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Curiosity and careers: Female working-class students' experiences of university

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Samantha Shields



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Many studies have highlighted the limited ‘opportunity structures’ of working-class undergraduates. However, there have been few studies exploring how students’ agentic internal conversations mediate societal structures. Internal conversation is a reflexive process in which thoughts and decisions are considered in relation to social circumstances. This article seeks to further understandings of this reflexivity with 10 female working-class students. Theorisation using internal conversation emerged as an area of interest during interviews where journeys into higher education were narrated, within a larger study about engagement with assessment and feedback at university. Transcripts were analysed through Archer’s morphogenetic approach to agency with the internal conversational phases of ‘discernment’, ‘deliberation’ and ‘dedication’. Analysis indicated that participants demonstrated elements of both ‘autonomous reflexivity’ and ‘communicative reflexivity’. Future studies should further explore the interplay between ‘agency for change’ and ‘agency for stability’ in the desire for upward mobility while simultaneously seeking to maintain existing social contexts.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shields S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Studies in Sociology of Education

Year: 2023

Volume: 32

Issue: 4

Pages: 992-1012

Print publication date: 01/10/2023

Online publication date: 30/07/2021

Acceptance date: 16/07/2021

Date deposited: 08/09/2021

ISSN (print): 0962-0214

ISSN (electronic): 1747-5066

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09620214.2021.1959378


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