The triple shift: student-mothers’ experiences of identity work and engagement with low status vocationally-related higher education

Paul H Smith

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    Abstract

    This paper discusses a piece of qualitative research that examined the narratives that a group of learners articulated when they discussed their experiences of studying on a relatively low status, vocationally-related higher education programme. These students were school-based teaching assistants who were undertaking Foundation degree study at a post-1992 English university. Data collection was primarily undertaken via semi-structured interviewing with first and second year foundation degree students. Eight group interviews were carried out with 44 participants. These were followed up with 12 individual interviews. Participant observations and documentary analysis of course-related documents were also drawn upon as contextualising sources of information. The accounts that were provided by students who undertook study alongside mothering are focused upon within this paper. These learners were routinely found to be involved in a triple shift of identity work (Snow and Anderson 1987). This stemmed from their positioning in the home, higher education and their workplaces. It is suggested that Goffman’s (1963) concepts of identity management, disidentifiers and stigma can be usefully employed alongside Bourdieu’s (1977, 1984, 1997) habitus and field to make sense of the accounts that are documented.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)107-127
    JournalResearch in Post-Compulsory Education
    Volume22
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017

    Keywords

    • Teaching assistants
    • Bourdieu
    • higher vocational education
    • student-mothers
    • paraprofessionals
    • foundation degree

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