lens in the form of ‘possible selves’. This is drawn from the discipline of psychology and aims to explain how we all conceive and develop visions of ourselves in future states. These images create a motivational impetus for actions in the present in order to achieve a like-to-be self—or evade a like-to-avoid self. Notably, the theory takes specific account of the individual’s expectations and the importance of having a clear pathway towards a long-term destination. This paper provides an overview of the foundational theory and empirical evidence for a general readership, before presenting a new conceptual model focused on access to higher education. This is then used to explore the principles that might underpin interventions to support participation from disadvantaged groups within highly stratified systems, as well as suggesting a new policy agenda and priorities for future research.
... Research suggests that augmenting expectations may be a more fruitful approach for outreach practitioners aiming to widen participation to HE, than focusing on aspirations which has been the tradition. It is acknowledged, however, that the term 'aspiration' is used very loosely in the outreach community to cover a range of outreach activities (Harrison and Waller, 2018) and some of these may in reality deal with similar concepts such as expectations and providing accurate advice and guidance about future career pathways. ...
... Even the most intensive activities described by interviewees tend to consist of no more than a one hour interaction per week for ten to twelve weeks. This issue was touched upon in one of the recent guidance report discussed at the beginning of this chapter (Harrison et al., 2018). Here practitioners raised concerns in interviews that the metrics used to show impact on attainment (e.g. ...
... In this approach, evidence from RQ2, which meets high criteria according to OFFA's (2017a) guidance on how to evaluate, would surely be considered robust evidence, and yet my interview participants felt that the outcomes observed were not entirely attributable to outreach. Although this guidance has now been superseded (Harrison et al., 2018;OfS, 2019), the real value of HEAT's tracking data may lie elsewhere. ...
Thesis
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The issue of social class related inequalities in access to Higher Education (HE) has been high on the political agenda for nearly two decades. In spite of significant funding, channelled through university-led outreach activities to encourage disadvantaged young people into university, the social gap in HE participation persists. As a result, universities are under increasing pressure to provide hard evidence of 'what works' in terms of the outreach they deliver under the Government's Widening Participation (WP) agenda. Recent large-scale research identifies prior attainment at Key Stage 4 (GCSE) as the main barrier to HE access for disadvantaged students, and as a result the Office for Students (OfS) now require universities to raise students' pre-entry attainment. This research examines the potential for university-led outreach activities to help disadvantaged students over this attainment hurdle. Two of the three research questions posed draw on big data collected through HEAT, a system whereby universities in England record data on the students engaged in their outreach activities, tracking their subsequent progress in terms of school attainment and eventual HE entry. Research question one examines the extent to which outreach delivered in the past has been targeted towards the 'right' students, most in need of assistance with this level of attainment. I find a considerable amount of resource has been mis-targeted. In the second research question, I devise a quasi-experimental method that makes the best use of HEAT's collective tracking data to explore whether outreach activities are able to raise students' attainment. Results show a positive impact on attainment, although this is accompanied with a 'health warning' regarding the important unresolved issues of epistemology associated with my approach. The third research question moves away from HEAT's quantitative data and draws on qualitative methods to understand the specific activities universities are delivering to raise attainment, and how these might be expected to work. Content analysis of institutional Access Agreements provides a good starting point, and from this I generate a typology of attainment-raising activities being delivered by universities. This line of enquiry is extended through interviews with WP managers from 30 universities where Academic Tutoring delivered by student ambassadors emerges as the most common attainment-raising activity. This choice is seemingly driven by the demanding requirements on universities to show hard evidence of impact on exam results. However, closer examination of the processes and mechanisms through which Academic Tutoring activities are expected to work are not sufficiently theoretically convincing. ii I conclude the research with a series of recommendations for policy. These include lessening the strict requirements on universities to demonstrate impact when it comes to raising attainment in schools. This may encourage more creative activities, less reductionist in their approach than Academic Tutoring which appears to replicate what is already happening in schools. I also suggest that HEAT should be utilised for its monitoring capacity rather than being a 'scientific' predictor of impact evaluation. Government should investigate using HEAT as a mechanism to provide the OfS with data on the types of students receiving outreach and where they live in the country. Further research is also needed to better understand the circumstances under which Academic Tutoring outreach activities, which are already being delivered by universities, may be able to add value to the complex issue of raising attainment in schools. iii
... It is this far-reaching impact that compels research into better understanding the factors that contribute to the under-representation of people from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds at university, and how to address this imbalance (St Clair & Benjamin, 2011). As in the UK, Australian higher education policy perceives supporting the higher education aspirations of low SES students as a key educational policy driver for social mobility (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009;Harrison & Waller, 2018). In service to this view, the past decade of education policy Determining the extent to which secondary schools can create an environment where pupils have a voice will lead to a better understanding of how to improve student engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). ...
... Gottfredson describes students' early occupational aspirations by noting that their 'preferences are the "wish" rather than the "reality" component of aspirations' (Gottfredson, 1981, p. 548). Initially, students consider a range of possible career goals until they adjust to a perceived reality as they consider what they are capable of, as a result of academic and social constraints (Gottfredson, 1981;Reay et al., 2009;Gale & Tranter, 2011;Gale & Parker, 2015;Harrison & Waller, 2018). However, as students consider their circumstances-encompassing financial realities, academic preparation and social and parental expectations (Gemici et al., 2014)-many find, over time, their desire to study at university is tempered, leading to a decline in expectations of university study (Zipin et al., 2015;Harrison & Waller, 2018;. ...
... Initially, students consider a range of possible career goals until they adjust to a perceived reality as they consider what they are capable of, as a result of academic and social constraints (Gottfredson, 1981;Reay et al., 2009;Gale & Tranter, 2011;Gale & Parker, 2015;Harrison & Waller, 2018). However, as students consider their circumstances-encompassing financial realities, academic preparation and social and parental expectations (Gemici et al., 2014)-many find, over time, their desire to study at university is tempered, leading to a decline in expectations of university study (Zipin et al., 2015;Harrison & Waller, 2018;. ...
Article
An important goal for educators is to foster student engagement in order to support a sense of valuing and aspiring to higher levels of education. To value education, students need to perceive that they are welcome, express their ideas and engage meaningfully in each education space they enter. Therefore, ‘pupil voice’ has the potential to become an important influencing factor regarding the degree to which students become self‐regulated learners, value educationand consequently support their aspirations and build their expectations to go on to university. This study examines the role pupil voice plays in building cognitive and emotional engagement, and whether this, in turn, builds desire for further study and expectations for university entry. Pupil voice is operationalised as the extent to which the student feels heard, involved and supported by the school community. Student survey data was collected (N = 542) from a low socioeconomic status region of the southwest corridor of metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Structural equation modelling substantiated our serial mediation hypothesis. For students, a discernible pupil voice significantly and positively increased cognitive engagement (self‐regulated learning), which increased emotional engagement (valuing education) that, in turn, increased university desires, which led to increased university expectations. The results of this study underscore the importance of policies and practical interventions designed to develop strong student–teacher relationships, where students feel they are both seen and heard.
... In the UK, graduates and their families look to universities to provide a launchpad to future career success (Harrison and Waller, 2018). There is increasing pressure for universities to be seen to deliver positive graduate outcomes in rapid and monetised ways, which ignores labour market research which suggests that it can take longer to settle into a career (Purcell et al., 2013), as well as backgrounding the more subjective benefits gained by having a degree (Green and Henseke, 2016). ...
... Their words share something of what Loveday (2015) has written about in terms of individuals who do not want to turn their backs on their backgrounds. Robert challenges the aspirations-deficit discourse (Harrison and Waller, 2018) that has been present in public policy. They demonstrate a tentative social class solidarity as they consider their lack of advantage with regard to 'positionality'. ...
... They articulate the perceived deficiencies of parents, who are unable to help them in securing an aspirational mobility 'narrative' (Brooks and Waters, 2017;Finn and Holton, 2019); while also appearing to put pressure on their sons to live up to parental hopes that their offspring will be socially mobile. In contrast, Charlie and Robert-who show similar awareness of a disadvantaged 'positionality'-are crafting ways to position their families as 'characters' in their stories more positively, with indicators of class consciousness that can embrace some solidarity and reject an aspirations-deficit discourse (Harrison and Waller, 2018). The construct of 'positionality' suggests that individuals require understanding of how they are positioned (which close family status does tend to exemplify), if they are to be agentic. ...
Article
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How do young graduates view the role of immediate families in influencing/supporting them as they start their working lives and how do those reflections affect how they think of themselves as graduates? Social, political and economic changes have led to many young people being dependent on family for longer, but how does this play out in their reflections? This article addresses these questions by reporting upon findings from qualitative research with 14 young people from working‐class backgrounds, who were part of a larger study of recent graduates. Figured Worlds theory illuminates data, with a consideration of the role that family plays in the ‘space of authoring’ and understanding of ‘positionality’. Findings capture vivid stories of the enabling but also limiting role of family. In our analysis of data, we borrow the words ‘salience’ from Holland and her co‐authors and ‘distinction’ from Bourdieu, which help capture different depictions of family. Both articulations of ‘salience’ and a search for ‘distinction’ emerge in how graduates’ stories respond to family. We argue for a greater appreciation of the differing family resources of working‐class graduates, and reject an emphasis on what they may lack, compared to their peers, which has tended to be the case in some media and policy commentary. There are implications for educators to foster student reflexivity about family sensitively, and to be aware of how family backgrounds may influence graduate career paths and students’ awareness of wider inequalities.
... We construct a framework using the concept of 'possible selves' (e.g. Harrison, 2018;Harrison & Waller, 2018) and by drawing upon, extending, and adapting positional conflict theory (e.g., Brown, 2000;. We argue that there are clear differences between urban elite students and their counterparts in envisioned 'possible selves'. ...
... A key contribution of this perspective is an emphasis on the relationship between expectations and aspirations. It highlights that the expectations (or probable selves) and aspirations (or ideal selves) of young people are frequently misaligned, and thus aids in revealing the role of expectations in tempering aspirations (Harrison & Waller, 2018). Related to this is 'elaboration', which refers to how clearly individuals 'elaborate' both the imaginaries of future selves and the steps required to achieve them (Harrison & Waller, 2018;Jones et al., 2021). ...
... It highlights that the expectations (or probable selves) and aspirations (or ideal selves) of young people are frequently misaligned, and thus aids in revealing the role of expectations in tempering aspirations (Harrison & Waller, 2018). Related to this is 'elaboration', which refers to how clearly individuals 'elaborate' both the imaginaries of future selves and the steps required to achieve them (Harrison & Waller, 2018;Jones et al., 2021). The more wholly imaginaries of possible selves are formed, the more they can be linked to specific strategies which may serve to regulate behaviour (Oyserman et al., 2004). ...
Article
The term neijuan (in English ‘involution’) has captured feelings of perpetual competition and anxiety among university students in China preparing for their post‐graduation careers. In this article, we develop a neo‐Weberian reading of neijuan to construct a framework using positional conflict theory and the concept of ‘possible selves’. We investigated how final‐year university students from three social class factions—rural, urban non‐elite and urban elite—envisage, plan and strategise for their future careers. We draw on in‐depth interviews (n = 100) and a post‐graduation survey (n = 97) with students at two public universities, one elite and one lower‐tier, in a metropolitan city in Guangdong province. The findings underscore marked differences in the nature and clarity of students’ envisaged future selves along the lines of social advantage and disadvantage. We demonstrate how social class is deeply connected to the scale of the competition—national or global—that students perceive themselves to be implicated in. In doing so, we draw attention to social class differences in expressions of and capacities to realise what we term ‘globally orientated possible selves’, which involved escaping both the sense of entrapment and the prospect of failure evinced by neijuan.
... Furthermore, in the UK, undergraduate student decision making may not be dominated by considerations of price because it is similar between institutions (there are more price variations at postgraduate level) and often payment is deferred. Instead, prior experiences and the social environment seem to exert more influence (Harrison & Waller, 2018). Decisions to enter HE are based around considerations of future careers, earning potential and the ability to benefit from the cost of borrowing money to pay for the tuition fees and maintenance costs. ...
... Those from lower incomes may expect to gain most from borrowing money to study, enabling them to move out of their low-income context, however these students seem disproportionately deterred by the costs incurred (Callander & Jackson, 2005). In addition, Harrison (2017) notes that students do not typically choose to maximise their choice university status (the highest ranked institutions they can attain) perhaps because of the social environment influences (Harrison & Waller, 2018), and the bounded rationality previously referred to. Many will be anxious about the extent to which they will fit-in and be able to mix with people like themselves. ...
Article
Relying on the resource-based view and drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and his key concepts of field, habitus and capitals, we scrutinise via student focus group reports, the perceptions of first year business undergraduate students, asking them what university and business school attributes they considered during the application process so that we can determine what attributes give business schools a competitive advantage. Our findings reveal the combination of attributes, what we call symbolic capital, that are essential to attract students to a UK based business school in a research-intensive Russell Group university. This combination of attributes and resources is critical to maintaining the position of a university and business school in the perceptions of applicants. Hence, we refer to the combination of factors as 'Business School Capital'.
... Clair & Benjamin, 2011). At the same time, arguments have been made about the challenging discourses of aspirations and their (often misplaced) focus in widening participation efforts through the lens of student recruitment (Harrison & Waller, 2018). Such discourse often ignores the point that aspirations towards higher education are shaped by attainment in secondary education, social networks, support structures, or structural inequalities (particularly in terms of gender, social class, and ethnicity). ...
... Children's aspirations need to be distinguished from their expectations, which reflect the achievability of particular goals and tend to be lower than their aspirations, especially in disadvantaged students or those showing poor academic performance (Boxer, Goldstein, DeLorenzo, Savoy, & Mercado, 2011). Harrison and Waller (2018) suggested that students' expectations might be more useful predictors of their participation in higher education than their aspirations. They argued that future research should focus on social transformation and students' decisions to apply or participate in higher education. ...
Article
A literature review published in 2008 outlined known relationships between gender, ethnicity, and academic attainment in UK higher education. In the period since this publication, many changes to the higher education sector have occurred, including raising tuition fees, an increased focus on widening participation, and an increasing interest in diversifying the curriculum. There is a need for an updated and expanded literature review to highlight whether the relationships between gender, ethnicity, and academic attainment remain the same one decade later. This article synthesises the current literature related to the impact of gender, social class, and ethnicity on higher education participation and academic attainment. We highlight the important role of intersectionality in understanding overarching trends. Altogether, this literature review shows that there are persisting inequalities in both participation and attainment based on gender, social class, and ethnicity. To conclude, we provide several suggestions for improving our understanding of these phenomena in the decades to come.
... The literature treats student aspirations and expectations as conceptually different and hence they are measured in separate ways (Bozick et al., 2010;Harrison & Waller, 2018;Khattab, 2015). Aspirations are a measure of what a student wishes to achieve, while expectations are the possibility or likelihood of actually fulfilling these wishes, given one's socioeconomic background (Reynolds & Pemberton, 2001). ...
... While aspirations and expectations are both relevant in determining various academic outcomes (Friberg, 2019), it is perhaps the relative impact of these two measures on student achievement that is most debated. Harrison and Waller (2018) have discussed how since the 1990s, education policy in the United Kingdom centered on the importance of raising educational aspirations among various groups in order to reduce inequalities in higher education. However, research at a later stage has come to question the importance of aspirations in increasing educational attainment (Carter-Wall & Whitfield, 2012;Gorard et al., 2012). ...
Article
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The main objective of this paper is to examine the role of students’ aspirations and expectations in affecting school achievement among 7th and 8th grade students in Qatar’s schools. The study draws on data collected in Qatari schools from a randomly selected sample of 841 students and their parents. The findings indicate that students’ educational aspirations have a stronger effect on students’ school performance when compared to students’ educational expectations, even when controlling for demographic factors, school attitude, and parental expectations. This finding directly contributes to the debate in the literature about the relative importance of aspirations and expectations, while also confirming what other studies have suggested- that the meaning and the way in which both aspirations and expectations operate is contextually relative. Context plays a significant role here, and consequently, leaves the debate over what matters more, aspirations or expectations, widely open.
... The associations are robust, even after controlling for parental social background and children's prior academic attainment (Duckworth & Schoon, 2012;Schoon & Lyons-Amos, 2017), and it is generally assumed that high parental aspirations can boost their children's motivation and attainment (Baker et al., 2014;Mortimer, Mont'Alvao & Aronson, 2020;Sommerfeld, 2016). Indeed, raising the aspirations of young people and their parents is a key target of a number of UK government initiatives aiming to improve student's academic attainment and social mobility (Berrington, Roberts, & Tammes, 2016;Harrison & Waller, 2018;St. Clair, Kintrea, & Houston, 2013). ...
... Moreover, it is important that parents and their children agree on the value of higher education and communicate about the pressures and strains (such as the need for financial support or cultural knowhow) they perceive in their evaluation and planning of higher education participation. A crucial step in improving educational attainment and participation, in particular among young people with parents educated below A-level qualifications, is the provision of relevant information and guidance on how to reach ambitious goals and how to effectively navigate the educational system (see also Harrison & Waller, 2018). ...
Article
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Previous research has shown that parental educational aspirations for their children are an important predictor of children's academic attainment. However, recent studies have pointed to potential negative effects, in particular if there is a mismatch between parental educational aspirations and the aspirations of their children. This study examines (1) the role of socio-demographic and school achievement-related factors in shaping a potential (mis) match between parental educational aspirations and the aspirations of their children, and (2) whether incongruence between parental and their children's educational aspirations hinders academic attainment in times of social change. We use data collected for the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study (BCS70) and Next Steps (formerly known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England), a cohort of young people born in 1989/90. We find that in both cohorts socio-demographic and achievement-related characteristics are associated with incongruent aspirations, and that incongruent aspirations between parents and their children are associated with a decreased likelihood of participating in and completing higher education. The study contributes to current debates regarding the causes and correlates of discrepancies in educational aspirations and how such discrepancies affect later life chances.
... (4) Family and peer influences: Literature draws attention to the importance that family and peers have in the construction of the personal and external expectations of students in terms of the costs and benefits of higher education (Harrison and Waller 2018). The role of adults is very significant in the construction of those expectations, sometimes limiting the application options to certain programmes, even in cases in which students might have a high probability of success. ...
... Regarding the factors that influence expectations, our findings align with the literature on the importance of family and social context (Harrison and Waller 2018;McGhie 2016). Additionally, it was observed that students felt explicit and implicit social pressure over the decision to apply to higher education and specifically on choosing a university programme over a technical-professional one. ...
Article
Background: The transition of high school students to higher education can be an overwhelming experience which may impact on academic outcomes. Despite increases in access, course completion rates remain problematic in Chile. Students’ expectations of higher education can play an important role in their decision-making, especially in terms of choices made about programme and institution. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to better understand Chilean high school students’ expectations of the benefits and costs involved in the transition process from secondary to postsecondary education. Also, it aimed to examine the factors that influence those expectations. Method: We used a qualitative design to collect information from 76 university-tracked high-school seniors through nine focus groups. All focus group data were double coded using a directed content analysis approach. Findings: The analysis indicated that students mentioned expectations of non-monetary benefits frequently, and in all focus groups. Though monetary benefits were not referred to directly, students identified them implicitly through non-monetary benefits. Expectations about costs were mentioned less often than were benefits. Conclusions: Our study highlights that the construction of expectations appeared chiefly influenced by the information obtained through family and peers. The findings from this study should help focus institutional and educational policymakers’ efforts in supporting the decision-making process of students transitioning to higher education.
... An alternative approach was set out by Harrison and Waller (2018), who distinguished between a young person's concept of their 'possible self' (i.e. their aspirational future) and their perception of their 'probable self' (their likely educational and career journey based upon their own and their family experience). ...
... This may lead to the design of outreach interventions which attempt to change the young person, rather than addressing the barriers which some young people face in accessing HE and may ultimately undermine the effectiveness of the interventions. Widening participation practitioners should consider the use of more positive and empowering approaches, for example, the concept of 'possible selves' (Harrison and Waller, 2018), to inform the design and delivery of outreach. ...
Article
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Despite well documented and persistent inequalities in access to higher education (HE), the evidence base for widening participation activities remains weak. Recent changes to the state regulation of UK HE has renewed pressure on universities and other HE providers to develop effective interventions to tackle these inequalities, but with limited evidence of what works the risk of failure is high. Recent emphasis on robust systematic literature reviews of existing widening participation research has attempted to address this deficit, but typically focusses only on the few existing quantitative studies with an experimental or quasi-experimental design. This literature review is tailored to the needs of widening participation practitioners and aims to synthesise a broader range of evidence with a view to assessing a more comprehensive approach. With a focus on access and outreach for students with lower socioeconomic status and for students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, the authors consider the literature from the UK and further afield in relation to financial support, information, advice and guidance (IAG), mentoring, summer schools, and multi-intervention or 'black box' programmes. Drawing on realist approaches, the authors also consider the contextual conditions which may influence the success (or failure) of these interventions and should therefore be considered in the design and implementation of widening participation activities.
... 93). The theory of Careership has been utilised wholly or in part by sociologists of education in several contexts to explore the complexities of young people's decisions (Allin and Humberstone, 2004;Ball, Maguire and Macrae, 2000;Bloomer, 1997;Davies and Tedder, 2003;Harrison and Waller, 2018;Morison, 2008;Reay et al., 2001;Scandone, 2018). The next section will discuss this theory in more depth, and highlight its utility as a tool to explore empirical data for the purpose of answering my research questions. ...
... When faced with difficulty in achieving these, students often utilise any resource at their disposal, especially social relationships that can help overcome obstacles. In line with Granovetter's arguments about the power of social networks (1973), Harrison and Waller (2018) argue that the value placed on achievements by young people tends to be shaped by the expectations of adults in their social networks. Hodkinson and Sparkes (1996) Family background played a role in the way future opportunities were framed. ...
Conference Paper
Although the Saudi education system has provided an opportunity to pursue varying pathways for young people, there is a limited understanding of young people’s post-secondary education and employment trajectories in Saudi Arabia. Challenges to implementing educational strategies and reforms include a large youth population, diverse stakeholders, economic diversification and limited education and employment opportunities. With the launch of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, education and labour policy efforts included an expansion to the vocational education and training (TVET) sector to stimulate economic growth and increase the employment of young Saudi citizens in place of foreign employees. However, the relatively low enrolment in vocational education and training (TVET) and its weak status can provide insight into the way young people make decisions about their education to work transitions and highlights a variety of individual and structural challenges young people continuously negotiate in the rapidly changing country. Quantitative empirical research studies fall short in explaining the motivations behind young people’s choices and the extent to which choice is available. This research addresses this gap, employing a qualitative constructivist methodology. Through 18 focus groups and 16 individual interviews, this thesis shares the sentiments of 152 young men and women in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia who were enrolled in initial TVET as well as secondary students at a transition point where TVET became an option. The findings indicate that ‘choice’ is often illusionary, as youth aspirations are not always in line with opportunities and are influenced by the dominant characteristics of the education pathways and the labour market. Young people are influenced by embedded cultural factors such as social networks, family and gender. In making choices that are socially acceptable, young people minimise potential risks and social sanctions by ‘colouring within the lines’ of social acceptability rather than re-drawing them.
... While 'aspiration' has become a ubiquitous term within educational policy in multiple contexts internationally (Gale & Parker, 2015;Harrison & Waller, 2018;Spohrer, 2011), it is often confined to discussions of school aged children and the perception that they need to raise their aspirations both in terms of future employment goals and, relatedly, their goals for participation in higher education (Abrahams, 2018;Allen, 2016;Grim, Moore-Vissing, & Mountford-Zimdars, 2019). The perceived locus of aspiration deficit is, therefore, primary and secondary education, while higher education is offered as the solution. ...
... The result is lower educational expectations for these students. As described by Khattab (2015) and Harrison and Waller (2018), the educational expectations of children condition their actions and efforts to achieve the expected educational goal. That is, expectations are related to educational success. ...
Article
Housing became a social problem in Spain after the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, affecting not only adults but also children, and as we discuss here, their learning process due to their difficult situation. Thus, in this article we analyse the case of the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages in Tarragona, which chose to organise a unique learning space in January 2017 where children could do their homework and receive support in preparing for exams while their parents participated in the assembly. More specific, we analyse the impact of a Successful Education Action, the Extension of Learning Time, on the educational reinforcement of children who participated in the PAH Tarragona learning space. Six children were interviewed (for 3 of them, this was the second school year they participated in the programme, and, for the other 3, this was their first school year), and communicative observations were conducted for 13 months. Moreover, two discussion groups with parents were carried out. The results show how children give meaning to their learning and transform their educational expectations with the Extension of Learning Time, along with participating in quality learning activities in a dialogic environment.
... It has been noted by several commentators [e.g. Baker et al., 2014;Harrison and Waller, 2018] that much government policy towards boosting HE and science participation has followed an aspiration-deficit model, suggesting that inequalities arise at least in part from a lack of desire among low-SES groups to participate. However the evidence for this view is, in fact, lacking; in terms of higher education, at least, young people have uniformly high aspiration for their futures [Archer, DeWitt and Wong, 2014;St. ...
Article
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Widening participation in science is a long-held ambition of governments in the U.K. and elsewhere; however numbers of STEM entrants to university from low-socioeconomic status groups remain persistently low. The authors are conducting a long-term school-based space science intervention with a group of pupils from a very-low-participation area, and studied the science attitudes of the participants at the beginning of the programme. Key findings were that young people from the very-low-SES study cohort were just as interested in science study and science jobs as their peers nationally, and had a pre-existing interest in space science. Some participants, particularly boys, demonstrated a ‘concealed science identity’, in that they perceived themselves as a ‘science person’ but thought that other people did not. Boys tended to score higher on generalised ‘science identity’ measures, but the gender difference disappeared on more ‘realist’ measures. In addition, although participants agreed that it was useful to study science, they had little concrete idea as to why. These findings shed light on how science communicators can best address low-SES groups of young people with the aim of increasing their participation in science education and careers. We conclude that interventions with this group that focus on ‘aspiration raising’ are unlikely to be successful, and instead suggest that activities focus on how young people can see science as a realistic path for their future. It would be helpful for in-school programmes to allow young people an outlet to express their science identity, and to give information about the kinds of jobs that studying science may lead to. Further research into whether the gender split on idealist/realist measures of science identity persists over time would be of use.
... In recent years, the concept of aspiration has come under increasing criticism; it has been dismissed for being too vague, and for lacking sufficient stratification (in terms of student social background) to drive reform with regard to social inequalities in HE (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2014; Baker et al. 2014;Cummings et al. 2012;Harrison and Waller 2018;St. Clair et al. 2013). ...
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Access to and participation in higher education (HE) remains unequal, with social background continuing to influence decisions and experiences. In this paper, we undertake a proof-of-concept design to apply the theory of ‘possible selves’, as adapted by Harrison and published in Social Sciences (2018), to university students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2019, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 first-year students, from different socioeconomic backgrounds, currently studying at a selective English university. We applied a deductive analysis based on Harrison’s adaptation of the ‘possible selves’ model originally put forward by Markus and Nurius in the 1980s. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds had a clear drive to ‘avoid’ future selves that would emerge without HE. Across all socioeconomic groups, we found a strong sense of agency, and a strong personal belief in success. Overall, our study shows that the model of possible selves is useful for understanding personalised and individualised student experiences, and the interrelation between social structure (socioeconomic condition) and agency. The model also offers a new way for practitioners to plan interventions for enhancing equity in HE access and participation.
... Possible selves has broad relevance in HE research, including unpacking persistence and motivation amongst diverse students. The framework was applied retrospectively by Harrison and Waller (2018) to effectively critique the effect of 'aspirational' discourse in UK outreach programs dealing with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Bennett and Male (2017) used it to frame the design and delivery of workshops for engineering students to enable them to articulate aspects of their futures in the field. ...
Article
This article applies the framework of possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986) to the motivation and persistence behaviours of one group of university students. We draw on possible selves to consider how particular goal-focused actions and life experiences may significantly shape movements towards imagined futures. Utilising a narrative approach from longitudinal data, this article considers the ways in which possible selves were articulated by five first-in-family students, all of whom were mature-aged women returning to formal learning. A series of vignettes enabled us to explore how students themselves conceived of this movement into university, and how hoped-for selves were considered and enacted (or not). The ways in which societal expectations and expected life trajectories impact (re)conceptualisation of ‘selves’ is discussed, particularly when individuals choose an unexpected or non-normative life course. (free e-prints: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8AGQST2GMUV33WGZP7SC/full?target=10.1080/07294360.2020.1771682 )
... Recently, some studies showed that educational aspirations are relatively high, even among students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Baker et al. 2014), and there is a growing body of research showing that the relationship between aspirations and outcomes is more complicated. In the UK, the policy of "raising aspiration" was successful but some researchers argue that an emphasis on aspiration should be replaced by a policy emphasis on the academic outcomes and expectations formed by the expectations of those close to them (Harrison -Waller 2018). ...
... This discourse emphasises individual aspirations without understanding the interconnections between a subject's aspirations and their social positioning and identifications (Burke, 2006). A deficit-loaded language and discourse of aspiration continues to prevail in policies and programmes, most explicitly in the UK and Australian contexts, despite the major inequities in higher education being related to access and participation, and research showing that this is not due to a lack of aspiration (St Clair and Benjamin, 2011;Harrison and Waller, 2018;Spohrer et al., 2018). In the UK context, Harrison (2018) highlights the ways in which national strategy documents-including those by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills-continue to showcase examples of 'good practice' that are asserted to be predicated on aspiration-raising. ...
Article
Equity and widening participation (EWP) initiatives in Australia are increasingly reimagined in policy as sites where participants are constructed as competitor‐individuals, with education considered only in terms of employability, social mobility and nation‐state market competition. In the context of EWP outreach, and with school students in particular, this can transpire into demands for narrow forms of ‘legitimate’ aspirations. Goffman defines obscenity as when (1) the very intimate is forced into the public sphere, while (2) the humanising dimensions or contexts are stripped away, with an example being pornography—where intimate encounters are reproduced as de‐contextualised acts while being made public. This article argues that dominant approaches to practicing and evaluating EWP risk obscene consequences if they force community members to present static future‐oriented valuations of intimate, fluid aspirations and experiences of education against a backdrop of increasingly individuated, competitive and standardised educational institutions. In this article, firstly we detail the context to establish a foundation for theorising consequences of particular socio‐educational discursive practices. Secondly, we engage with notions of frame, keying and fabrication as a toolbox to reveal some of the unintended (obscene) dynamics risked via certain approaches to programmatic practice and evaluation. Thirdly, we review the diversity of approaches to evaluation (and their attendant debates), highlighting the importance of these debates and diversities, making a case against methodological imperialism.
... 7 Harrison and McCaig (2017) and Harrison and Waller (2017) challenged the concept of 'what works' approaches in educational research and the definition of 'effectiveness' or 'success' of outreach interventions. 8 Harrison and Waller (2018) revisited the role of expectations by the use of possible selves. In a rural context, where the local labour market may offer few graduate opportunities, it could be difficult for young people to distinguish career paths from university degrees or to have the confidence in their own ability to make a successful transition to HE (Lasselle et al., 2015). ...
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At a time when interventions in widening access to, and participation in, higher education aim to maximise impact by engaging with schools located in the most deprived communities, school pupils in rural communities, and who experience deprivation, are, in practice, less likely to benefit. Using statistics available from the Scottish government, we show that state secondary schools located in Scottish remote or rural areas are not well served by the indicators capturing socio‐economic, educational, or geographical deprivation widely used in the selection of schools for these outreach interventions. We construct a marker that identifies schools facing higher levels of deprivation than the Scottish average. We argue that (1) this marker is a step in the direction towards levelling the playing field between remote or rural schools and urban schools; and (2) it selects a wider range of schools for outreach interventions.
... Research has also highlighted the differential impact of educational aspirations and educational expectations on school achievement (Bozick et al. 2010;Gorard, See, and Davies 2012;Sharp et al. 2020) and participation in higher education (Beal and Crockett 2010;Bohon, Johnson, and Gorman 2006;Kirk et al. 2012), with some debating their competing influences on various educational outcomes (Carter-Wall and Whitfield 2012; Harrison and Waller 2018). Such observations suggest that there may be differences in the ways through which students' educational aspirations and expectations form (Beal and Crockett 2010), and in the conditions that influence their alignment or mismatch with one another (Kirk et al. 2012). ...
... The term "aspirations" lacks a universal definition (see Harrison & Waller, 2018;Quaglia & Cobb, 1996;Sirin et al., 2004). With reference to marginalised learners, "aspirations offer an explanation and understanding of the complex ways through which people in poor circumstances construct viable lives, and in the process accumulate agency" (Joorst, 2015, p. 61). ...
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Within the South African context, a great deal has been written regarding the anticipated career aspirations of youth, with special reference to the non-marginalised. Consequently, there appears to be a paucity of information related to the aspirations of marginalised secondary school youths, especially rural youth. Furthermore, it seems that the majority of aspiration-related research has been quantitative. This qualitative and exploratory study, underpinned by a critical paradigm, is aimed at filling this gap using photovoice, participant-designed PowerPoint text, video presentation, as well as a focus group interview as data generation tools. The findings are presented in two themes, namely, "Hoped for Future That Transcends Current Lived Experiences of the Self, Family, School, and Community" and "Serving as Agents of Hope to Enable Social Change." This paper contributes to the existing body of knowledge regarding the aspirations of secondary school rural youths from a qualitative perspective and is an attempt to sensitise schools, the Department of Basic Education, and greater South African society to the importance of providing a platform for learners to share their aspirations.
... Such studies have argued, instead, that it is differential attainment and expectations that explain their under-representation, both of which are significantly shaped by the perspectives of the adults around them (e.g. Croll and Attwood 2013;Harrison and Waller 2018). The body of work on the aspirations of those within HE is rather less well-developed (although see important exceptions by, for example, Armstrong and Hamilton 2013;Bathmaker et al. 2016;Brooks 2006;Stevens, Armstrong, and Arum 2008). ...
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While there is now a relatively large literature on young people's aspirations with respect to their transitions from compulsory schooling, the body of work on the aspirations of those within higher education is rather less well-developed. This article draws on data from undergraduate students in six European countries to explore their hopes for their post-university lives. It demonstrates that although aspirations for employment were discussed most frequently, non-economic plans and desires were also important. Moreover, despite significant commonalities across the six nations, aspirations were also differentiated, to some extent at least, by national context, institutional setting and subject of study.
... The present researcher felt a need to study this issue in Kuwaiti classrooms to arrive at the necessary recommendations based on its findings. Purpose of the study Harrison & Waller (2018) suggest that there is a strong relationship between expectations and "young people's aspirations and socioeconomic status," they are "shaped by the adults surrounding them," and "parents and teachers "exert a strong influence on which possible selves appear probable to young people" (Harrison & Waller, 2018, p. 9). ...
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ABSTRACT Objectives: The purpose of this study was to compare the influence of students' characteristics on social studies student teachers' expectations of students' behavioral, attitudinal, or ambitious performances and other student teachers. Methodology: A descriptive quantitative approach consisted of administering a questionnaire on a sample of 135 student teachers of various specializations and GPAs at Kuwait University. Data analysis compared the mean of the sample respondents. Results: The results showed that student teachers of different GPAs and fields of specialization tend to form different expectations about diverse classroom students based on some of their characteristics. However, no differences in these expectations based on the student teachers' GPAs and fields of specialization existed. Conclusion: Recommendations were brought to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education and the teacher preparation program in Kuwaiti universities. The influence of these student characteristics on achievement is suggested to be researched by further studies. Keywords: teachers' expectations, student characteristics, students' behaviors. خصائص التلاميذ وأثرها على تكوين التوقعات لدى الطلبة المعلمين الخاصة بسلوكيات واتجاهات وطموحات المتعلمين: دراسة مقارنة بين الدراسات الاجتماعية والتخصصات الأخرى د. عبد الله الهاجري، د. عبد العزيز الشمري ملخص الأهداف: مقارنة مدى تأثير خصائص المتعلمين على توقعات الطلبة-المعلمين الخاصة بالأداء السلوكي أو الاتجاهات أو طموح هؤلاء المتعلمين وذلك ما بين تخصص الدراسات الاجتماعية وغيرها. المنهجية: استخدم الباحث المنهج الوصفي الكمي من خلال استبانة معدة لهذا الغرض وعينة من 135 من الطلبة المعلمين بكلية التربية بجامعة الكويت بمراعاة مختلف تخصصاتهم ومعدلاتهم الدراسية كمتغيرات للدراسة. نتائج الدراسة: أظهرت النتائج أن الطلاب-المعلمين من مختلف المعدلات ومجالات التخصص يقومون بتشكيل توقعات مختلفة حول الطلاب على أساس مستوى جاذبيتهم وترتيب الهندام ولم توجد أية فروق في هذه التوقعات بين الطلبة-المعلمين من مختلف التخصصات والمعدلات الدراسية. الخاتمة: قدمت الدراسة توصياتها إلى وزارة التربية والتعليم الكويتية وبرامج إعداد المعلمين بالجامعات الكويتية. وختم الباحث دراسته بالدعوة لإجراء مزيد من البحث لدراسة تأثير هذه الخصائص الطلابية على التحصيل العلمي في المادة. الكلمات المفتاحية: توقعات المعلمين، خصائص التلميذ، سلوكيات التلميذ.
... Many working-class young people are keenly aware of the low expectations of them from larger society and so act accordingly. Harrison and Waller (2018) explain that young people do indeed aspire, but they also grasp what is objectively available to them and so temper those aspirations accordingly. Similarly, Papafilippou and Bathmaker (2018) demonstrate the accrual of additional capital alongside the academic qualification required for successful education to employment transitions is often made possible through creation of "a strong possible career self." ...
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As trends of social and economic change allow precarity to inch into the lives of those who may have been more accustomed to security (Standing, 2011 , 2014 ), this paper addresses the response of some young people who are caught “betwixt and between” in potentially liminal states (Turner, 1967 ). Those whose families have undertaken intra- or intergenerational social mobility and who have made a home in a place, Ingleby Barwick in Teesside, that seems to be of them and for them—an in-between place that is seen as “not quite” middle or working class. This paper draws data from a research project that adopted a qualitative phenomenological approach to uncover the meaning of experiences for participants. Methods included focus groups and semi-structured interviews through which 70 local people contributed their thoughts, hopes, concerns, and stories about their lives now and what they aspire to for the future. Places, such as the large private housing estate in the Northeast of England on which this research was carried out, make up significant sections of the UK population, yet tend to be understudied populations, often missed by a sociological gaze attracted to extremes. It was anticipated that in Ingleby Barwick, where social mobility allows access to this relatively exclusive estate, notions of individualism and deservingness that underlie meritocratic ideology (Mendick et al., 2015 ; Littler, 2018 ) would be significant, a supposition borne out in the findings. “Making it” to Ingleby was, and continues to be, indicative to many of meritocratic success, making it “a moral place for moral people” (McEwan, 2019 ). Consequently, the threat then posed by economic precarity, of restricting access to the transitions and lifestyles that create the “distinction” (Bourdieu, 1984 ) required to denote fit to this place, is noted to be very real in a place ironically marked by many outside it as fundamentally unreal.
... We propose that while there are broader illustrations of expanding gender norms (Morris & Anderson, 2015;Scholes, 2020) and policy agendas to expand gendered participation (Murphy et al., 2019), constraining norms remain evident in children's career aspirations at a very early age in Australia. This may reflect ongoing enculturation through a range of experiences, including situated local expectations (Harrison & Waller, 2018), teacher stereotypical perceptions (Muntoni & Retelsdorf, 2018;Perander et al., 2020) and communities of practice in classrooms (Paechter, 2006). Policy agendas in Australia are not focused on challenging such gender stereotypes in the early years-rather, they are focused on funding programmes to upskill teachers, improving STEM literacy and numeracy, evaluating current programmes and introducing new programmes such as the delivery of Artificial Intelligence in Schools, under the Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan, as part of the $29.9 million Artificial Intelligence Capability Fund measure (Department of Education Skills & Employment, 2021). ...
Article
This article reports on a survey of 332 Year 3 students from 14 Australian schools. We are interested in exploring Year 3 primary school student aspirations and what this data shows us about any societal changes, or not. This study is timely as it reports on contemporary data within an Australian educational context marked by significant investment in improving equitable gendered participation, particularly for girls entering STEM. Drawing on conceptions of masculinities and femininities as social constructions, we report on the participants’ desired occupations and explore their justifications for such choices. The top three occupations for boys included careers in professional sports, STEM‐related jobs and policing/defence. Girls reported wanting to be teachers, veterinarians or to work in the arts as their top choices. As part of our exploration, we found issues of money and power—traditionally coded masculine—and conceptions of love and care—traditionally coded feminine—ingrained in boys’ and girls’ justifications for their desired trajectories. Findings are significant for illustrating how traditional constructions of gender are ingrained in career choices in the early years of primary school and how policy agendas to widen participation need to start early in life.
... Professional judgement and tacit knowledge of alternative and innovative methods of practice and evaluation could be lost. Within a process based system, subtle nuances of learners' development and belief in their future possible selves (Markus and Nurius 1986;Harrison and Waller 2018) may be missed in aggregated and big data and enveloped within discourses of performativity (Ball 2012;Burke 2018). ...
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Professionalising outreach and evaluation work would enhance the quality and rigour of provision, benefit widening participation students and achieve regulatory requirements (Bowes et al. [2019]. The National Collaborative Outreach Programme End of Phase 1 report for the national formative and impact evaluations. Office for Students; Rainford [2020]. “Working with/in institutions: how policy enactment in widening participation is shaped through practitioners’ experience.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 42 (2): 287–303). This article presents practitioners’ experiences of how social justice can often feel unaligned to the technical expertise required in rigorous project design and evaluation. Professionalising outreach would achieve both improved practice and meet practitioners’ needs for development and a united professional voice. A professional body sharing standard methods of practice, offering CPD and skills would elevate outreach practitioners to a ‘professional’ standing (Eraut [1994]. Developing professional knowledge and competence. Falmer Press).
... 3. We are mindful of the similarities with the work or Markus and Nurius (1986) around 'possible selves' and the way in which individualised projections of the possible self are grounded in wider conceptions of personal experience and circumstance. We also recognise similarities with Harrison and Waller (2018), who emphasise the role of 'aspiration' and 'expectation' in the construction of possible selves, particularly within the context of educational achievement and progression. 4. The survey included questions on employment, education and training, and psychological and social factors. ...
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The utilisation of non-formal educational methods has long been advocated as a means of supporting marginalised young people. For many in this cohort, the adverse social circumstances that confront them can limit their sense of hope and leave them susceptible to educational under-achievement and/or engagement in anti-social behaviour. Research indicates that sport can act as an effective back-drop for the promotion of non-formal educational programmes especially in relation to marginalised youth. However, there is contention over the role that such programmes play in providing a foundation for enhanced aspirational goals and social integration. Drawing upon research conducted on one UK-based sporting intervention, this paper explores how project engagement enabled participants to enhance their sense of hope, especially around education, training and employment. In so doing the paper demonstrates how the pedagogical approach adopted by project staff, drew parallels with critical education, and nurtured an increased sense of hope amongst participants.
... These difficulties are exaggerated by epistemological deficits that negate the possibility of robust evaluations of success, the schools' own agendas promoting engagement with successful students, and the tension between low attainment and high aspirations in disadvantaged young people. Indeed, Harrison and Waller (2018) are surely right to criticise the overreliance of HE discourses on aspiration, given both that there appears to be no clear link between aspiration and attainment (Harrison and Waller 2018:920-921) and that, in a market context, there may be many different non-HE options, such as skilled trades, which offer prospects for more affluent lives than HE. They persuasively propose that WP shifts toward expectations by adopting policy that 'addresses inequalities earlier in [young people's] lives, engages with the adults surrounding young people, provides advice when it is needed and does not perpetuate the classed myth of low aspirations' (Harrison and Waller, 2018:934). ...
Article
This article considers support programmes for direct entrant (DE) student transitions as a widening participation strategy. We reflect upon one induction and support project with 27 students transitioning from further education into the second year of undergraduate social science degree programmes in a Scottish university. We use focus group data to discuss what works (barriers to successful transitions, project successes and limitations) and primarily who works; how responsibility for supporting DE student transitions is distributed and which students benefit. Original findings confirm existing evidence that becoming an ‘independent learner’ is a challenge for DE students. However, analysis problematizes and significantly expands existing understandings of relationships with staff and peer support, and contributes new insight into how the materiality and everyday logistics of the university relate to DE student transitions. We argue for more institutionally embedded approaches to supporting student transitions, including resourcing academic staff to develop and provide this support.
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This project investigated the postsecondary education aspirations of 27 secondary school-aged students living in greater London, England and greater Boston, Massachusetts, USA. An innovative research design was implemented to support a technology-facilitated international focus group allowing for exchanges between the US and English students. Using human ecology theory, the findings show that differences in students’ exosystems, specifically the financial aid and loan repayment processes, influence student postsecondary education and career aspirations. US student concerns about affordability and loan repayment made aspirations lower and more localized. In contrast, English participants felt comforted by their government’s deferred loan repayment process, so they did not express such strong constraints on aspirations based on financial considerations. Both English and US students were influenced similarly by the mesosystem when making decisions about which postsecondary institution to attend. In conclusion, altering exosystem policy and influencing mesosystem relationships could impact postsecondary education aspirations for low-income students.
Article
Official policy texts in England have long assumed that students make their Higher Education choices in an individualized, rational and context-free manner. Under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government (2010–2015), a greater emphasis was placed on accomplishing higher levels of widening participation in elite institutions. Those who do not progress to such institutions, or to HE at all, are presented as having ‘low aspirations’. Using data from an ESRC funded narrative inquiry of socioeconomically underrepresented Further Education students’ HE decision-making and choices, I demonstrate how they aspired highly while initially showing competitive and individualized choice strategies. However, financial constraints led to the renegotiation of their aspirations over time, leading them to compromise for ‘reasonable’ rather than ‘preferred’ HE options. Subsequently, this had negative impacts upon the participants’ subjectivities. The article provides support for arguments against current individualized conceptualizations of ‘aspiration’ presented by policy, and proposes approaches to move away from this.
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This paper examines two contrasting creative methods; a drawing task and a LEGO building task used in a study exploring the gap between policy and practice in widening participation to higher education across two different types of university in England. These creative methods were used within 16 semi-structured interviews in seven universities to attempt to explore deeper understandings of everyday policy and what they mean in practice and to make comparisons across types of institutions. This paper examines the role that creative confidence played in the effectiveness of both methods through exploring the successes and failures of each arguing that understanding these barriers can improve the successful use of these methods, especially with adults. When these barriers are overcome, the paper also demonstrates how creative methods encouraged more reflective discussion of everyday issues, increased levels of rapport, and shared engagement in the interview process.
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Objective: The present study critically evaluates the assumption that parental involvement benefits students’ achievement regardless of their socioeconomic status (SES). Design: A meta-analysis of 98 studies published 2000-2017 examines if patterns of associations between 11 specific parental involvement variables and the academic achievement of K-12 students vary with parental SES as measured by educational level. Results: Results showed that (1) six specific aspects of parental involvement, namely parental academic expectations, parental support for child learning, parent-child discussion of school matters, parental participation in school governance and events, parent and child reading together, and parental emphasis on education, were positively associated with student achievement; (2) subtle forms of parental involvement were most strongly associated with student achievement, followed by home- and school-based involvement; (3) parental learning support at home, parental academic emphasis, and parent-teacher communication had stronger association with the achievement of students whose parents were more educated; (4) parent-teacher communication and parental academic emphasis for college-educated parents did not additionally benefit student achievement when compared to these involvement activities for parents with at most Grade-12 education; and (5) parental involvement was more strongly associated with the linguistic achievement of students with highly educated parents. Conclusions: These results provide evidence that some benefits of parental involvement are stratified by familial SES.
Article
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Highly selective higher education institutions (HEIs) are simultaneously mandated to enable access for populations which have traditionally been excluded (‘equality’), and to ensure that admitted students have the potential to succeed in higher education (‘excellence’). This article uses original empirical case study data from 2018, from nine highly selective English HEIs, to explore current uses of contextual data in undergraduate admissions. The results show that all participating HEIs thought holistically about their applicants. In particular, HEIs considered the context in which applicants had achieved their grades, and aimed to identify academic potential not captured by those grades. However, ideological and theoretical disagreements, as well as practical barriers, hamper a more widespread and consistent application of contextual data in English undergraduate admissions. The article therefore identifies further practical steps for HEIs and other stakeholders that would enable a more valid, evidence-based and coherent position on contextual data use across the HE sector. Overall, advancing more consistency in how contextual data are used might enable greater certainty among applicants, and those advising them, regarding how applications for admissions are likely to be judged. Ultimately, contextual admission policies have the potential to increase diversity among the admitted students at selective HEIs.
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This article explores the extent to which three different school or college characteristics are related to school or college-level progression rates to higher education. Using data from publicly available datasets concerning state schools and colleges in England, linear regression analyses were performed to investigate the extent to which progression rates to higher education are related to the proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged pupils within schools, the proportion of pupils in schools who reside in “low participation neighbourhoods” and the effectiveness of schools as determined through Ofsted inspections. Schools with a higher proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged pupils tend to send fewer pupils to university though once school-level attainment is controlled for this trend reverses. However, schools with higher proportions of pupils in low participation neighbourhoods and those with lower Ofsted ratings tend to send fewer pupils to university both before and after school-level attainment is controlled for. The findings are interpreted within the context of a widening participation agenda and suggestions are made for how providers of widening participation outreach activities may most effectively target school-level interventions designed to increase higher education participation, especially those which do not have the effect of raising pupil attainment.
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Student retention has not changed in almost 40 years despite the plethora of attention. Maybe it is time to look at it differently. The study examines the relationships of parental education level, educational aspirations, and engagement. The National Survey of Student Engagement data were used in the analyses, but it raised questions about the nature of engagement. Results showed a shift from traditional thinking. Parental education levels, student aspirations, and engagement are not necessarily linked. Implications suggest that with each new generation, there are a different set engagement values. Future research should examine how engagement is conceptualized and its relationship to retention.
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As working-class female academics, this paper examines the constructions of our identities focusing on both what unites and differentiates us as working-class women. We focus on the structuring forces in our lives such as our class, our whiteness and our gender, but we also discuss how our experiences have been shaped by space and place as a complex set of time-sensitive inter-relationships involving domination and subordination. Here, our different stories of where, when and how we grew up are discussed as we attempt to make sense of these in relation to our construction of class and its intersectionality with these important aspects of our lives. We examine how these shaping features of our identities influence the personal investment we place in our work and how the middle-class ‘status’ inferred upon us by our educational ‘success’ and engagement within academia almost always feels contradictory to our own subjectivities and working-class loyalties.
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This paper examines one of the key temporal characteristics evident in public policy frames for widening participation in higher education. It demonstrates that the ambitions of such policies are potentially compromised by temporal notions implicated in a mode of chronocentrism, forecasting the future as a ‘minimal departure’ from the present. Engaging with the latest research into Futures Literacy and Anticipation it outlines alternative strategies for recognising and renegotiating such constraints (‘What If?’ scenarios and gaming), opening up pathways for policymakers and practitioners to imagine the future of higher education as a more inclusive and equitable time–space.
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In the UK, transition to university has become regarded as the ‘normative’ next step for young people following completion of their post-16 education. This paper examines the views of 23 young people who, despite being suitably qualified to progress to university, were anticipating alternative pathways and options. The paper illuminates the centrality of young people’s ‘learning identities’ in their decisions and the role of wider social contexts in structuring their opportunities to embark on higher education. Their ‘learning identities’ informed their views on the value of higher education and other options in securing future employment. The implications of these findings are highly significant in the context of congested and competitive UK labour markets in which obtaining a degree has become, in very many contexts, the bare minimum for securing employment.
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Widening participation in England has been framed around two primary needs; raising attainment and raising aspiration. Whilst aspiration is complex, policy definitions often frame it in narrow economic terms and see access to higher education as primarily about developing a workforce, the underlying logic being that to improve social mobility that individuals need to “aim higher”. Pre-entry work with under-represented groups therefore has tended to adopt a deficit of aspiration approach. There has been extensive critique of the deficit model yet “raising aspirations” still endures in both national and institutional policy. Drawing on sixteen semi-structured interviews with widening participation practitioners in England, this paper considers the alignment between policy and practice. It explores the more complex and nuanced view of aspiration held by practitioners and how this more closely aligns with the theory of possible selves. This paper argues that there are two key issues; a disjuncture between policy and practice and a gap in understanding of the structural issues associated with aspiration. The paper argues that the solution involves a radical rethink of policy that returns to a focus on helping individuals to realise their own individual aspirations and more clearly acknowledges the structural constraints shaping the formation, vocalisation and realisation of aspirations.
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This paper reports on a project in the North of England that looks at the college-to-university decision-making processes of non-traditional students through the conceptual lens of ‘Possible Selves’, as initially developed by Markus and Nurius (1986) and applied to higher education by Harrison (2018), Henderson (2019) and others. Our data involves in-depth interviews with young people, and with the college staff responsible for advising and guiding them, at Further Education Colleges from which the rate of transition to university is lower than the national average. Our findings show that young people talk about their ‘like-to-be’ and ‘like-to-avoid’ futures in complex and self-regulated ways, often moderating how they articulate aspiration to align with external discourses, such as those projected by college staff. Students also demonstrate a keen awareness of structural limits, effectively constructing future selves which, though ‘elaborated’, reflect counter-reading of dominant narratives around financial self-improvement as achieved via the ‘full’ university experience. The ‘Possible Selves’ approach is therefore found to be enabling as a mediating artefact for researchers, and valuable for identifying policy-relevant points of tension between students and their college staff.
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The concept of ‘aspiration-raising’ has been ubiquitous in the discussion of differential rates of participation in higher education in England for many years. Potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds are constructed as setting their sights too low and therefore not considering higher education or ignoring elite universities that they could access. However, it is increasingly understood that aspiration-raising is unable to explain patterns of participation and that it risks ‘blaming the victim’ by failing to appreciate the structural constraints forged through their sociocultural context. The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative lens in the form of ‘possible selves’. This is drawn from the discipline of psychology and aims to explain how we all conceive and develop visions of ourselves in future states. These images create a motivational impetus for actions in the present in order to achieve a like-to-be self—or evade a like-to-avoid self. Notably, the theory takes specific account of the individual’s expectations and the importance of having a clear pathway towards a long-term destination. This paper provides an overview of the foundational theory and empirical evidence for a general readership, before presenting a new conceptual model focused on access to higher education. This is then used to explore the principles that might underpin interventions to support participation from disadvantaged groups within highly stratified systems, as well as suggesting a new policy agenda and priorities for future research.
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An important axis of inequality in Britain is the private/state school divide. The success of private schools in Britain in delivering high academic achievements and better-paid jobs has been attributed to these schools engendering high self-evaluations, greater aspirations and social networks. Using recently repaired data on secondary school type from the 1970 British Cohort Study, we find that internal locus of control, aspirations and access to networks, but not self-esteem, are raised by private schooling. Locus of control and aspirations (but not networks or self-esteem) each have modest effects on earnings at age 42. Yet only a small part of the private school earnings premium is accounted for by all these factors. Much of the premium is due, rather, to educational attainments. This evidence suggests that strategies to strengthen self-evaluations or aspirations in state schools will contribute little on their own to the objective of greater equality or social mobility.
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In England and Australia, higher education institutions (HEIs) are expected to widen participation (WP) in higher education (HE) to enhance social justice and improve individual and national economic returns. Furthermore, HEIs are the major providers of initial and in-service teacher education. This article surveys international literature to explore ways in which teacher education programmes could and do contribute to preparing teachers to advocate for WP, including drawing on learning from WP research that demonstrates the value of current HE students engaging young people in schools and colleges to support them in seriously considering progressing to HE. We conclude that teachers and pre-service teachers are well placed to be advocates for WP. In the majority of higher education institutions, however, WP and teacher education functions are not working collaboratively to embed advocacy for WP into teacher education programmes.
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This paper aims to better understand the relationship between young people's aspirations towards education and jobs, and the context in which they are formed, especially to understand better the role of disadvantaged places in shaping young people's aspirations. Policy makers maintain that disadvantaged areas are associated with low aspirations and there is support for this position from academic work on neighbourhood effects and local labour markets, but evidence is slim. Using a two-stage survey of young people in disadvantaged settings in three British cities, the paper provides new data on the nature of young peoples’ aspirations, how they change during the teenage years, and how they relate to the places where they are growing up. The findings are that aspirations are very high and, overall, they do not appear to be depressed in relation to the jobs available in the labour market either by the neighbourhood context or by young people's perceptions of local labour markets. However, there are significant differences between the pattern of aspirations and how they change over time in the three locations. The paper then challenges assumptions in policy and in the literature that disadvantaged places equal low aspirations and suggests that understanding how aspirations are formed requires needs a nuanced approach to the nexus of class, ethnicity and institutional influences within local areas.
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Using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), this study examines how different combinations of aspirations, expectations and school achievement can influence students’ future educational behaviour (applying to university at the age of 17–18). The study shows that students with either high aspirations or high expectations have higher school achievement than those with both low aspirations and low expectations. Furthermore, complete alignment between high aspirations, high expectations and high achievement is the most important predictor of future educational behaviour among students. However, it is also found that low expectations do not negatively impact students’ future behaviour when they have high aspirations accompanied with high school achievement. Additionally, the study finds significant ethnic differences in favour of white students at GCSE level, but that these differences are reversed in relation to applying to university at the age of 17–18.
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Educational and occupational aspirations have become an important reference point in policy debates about educational inequality. Low aspirations are presented as a major barrier to closing educational attainment gaps and increasing levels of social mobility. Our paper contributes to this on-going debate by presenting data on the educational aspirations of students from the Effective Provision of Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project in England. We analyse factors that help predict students holding high aspirations. Our findings reveal generally high aspirations across all students but also differences by income group and other background factors. We evaluate the significance of these findings for the existing literature and public policy discussions about the importance of raising educational aspirations. In particular, we question the way in which low aspirations are framed by policy-makers as a major problem in debates around educational inequality.
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This review examines whether the attitudes, aspirations and behaviours of young people and their parents influence educational attainment and participation. The 'poverty gap' in education means that children from poorer families tend to do less well at school and beyond. It is crucial to know whether this situation can be improved by activities to enhance the beliefs and behaviour of the most educationally marginalised families. If attitudes and aspirations do cause higher levels of attainment, then appropriate interventions can be developed. But if they do not, then money and effort is being wasted on approaches that may even have damaging side effects. This all-encompassing review of existing evidence provides summaries on a range of areas, from parental expectations tochildsubstance abuse. The review: • presents a model of causation for social science; • provides information from almost 170,000 pieces ofevidence; • summarises the effects of 13 different kinds of belief andbehaviour; • highlights the implications for policy, practice and future research funding.
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This article reports on a longitudinal study of student aspirations at the ages of 13 and 15 in three schools in the United Kingdom, where there has been a great deal of emphasis placed on aspirations in recent policy making. The data, based on individual interviews with 490 students in areas with significant deprivation as well as interviews with parents, teachers and community members, call into question the effectiveness of concentrating educational efforts on raising aspirations. Aspirations, even in these communities struggling with poverty, are very high—the missing element is the knowledge of how to make these aspirations concrete and obtainable. Implications for educators include insights into the highly aspirational nature of marginalised communities, the key role teachers play in helping aspirations come to fruition, and the need to focus on supporting young people to achieve aspirations that already substantially exceed the jobs available in the UK workforce.
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This paper considers the role of social capital in the aspirations for higher education of a group of socially disadvantaged girls. Drawing on data from a longitudinal, ethnographic case study of an underperforming secondary school, the paper considers current conceptualisations and the role of family in educational ambitions. The paper concludes by tentatively suggesting that whilst social capital is extremely helpful in explaining differences within groups, trust appears to be a pre-requisite for the investment and generation of social capital, as opposed to the other way around. The paper also suggests that young people are not necessarily dependent on their families for their social capital but are able to generate capital in their own right.
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The study examined the relation between possible selves, academic performance, motivation, self-esteem and persistence on task. The assumption was that envisioning a desired end-state produces information processing favouring the desired state and, as a consequence, the action seems more likely and people are able to construct more efficient plans. We hypothesized that academic performance is best for subjects who are able to produce well-elaborated, vivid pictures of future selves. The sample consisted of 289 students, 14 and 15 years old of both sexes. The statistical analysis revealed that those who endorsed specific, elaborated positive selves outperformed the other groups in academic achievement. There was also indication that this group of students showed more persistence on task. The results are discussed in terms of their importance for the motivational role of possible selves in achievement situations.
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Governments, local authorities, school leaders, and teachers all over the world want to improve the attainment and participation of their students at school. They also want to minimise any systematic differences in school outcomes between social and economic groups. However, considerable effort and money is being wasted on policies, practices and interventions that have very little hope of success, and that may indeed endanger the progress that is being made otherwise. The poor quality of much education research evidence, and an unwillingness among users of evidence to discriminate appropriately between what we know and do not know, means that opportunities are being missed. At a time of reduced public spending and increased public unrest, at least in the UK, it is important that proposed interventions are both effective and efficient. There are evidence-informed ways forward in handling under-achievement and increasing social justice in education. This book shows which the more likely approaches are, and where further work could yield further benefits. The book will synthesise and summarise the full body of existent evidence on how to overcome disadvantage at school, with a special focus on the role of poverty in educational attainment and post-compulsory participation. The summary on each approach will be inclusive and critical. The book represents a bold attempt to uncover how to break the stratifying links between the socio-economic background of individuals and their educational futures. This book is unique in three ways. • It shows where the solutions to disadvantage and the poverty gradient may lie, and where they do not lie. • It combines primary (new), secondary (official) and published (review) evidence in a way that has never been attempted before in this area. All of these types of data are synthesised for the first time, to find out how to overcome disadvantage in education. The book adopts a clear model of causation in social science – consisting of association, temporal sequence, intervention and explanatory mechanism. It then uses this model to assemble and audit the evidence of all types relevant to the plausible causes of disadvantage. Very few possible causes have sufficient evidence for a complete causal model. • It clearly distinguishes between those possible causes of disadvantage that are largely fixed for individuals – such as their sex, health record, or family background – and those that are modifiable – such as the school attended, area of residence, or their motivation. The main focus of the book is on the latter list, since only these can be of use to anyone wishing to improve the educational chances of the most disadvantaged in society. “Overcoming disadvantage” is a research-based book, relevant for courses at Masters level and above in social policy, social work, sociology, and education. It will also be of considerable interest to researchers, practitioners and policy-makers in these areas. It is based on a number of research projects and analyses conducted by the authors, combined with a new way of looking at how we assess causation in social science. Despite its original approach, the book is written in an accessible and engaging manner, suitable for its readership. Terminology and technical issues are kept to the minimum needed for a reader to understand the research issues and to form their own critical judgements. Full references are given to the technical background for those who wish to learn more.
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This article draws on case studies of nine working-class students at Southern, an elite university. 1 It attempts to understand the complexities of identities in flux through Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and field. Bourdieu (1990a) argues that when an individual encounters an unfamiliar field, habitus is transformed. He also writes of how the movement of habitus across new, unfamiliar fields results in ‘a habitus divided against itself ’ (Bourdieu, 1999a). Our data suggest more nuanced understandings in which the challenge of the unfamiliar results in a range of creative adaptations and multi-faceted responses. They display dispositions of self-scrutiny and self-improvement — almost ‘a constant fashioning and re-fashioning of the self ’ but one that still retains key valued aspects of a working-class self. Inevitably, however, there are tensions and ambivalences, and the article explores these, as well as the very evident gains for working-class students of academic success in an elite HE institution.
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This paper discusses how the rhetoric of ‘diversity’ is mobilised within New Labour HE policy discourse around widening participation (WP). The paper argues that these constructions of diversity derive an important element of their symbolic power from an association with notions of ‘equality’—and yet the radical/egalitarian potential of WP policy and practice is subverted and compromised by New Labour's pursuit of neoliberalism—to the extent that WP is rendered more a tool for social control than social justice. The paper is organised in two main parts: the first considers New Labour's promotion of ‘institutional diversity’—and how this is tied to ‘choice’. The second part discusses how ‘student diversity’ is being discursively mobilised within the context of ‘equality’ and ‘social inclusion’. It is argued that this common-sense linkage (between ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’) is conceptually untenable within New Labour policy and practice due to a privileging of the economic, the pursuit of institutional diversity, and the use of the market within higher education. It is argued that a diversity of students in HE cannot be taken as an indicator of greater ‘equality’ within the system, and attention is drawn to the ways in which ‘diversity’ may operate as a moral discourse that silences other competing (e.g., critical) accounts of WP.
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Aimhigher was discontinued on 31 July 2011. This paper reviews the literature analysing its contribution to widening participation to higher education in the UK. Successes of Aimhigher are considered alongside its challenges; particularly the necessity to situate policy within the diverse demands of 42 areas covering England. These issues are considered in the context of wider contemporary debates concerning the quality of research into widening participation and instruments used to evaluate policy. Four strands of literature are identified and analysed: Aimhigher's impact and evaluation, its effectiveness in targeting beneficiaries, the progression and tracking of students and policy.
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This paper explores constructions of the 'new' university student in the context of UK government policy to widen participation in higher education. New Labour discourse stresses the benefits of widening participation for both individuals and society, although increasing the levels of participation of students from groups who have not traditionally entered university has been accompanied by a discourse of 'dumbing down' and lowering standards. The paper draws on an ongoing longitudinal study of undergraduate students in a post-1992 inner-city university in the UK to examine students' constructions of their experiences and identities in the context of public discourses of the 'new' higher education student. Many of the participants in this study would be regarded as 'non-traditional' students, i.e. those students who are the focus of widening participation policy initiatives. As Reay et al. (2002) discovered, for many 'non-traditional' students studying in higher education is characterized by 'struggle', something that also emerged as an important theme in this research. The paper examines the ways in which these new student identities both echo the New Labour dream of widening participation and yet continue to reflect and re-construct classed and other identities and inequalities.
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This paper, based on ESRC‐funded research work in four case study schools, explores the ‘pressures’ to ‘deliver’ which bear upon English secondary schools in relation to GCSE performance. It further illustrates the ways in which pressure is transformed into tactics which focus on particular students, with the effect of ‘rationing’ education in the schools. Foucault’s analysis from Discipline and Punish is deployed to examine these tactics and to relate them to more general changes in the regime of techniques and ‘play of dominations’ operating in English schools.
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In the current discourse on the transition from school to work, career decision‐making has a pivotal but paradoxical position. Sociological literature emphasises the dominance of socially‐structured pathways, whilst policy‐making operates on assumptions of individual freedom to choose. In this paper we draw on the work of Pierre Bourdieu to present a new model of career decision‐making, given the shorthand title of ‘careership’. There are three completely integrated dimensions to the model. These are (i) pragmatically rational decision‐making, located in the habitus of the person making the decision; (ii) the interactions with others in the (youth training) field, related to the unequal resources different ‘players’ possess; and (iii) the location of decisions within the partly unpredictable pattern of turning‐points and routines that make up the life course. This model avoids the twin pitfalls of implicit social determinism or of seeing (young) people as completely free agents.
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Parental expectations have long been studied as a factor in increasing adolescent educational aspirations, often linking these expectations to parental level of education and involvement in academic endeavours. This study further explores this relationship in a statewide Midwestern sample of parents and their adolescent children. Regression analysis and independent samples t‐tests were used to predict adolescent aspirations and compare groups. Results suggest that adolescent educational aspirations can to some degree be predicted by parental expectations. Parents reported high expectations for their children despite low levels of personal educational attainment. However, these high expectations were buffered by a reported unfamiliarity with college requirements and an expressed concern about college affordability and limited awareness of financial aid opportunities. Limitations and suggestions for future research and intervention are discussed.
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Introduces the concept of possible selves (PSs) to complement current conceptions of self-knowledge. PSs represent individuals' ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming, and thus provide a conceptual link beteen cognition and motivation. PSs are the cognitive components of hopes, fears, goals, and threats; they give the specific self-relevant form, meaning, organization, and direction to these dynamics. It is suggested that PSs function as incentives for future behavior and to provide an evaluative and interpretive context for the current view of self. The nature and function of PSs and their role in addressing several persistent problems (e.g., the stability and malleability of the self, the unity of the self, self-distortion, the relationship between the self-concept and behavior) are discussed. (143 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Performance measurement is not an end in itself. So why should public managers measure performance? Because they may find such measures helpful in achieving eight specific managerial purposes. As part of their overall management strategy, public managers can use performance measures to evaluate, control, budget, motivate, promote, celebrate, learn, and improve. Unfortunately, no single performance measure is appropriate for all eight purposes. Consequently, public managers should not seek the one magic performance measure. Instead, they need to think seriously about the managerial purposes to which performance measurement might contribute and how they might deploy these measures. Only then can they select measures with the characteristics necessary to help achieve each purpose. Without at least a tentative theory about how performance measures can be employed to foster improvement (which is the core purpose behind the other seven), public managers will be unable to decide what should be measured.
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Participation rates in higher education differ persistently between some groups in society. Using two British datasets we investigate whether this gap is rooted in students’ misperception of their own and other's ability, thereby increasing the expected costs to studying. Amongst high school pupils, we find that pupils with a more positive view of their academic abilities are more likely to expect to continue to higher education even after controlling for observable measures of ability and students’ characteristics. University students are also poor at estimating their own test performance and over-estimate their predicted test score. However, females, White and working class students have less inflated view of themselves. Self-perception has limited impact on the expected probability of success and expected returns amongst these university students.
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Aimhigher is a key government initiative to widen participation in higher education (HE). This article contributes to addressing a gap in the widening participation literature by measuring the effect of Aimhigher on compulsory schooling attainment, HE applications and HE entries. The research employs a new method based on multiple regression analysis carried out with the data gathered by an Aimhigher partnership. The results suggest that Aimhigher has had a positive impact on GCSE results and, especially, HE applications and entries; it is estimated that being targeted by Aimhigher is associated with an increase in the probability of entering into HE by about four percentage points.
Book
Drawing together example studies from international contexts, this edited collection provides a new and cross-disciplinary perspective on the concept of the possible self, exploring its theoretical, methodological and empirical uses with regards to Higher Education. Building on research which examines the ways in which possible selves are constructed through inequalities of class, race and gender, the book interrogates the role of imagined futures in student, professional and academic lives, augmenting the concept of possible selves, with its origins in psychology, with sociological approaches to educational inequalities and exclusionary practices. Possible Selves and Higher Education considers both the theoretical and methodological frameworks behind the concept of possible selves; the first section includes chapters that consider different theoretical insights, while the second section offers empirical examples, exploring how the possible selves concept has been used in many diverse higher education research contexts. With each chapter considering a different aspect of the structural barriers to or within education, the examples provided range from the experiences of students and teachers in the language learning classroom, to graduates entering employment for the first time, and refugees seeking to rebuild lives through engagement with education. Offering a broad and diverse examination of how concepts of our future selves can affect and limit educational outcomes, this book furthers the sociological dialogue concerning the relationship between individual agency and structural constraints in higher education research. It is an essential and influential text for both students and academics, as well as anyone responsible for student services such as outreach and widening participation.
Article
This article, drawing upon the Paired Peers project, a longitudinal qualitative study (n = 90), examines how seven UK engineering graduates, four women and three men, construct their career identities during the transitionary period from university to work. It explores how gender and the occupational cultures that reside within the sector, and the wider sociocultural context, affect women’s careers identities, choices and trajectories. The longitudinal design, characteristics of the cohort and the theoretical framework of possible selves contribute to the originality of this empirical research. In this paper, we show how female graduates gradually adapted their occupational aspirations and career identities to fit with socio-cultural expectations and how they struggled to construct viable ‘engineering’ selves in the vital career identity development phase of their first years of employment when most female STEM graduates change careers.
Article
Efforts to widen the participation in higher education for disadvantaged and under-represented groups are common to many countries. In England, higher education institutions are required by government to invest in ‘outreach’ activities designed to encourage such groups. There is increasing policy and research interest around the effectiveness of these activities and how this might be evaluated. This paper reports the results of a project designed to explore concepts of ‘success’ and ‘impact’ with two generations of practitioner-managers working in this field, including extended telephone interviews with ten active in the mid-2000s, and online questionnaires from 57 engaged in the mid-2010s. The paper concludes that the drive to ‘measure the measurable’ may be undermining successful activities, while unhelpful inter-institution competition has replaced the co-operative ethos and wider social justice aims that dominated ten years ago.
Book
This book explores higher education, social class and social mobility from the point of view of those most intimately involved: the undergraduate students. It is based on a project which followed a cohort of young undergraduate students at Bristol's two universities in the UK through from their first year of study for the following three years, when most of them were about to enter the labour market or further study. The students were paired by university, by subject of study and by class background, so that the fortunes of middle-class and working-class students could be compared. Narrative data gathered over three years are located in the context of a hierarchical and stratified higher education system, in order to consider the potential of higher education as a vehicle of social mobility.
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Daniel Kahneman received the Nobel Prize in economics sciences in 2002, December 8, Stockholm, Sweden. This article is the edited version of his Nobel Prize lecture. The author comes back to the problems he has studied with the late Amos Tversky and to debates conducting for several decades already. The statement is based on worked out together with Shane Federik the quirkiness of human judgment.
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How do we reflect upon ourselves and our concerns in relation to society, and vice versa? Human reflexivity works through ‘internal conversations’ using language, but also emotions, sensations and images. Most people acknowledge this ‘inner-dialogue’ and can report upon it. However, little research has been conducted on ‘internal conversations’ and how they mediate between our ultimate concerns and the social contexts we confront. Margaret Archer argues that reflexivity is progressively replacing routine action in late modernity, shaping how ordinary people make their way through the world. Using interviewees' life and work histories, she shows how ‘internal conversations’ guide the occupations people seek, keep or quit; their stances towards structural constraints and enablements; and their resulting patterns of social mobility. © Margaret S. Archer 2007 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Article
Sociologists of education have explored the relationship between students’ postsecondary aspirations and their propensity to get “cooled out” in community colleges. However, researchers have directed little attention to students whose aspirations remain stable over long periods of time or to the different roles that college degree goals play in the lives of disadvantaged students. Using four waves of longitudinal interviews, I examine the reasons why low-income women hold steady to their aspirations for college degrees over a three-and-a-half-year period. I argue that holding steady not only reflects rational expectations about future employment opportunities, but it also generates moral status in the face of marginalization and facilitates the navigation of personal relationships. I use the concept of an “ambition imperative” to demonstrate how aspirations for college attainment are a means of asserting moral status and pursuing virtuous social membership. This article contributes to theories of aspirations and offers an alternative explanation of the institutional effects of community colleges in the lives of students.
Article
In this paper we suggest that a construct known as “possible selves”, which has been developed in psychological literature, holds conceptual merits that are of use to a growing body of literature on youth transitions, and within it, an increasing interest in imagined futures. We highlight several benefits of possible selves that have emerged from our empirical research with young men in two English towns, Luton and Swindon. Research and theorization about youth futures has suggested that young people’s values and their perceived positions in society can be elicited and seen in their projections of themselves in the future. We conclude that possible selves provides a useful addition to this literature by offering a theorization of the link between imagined possibilities in the future and motivation to act in the present. We suggest that this construct opens the scope of empirical and theoretical enquiry into youth transitions and trajectories toward future possibilities.
Article
The recent report of the Milburn Review into Social Mobility highlights the under-representation of young people from lower socio-economic groups in higher education and encourages universities and others to act to remedy this situation as a contribution to greater social mobility. The paper uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England to examine the relationship between social background, attainment and university participation. The results show that differences in school-level attainment associated with social background are by far the most important explanation for social background differences in university attendance. However, there remains a small proportion of the participation gap that is not accounted for by attainment. It is also the case that early intentions for higher education participation are highly predictive of actual participation. The results suggest that although there may be some scope for universities to act to improve participation by people from less advantaged backgrounds, a much more important focus of action is on improving the school-level achievement of these students.
Article
Young people’s aspirations remain an enduring focus of education policy interest and concern. Drawing on data from an ongoing five-year study of young people’s science and career aspirations (age 10–14), this paper asks what do young people aspire to at age 12/13, and what influences these aspirations? It outlines the main aspirations and sources of these aspirations as expressed by young people in England in the last year of primary school (survey of 9000+ Y6 pupils, aged 10/11, interviews with 92 children and 76 parents) and the second year of secondary school (survey of 5600+ Y8 pupils, aged 12/13, interviews with 85 pupils). We demonstrate how aspirations are shaped by structural forces (e.g. social class, gender and ethnicity) and how different spheres of influence (home/family, school, hobbies/leisure activities and TV) appear to shape different types of aspirations. The paper concludes by considering the implications for educational policy and careers education.
Article
This paper reports findings from a study of 49 young first-year UK undergraduates who had undergone one or two weeks of work experience at school between the ages of 14 and 16. Previous studies focusing on the whole school cohort suggested that the nature of work experience placements was strongly predicted by class. In particular, middle class families were seen as being able to secure higher-quality placements than working class families through their higher levels of social capital. This study of young people in the large minority subset subsequently progressing to higher education also found evidence of stereotypical placement choices. However, this was situated in low-quality placements that were irrelevant to the participants’ eventual career path. One notable finding was that a significant proportion of working class students had exercised considerable personal agency to secure high-quality placements. This could challenge structuralist interpretations of young people’s decision-making, although the possibility of a retrospective construction of an explanatory narrative is noted. This paper concludes that more effort is needed to push academically-able working class young people towards placements that will increase motivation and widen horizons and that government needs to be clearer about its policy aims in this area.
Article
This paper considers some of the ways that schools play a role in shaping higher education (HE) decision-making. Through their everyday practices and processes, schools can carry hidden messages about progression to HE, including choice of university. The sorts of routine aspects of school life dealt with here include events and activities, interactions with teachers, as well as resources. The work of Basil Bernstein is particularly useful at elucidating the different kinds of messages about HE choice sent out by schools. By shining a light on the underlying structures of power and control, Bernstein's framework illuminates the mechanisms by which messages are sent out. To illustrate this, two case study schools (both based in the same urban locality in south Wales) are drawn upon here, purposefully selected on the basis of their variances in progression to HE and research-intensive universities. The implications of the role played by schools are discussed in the context of the prevailing inequalities in HE participation, rising tuition fees, and an increasingly uncertain graduate labour market.
Article
International research into educational decision-making has been extensive, focusing on the way in which young people and their families assess the different options open to them. However, to what extent can we assume that different groups of young people have equal access to the information needed to make such an assessment? And what role, if any, do schools play in this process? Using in-depth qualitative interviews from two schools with very different student intakes, this paper examines the key influences that shape young people’s choices. Decisions about whether to go on to higher education are found to reflect three sets of processes: individual habitus; the institutional habitus of the school, as reflected in the amount and type of guidance provided; and young people’s own agency – namely, the conscious process whereby students seek out information on different options and evaluate these alternatives.
Article
A specific careers guidance action plan, used in conjunction with one of the original training credits pilot schemes, is investigated. Analysis revealed tensions between the pragmatically rational way in which young people reported making career decisions and the technically rational system of guidance built into the design of the scheme. These tensions created operational difficulties for careers officers, and raise important issues for further debate about the nature of careers education and guidance
Article
The expansion of higher education in the UK has been accompanied by ongoing class related inequalities in expectations about, and access to, university. In the context of detailed research into middle-class and working-class experiences and difference, there have been calls for more detailed analysis of internal class diversity, and for complicating the class dichotomy. This is particularly important for understanding the experiences of prospective first generation students. Drawing on data from an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded study, this article offers a qualitative longitudinal analysis of young people's expectations about going to university, as these evolve over the teenage years, from 14 to 18. We analyse the experiences and expectations of young women with different parental class and educational backgrounds. We explore the interplay of parental expectations, school, teacher and friendship group influences through the teenagers' biographies. The qualitative longitudinal analysis offers valuable insights into how different influential processes intersect and play out for those with different backgrounds and circumstances, shaping expectations in divergent ways. As such it contributes to a more processual account of the structuring of social inequality in higher education expectations.
Article
This paper explores the under‐researched area of extracurricular activity undertaken by students through the lens of the possible selves literature, which has largely been developed in the North American context. In the UK the employability agenda assumes an orientation towards the future and employers are increasingly expecting students to display capacities beyond those of simply achieving a degree. Extracurricular activity is one site where students might be able to develop these additional capacities towards their future imagined selves. Our case study, based on in‐depth interviews with 61 students, found different orientations towards the future, with only some displaying future selves attuned to employability. Other students were more firmly orientated to the present and developing student identities or unable to elaborate or act on imaged futures because of the contingencies of the present. We conclude that paying attention to differing temporalities and to the insights derived from the possible selves literature are likely to be fruitful for further research on extracurricular activity.
Possible selves and education are oriented toward future goals. This chapter surveys the literature that links possible selves achievement with motivation toward academic achievement.