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Using habitus and field to explore Access to Higher Education student's learning identities

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Studies in the Education of Adults
Issue number1
Volume47
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)4-20
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Despite the diversification of the student population in higher education, there has been little empirical research on the impact of Access to Higher Education (AHE) courses, on mature students' learning identities, and of the changes in higher education policy on their chances to participate. Using data from a study examining AHE students' learning transitions at three further education colleges in the East Midlands in England, we employ Bourdieu's concept of habitus and the complexities of the relations between habitus and field to understand how AHE students experience and conceptualise their positions as they (re)engage in formal learning. The article will draw on the study's findings to show how the AHE students participate in these fields and the learner identities that emerge. For the purposes of the article three themes are discussed. These relate to the AHE students' reticence towards learning and difficult educational beginnings; transforming learner identities and learning to become a learner. It will argue that when immersed in new fields, AHE students can develop strategies and nuanced understandings of their previous experiences, social background and different learning cultures and contexts to inform the development of their learner identities. By doing this article shows how Bourdieu's ideas of habitus and field can be used to critically evaluate the effects of this interplay on mature learners' dis/positions and activities within their AHE course and their career decision-making.