Identity change and mature learners in higher education.

STEVENS, Graham N. (2005). Identity change and mature learners in higher education. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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This thesis explores the experiences of mature students in higher education within the process of widening participation as part of the movement from an elite to a mass system. This process is viewed as a natural experiment in identity change as people who hitherto had no expectations of academic achievement are invited to see themselves in a very different light. The research was conducted in a Mixed Economy Group College in the north of England which specialises in 'return to study' provision for local students. The theoretical framework is existential phenomenological psychology which is deployed in describing the Tifeworld' of the participants, especially in relation to selfhood. Such an approach is relatively underplayed in this substantive area and as such augments other research in providing a different in-depth analysis. The resultant description traces a journey from a generally disempowered existential baseline through to an emerging self-identity which is perceived as profoundly transformed. In a relatively short period of their life participants rapidly encounter a legion of hitherto unknown experiences: engagement with academics and academic discourse, division into home and college self-identities, epiphanies of self development, and shifts in relationships. A new but inchoate self-identity is perceived through a range of novel encounters with people and ideas. This embryonic stage of a new self-identity is characterised by new knowledge and skills, a sense of confidence and empowerment, hitherto unknown aspirations, successes and status. Overall there is a perspectival shift in their view of the world and themselves within it. The journey however is a difficult one with existential dilemmas and contradictions constantly presenting themselves. The description employs the metaphor of 'existential pioneer' to describe the mode of living that characterises the participants' lived reality in tackling the trials and tribulations they encounter. Commentaries on self-identity in the contemporary world are considered apropos their relevance to the consciousness of participants engaging with education as an 'expert system'. The implications of the findings for an educational praxis and philosophy in relation to mature studentship in higher education are also considered. It is argued that for true widening participation to be effected, the full import of the mature student experience on entering and moving through the system should be given greater emphasis in all areas of the educational praxis. This means to acknowledge that the process of widening participation begins and does not end when the mature student enters higher education.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Ashworth, Peter
Thesis advisor - Hirst, Julia [0000-0001-9230-1828]
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2005.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:22
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:04

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