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From Individual Choice to Social Good UALL 2012 Dr Hazel Wright Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge and Chelmsford, UK.

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Presentation on theme: "From Individual Choice to Social Good UALL 2012 Dr Hazel Wright Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge and Chelmsford, UK."— Presentation transcript:

1 From Individual Choice to Social Good UALL 2012 Dr Hazel Wright Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge and Chelmsford, UK

2 Overview To discuss findings from a doctoral study of mature women studying childcare in an English Further Education College To demonstrate the personal and broader social benefits deriving from this strand of lifelong learning To identify how individual choice can lead to social good: a win-win situation

3 Rationale for study To capture what was happening in adult education at a time of swingeing cuts To explore events in Early Years education during Margaret Hodges silent revolution To give voice to students seldom heard To challenge the commonly held view that childcare workers are undereducated underachievers – these held a level 3 Diploma

4 Research design 10 cohorts of students (enrolled 1997-2006) sent background questionnaires (170 of 150 replied) 33 students chosen for interview Asked about their experience of education and what it means to them Emergent methodology – Psychosocial interviews, fully transcribed – Conversation analysis coding, clarified meanings – Immersion in data, enabled holistic analysis – Analysis-through-writing, uncovered themes

5 Contentment in the data Women drift into childcare training: from volunteer helper to paid worker to student needing a qualification. Being able to put their children and families first makes childcare work attractive but limits other work options. Childcare work and training minimises cognitive dissonance. Convenient hours matter more than higher pay. Part-time work is maximally flexible – fuzzy boundaries allow additional tasks to be completed from home. Learning about children is relevant to family as well as work. Childcare work is seen as a means of integrating life and work choices and education supports this process. Rewards like status and altruism compensate for poor pay.

6 Occupational typologies © Wright 2009 (Static and hierarchical indicators of entry to childcare) Sampler One who drifted into childcare, found it lacking and quickly moved on Stager One who found childcare work convenient when the children were small Settler One who chose childcare as a career after experiencing a range of alternatives Switcher One who chose childcare as an alternative career to a previous one Step-upper One using childcare work to access an associated, better paid position/career

7 Attitudinal typologies © Wright 2009 (Later used as indicators of agency) Accepter One with a relaxed, opportunistic approach; a reactive decision-maker Agonizer One who reflects intensely before making decisions; may analyse guilt Accumulater One who steadily acquires qualifications and experiences; maybe with a focus Asserter One with goal-oriented behaviour; a striver to get on

8 Integrated Lives Model © Wright 2009 Contrary to many other research studies, enrolling on the Diploma is neither an escape from domesticity nor an acceptance that this is all the student can do – it is a positive choice to integrate home, work and study Student forges reciprocal links with the family, the college and the childcare setting Further reciprocal links between family, college and workplace tie the student into the model This triple triangle can be seen as the childcare workers capability set – the framework within which coherent choices can be made


10 A stable structure Family, Education and Childcare are all greedy institutions (Coser, 1974) – tensions keeps triangle in stasis Allows orchestrated change – life in a slowly shifting present – in parallel with families needs Challenges to more than one point causes rapid instability

11 Capability approach Amartya Sen (1999) Development is Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press Real freedom lies in being able to choose to live the life that you want to live Current beings and doings matter more than promises for the future Governments should make resources available that facilitate individual choice Pre-selecting the best option for people disadvantages many – equality does not lie in treating everyone the same

12 Freedom to Choose Choice is neither rational nor random, but bounded. People have a range of capabilities (the potential to be or do something) and from these they make choices about what they do (functionings). Choices are determined by capability sets, clusters of choices that are mutually compatible.

13 Operationalisation In policy terms: This research demonstrated the validity of a concept that is often hard to operationalise The validity is greater because the connections were found retrospectively rather than initially sought It also demonstrated the validity of CA in a Westernised context

14 Individual choices Women valued: –The best of both worlds – Part-time involvement in family, education, work – Avoidance of cognitive dissonance – Flexible and localised working – Life in a slowly shifting present – Gradual transition to the world of work

15 Social good – direct outcomes Government sought: – Potential to increase childcare provision – Greater number of qualified women in childcare workforce – Raised standards in the workplace

16 Social good – indirect outcomes Children cared for by people who like them Parents in settings – limits scope for abuse Supports intergenerational learning Supports hard-to-reach to access education Supports women to return to work Promotes lifelong learning – FD/BA/ EYPS/ MA Encourages parental involvement in schools – Helpers, TAs, Governors, Informed enquirers Social meshing (micro-level social capital)

17 But…. Diploma course now replaced by a standardised option focused on practice Government calls for a Big Society but seems unaware that successful voluntary capacity: Stems from grass roots self-help movements Evolves to suit the needs of users Is flexible, inclusive, self-governing and accepting of good and bad aspects Spirals upwards NOT downwards

18 Further information Wright, H.R. (2011) Women Studying Childcare: Integrating Lives Through Adult Education, Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books Additional publications – see ARU website Contact:

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