Jenni Carter
Agency as becoming and belonging: transition as permanent state of change.

Author: Jenni Carter, University of South Australia. 

Title: “Agency as becoming and belonging: transition as permanent state of change”

Gaining insights into the ways in which students are able to successfully move from one institutional setting to another is of great interest in times where there are strong policy commitments to lifelong learning. This paper will report on a research project, Becoming Teachers. Through a series of focused interviews the research examined how 10 students from low socio economic backgrounds navigate their transition into university and their sense of ‘becoming’ university students and teachers during their first year of study. Students were interviewed early in their first semester of university, and then again halfway through the second semester. The interviews focused on students examining what they understood to be significant or critical experiences, identifying the practices they used to engage with the institutional conditions of the university, and how they understood themselves as both university students, and as future educators. While much of the literature around transition focuses on what institutions should do to support the student experience of transition, this paper will focus on the agentic practices of students. In particular it will discuss what these students did to make sense of the institutional conditions and practices they encountered, the strategies they used to develop academic practices and literacies, and developing positive views of themselves as ‘becoming’ university students. Attention is then drawn to a set of possible discussions that examine how students in institutionalised settings are constantly making sense of what they are doing. This position takes up a view where transition is understood as an on-going process of change and becoming, rather than a linear process of overcoming period moments of shifting from one setting to another. Further, a view of individual agency is seen as occurring within a complex sets of relationships, and within the context of developing a sense of place and belonging. Some implications for institutional practices are identified. As a pilot project this research will inform a larger scale study of the experiences in their first year of university.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación