Mature students, transformation and transition
Article publication date: 20 December 2018
The purpose of this paper is to argue for a transformative education that acknowledges and values the capacities of mature students, where higher education institutions reflect on their own assumptions and practices in order to become more inclusive and open to difference.
The stories told by Eliza, a mature student, are analysed through narrative inquiry; this approach uses a narrative as a means of capturing and analysing experience. In this case, Eliza’s stories about transition and transformation were collected over three years. Eliza made the transition from her “Access to HE course” to a degree programme in textiles. She was crossing a boundary between further and higher education, a time which could impact positively or negatively on her future achievements. The conclusions drawn from this study are not easily turned into generalisations or “truths” as they are contingent on the contexts in which the narratives were produced. Narrative is a representation of experience which is mediated by the social and cultural positions of the narrators and their audiences.
This study found that Eliza was confronted by many difficulties and misunderstandings around time management, pedagogy and assessment. Ineffective communication between Eliza and her tutors led to a growing frustration resulting in her considering leaving the course. Eliza’s institution sometimes seemed inflexible and was unable to respond effectively to her needs as a part-time student.
The implications for educators are that they should think about strategies for adapting to a diverse student body.
The previous experiences and backgrounds of “newcomers” should be celebrated rather than being perceived as “issues” that need to be fixed. In other words, when “non-traditional” students move through the stages of their education, their learning contexts may also need to be transformed.
Broadhead, S.J. (2018), "Mature students, transformation and transition", Education + Training, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-02-2018-0035
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