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Why would going to university change anyone? Paul Ashwin, Andrea Abbas, Monica McLean Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees Project.

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Presentation on theme: "Why would going to university change anyone? Paul Ashwin, Andrea Abbas, Monica McLean Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees Project."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why would going to university change anyone? Paul Ashwin, Andrea Abbas, Monica McLean Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees Project November January 2012 (ESRC: RES ) The Local, National and Global in Higher Education Friday 13 th February University of Sheffield Funded by:

2 Introduction Arguments for the value of undergraduate higher education often rest on claims that it is a transformational experience. Watson (2012) argues this raises several questions : – how and why this transformation takes place, – whether it is a planned transformation, – whether higher education is a necessary and/or sufficient condition for such transformations – whether all forms of higher education result in this transformation

3 Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees Project November January 2012 (ESRC: RES ) Origins: challenge to ‘quality’ and league tables Aim: to theorise ‘just’ teaching and learning Objectives: (1) to explore the value for students of social science degrees in different universities; (2) to investigate (in)equities in curriculum and pedagogy; and (3) to contribute to debates about pedagogic quality. Based on: Examining sociology and related social science degree courses in four universities: Prestige, Selective, Community, and Diversity

4 The whole data set  160 biographical and longitudinal interviews with students;  a survey of over 750 students;  an analysis of curriculum documents;  an analysis of national policy documents.  interviews with 16 staff;  analysis of video recordings of teaching in each institution in each year of the degree (12 sessions);  analysis of students’ assessed work (examples from each year);  a focus group discussion with tutors from all four institutions about students’ assessed work

5 Conceptualising transformation Three dimensions of student experience, (Dubet 2000; Jary and Lebeau 2009): – Nature of personal projects; – Degree of integration into university life; – Level of intellectual engagement in the subject. See transformation in terms of changes to students’ personal projects in relation to higher education Students’ accounts of what being at university is about and where their project is focused.

6 Approach Based on a phenomenographic analysis of 86 interviews with 31 sociology and criminology students over the three years of their undergraduate degrees; Focus on qualitative variation in students’ accounts of their personal projects in relation to university. Examined relations with accounts of their relations to sociological knowledge

7 Personal projects 4. Coming to university is about contributing to society. 3. Coming to university is about changing as a person; 2. Coming to university is about learning about myself; 1. Coming to university is about getting a degree;

8 1. Coming to university is about getting a degree Because I’m pretty happy with everything that’s going on at the moment, I’m enjoying my degree, I have good friends, I have a stable boyfriend, I have great family...basically I’m going towards where I have to go… which is getting a degree and getting a job and just... (Elmira, Selective, Year 3)

9 Coming to university is about learning about myself I’m really enjoying my time here. It sounds really clichéd but you kind of find yourself and I like who I am. Finally I’m more confident. Yes I’m more confident in myself which is the main thing which includes work and stuff but more so my own personality. I’m loving my time here, it’s brilliant. (Fiona, Year 1, Prestige)

10 Coming to university is about changing as a person [I am a] totally different person...I am a lot more accommodating and tolerant then I was before. I would say a lot more independent… Even dress sense. Every thing has changed, everything. I would go to a lecture in a tracksuit before, now I would not get caught dead in one... I think the older I grow the more I realise that first impressions count... You never know who you are going to meet. You never know what network event may come up in the evening. You can’t go looking like a tramp. You just got to be a lot more aware of different aspects of yourself and being more confident. (Faith, Year 3, Prestige )

11 Coming to university is about contributing to society University has opened my eyes too much. I’ve been too exposed to reading about certain things that are happening around me, I can’t just shut my eyes and go back to normality. I don’t think I can do that now, I’d feel like I am betraying myself and what I think and what I believe in. (Martin, Community, Year 3 )

12 Relations to sociological knowledge 5.Sociology offers a number of different ways to study the relations between people and society each of which offers a different and partial picture of these relations. 4. Sociology is the study of the relations between people and societies and includes me. 3. Sociology is the study of societies/other people. 2. Sociology is the modules that I study. 1. Sociology is about developing my opinions on a broad range of issues. (Ashwin et al. 2014)

13 Relations between accounts of personal projects and knowledge Personal projects tended to be more stable over the three years than accounts of knowledge; Nearly a third of students no change in their personal projects. Strong correlations (.47) between accounts of personal project and knowledge in the third year; Accounts of personal project shift from a general focus to a focus on self to focus on the world; Accounts of knowledge shift from a general focus on issues to focus on the world to focus on self.

14 Focus of personal projects I In talking about their personal projects at university, students tended to primarily focus on their relationships with: Their peers and course Their course Their peers The world outside university

15 Focus of personal projects II For those who focused on the ‘world outside university’, there was less change in their relations to knowledge. Those who focused on their ‘course’ or ‘peers and course’ tend to be have more inclusive conceptions of knowledge and their personal projects Those focusing on ‘peers’ tend to have less inclusive conceptions of their personal project which tend to be self focused.

16 Concluding thoughts The transformational nature of undergraduate degrees lies in the relations between students’ personal projects and their engagement with knowledge; Where students’ sense of self is changed through their engagement with knowledge – students relating their personal projects to their disciplines and the world and seeing themselves implicated themselves in knowledge; Does not always happen – requires students to be intellectually engaged with their courses. This is dependent on both students and the quality of their educational experience.

17 So why would going to university change anyone? KnowledgeWorldSelf

18 References Ashwin, P., Abbas, A., & McLean, M. (2014). How do students’ accounts of sociology change over the course of their undergraduate degrees? Higher Education, 67: Dubet, F. (2000). The sociology of pupils, Journal of Education Policy, 15, Jary. D. and Lebeau, Y. (2009). The student experience and subject engagement in UK sociology: a proposed typology. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30: Watson, D. (2012). The university and its student community: knowledge as transformation? In P. Temple (ed.) Universities in the Knowledge Economy: Higher Education Organisation and Global Change. ( ). London: Routledge


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