Monday, 9 May 2016

Bathmaker: Thinking with Bourdieu: Thinking after Bourdieu

I started this paper several times and have made slow progress through it for many and varied reasons, none to do with the actual paper. This has, however, made it a bit of a long-haul effort to read. Ann-Marie Bathmaker has done quite a bit of research relating to my areas of interest, so I will have to explore her publications in more detail.

Bathmaker, A-M. (2015). Thinking with Bourdieu: thinking after Bourdieu. Using 'field' to consider in/equalities in the changing field of English higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 45(1), 61-80.

This paper explores the position of FE colleges in the HE 'field'. There are a wide range of student 'types' entering HE, with concomitant diversity of HE provision. Bathmaker uses Bourdieu's concept of 'field' to explore HE provision. Data from the study were collected in late 2000s, during a time of global expansion of HE, including the New Labour policy of 50% participation in HE. However, since the 2008 global economic crisis there has been a dichotomy in HE access between those who are considered 'gifted' and who are guided towards prestigious HEIs and others guided towards less prestigious HEIs.
Investigations into social mobility by an APPG found that 'university' is the key to future opportunities. However, the APPG suggests that rather than ensuring universal HE provision, those potentially outstanding students are provided with the opportunity to 'shine'. For others, 'worthwhile qualifications' are suggested, suggestive of the grammar vs secondary modern split post WW2. This can potentially lead to 'tracking' of students.
Whilst New Labour expanded access to HE using a range of routes, the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition has concentrated more on HE within the universities, differentiating between this and HE within FE. Confusion amongst HE in FE students and potential students reigns.

The value of theory in considering why this matters
There is the hegemonic view that there should be delineation between the outstanding and the rest; this is supported by industry. Bourdieu's work on reproduction of inequality through education has been developed by subsequent researchers and theorists. His conceptual tool of habitus has been widely used to discuss social reproduction, though some have argued that this tool is too deterministic. The author seeks to use the concept of 'field' to explore HE, acknowledging that others have developed Bourdieu's original work.

Using Bourdieu's concept of field to analyse HE practices
Bourdieu's work on fields evolved over time to take into account heteronomy of fields. The concept of filed was developed in the physical sciences. Bourdieu's definition of field is that of a social space identified by the network of relations between positions. Variations in positions in fields are due to differences in power and capital. Position in relation to other fields is important.
Bourdieu sees autonomy as a key property of a field - how the field has evolved to be able to withstand external influences. Recently, the degree of autonomy in the HE field has decreased. Field denotes struggle, which is both marketised and gamified. Agents have differing purchasing powers (capital). The field is a game, governed by both official and unofficial rules. Fields evolve over time and the rules that define that field also change.

Working with and beyond Bourdieu's concept of field
There are questions over the relationships between different fields and movement between them. Whilst Bourdieu developed the concept of field in HE at a time of autonomy, recent changes have   led to increased heteronomy. Heteronomy is closely related to expansion and diversification of HE. This may be beneficial for new, WP students. Because of this increase in heteronomy, there may be more permeable borders between fields, which some authors say contrasts with Bourdieu's view of fields requiring 'boundedness'. Appadurai (1996) suggests the use of 'scapes'.
Marginson (2008) suggests that boundaries between academic fields will become 'flaky' and may merge into a field of 'lifelong learning'. This, however, is unlikely to affect power relations in the field(s).

Movement between fields
Bourdieu and others have considered the movement of agents between fields and how this can affect the agent's behaviour.
Feminisht academics such as Allard (2005) have used Bourdieu's concept of field to analyse women's use of capital, and the relative value of different forms of capital.
The author suggests that others believe that Bourdieu's definition of field is unclear.
The author considers where HE in FE sits with regard to fields, and the effect of how the field is positioned may have on agents' behaviour.

Negotiating the admissions process in a changing field of HE
The author gives an overview of the UCAS system, describing it as a "sorting mechanism", allowing 'stars to shine'. She describes the UCAS application as a check on academic capital of potential students. Capital though teacher training and use of private companies when there is competition for places. Changes in the 2000s due to New Labour's WP policies led to HE in FE becoming part of the UCAS application process, therefore becoming part of the HE field. The author carried out research into how these new practices affected the field.
Progression from NVQ to HE is part of the acceptable behaviour in one college - it is normalised. Tutors bypassed the UCAS system as NVQ students delayed decision-making on HE. Confusion over progression from FE to Bachelor's due to differences in behaviour (what is "taken for granted") and the expectations of the field. To be positioned in the permeable border between fields can lead to confusion - this may affect potential students.
Using the UCAS application system places HE in FE more clearly in the HE field but makes it less flexible, which can negatively impact on applicants from a WP viewpoint.

Using 'field' to consider in/equalities in the changing field of English higher education
Differences between fields (in this case HE and FE) can limit access to these fields. Alternative practices can be accommodated, but usually only be heteronomous organisations, which have lower status. Higher status organisations, higher in the hierarchy, do not need to make these accommodations. The author suggests that HE in FE is a subfield of HE, permitted by permeability of boundaries between fields, which is not discussed by Bourdieu. This does not mean that power relations have changed.
Moving between fields can demonstrate a mismatch between the expectations of those different fields leading to reduced power for those agents.
Bourdieu's conceptual tool of field "focuses on practices that are strategic and competitive" (p. 73) and this aligns with the policy of allowing stars to shine. The concept of field, with its suggestions of competition, is less useful when competition is not a factor. Because of this, the author suggests looking beyond Bourdieu. She suggests that Bourdieu's work concentrates on reproduction rather than transformation.
Other authors have suggested that hybrid organisations can become more than a mix of HE and VET but rather a distinct form of organisation within a specialist niche. Kaiserfeld (2013) states that change comes through new hybrid organisations, and from that, higher status. This links to Bourdieu's concept of fields. Field can be used to identify where policy suggests transformation but in reality value within other fields is limited. Current policies to select out the best and limit others to VET maintains educational inequalities and the use of Bourdieu's concept of field is relevant and appropriate, Bathmaker states.

What this means to me:
The key point I think is of use in assignment 2 is to explore the APPG information and the idea of 'stars to shine'. This could link to tracking, and also some of the thoughts I've been having around assignment 2.

Bathmaker's views of the HE in FE field ring true to me - it is something to consider further and useful to see theory applied and then extended by others.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Kleanthous, I. (2013). Bourdieu applied: Exploring perceived parental influence on adolescent students’ educational choices for studies in higher education.

This final chapter on Bourdieu in Murphy’s book on social theory and education research

Kleanthous, I. (2013). Bourdieu applied: Exploring perceived parental influence on adolescent students’ educational choices for studies in higher education. In M. Murphy (Ed.), Social theory and education research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida. (pp. 153-168). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

This chapter is based on family case studies in Cyprus – an exploration of familial capital and how it affects parental influence on students moving to HE. Different forms of parental capital are displayed – economic (buying private tutoring), social (visiting parental workplaces) and cultural (through increased educational knowledge). The adolescents deny parental influence, instead stating that their decisions are arrived at autonomously.

A range of studies have explored the use of familial capital in influencing children’s educational choices. However, the author suggests that there is evidence of symbolic violence – this is “misrecognised” by parents and adolescents due to the unconscious nature of parental influence.


Habitus and cultural capital have been widely used to explore the involvement of parents in their child’s education. Reay et al. (2011) looked at class inequalities in decision making with regard to HE – they found that working class families had less knowledge about post-compulsory education, with working class students entering different universities to their middle class counterparts (p. 858). This may be due to the “informational capital” held by middle class parents. The informational capital aids the student in traversing admissions processes, etc. and involves parental interaction with the educational system at an early stage.

The author used Bourdieu’s conceptual tools of habitus and capital to explore the extent of parental influence on choice of HEI. She used the concept of symbolic violence, with children misrecognising the violence exercised upon them with their own complicity – the adolescents deny being influenced by their parents.

An overview of Bourdieu’s theoretical framework

Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) define class habitus as “the structural affinity of habituses belonging to the same class, capable of generating practices that are convergent and objectively orchestrated outside of any collective ‘intention’ or consciousness” (p. 125). Bourdieu and Passeron (1990): the middle class students’ habitus is absorbed from familial actions and from parental social class, and the way this aligns with the educational system.

The author discusses Bourdieu’s conceptual tool of habitus: “those resources whose distributions define the social structure and whose deployment figures centrally in the reproduction of that structure” (p. 156). As well as economic capital, there is social capital, with the capital based on connections within and between social groups, and also cultural capital consisting of cultural knowledge and a set of credentials based on education and knowledge. The author quotes Bourdieu’s definition of informational capital, one part of cultural capital. The intra- and intergenerational basis of informational capital leads to investment in education.

Bourdieu’s theory of social reproduction suggests that it is the intergenerational passing on of cultural capital that influences the level of cultural capital gained and success experienced in education. Ultimately, this is influenced by social class.

It is Bourdieu and Passeron’s view that middle class students have a habitus closely aligned with the requirements of the education system; these students can blend with the linguistic and cultural requirements of the dominant culture.

Bourdieu on family and symbolic violence

Being part of what Bourdieu calls a ‘normal’ family is a privilege which aids in “the accumulation and transmission of economic and cultural capital”. The family maintains social structure and transmits capital intergenerationally.

Middle class parents use their capital to enhance their children’s educational opportunities. However, the author seeks to understand whether capital is sufficient a tool to theorise the role of parental influence. She suggests that the influence of parents can be considered as a form of symbolic violence. Bourdieu sees symbolic violence as being the key to social relations, present in a gift exchange society.

Bourdieu defines these gifts as “moral obligations and emotional attachments created and maintained by the generous gift” – symbolic violence. The author suggests that parental influence is symbolic violence; the denial of this influence is ‘misrecognition’. The investment by parents of time and money in their child’s education creates a ‘debt’. Parents have more power in the family field, due to the higher amount of capital they have. This leads to an imbalance in power relations between parent and child, enabling symbolic violence to affect their child.

Methodology for the study was in depth interviews with parents and children from secondary schools in Cyprus.

Findings – familial capital

Students misrecognise parental influence, denying parental influence. Students claim to draw on parental capital, e.g. economic capital (private tutorials) and social capital (workplace information). Cultural capital predisposed the students towards study at HE.

Denial of parental influence

Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence was used to discuss the misrecognition of parental influence. The author suggests that parental influence is a form of symbolic violence, with financial support making a moral obligation to continue in education. The differential in cultural capital between parents and children allows parents to exert symbolic violence on the children.

Misrecognition of parental influence from parents

Parents are more aware of their use of their cultural, economic and social capital in enhancing the education of their children. Parents also misrecognised their influence on their children, believing that their children’s choice was autonomous.

Discussion of findings on parental influence

Parental influence is subtle and often denied by both parents and students, but students acknowledge that they use their parents’ capital. Denial of parental influence and the unconscious effects on students’ habitus led the author to view parental influence as symbolic violence, which is misrecognised.

Bourdieu suggests that “symbolic violence is at the heart of every social relationship” – “the dominated collaborate in their own exploitation through affectation or admiration” (p. 111).

The author feels that there is misrecognition of parental influence with adolescents denying being influenced. However the idea of aiming for HE is a response to the habitus of the family – it is what a middle class family does.

The author discussed the ideas as to whether shared familial beliefs is ‘familial habitus’ (Reay, 2010) or familial doxa (Atkinson, 2011). She suggests that, for Reay, habitus is viewed by Bourdieu as “a product of early childhood experience” (p. 164) and that this is closely affected by parental educational achievement. Atkinson (2011) suggests that Reay’s idea of ‘familial habitus’ is incorrect and instead these shared familial beliefs are familial doxa. What is possible is shaped by the family, based on its capital and how the generations develop, based on a joint family history.

The author considers that her work uses the family as a field that “inculcates students’ habitus” (p. 165). Because there is a differential in the power held between parents and children, the parents can exert symbolic violence on the children.

Reflection on the use of Bourdieu’s theory in educational research

The author suggests that her research shows that middle class families enhance the choices of their children with regard to HE through different forms of capital. She is concerned that the use of capital is just a descriptive tool rather than an in depth analysis with regard to educational research.

She suggests that symbolic violence can be used to explore power relations in the family field and that this concept can be used in conjunction with familial capital to understand parental influence.

Theorists after Bourdieu developed the concepts of familial habitus and familial doxa – Bourdieu viewed family as a “field which inculcates habitus as part of the pedagogic work of the family (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990). Whilst Bourdieu’s theories can be further developed, it is important to maintain their consistency.


In Bourdieu’s ‘Distinction’ (1984) he provides a formula for his theoretical framework:

            (Habitus x Capital) + Field = Practice

This demonstrates his concern in highlighting the interaction between theoretical concepts. Habitus is constructed by engagement in practice with the field but it also thereby structures the field. The equation is key in reminding us that there are vital interrelations between Bourdieu’s concepts and tools.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Green, E. (2013). Research in the new Christian academies: Perspectives from Bourdieu.

This chapter comes from the same book as the previous post. It explores the use of Bourdieu's conceptual tools within educational research.

Green, E. (2013). Research in the new Christian academies: Perspectives from Bourdieu. In M. Murphy (Ed.), Social theory and education research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida. (pp. 138-152). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Bourdieu and his concepts
“To understand is first to understand the filed with which and against which one has been formed” (Bourdieu, 2007, p. 4) – Sketch for a self-analysis – an analysis of himself using sociological viewpoints, bringing in a key legacy of his work – reflexivity.

Bourdieu stressed the importance of reflecting on the researcher’s own history and background in the same way as they explore the object of the research – this seems to link in with the double hermeneutic? Stepping back from the object of the research is the first step followed by reflecting on the relationship between the researcher and the researched.
Habitus, Bourdieu argued, can only operate within a social field. Groups compete for recognition or validation within a field (is this akin to capital?), leading to competition and struggle.

Critiques of Bourdieu’s works

-          He never fully integrated his concepts into a grand sociological theory
-          He did not justify why the sociological standpoint should have authority over other views when discussing politics, society and culture.
-          Other critics describe Bourdieu’s work as deterministic and not acknowledging individuals’ agency – an ability to act in the world.
Connell suggest that Bourdieu’s explanations of key concepts such as habitus are vague and do not take into account organisational change over time.

Applying Bourdieu’s concepts to research

The author explores the use of field, habitus, symbolic violence and cultural capital to a specific situation. The author conceptualises academies as a field. Because Bourdieu’s definition of field is one of competing interests with a struggle for recognition, the author suggests academies qualify. The author seeks to explore questions surrounding the ideologies within the academies field, and acknowledge that they are the new dominant form of education. She provides Bourdieu’s suggestions for exploring the forms of knowledge within the field, the groups which hold the power within the field.

The author conceptualises the religious beliefs and assumptions of senior academy staff as a habitus. This habitus is embedded within the school structure, regulating cultural practice. Habitus was used by the researcher as a tool to determine the influence the senior team’s habitus had on practice within the school. The author indicates how biblical study is conceptualised as religious habitus, with the Christian ethos being encountered by staff and students as symbolic violence.
Teaching the bible is a high status job, available to those who share the religious habitus. This makes these staff more visible, placing them in a symbolically powerful relationship to the bible, able to interpret it. Therefore, they regulate the ethos of the school. Bourdieu suggests that symbolic violence is “the power to constitute the given by stating it” (p. 147), determining the legitimacy of relationships and behaviours.
Bourdieu’s studies of the Catholic church in France led to his view that they are imposed and preserve their own status and hierarchy – a form of symbolic violence. Symbolic violence can be used to show which groups are powerful, and the hierarchy. Certain voices are therefore absent from the structures, the religious habitus and its expression. The author found that those teachers who did not share the religion of the Trust felt a lack of confidence in taking bible sessions, and appeared to have a lower level of cultural capital than those who were of the same religion.

Cultural capital

The religious habitus impact on student culture was minimal. The values and assumptions of the habitus were interpreted by the students in a different way to the Trust’s expectations As Bourdieu states, assumptions can be appropriated and reappropriated. The students valued knowledge on religion and biblical literacy – forms of cultural capital but this did not involve sharing the religious habitus of the Trust. Because of the regulated way in which biblical study was presented (RE and form time), the students perceived it as not relevant to other areas of their lives. This is in opposition to the Academy’s desire. The habitus of the dominant cultural group does not render other groups in the culture passive and without agency.


·         Bourdieu’s tools are widely used within educational research in the UK, most commonly with regard to analysis of the impact of class on social reproduction.
·         Bourdieu’s conceptual tools allow theory to clearly integrate with methodology.
·         The author also explores the role of reflexivity when using Bourdieu.
My thoughts
Is there something I can explore in relation to symbolic violence? Could this relate to tracking of students from vocational backgrounds into less prestigious HEIs? A useful overview of habitus and symbolic violence.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Rawolle, S. & Lingard, B. (2013). Bourdieu and educational research: Thinking tools, relational thinking, beyond epistemological innocence.

Bourdieu is well-used in educational research (some may argue over-used) but what I have read resonates with my own thoughts on academic skills development and transition to/within HE. I’m therefore starting to explore his conceptual tools in relation to educational research. I decided not to jump in at the deep end and read his own work straight away – I’d rather get my head around his ideas first, as I believe his writing is somewhat hard-going.

Rawolle, S. & Lingard, B. (2013). Bourdieu and educational research: Thinking tools, relational thinking, beyond epistemological innocence. In M. Murphy (Ed.), Social theory and education research: Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida. (pp. 117-137). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

The authors of this chapter give an overview of Bourdieu’s background and the influence of his ideas on social theory. Rather that purely exploring theory, Bourdieu emphasised the link between theory and practice. His great interest is in the “relational workings of the social arrangement” (p. 117) – this links to his work on fields and the relations within and between different fields.

The authors suggest that Bourdieu’s work is universal in its application – both globally and within a range of fields. They posit that Bourdieu’s frequent return to previous work is indicative of his reflexivity.
Bourdieu also developed what are called “thinking tools” (p. 119) which he developed and which continued to be developed throughout his practice.
The authors indicate that the reception of Bourdieu’s theories as they relate to education varies internationally. This is in part due to differences in availability of translated works. Variation may also be due to whether key academics within individual countries engaged with Bourdieu’s theories.

Wacquant (1989) describes Bourdieu as developing a set of “thinking tools” which, although appropriated from a range of disciplines, were developed within Bourdieu’s studies. These tools can be considered a framework to use in the examination of a range of applications.

Practice and habitus: These two thinking tools developed in relation to anthropological research Bourdieu undertook in Algeria. He did not alter his approach when researching in the differing culture of France. Explore this issue? Bourdieu did not provide a definition of practice but viewed it as the essence of social life, an area to be explored. Need to find a clearer definition of practice, if one exists!
The development of Bourdieu’s thoughts on fields led, perhaps inevitably, to consideration of a general theory of fields. This could aid understanding of the relationality between fields, and areas of convergence, overlap and divergence. This is discussed in Bourdieu (1993) – Sociology in Question. (Look at Maton, 2005).

As well as providing thinking tools, Bourdieu also gives guidance on how a research habitus can be developed for using his theories in education.
Methodological approaches and researcher stances: beyond epistemological innocence

Bourdieu suggests that reflexive locating of the researcher within the relevant field(s) is vital for effective social research. This is a really interesting point to explore further. Does this link with reflexivity such as that espoused by Heidegger? What does this mean for my research – is it more effective because of my position and background within the area being researched?

Read “A Bourdieusian approach to methodology in Grenfell (2008).

The final point the authors explore with regard to Bourdieu is his concept of the “collective intellectual” (p. 132). He saw the need for academics to work within the political field not only the academic field, to overcome the dichotomy between academia and political commitment. This is closer to the French intellectualism tradition.

The authors’ key points from the conclusion:
-          Generative thinking tools: practice, habitus capital, field
-          Reproduction in education
-          Rejecting epistemological innocence
-          Researcher reflexivity – researcher habitus
-          Research with commitment and being political.

 What use is this for me?

An interesting read when I know little of Bourdieu. It’s given me some good further reading and an overview of the conceptual tools I would want to use.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Transition within university: Christie et al

This was a paper I read for a reading group at work. The title on transition interested me, and the authors suggest that it is a novel piece of research as it is a longitudinal study, following students through university, as they transition from year to year. Furthermore, its novelty lies in exploring transition between years once within university, rather than concentrating on transition into HE.

Christie, H., Tett, L., Cree, V., & McCune, V. (2106). 'It all just clicked': a longitudinal perspective on transitions within university. Studies in Higher Education, 41(3), 478-490.

The paper starts by setting the scene for the gap in the literature. I was taken by the sentence in the introduction "...students need to be better prepared for studying at the university level." (p. 478). The paper suggests that universities are interested in the topic of transition and retention of first years due to the financial and reputational issues.

Whilst the authors link their findings to Lave and Wenger's situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation, it is hard to see where the communities of practice, and the requirements for these to exist, actually come into the paper. What does scream out at me is the idea of organisational habitus and the students developing this as they progress through university, in relation to academic skills.

An interesting paper, and I'm sure that the original research perhaps made the link more clearly to communities of practice than is evident in this paper. I realise that with our subjective views of truth, we conceal as we reveal. Perhaps with my interest in researching Bourdieu, I look at everything with the expectation of seeing habitus and cultural capital. However, in this case, I can really see the link. I'm surprised the authors didn't.

A topic to explore further for my assignment - I was looking at this in relation to transition with vocational learners from FE to HE, but perhaps there is more of a gap in transition through the university. Lots to think about.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Social theorists in education: Notes from module 2

This new  module is slightly less of a mental workout initially. Only initially. The weekend sessions were taken up with discussing a few social theorists who are linked to education. We looked (briefly) at Dewey, Wenger and Eraut.

Numbers relate to the slide numbers on the presentation.


11. Dewey stresses the importance of progressive education, and that "the most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning" - it is our duty to educate to promote the importance of learning.

12. Dewey is concerned with the outcomes of education - the learner voluntarily subjecting themselves to the learning process as an enduring feature of their life.

13. Education resembles democracy - education does not occur within a vacuum - the education system must be democratic for democratic citizens to be produced. Authoritarian education cannot produce democratic citizens - "freedom, decency, kindness" - these word of Dewey are from 1938, when they had a much stronger meaning than they would appear to now.

14. The argument for freedom - why do we want to live in a democracy? What features make democracy good? Why shouldn't we use these features within education? Working in a democratic way gives a better experience. what's the alternative?

15. Dewey insists that teachers shouldn't enforce control (even of they fear chaos).

16. Teachers should not impose authority. The children should believe that the rules are there for the good of them. Problems occur if they believe that the rules are there for the benefit of authority; then, they challenge that authority. Learning is imposed by the teacher when there isn't establishment of shared responsibilities. When you say you need to know this because of exams etc., learning becomes an imposition  upon the students - give the children responsibility for what they want to learn, then there is a shared responsibility.

17. Why do we educate? Education is dynamic - why we learn is always changing. The pupil is a participant in the formation of the reasons why they are learning. This links to Friere.

Participation is not just doing an activity but determining what is taught and why it is taught.

18. Quality of the education experience: progressive education is hard work for the teacher - they need to find out what the pupils want to learn, then resource it and manage individual differences. Therefore it is impossible to realistically achieve.

19. Boxed knowledge: there is no way that traditional teaching is a shared experience. Knowledge is given to pupils in order to pass a test, etc. Have a look at Hannah Arendt's view of this as 'human culture'.

20. Habit - Bourdieu's habitus largely comes from Dewey's 'habit'. A diet of authoritarian education and boxed knowledge cannot lead to democratic individuals.

21. Experience, for Dewey, is constituted by interaction and continuity. Lived experience provides a richer, deeper understanding. Continuity relates to the experience beyond school being brought into the classroom (i.e. the habitus of Bourdieu).

Wenger and Communities of Practice

This theory was introduced in relation to learning outside of formal institutions. It is a social form of learning, - a community which coalesces around a practice. Its original setting was situated learning (Lave and Wenger).

It is important to remember that the theory developed outside of formal education, so if used within formal education as a theory, this needs to be explored and considered - there may be a transference issue.

22. Lave and Wenger - Situated Learning: There is a drawing in to practice, from the periphery - like on an apprenticeship - all informal social learning. Situated learning solely looks at the learning taking place in the situation - how they pick up the knowledge. Knowledge is CO-CONSTRUCTED, developing through practice between people within a particular social and physical environment. even getting the 'in jokes' is a co-construction of knowledge within that particular community.

24. Shared domain iNTEREST indicates a DESIRE to learn - only a desire to learn can lead to these informal learning practices, otherwise there is no interest in learning about it.

25. COMMUNITY: can be very loosely defined and fragmented.

26. PRACTICE: the doing. Learning continues in informal ways, always rooted in practice.

27. The community has to exist previously so that new members recognise the traditions/history and knowledge is passed on over time. Participants must believe that they're part of the tradition and know and be able to narrate their place within that tradition It is ontological - your 'being' as part of that CoP, and a belief that you will acquire that knowledge.

28. Trajectory through the CoP: entering, belonging and outbound. The identity develops in relation to the community, developing a sense of belonging, engagement and alignment.

29. There is the development of stories/narratives/fables about the community an its practices. Participation vs reification: the binary. Participation: what you do, e.g. a plumber; reification: the symbolic aspects - documentation, adverts, formal/informal rules, regulations: there is a disjunction between the two. The binary is often paradoxical, with contradictions e.g. in teacher education, there are the teaching standards and then there is actual practice.

What am I going to do with this?
Well, I have to write an 8,000 word discussion of a particular theory relating to social theory of education. I was quite excited to read about Wenger's communities of practice and could relate that to an experience from my previous job. Dewey's work is more limited in its interest to me. I can understand the argument, and find it of interest, but it's so far removed from 'reality' for me that I don't feel moved to think about how it could relate to my work.

The other theorist we looked at, Eraut, initially piqued my interest with his discussion of different types of knowledge, and that practical knowledge is looked down upon by those who pursue epistemic knowledge. However, the theory we explored is, again, of not so much interest. I find myself leaning towards developing my understanding of Bourdieu, which I started in the first module. I need to go away and think about how I can explore Bourdieu's theories of habitus, field and cultural capital in relation to the development of academic skills.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The end of the module...

No blogging for quite some time as reading and research took over all the time I had available to devote to the EdD.

Since my last post, I have interviewed three participants, transcribed the interviews, analysed them using IPA and completed an 8,000 word assignment discussing both my theoretical perspectives and the research project. Well, 8,791 words to be precise, as we are permitted +/-10%. The first draft ended up being 11,003 words, so serious pruning was required. The finished assignment didn’t really have the depth I wanted in some areas, especially in relating my findings to wider literature, but 8,000 really wasn’t enough.
What have I learnt?

1.       I *loved* doing this assignment. From initial total confusion at entirely new concepts, to moments of clarity as when the fog shifts and you can see your destination before the fog closes back in to obscure your route again. There’s still a lot of fog, but with islands of clarity. I suppose I should wait and see what the feedback is before I consider how fog-bound I remain. 

2.       The more I read, the more I found that just about every area of research into transition has been done to death. It’s an area I’m still really interested in, but quite where the gap in the research is that I can make my own, I just don’t know. Around two weeks before submission I felt I had nothing to add. How on earth do you find that slight gap in the knowledge that you can add to, especially as there is a lag between research being completed and publishing?

3.       I was so lucky with my first interviewee – he could talk the hind leg off a donkey. My interviewees became progressively more reticent but that was good experience, of a sort.

4.       Immersion in the data is easy when you’re as slow at transcribing as me.

5.       Oh how I loved those ‘aha’ moments when I noticed something in the way an interviewee said something – not just what they said, but how they said it: repetition of a phrase such as “I know x, I know y, I know z, I’m ready…” or the change from the very personal ‘I’ to using ‘you’ when talking about how other people perceived one participant.

6.       Despite what some articles say, don’t try to arrange your themes into superordinate themes using pieces of paper. It’s so much easier to cut and paste and move things around on a PC.

And what did I find? Well, my reflexive thoughts prior to the research were that students from vocational backgrounds would feel at a disadvantage to students from the traditional A level route with regard to academic skills used at university. However, what I actually found was a group (albeit small and idiographic) of confident, self-motivated learners who felt more than ready for study at HE, and considered themselves better equipped with academic skills than their A level colleagues. I started to consider this in relation to Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and habitus, but that is where my word count ran out.

With the new module starting tomorrow, I hope to explore this area of educational theory in more detail, and just keep looking, looking, looking for the novel angle through which I can take this topic through to the final thesis.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Weekend 3: Handwritten notes

Theorising data

The quality of theorising data is key in doctoral research. See Dean’s two papers to explore what it means to theorise something, for example application of Foucault’s ideas to policies surrounding safeguarding in sports coaching.
Rorty stats that “All we have is interpretation”, so all we have is differing interpretations of experiences. Should we strive towards truth, in its absence.
Jean-Luc Nancy explored the concept of “being with”: we cannot exist as individuals, as we are social beings. Our identity emerges through our interaction with others. Identity captures our engaging with others within particular contexts.
Judith Butler discussed performativity – we perform differently in different contexts. There is no ‘essence’ of ourselves.
We bring meaning to data – it is a process of construction of meaning. The data does not exist without the meaning and the significance we put on it. Context is of key significance, and helps us to produce meaning. There is construction of the context between interviewer and interviewee.
This links to reflexivity – the narrative of who we are, our aspects of self and our connections to the research.

There was a brief discussion over research data anomalies – it is of great interest to explore anomalous data rather than to try and ignore it. Why is it there? What does it mean in relation to the agreeing data?

 Key issues arising from the evening activity
Truth is plural – there are multiple truths.
Who we are and how we see influences our perception of truth. Our interpretations cause us to see the world differently. We privilege some things and deselect others – perception is very individual.
We need to relate this to our ontological and epistemological position.
Ontology is existence.

If truth is a plural concept, the ontological status is relativism. Interpretation is critical. We are not dealing with the ontological realism of a singularity of truth but a plurality of multiple truths.

BUT – does this mean ‘anything goes’? – The tutor asked us to question whether this was actually important. We always have to live with uncertainty, so why not with uncertainty over research. However, there are certain truths which hold sway at different times – these are not foundational but are based on community debate as to what is temporarily/provisionally held to count as ‘truth’. However, within this community, there may be different perspectives, with tensions between them. Therefore, there is no total agreement on interpretation/truth.
Other key issues:

Meaning does not reside in the data itself – meaning is brought into being and partly constructed through our interaction with it. The sense we make of data is affected by what we bring (culturally, socially, historically located) i.e. CONTEXT.
Discovery as a metaphor for research is inaccurate. It is more a construction and creation than a discovery. For example phenomenological hermeneutics acknowledge the importance of ‘self’ in the construction and telling of the ‘other’ – self and other are conjoined.
We cannot bracket off our subjectivity but we must embrace it – this is who I am and this affects how I understand and interpret.

Heidegger suggests that we are already located in presuppositions – ie our ‘being in the world’ – our social, historical, cultural context.
Nancy: ‘being with’ locates you – who you are with affects who you are.

Michael Polanyi discussed ‘tacit knowledge’: knowledge we cannot explicitly explain but that we have. We cannot render a feeling fully explicit (e.g. my choice of IPA?)

Other issues raised:
The criteria with which our research is judged: where I position myself in relation to onto-epistemic issues. I  need to articulate how I want to be judged – I will need to discuss the criteria for judgement.

Conventional criteria do not apply in qualitative contexts. Remodelling of the criteria to include, for example, authenticity and verisimilitude are still ‘fudging’ the issue – still appealing to accuracy but by different names. We only have the power of rhetoric to take the reader into your word – you need resonance with the reader, and this will not always happen.

What you write will only ever ring true for some people. Validity shifts from accuracy to a plain that recognises the importance of resonance and experience – connection to the information. This is not a simplistic correspondence, such as ‘does the report accurately represent reality?’

This shifts the test of validity – the truth of the account partly resides in the standpoint of the reader. Truth isn’t solely controlled by the authorial account.

Dean is going to send out a paper on the flexibility of validity.

Presentation (PowerPoint) on Heidegerrian Phenomenology

Slide 1:

Ò  … utilises a hermeneutic approach that is fundamentally ontological
Ò  This informs us of ‘how’ a ‘what’ is to be treated, and is primarily methodological
Ò  ‘what does this data mean’ becomes ‘how is this data meaningful’?
The activity we took part in was fundamentally ontological – we drew on our own being. The questions move from ‘what does this mean’ to ‘how is this meaningful?’ – our interaction and construction bring meaning into being.

 Slide 2:

Ò  The latter cannot be answered except in relation to Dasein (da – here; sein – being)
Ò  Thus, descriptions are impossible without interpretation
Ò  ‘the meaning of phenomenological description as a method lies in interpretation’ (Heidegger 1962: 61).
Descriptions are impossible without interpretation and construction of meaning. Our identities (plural rather than singular) are exposed differently depending on our ‘being with’. Identities are contextually located.

Slide 3:
Ò  Being and becoming are hermeneutic:
Ò   ‘the phenomenology of Dasein is a hermeneutic in the primordial significance of the word, where it designates this business of interpreting’ (Heidegger 1962: 62).
Becoming: Being isn’t fixed – it is dynamic. We ‘become’ according to those around us – it is relational.

Slide 4:

Ò  Interpretation is ‘grounded in something we have in advance fore-having … we see in advance fore-sight … and something we grasp in advance fore-conception (Heidegger 1962: 193)
Ò  The implication for research is that data is analysed through these fore-structures
Ò  Such structures suggest that understanding is not ground in data but in what people have in advance – the always already Being
‘Fore-having’ – we have ‘fore-conception’ – we analyse data through these fore-structures. The understanding is not grounded in data but in being and fore-having – i.e. we have preconceptions and ‘baggage’.

Therefore, research is always already theoretically over-determined – we are always already theoretical as we are always already schooled in some sense, e.g. through family, community, culture, tradition. We cannot bracket that.

 Slide 5:

Ò  Key points
Ò  The object and subject of the world are inseparable
Ò   Dasein is the Being that is peculiar to humans who must paradoxically live in relationships while simultaneously being ultimately alone with oneself
Ò  To understand the Other, a person’s behaviour or expressions, one has to study that person in context
It is impossible to know when what is outside of ourselves starts and what is internal begins in regard to interpretation. Interpretation is an interaction but we cannot pin it down. We cannot recognise the extent of our self. Ethically, this is very powerful as we as the author have to consider equity, responsibility, whose voices we choose to privilege and whose we silence.

Reflexivity involves engaging critically with what we recognise as our position and subjectivity, to interrogate but we will always fail as we cannot fully recognise the extent of our influence.

Reflexivity: positioning our professional values that are shared with the contextualisation of the work.

Grounded Theory

Slide 1:
… addresses the ‘important enterprise of how the discovery of theory from data - systematically obtained and analyzed in social research - can be furthered’
Glaser, B.G. and Strauss, A.L (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory: strategies for qualitative research, London:  Aldine, p.1).

Glaser & Strauss (1967): The discovery of theory from data
Theories from the study are based on data – theories emerged from the data, i.e. the authors weren’t bringing anything to it – the data drove the themes. This assumes that we enter the context of research without baggage, in order to see what’s occurring. It assumes that no literature has been read beforehand, there are no lenses to see through, allowing data to drive theory production – data “springs forth”. BUT there is no acknowledgement of a lens.


Slide 2:

  … relies upon ‘a general method of comparative analysis’ (p.1)

‘we would all agree that in social research generating theory goes hand in hand with verifying it’ (p.2).

This is problematic as it suggests that there is logical induction. Karl Popper critiques logical induction through the black swan story. There is no way of verifying a theory based on induction. There is always the possibility of an anomaly in the next observation. We can only ever falsify a theory rather than verify it.

How can we ever know how close we are to ‘the truth’? Verify against what? We cannot know how near or far we are from a ‘truth’.

The categories we develop in our minds are influenced by our framing of the context. We cannot verify it – if something (a theme) keeps repeating itself, it is because we keep seeing it. We may not see other things.

There is a tension in grounded theory – it wants us to be open-minded, inductive and generative BUT it is also seeking to verify – that is, it is narrowing, reductive and deductive.

What are the external references allowing us to verify something, other than keeping seeing the same thing? – affirmation of the self.


Slide 3:

  According to Glaser and Strauss – grounded theory appeals to the ‘interrelated jobs of theory in sociology:

                (1) to enable prediction and explanation of         behaviour; (2) to be useful in theoretical advance in                 sociology; (3) to be usable in practical applications –        prediction and explanation should be able to give                 the practitioner understanding and some control of        situation; (4) to provide a perspective on behaviour                 – a stance to be taken towards data; and (5) to guide and provide a style for research on particular         areas of behaviour’ (p.3).

“Prediction and explanation” come up several times in these assumptions – these align with the key concepts of positivism. This holds to the view that there is a ‘real view’ of the world – theory is developed on that basis and we can remove our subjectivity, so in reality, GT is positivist.

Slide 5:

  Located where? … possibly conceptual tensions?

  Used in education research, nursing and organisational studies, but also elsewhere

  Has much in common with ethnography, case study, action research

  Rejection of a priori theorising – emergent theory

  Implicit verification-ism

  Not steeped in literature

  Inductive, constructivist approach to data collection

  Imperative to reach saturation, but why?

  Interaction between data collection, analysis and theory building – ‘theory must “fit” the situation being researched’ (p.3)

Features of grounded theory: It is unsure where it sits – there are conceptual tensions. It rejects a priori theorising.

Slide 6:

  ‘Categories must be readily (not forcibly) applicable to and indicated by the data under study; by “work” we mean that they must be meaningfully relevant to and be able to explain the behaviour under study
  … categories are discovered by examination of the data’ (p. 3).
  ‘the adequacy of a theory for sociology today cannot be divorced from the process by which it is generated’ (p.5).

To generate theory…

GT suggests that the meaning/theme is already there, and is not imposed by the self. But how can this be separate? We interact (with our baggage) – they suggest that this doesn’t happen and that the categories are there *before* our interaction.

Slide 8:
  ‘The biographies of scientists are replete with stories of occasional flashes of insight, of seminal ideas, garnered from sources outside the data. But the generation of theory from such insights must then be brought into relation to the data, or there is great danger that theory and the empirical world will mismatch’ (p.6)

What is the ‘empirical world’ – we only know the phenomenal one through our own senses and constructions.
NOTE: The tutor did mention the work of CHarmaz with regard to grounded theory, but suggested that her developments took it away from grounded theory and it was closer to phenomenology.