Higher Education Equity Literature Database

  • You don't have like an identity... you are just lost in a crowd'

    Date: 2007

    Author: Scanlon, L.; Rowling, L.; Weber, Z.

    Location: Australia

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    Context: Transition as loss experience - student identity discontinuity as a result of 'knowledge about' rather than 'knowledge of' university. Scopes literature that has pointed to negative aspects of educational transition (lack of connection, dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation, alienation), leading to attrition. Transition = "a process entailing the loss of taken-for-granted realities and associated identities" (p.224; see Milligan, 2003). Authors situate paper in context of neoliberal/ 'lean and mean' higher education system of 'late modernity'. Scopes theories that help to explore transition (Tinto, Van Gennep, Bourdieu)
    Aim:
    Theoretical frame: Schutz (1964) - symbolic interactionist framework. Schutz's argument = people use 3 sources of information (reference schema) to define situations: previous experience, present goals and interaction with others - leading to 'knowledge about' (outsider) rather than 'knowledge of' (insider) information. Students' familiarity with university divides knowledge into 'layers of relevance'. Offers conceptual discussion of identity (taking a situational and processual view)
    Methodology: Questionnaire-based ('First Year Students' Experience of Loss & Academic Performance Questionnaire'), but qualitatively written. Research conducted in 6 faculties in several diverse universities. Participants = first-year students (n=602). Q'naire distributed at end of semester 1. 27 students participated in follow-up individual interviews (demographic profile on p.229).
    Findings:
    When student encounter transitional challenges = largely due to reliance on past experiences: "These experiences, however, do not prepare students for the learning context of the university nor for the kinds of students they are expected to become. The reason for this is, as we have argued earlier, that they lack the all important 'knowledge of ' the university context, having instead only naive 'knowledge about' the university" (p.230). This was also true of students who entered via university-based alternative pathway.
    Students found it difficult to connect with staff because of their perceived remoteness (compared with 'teacher as friend' at school): "When students feel that they are only a number and the lecturer is no longer a friend, then they suffer identity displacement and a sense of loss for past learning situations" (p.232). Also, students reported struggling with inadequate communication of academic expectations/ feedback.
    Students' loss of identity = related to initial feelings of anonymity (shifting from school friends/ being known). Participants also signaled that the diversity of students = confronting [my word]. Mature age students made more comments about age.
    Core argument: Unfamiliarity with new learning context = poses significant challenges for students. Students "experience feelings of loss of continuity as they leave behind familiar learning contexts and make the transition to university" (p.237).

  • Young people transitioning from out-of-home-care and access to higher education: a critical review of literature.

    Date: 2014

    Author: Mendes, P.; Michell, D.;Wilson, J.

    Location: Australia

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    Context: There are currently over 40,000 children and young people living in out-of-home care in Australia. Young people transitioning from out-of-home care are known to have poor educational outcomes compared to their non-care peers. However, little is known about the experiences or needs of the small numbers of Australian care leavers who enter higher education.
    Aim: To critically examine current research on the participation and completion of HE among care leavers, and highlight the significant knowledge gap about care leavers in Australia.
    Methodology: The literature review targeted key local and international literature on care leavers' access to HE, and was guided by the lead author's involvement in the Transitions to Adulthood for Young People Leaving Public Care International Research Group (INTRAC), and the participation of all three authors in a recent Australian Research Council grant application on a similar topic.
    Findings: The literature review: 1) established that poor educational outcomes are common for care leavers in Australia and internationally 2) highlighted factors that promote or hinder HE access for care leavers: Pre care experiences - abuse & neglect, highly disadvantaged family backgrounds; in-care factors (which hinders access) - instability in placements and schools; low expectations from social workers, teachers and carers; limited assistance with homework; a lack of supportive relationships with caring adults; inadequate personal and financial support; lack of collaboration between child protection agencies and education, and attitudinal and social problems at school, including discrimination and bullying from students and teachers, lack of interest in study and general unhappiness; in-care factors (which promotes access) - strong personal motivation and resilience, having a close supportive adult, stability in care and school placements that facilitate continuity in school attendance, satisfactory accommodation and financial help; ongoing emotional support, encouragement and advocacy from carers, teachers, family members and social workers, and integrated child welfare and education case management; transition from care factors - abrupt transitions that involve withdrawals of government support at a fixed chronological age of 18 years, when young people are finishing or about to finish school. 3) identified international research about the participation of care leavers in HE: England - by 2009, an estimated 7% of all 19-year-old identified care leavers entered HE (from 1% in 2003); 2012: most recent Department for Education figures suggest a slight decline from 430 young people in higher education in 2012 to 400 in 2013, or 6 per cent of all former care leavers aged 19 years (Department for Education, 2013); Sweden, Spain & Hungary - an estimated 6% of all care leavers have entered HE; Denmark: much lower figures at age 20, but 7% have completed HE by the age of 30; US - an estimated 10% enter and complete HE compared to their non-care experienced peers; Israel - largest percentage of care leavers transitioning to HE; Australia - no precise figures available
    5) provided an overview of programmes designed to improve access: USA: The Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) programme, introduced in 2001, provides care leavers with financial assistance of up to US$5000 until the age of 21 years, for both college and training programmes; The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 extended eligibility for the ETV to young people who enter kinship care or adoption after 16 years; College Cost Reduction Act of 2009 provides care leavers with increased opportunity to apply for financial aid (Day et al., 2011).
    Discussion: This review of the literature highlights the lack of policy making in Australia in relation to supporting care leavers' access and participation in HE, and suggests that a range of targeted personal and structural supports are needed to improve the participation of Australian care leavers in HE (Jackson & Cameron, 2012).
    Recommendations: 1) Extend state care obligations beyond 18 years 2) ensure that every care leaver had a post-18 educational support plan, based on a partnership between child protection and education (McDowall, 2009). 3) establish a post-18 national database similar to that maintained by the English Department of Education 4) all universities should have a formal policy for enrolling and supporting students from an out-of-home care back- ground, including a specific student services officer who has specialist knowledge of the impact of state care experience 5) generous and reliable financial support to assist care leavers entering higher education: removal or reduction of fees and/or deferral of Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) repayments, the provision of a small number of quarantined places for care leavers, and the availability of scholarships to meet educational and living costs. Australia should follow the lead of the UK government in offering a major bursary for each care leaver undertaking higher education, and associated support including: living and maintenance allowance for term time and vacations, an accommodation grant and assistance with the cost of stationery, books and a computer (Department for Education, 2014; National Care Advisory Service, 2012). * assistance should not be limited only to care leavers aged up to 25 years, but should also be available for those older care leavers who elect to return to education later in life.
    Core argument: Specific policy and practice reforms are required to enhance opportunities for Australian care leavers to participate in and complete HE.

  • Youth Aspirations, Participation in Higher Education and Career Choice Capability: Where to from here?

    Date: 2015

    Author: Galliott, N.

    Location: Australia

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    Context: Editorial for SI of Aus Ed Res on youth aspirations - situates the SI in the context that youth aspirations and post-school transitions are a hot topic for researchers and policy makers alike, but that an SI of Critical Studies in Education (following NCSEHE symposium in 2010) pointed to how "the modern conceptualisation of 'aspiration' risks establishing disadvantaged young people with dreams that are different to the dominant culture as 'outcasts'" (p.133). National policy context = 'National Partnership Agreement on Youth Attainment and Transitions' requires all young people to remain in education or training until the age of 17, and income support for people aged 15-20 = conditional on this engagement. Moreover, DET made many career development resources available in 2014 (including 'My Big Tomorrow') to assist young people in making post-school
    Papers:
    Gale & Parker (2015): 'To aspire: a systematic reflection...' - critique of discourses underpinning aspirations; 4-concept clusters: social imagination, taste/distinction, desire/possibility and navigational capacity/archives of experience; draw on empirical data to argue low-SES students have less of specialized knowledge needed for navigation.
    Gore et al. (2015): 'Socioeconomic status and career aspirations...' - draw on longitudinal aspirations survey to examine degree of certainty of career ambitions of students in Years 4,6,8. Findings suggest low SES students are more likely to base decisions on money rather than interest.
    Galliott & Graham (2015): 'School-based experiences...' - draw on survey with 706 high school students (Yr 9-12); findings suggest students largely are uncertain about aspirations, experience a lack of curriculum diversity and have little/no exposure to careers advisory advice. Authors suggest that careers advice should be offered to all students prior to selection of elective subjects.
    Sellar (2015): 'Unleashing aspiration...' - looks at promises made by policymakers with relation to social mobility and employability and higher education. Explores discourses of 'potential' (realization and waste) exploit learners' feelings; broken promises are often 'explained away' as a lack of talent or potential, rather than the unrealistic expectations set up by the discourse/ system.
    Harwood et al. (2015) 'Recognising aspiration: the AIME program...' - explores possibilities of strengths-based approaches for individual aspirations to show how AIME (Aus Ind. Mentoring Experience) impacts on indigenous high school students.
    Molla & Cuthbert (2015) 'Issue of Grad Employability' - explores assumptions in policy about graduate employability and the 'skills gap' between HRD graduates and labour market. Findings = skills deficit in dominant discourse = unfounded as most PhDs have worked prior to RHD and thus have already developed 'soft skills'
    Gale (2015) 'Social imaginary' - examines social inclusion strategies in Aus HE agenda (Labor policies) and argues that there is a lack of social imagination in strategies, thus placing assumptions of deficit on students.

  • Youth transition in Australia: challenging assumptions of linearity and choice

    Date: 2014

    Author: te Riele, K.

    Location: Australia

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    Context: Youth transitions, particularly educational transitions. Author argues that assumptions about linearity and choice are not reflective of more complex and nuanced transitions made by young people in the more precarious/ uncertain modern (at time of writing - this is much more dynamic and complex 16+ years later). At time of writing, schooling policy had been amended to encourage young people to complete secondary education, which had the effect of "contribut[ing] to a prolonged dependency of young people on education and on their parents" (p.244)
    Theoretical frame: Transition understood as non-linear. Author argues that policy is based on two assumptions about transition to adulthood: linearity ("defined by markers such as leaving school, leaving home, getting a job and living independently", p.245), and individual choice (see idea of 'choice biographies'; Beck, 1992). Author offers critique of the idea of choice: "The idea of choice biographies, perhaps unintentionally, feeds a misleading discourse around individual responsibility, which ignores the constraints on the choices available to young people" (p.246)
    Author notes critique of pathways metaphor for transition because it offers "a false impression of order, and being too linear, instrumental and individualistic" (p.245)
    Methodology: Case studies of 'second chance' senior college students, asking two questions: "was their transition a failure, and was any perceived failure the person's own 'fault'?" (p.247)
    Findings: Case studies illustrate non-linear transitions (unsurprisingly, given they were attending a secondary college, rather than school), and that events beyond the students' control shaped their trajectories.
    Core argument: Transitions are rarely linear or decided through agentic decision-making, partly because "risks and opportunities are not evenly distributed" (p.254)
    "This research aims to contribute to a re-conceptualisation of educational transition, in order for policy to better match transition experiences in contemporary society. Neither policy nor educational institutions can afford to ignore these changed experiences of transition" (p.254).

  • “What School Could Be” Student Screening and School Design Workshop

    Themes:

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    On Monday 20 May 2019, the Gonski Institute for Education held two screenings of Ted Dintersmith’s award-winning documentary Most Likely to Succeed for close to 400 primary and secondary school students at UNSW Kensington campus. The film, which looks at innovative approaches to what school could be, was followed by an interactive session where students were encouraged to design a poster depicting their ideal school, using the themes from the documentary. During this exercise, students were encouraged to consider:

    • the purpose of their school.
    • the subjects, if any, that would be offered.
    • the skills that will be taught and how this will be done.
    • the measures of success and student learning. Would their school have grades? or NAPLAN?
    • the spaces (rooms and outdoor spaces) that would exist at their ideal school, and the supplies, decorations, technology that would be available.


    Many excellent ideas for revolutionary, student-centred schools were identified and discussed. 

    The Gonski Institute for Education is passionate about giving student’s a voice. Thank you to all who attended the screenings and made the day such a success, in particular the following schools:

    • Malabar Public School
    • La Perouse Public School
    • Woollahra Public School
    • Bonnyrigg Public School
    • Randwick Boys’ High School
    • St Luke’s Grammar School
    • Matraville Sports High School
    • Liverpool Boys’ High School
    • Burwood Girls’ High School
    • Hurlstone Agricultural High School
    • Sydney Secondary College – Leichhardt

     

    View our photos on What School Should Be.