Learning for work: Social identities and professional education

McSweeney, Fiona (2011). Learning for work: Social identities and professional education. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ee55


The aims of this study were twofold. The first was to explore how social care practitioners undertaking a degree course to obtain the required professional qualification interpret the roles of student and social care practitioner and how structural factors particularly in the college environment impact on these interpretations. The second aim was to examine the development and change in the social identities of student and social care practitioner. The theoretical framework used to explore identity is that of structural symbolic interactionism as it provides a structure in which stability and change in identity, as well as the influence of social context can be examined. Congruent with the aims of the study and the theoretical framework a qualitative methodology is used. Data was mainly collected using a series of semi-structured interviews but supplemented through participant observation, questionnaires and diaries. Fifteen participants were involved and interviewed three times throughout their first academic year. Nine participants were interviewed again at the end of their second academic year. Commonality was found in the interpretations of the roles of social care practitioner and student, agreeing with existing literature. However variation was found among participants in the integration between and bi-directional impact of the two social identities suggesting that work-related learning is affected individual and social factors. Recommendations for the professional education of social care workers are made.

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