Becoming a different person in the zone of proximal development : a case study of sixth form students making career and HE choices

Bassot, Barbara (2005). Becoming a different person in the zone of proximal development : a case study of sixth form students making career and HE choices. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000c014

Abstract

During the last decade there has been a significant expansion in higher education (HE) in the UK, and widening participation is high on the government's agenda, as it is seen as one means of achieving a better-qualified workforce. In their work with clients, Careers Advisers are required to promote equality of opportunity, which becomes problematic when studies show the HE system in the UK to be segregated along racial lines (Ball et al, 2002; Reay et al, 2001), with students from ethnic minorities much more likely to study in new universities in metropolitan areas, than in older, more established institutions.

This study seeks to explore the ways in which Careers Advisers can promote equality of opportunity effectively, and critically evaluates the possible application of collectivist interpretations of the zone of proximal development, situated approaches and activity theory, to career guidance practice. The methodology chosen is that of social constructivism, and the study focuses on a small number of students (most of whom are from ethnic minorities) from a sixth form college in inner London who are making their HE choices. The method of enquiry adopted is one of a qualitative case study (Bassey, 1999), through which the stories of the students are interpreted.

This study shows that whilst agency on the part of the individual may by itself not be enough to widen participation into HE, the opportunity for sixth formers to participate in the community of practice of HE, together with a level of openness to their participation on the part of HE systems could do much to bring about transformatory change in the HE system from within via expansive learning (Engeström, 2001). The work highlights a role for Careers Advisers in promoting individual agency, and in fostering a culture of participation in career guidance.

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