Tensions in ethnographic observation: overt or covert?

Strudwick, Ruth (2018) Tensions in ethnographic observation: overt or covert? Journal of Organizational Ethnography. ISSN 2046-6749 (In Press)

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Vocational courses in England support the progression to Higher Education (HE) of large numbers of
young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet there is little research exploring the college
experiences of these young people prior to entering university. This paper considers the experiences
of young people on Level 3 Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) vocational courses in
their progression to Higher Education (HE) from differently positioned post-16 colleges in England.
A qualitative study was undertaken into the experiences of students on BTEC courses in four subject
clusters (science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), arts and humanities, social sciences
and health) at both a Further Education College and a Sixth Form College in an area of multiple
deprivation and low HE participation. Young people’s experiences of BTEC courses and the pastoral
support and guidance they receive are explored through the conceptual lens of ‘possible selves’ and
using Bourdieu’s ideas of capital, habitus and field.
Pedagogies and practices on BTEC courses are found to support the development of relevant social
and cultural capital and help young people formulate well-articulated ‘possible selves’ as university
students, even amongst students who previously had not considered university as an option. The
findings illustrate how differently positioned colleges support students’ progression and identify
challenges presented by an increasingly stratified and marketised system.
The study highlights the transformative potential of BTEC courses and their role in supporting
progression to HE amongst young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The
current emphasis on standardisation and rigour as mechanisms to better equip students for HE
neglects the unique contribution BTEC pedagogies and practices make to encouraging HE
participation. A Bourdieusian and ‘possible selves’ theoretical framework has provided new insights
into these valuable learning processes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: widening participation, vocational courses, BTEC, possible selves, student identities, transition to HE
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Health & Science > Department of Health Studies
Depositing User: David Upson-Dale
Date Deposited: 04 May 2018 08:26
Last Modified: 04 May 2018 08:26
URI: https://oars.uos.ac.uk/id/eprint/618

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