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Using habitus as a tool: exploring the narratives of computer science students IPSE Seminar Peter Chalk EdD 29.4.13 apr 28a1.

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Presentation on theme: "Using habitus as a tool: exploring the narratives of computer science students IPSE Seminar Peter Chalk EdD 29.4.13 apr 28a1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using habitus as a tool: exploring the narratives of computer science students IPSE Seminar Peter Chalk EdD apr 28a1

2 Can Bourdieu's concept of habitus provide a useful tool for analysing early life history interview data? This talk focuses on one aspect of my EdD research into computer science education and the problem of its high rate of student failure and drop-out. It will suggest how their emerging 'computer science habitus' is constructed, using a case study method, and what influences, experiences and preferences have affected its development apr 28a2

3 The importance of family influence In particular, it will examine the influence of the family - using an approach similar to that of Louise Archer's work on science education and the importance of family influence. apr 28a3

4 Issues in computer science education Why (in the West) has their been a long history of failure and drop-out? Are students not prepared? – ICT vs. Computer Science curriculum in schools – ACM, Schmitt, Gove... Why make wrong choice? – Expectation (money, job) – Image (cool to be geek? Steve jobs effect) apr 28a4

5 Why do some students seem so well prepared ‘like fish in water’? Led me to explore concept of ‘Computer Science Habitus’ Based on theoretical framework of Bourdieu – Habitus and capital – Field, practice, doxa (‘rules of the game’)... And recent work of Archer on family influence in science education, ‘family habitus’ - with reservations apr 28a5

6 Bourdieu’s work on habitus Most well known for class habitus and cultural capital, reproduced through family and school: – E.g. habitus as ‘dispositions’ or “a set of historical relations ‘deposited’ within individual bodies in the form of mental and corporeal schemata of perception, appreciation, and action” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, p16). apr 28a6

7 Bourdieu on forms of capital Bourdieu also discussed forms of (cultural) capital: – Symbolic capital as a ‘reputation for competence’ (Bourdieu, 1979, p291) – this is very important in computer science (in my data) – Cultural capital in the form of ‘scientific capital’ p82) And other ‘modes of generation’, e.g. autodidactism (p83) – again, very important in computer science (in my data) apr 28a7

8 Types of habitus Some talk of institutional or family habitus (Reay, David and Ball, 2001, and Archer et al 2012) – contested by Atkinson, more later... Others of ‘subject habitus’ (as educational sub-field). ‘Computer science habitus’ (Me) – is it useful? What is it? How does it develop? apr 28a8

9 Examples of subject habitus research ‘“Mathematics habitus”, was such that for her “maths is fab” and the practices of the new field, in turn, supported that habitus’ (Hernandez-Martinez and Williams, 2013, p15, on resilience of working class children coping with transition to HE STEM) “Women need to fit the engineering habitus – an assertive masculine habitus”(Campbell, 2010, p261, in PhD research study into gender issue) “The move into the universities of inculcation of a design habitus is more problematic for students must learn to take things for granted and this is another area for further research” (Kennedy, 2002, p228, a PhD study into what makes for successful designers) Scientific habitus: ‘practical sense of the problems [and] appropriate ways of dealing with them’ (Bourdieu 2004, p38) apr 28a9

10 Archer’s 2012 research on children’s engagement with science Used concept of ‘family habitus’ to identify 3 ‘broadly classed patterns of family relationships with science’: 1.Middle class family with ‘science-specific capital’: result was particularly powerful 2.Without such capital, ‘generic resources’ used to develop child’s interest (especially in some ethic groups) 3.Working class without capital, ‘interest pursued individually’ (generally, some other cases) apr 28a10

11 Does my data from CS student interviews fit this approach? 3 case studies chosen from the 20 which most closely resemble Archer et al’s (2012, p903). All demonstrate importance of family influence, but this is usually a specific person at a certain moment, in a certain context, sparking an interest then pursued in individualistic ways. But not ‘pastimes, leisure, TV, books, conversation, social networks’ in ‘everyday family life’ (Archer et al, 2012, p888) apr 28a11

12 Case Study 1 - Marios Middle class family with computer science capital Russell Group pre-1992 HEI, doing MEng (AAA* equivalent including maths and Informatics), father programmer, mother informatics teacher, both at uni “my dad taught me how to use windows and stuff [and was] a big influence... [My mother] played games with me at christmas” But no mention of ‘everyday’ engagement with computer science in sense of Archer et al (2012)? apr 28a12

13 Case Study 2 - Paul Middle class family without computer science capital Russell Group pre-1992 HEI, doing MEng (AAA* equivalent including maths and Informatics), father dentist, mother school psychologist, both at uni – pastimes classical piano, chess ‘there was no-one into computing in my family’ Paul attributes interest to a friend at age 12 apr 28a13

14 Case Study 3 - Denise Post-1992 HEI with NVQ in Car Mechanics, mature single mum from council estate, neither parent at uni (builder/ housewife) Granddad ‘inventor’ and very influential, led to job in car mechanics and growing interest in computers Self-taught (autodidact) and aspiration for recognition of competence (Bourdieu’s symbolic capital) apr 28a14

15 Does concept of family habitus add to existing categories? Atkinson (2011) contests concept ‘family habitus’ as habitus is individualist – although Marios’s family certainly possessed ‘computer science capital’ in abundance And looking at Archer et al’s caveats: – ‘our analysis also highlighted the nondeterministic nature of habitus’ (Archer et al, 2012, p904) – citing ‘children going against the grain’ (Reay et al, 2010) – Also using construct ‘interplay of family capital and habitus’ All suggest problems with concept of ‘family habitus’ – better to use ‘family influence’ (alongside others)? apr 28a15

16 Other examples of family influence in my data Matt’s grandfather “is quite into hardware stuff, he’s an electrician, and I got some stuff from him” Asif “just watched my brother, that’s the way I learnt it” Bruce [in Africa] “had a little brother actually, who came from the States and he was, like, teaching me” Charles’s “father teaches design and technology so he’s been an influence... nobody else” Following mention of family influence, frequent responses: Rupert “bought a book and I started doing examples” And one student Alon explicitly stated that he had no influences within the family, although his mother is an engineer, so influence may not be apparent! apr 2916

17 Games and puzzles Very common response in my data was family influence through pastimes, especially chess (which may help to form a ‘problem-solving’ disposition in computer science habitus): Niraj’s “dad used to bring me loads of puzzles” Sarthi played “Board games, I learnt chess, and apart from that, any word game” Saru “was into puzzles like riddles” Alicia “used to play Mario, [and] other computer games” Odd one out, Margaret “My mother studied history at university maybe why I loved history. My father studied music at university”. Another ‘Archer Type 2’ (cultural capital, with no computer science capital). apr 28a17

18 Computer science habitus influences Bourdieu on class habitus focussed on influence (role) of family and school – And discussed others, eg autodidactism Research has identified other influences: – Peers (shared interests with friends) – Media (geek as cool) Habitus property of individual, but also classed/ gendered/ etc with multiple dispositions? apr 28a18

19 Conclusions Is Bourdieu’s framework a useful approach to understanding why some students succeed, others fail, and how they come to study computer science? It seems to have a certain coherence, especially when including other concepts like field, practice and doxa Identifying how to develop a successful subject habitus may address under-representation, under-performance & field/ practice problems apr 28a19

20 References Archer, L, DeWitt, J, Osborne, J, Dillon, J, Willis, B & Wong, B (2012) ‘Science aspirations, capital, and family habitus : how families shape children’s engagement and identification with science’, American Educational Research Journal, 49:5, Atkinson, W (2011) ‘From sociological fictions to social fictions: some Bourdieusian reflections on the concepts of ‘institutional habitus’ and ‘family habitus’’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32:3, apr 28a20

21 Bourdieu, P (1979) Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (h/b translation 1984). Bourdieu, P (2004). Science of Science and Reflexivity. Translated by R. Nice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Bourdieu, P and Wacquant, L (1992) An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. apr 28a21

22 Campbell, R G (2010) Professional Identity, Commitment and Gender in Engineering: Exploring the (mis)match between dispositions and cultures. PhD Thesis, University of Alberta. Hernandez-Martinez, P. and J. Williams. (2013) Against the odds: resilience in mathematics students in transition. British Educational Research Journal, online. DOI: / apr 28a22

23 Kennedy, P (2002) Design Practice: Routine Creativity. PhD Thesis, University of Glasgow. Reay, D, David, M and Ball, S (2001) ‘Making a difference?: Institutional habituses and higher educational choice’. Sociological Research Online 5: 4. apr 28a23


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