Workplace change and the fracturing of illusio: Turning towards Higher Vocational Education as a form of constrained resistance

Paul H Smith

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper discusses the reasons that one group of paraprofessionals offered to explain their decision to study for a work-related higher education programme. It reports on an ethnographically inspired piece research that aimed to capture the motives of a group of teaching assistants who were studying for a Foundation degree at a post-1992 university in the North of England. This group of learners were largely female mature students, who were also overwhelmingly mothers with dependent children. The research was conducted between 2008 and 2015.

    This paper outlines the worth of drawing upon Bourdieu’s key concepts of capital, field, habitus and illusio to explain why some low status paraprofessional groups decide to follow work-related Foundation degrees. Many of those whose views were captured, had initially been hopeful about changes to their workplace roles that the expansion of their paraprofessional roles had generated. This positivity had however been replaced by a realisation that such optimism had been misplaced. As part of this change, their habitus had been modified and their commitment to (illusio) the teaching assistant game had been undermined. Gaining further qualifications (cultural capital) provided new hope that they could escape from their current workplace positions. This result was far from the one that Foundation degree policy makers had originally intended.

    Few students were motivated by the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills related to their current teaching assistant role. There was a paradox where higher education provision that had principally been developed to upskill the teaching assistant workforce, was often conceived by the learners who engaged with it as a way of moving on from this occupational grouping. The lack, or even the future prospect, of adequate reward for extended workplace duties was often identified as having been the “turning point” (Raggl and Troman 2008) that had encouraged them to enter higher education. Many of the students anticipated that being a student would ultimately improve their working situations and allow them to repair aspects of the self that they believed had been damaged by previous interactions with educational institutions. Their options for further study had however been frequently constrained by their positions in the fields of employment and family life which had made Foundation degree study attractive.

    The key findings of this study have implications for continuing international expansion of teaching assistant numbers and Higher Vocational Education provision that aims to meet the needs of similar groups of paraprofessional workers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages1
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusUnpublished - 7 Jul 2017
    Event12th Bi Annual International Conference for the Journal of Vocational Education and Training - University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Duration: 7 Jul 20179 Jul 2017
    Conference number: 12

    Conference

    Conference12th Bi Annual International Conference for the Journal of Vocational Education and Training
    Abbreviated titleJVET Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    CityOxford
    Period7/07/179/07/17

    Keywords

    • Higher vocational education
    • Bourdieu
    • student-mothers
    • paraprofessionals
    • foundation degree
    • teaching assistants

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