Thursday, 20 February 2014

Learning through writing 2: Fitting in?

Following my last blog on Bourdieu, this posting focuses on another article that has Bourdieu at the heart of it (still waiting for Distinction to arrive......).  This one was recommended to me by my colleague who knows Reay's work well, and I plan to provide a simple overview of the key points (as part of the learning process!).

Reference for the article:
Reay, D., Crozier, G. and Clayton, J. (2009). 'Fitting in' or 'standing out': working-class students in higher education. British Educational Research Journal, iFirst Article, 1-18.

  • Students who enter higher education (HE) come from a range of socio-economic groups. 'Widening participation' has been on the government's agenda for some time now.
  • Retention and success of students is important for a number of reasons (social, economic, cultural, personal, etc), and with widening participation has come an increase in attrition rates.
  • There are differences between universities in their ability to attract students from working-class and minority ethnic backgrounds. Prior attainment is not the only reason for lower numbers accessing HE from these backgrounds in certain universities (Russell Group). Still, even the post-1992 universities are not as successful overall as they might like to be in recruiting the numbers of students from these backgrounds.
  • Race, social class and gender impact on the way in which students access and experience HE. This article focuses on class whilst acknowledging that race and gender are important mediating factors. The research uses the concept of 'institutional habitus' to explore these experiences.
  • Habitus:
    • dynamic concept
    • 'a rich interlacing of past and present, individual and collective'
    • adaptation to external influences leading sometimes to change
    • social context key to behaviours and characteristics
    • institutional habitus reflects these points but are less likely to change than individuals due to the size of the organisation
  • 'Expressive order' of the HE is important to the case studies under investigation in this research and this relates to expectations, conduct, character and manners - 'embodied cultural capital' (we can see it in the way that students dress, how they behave, how they view their learning and their level of confidence in the world of HE).
  • The research: undergraduate students, aged 18 or over, working class backgrounds (defined through the ONSSEC); mixed methods; 4 different kinds of HEIs; different degrees; questionnaire, interviews; habitus and field were used as sensitising concepts in the data analysis phase.
  • Findings:
    • institutional habitus impacts on the ways in which class has an effect on student experiences including how the students see themselves within the different kinds of HEIs.
    • Staying close to home geographically and academically had its benefits (safety, reassurance) but means that the process of transformation through the educational experience is not as stark as in those students who went further afield for their education (both in geographical and academic terms). 
    • When students attended HEIs within their 'comfort zones', they may have felt accepted, but may have taken a more instrumental approach to their education.
    • Living in halls (rather than at home) appears to impact on the ability of students to integrate into the social and academic aspects of university life that are on offer - relating to the institutional habituses.
    • Those in paid work and with family commitments were less likely to take on the strong learner identify that others who could commit more time to the whole student experience. These factors impacted on the students' identities as academic learners.
    • The students who managed to 'fit in' socially whilst also 'standing out' as different were the ones who, unsurprisingly, were most successful.
    • Working class students who enter into elite HEIs may face both academic challenge (like their counterparts) as well as 'identity work' - where their habitus comes into contact with a very different field to the one(s) they had been used to.
  • The most important message is that inequalities persist, with working class students being less likely to make it into elite institutions.
An interesting article - an area where there is still much to be done. As before, the work of Reay et al resonates with the findings from my PhD (although I didn't investigate social class as such but knew from my data that the overwhelming majority of the students were first generation university goers). Further thoughts on Bourdieu will follow once my book arrives.

To carry on my theme of including a photo - this is another taken in France and I imagine this (somewhat tentatively) as a hard slog to get the top - reflecting what it may feel like for some working class students who enter into HE. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Learning through writing 1: Easing into Bourdieu

Here goes. In my last blog I promised myself that I would write about areas of theory (or practice) that I feel that I need to know more about (that will be everything then!), and through that process both learn and engage with others who hopefully will help me think about the things that I write about. I also plan to consider the relevance of my reading to nursing education.

I am starting with Bourdieu. The reason for this is that I 'used' some of his theory in my PhD - I used it quite well but as I have read more, I realise that I didn't get to the depth of his work. I have ordered Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste today but am easing into my reading with a critique of this work (possibly the wrong way round to do this). The article's reference is:
Murdock, G. (2010). Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 16:1, 63-65.

What does the article tell us?

  • Bourdieu was born in 1930 in rural south-west France.
  • He was the son of a postmaster.
  • He was successful in gaining a place in an elite higher education institution in Paris.
  • Coming from provincial France, he was thrust into this cosmopolitan lifestyle in an era of importance for Paris - as the cultural and intellectual centre of the west at the time.
  • These differences - between what he had grown up with and what he was coming to know in his academic city life - led to his lifelong fascination with culture, class and power.
  • He approached this fascination through a body of empirical work that investigated cultural practices and institutions.
  • His military service was in Algeria after which he stayed on to train as an anthropologist - he investigated the Berber culture (apologies for the wikipedia link); the ways in which the organising principles of their culture were perpetuated through the rituals in their lives. He recognised that the 'modernisation' that was taking place was impacting negatively on the cultural lives of the Berbers.
  • As the Director of Sociological Studies in a university in Paris, he went on to focus his research on continuity and change in modern France. His time here coincided with the shift from industrial production as the valuable asset, to education and intellectualism as assets.
  • What he recognised was that education favoured those from the middle and upper classes, rather than those from working classes (social privilege).
  • He then went on to identify that those from the working classes did not feel 'comfortable' in environments such as museums
  • In 1979, Distinction was published and confirmed him as the leading social analyst of his time.
    • Cultural preferences are derived from the experiences and input one has in families, education and other social situations.
    • These are habituses and are not fixed (as we can gain capital in different ways as we progress through life) but impact on how we behave and feel in different circumstances.
    • "Class positions are defined by holdings of social and cultural capital as well as economic assets." These relate to the distribution of power, and generate views of what constitutes 'low' and 'high' culture - resulting in inequalities in what are perceived as personal qualities, and is an act of symbolic violence.
    • There are inherent barriers to cultural participation arising from these class positions and the 'amount' and 'types' of capital - thus excluding (often self-exclusion) people from particular situations.
So, how is this information relevant to nursing education? My own PhD seemed to indicate that there were problems with the way that some student nurses were able to engage with university education because of the differences in cultural preferences - many of the students in my study were first generation university goers and were therefore coming into a situation about which they may have had little or no experience or preparation. The power in the relationship described here is likely to have sat with the academics and others in the university rather than with the student - in these particular circumstances. I will leave it here as I want to explore the concepts further before I go on to consider the implications in more depth.

A bit of a tentative connection - but here is a picture of a beautiful village in France which I visited with my family a couple of years ago.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Learning through writing

I haven't written on my blog for quite some time. I haven't been able to find a focus that I could consistently follow through. This weekend I had a conversation with my husband who happens to be a sociologist. I was telling him about a conversation that I had had with a colleague who knows that I write about social capital and who then asked me from what perspective I write. I was able to answer him (Putnam's Bowling Alone). But I also refer to Bourdieu's habitus (a non-academic link provided here). It made me think about how we refer to and use the work of others. In hindsight I am not sure that I know enough about Bourdieu to be talking in-depth about his work. And my hermeneutic phenomenology in my PhD (based on Heidegger's and Gadamer's work) is based on a detailed and committed approach to understanding, but does not scale the heights of true understanding of their philosophical perspectives.

I am therefore going to use this blog as a learning tool for myself. I plan to read and engage with the thinking so that I can make more sense of the difficult concepts - ones that I sometimes avoid on the basis that they are so challenging (not a great thing to admit as an academic!). I really hope that anyone who is still linked into this blog will help me in this learning journey. I am sure that by engaging in discussion, as an active learner I will benefit. If you wish to participate in anyway - by commenting or by writing a guest blog on an area of mutual interest - I would be delighted!!

I choose also to share some pictures that encapsulate some of the important messages in the learning. For me, this picture of my daughters and two of their cousins illustrates the importance of the connections we create in our lives (and I simply love the picture as it makes me smile).

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Catching up.... Lessons for me from 'popular' reading in nursing

I have spent this evening catching up on work-related activities including reading some of my Nursing Standards (NS). Lessons learned (and for my international colleagues, I hope this will give you a flavour of what's current in nursing practice just now):

  • The Safe Staffing Alliance is a group of senior nurses who have come together through NS and is encouraging MPs to back their campaign message. The Alliance believes that care is unsafe in wards where staffing ratios fall below one nurse to eight patients. This 1:8 ratio is based on significant evidence. One UK hospital at least is displaying staffing levels in wards (Salford Royal NHS Foundation).
  • Fitness to practice is an issue that is of relevance to all of us working with nurses in Higher Education (HE). According to a survey conducted by NS, over 800 students had to go through disciplinary processes at their universities in the past 3 years. The problems are varied ranging from allegations of plagiarism, unprofessional behaviour in practice placements, and criminal offences. What is highlighted within the news report is that there is not a consistent approach to dealing with misconduct across the UK - and will also depend on the stage of learning that the student is at (for example, taking a staged approach to plagiarism offences).
  • Draft guidance on lifestyle weight management services has been developed by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence). One of its key messages is that training would give nurses the confidence to tackle concerns about weight with patients, and to manage expectations associated with weight loss. Is this something that we focus on enough in our undergraduate nursing education?
  • An interesting article about the Keogh Review (which reviewed the quality of care and treatment across a number of Trusts in England) demonstrates that, with true leadership, the outcomes can energise and motivate staff. The process/outcomes can validate the concerns that staff had felt (and maybe hadn't been able to express?) and can enable a focused approach to be taken to the concerns that were raised. Steve Hams is the new chief nurse at Medway NHS Foundation Trust and has used the outcomes from Keogh to work with staff in very positive ways.
  • Finally (amongst many other interesting articles), Beverley Braithwaite's and Asanka Daynananda's article on the use of social media for learning in nursing education struck a cord for me. As with most universities, theirs uses online learning for a variety of reasons (PDP, e-workbooks, online drug calculations, discussion forums etc). What seems to be the innovation here is that they actively encourage students to bring their devices into the classroom so that they can engage with online learning insitu. I am not sure that they focused in on the use of SoMe so much as online learning through their virtual learning environment, but I would suggest that we need to trust students more and not see their use of mobile technology in the classroom as a threat to learning.
These were just some of the issues that I found to be of interest and which have provoked some reflection on nursing education and practice. I have found that writing the blog has enabled me to think more deeply about these topics as well (ever an active learner!).

Finally.... a plug. I am childishly happy that my first book has been published! My edited book will, I hope, be of use to students and lecturers alike. It is called 'The Essentials of Nursing and Healthcare Research' :)

And now just a photo that I took as I make myself a bit more at home 'down south' - loving the mix of old and new alongside the hustle and bustle of river life.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Monster Calls: Using literature in education

I went to NET2013 (Network for Healthcare Education Conference) last week. There were good keynotes and many excellent presentations from colleagues from across the globe. I want to write about one of the sessions by Kate Powis a lecturer and researcher from St Helena Hospice. She told us about a book that she uses in her teaching of practitioners about bereavement in young people. It's called 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness and is about Conor, a boy whose mother is dying of cancer who meets a monster who wants Conor's 'truth'. It is an amazing book with atmospheric drawings which have been highly acclaimed and I loved the feeling of holding the book in my hands. For me, though, the written story was what made the impact. I wept as I came to the final part of the story and could really see how young people may find strength through its reading.

Some of the messages that came to me through its reading (and I promise not to give the story away as I want you to read it too!) were:

- the difficulties that some young people may have with their peer relationships when their home circumstances are so different to those of their friends.

- the beautiful love of a mother for her son expressed in ways that may not be easy to understand until much later.

- the way a young person might be treated as 'different' by their teachers and how this can make a person more vulnerable than they already were.

- the way in which young people might keep their feelings hidden - feelings that need to be discussed so that misinterpretations are avoided.

- the way that anger is expressed and then perceived by others, but that the anger is about something totally different to what it has been directed to.

- the need for all of us to talk to our children about loss, bereavement, death.....

I am sure that if you read it you will find many other things. I will read it again. Here is Patrick Ness talking about the book on the radio.

Kate has invited me to go along to one of her sessions where she uses the book as an educational tool. I look forward to being inspired again.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A blog post-bereavement: Briefly sympathetic

It has been quite some time since I have written for my blog. The gap relates to a bereavement and I have felt that I couldn't put 'pen to paper'. As you read on I will be interested in your reactions. I imagine that you will think that I have lost a close relative given that I have needed some time away from writing publicly. But no, my friend and colleague is the person who died. I met him just over 15 years ago when we both started on our first day on a new job. We connected immediately and regularly met for coffee, at the photocopier and in passing to discuss our work, our studies, our children and our lives. He was very important to me and I was privileged when he did my leaving speech - a personal and direct account of our friendship. What has been interesting to me is that his death has played on my mind every day for the past few weeks - in ways that I have not experienced before. There are lots of reasons for my reaction, but from an intellectual perspective I have been fascinated by the reaction from others. Yes, people have been briefly sympathetic. When I told my other friends or family they expressed concern, checked whether I was ok...... and then mostly never mentioned it again. Strange, because what I wanted to do was to talk about him and about what he meant to me - and about the gap that he has left in my life. But I feel that I don't have the 'right' to feel this, or the 'right' to keep talking about it. I think that this is partly that our friendship was very much located in the workplace rather than in social situations, but I do wonder whether the reactions would have been very much different if we had enjoyed social situations together.

So, what about others in similar situations? In 1996 Walter's article clearly articulates the need for 'conversation' to facilitate the process of bereavement and the embedding of the memory of the person into our ongoing lives. However, I have struggled to find other literature that tells me something more about the process of bereavement in my kind of situation. There is lots about adolescents, siblings, elderly, HIV, grief generally - but (in my brief search) nothing more about the specific situation I have become interested in. I guess that's all I really needed to say or do - the thinking and the writing down of those thoughts. But when I think about nursing education, my one particular situation does raise questions about how we discuss people's reactions to grief and how we ensure that nurses are not afraid to broach the subject with patients, relatives, colleagues and (hopefully) in their own personal lives.

I finish here with a quiet tribute to my friend and know that I have embedded his memory into my ongoing life.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

International Council of Nurses - conference musings

I am currently attending the International Council of Nurses 25th Quadrennial Congress in Melbourne (yes, I know how lucky I am). I attended the opening ceremony - a time for all countries represented in the ICN to be recognised. The ceremony really brought home to me the fact that the RCN has chosen to leave the ICN. While I appreciate the reasons, I have been reflecting on the need for nursing to engage in the global context for the benefit of the profession, of nursing education and practice, and for the continued development of patient care. There are many ways to engage globally - through international organisations such as the ICN, through networking with professionals - conferencing, study tours, SoMe, etc. 

The opportunity to spend time at this conference is one that I take seriously - like everyone else attending, I am continually thinking about how the learning and the interactions with colleagues have the potential to impact positively on my own practice in nursing education. So far, these are some of the ways that I can relate the learning to my own practice:

* Confirmed my view that education around leadership - applied to the context in which the student operates - can enhance patient care through the further development of teams, personal skills, and self-awareness. I am working with colleagues on the development of a leadership course for practitioners, and I will take home some of the approaches that I have seen here to complement our thinking so far.

* Hearing an inspirational leader such as Leslie Mancuso from Jhpiego passionately convey messages about how nurses are doing amazing work as advocates for women in developing countries leads me to think about how some of that passion can be better conveyed to our students. Providing examples about how nurses can make a difference to (in this case) women's health (and the lives of their families and communities) could be one way to bring to life the extraordinary work that is going on. The key word for me when I heard Leslie speak was 'compassion' - without compassion none of these activities would be taking place.

* There is a need to enhance the international/global perspectives in nursing within our education - helping students to really appreciate the global challenges, how our health context differs (and shares similarities) with other countries. Lots of different ways to do this through sharing of stories, visits to contribute in some way to the 'other' organisation or context, etc.

* Is there a need to help students to be better social activists with greater political awareness? I have been very interested in some of the presentations where nurses have demonstrated commitment to advocating for others - usually in very challenging situations. Are our students politically astute? Do they need to be? I would suggest that with the increasing politicalisation of nursing, it is vital to have skills that enables the profession to have grown-up conversations with policy makers, the public and others with a vested interest in the profession.

* The growing use and impact of SoMe on the nursing profession - through blogging, Tweeting etc - providing more access to resources, creating connections across the globe, enabling debate and the sharing of practice. Are we preparing our students for this virtual world?

These are some early thoughts - lots to digest and form views on. Like many others here I have formed new connections, planned other meetings and gained collaborative writing opportunities - broadened my horizons!