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Pregled bibliografske jedinice broj: 785446

Reinforcing social (dis)advantage: The role of institutional habitus in a Croatian higher education setting

Doolan, Karin; Košutić, Iva; Barada, Valerija
Reinforcing social (dis)advantage: The role of institutional habitus in a Croatian higher education setting // Organizing education: Sociological Approaches, Analyses and Findings
Basel, Švicarska, 2014. (predavanje, međunarodna recenzija, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni)

Reinforcing social (dis)advantage: The role of institutional habitus in a Croatian higher education setting

Doolan, Karin ; Košutić, Iva ; Barada, Valerija

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Sažeci sa skupova, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni

Organizing education: Sociological Approaches, Analyses and Findings

Mjesto i datum
Basel, Švicarska, 13-14-06.2014

Vrsta sudjelovanja

Vrsta recenzije
Međunarodna recenzija

Ključne riječi
Institutional habitus; social disadvantage; higher education

Critical higher education scholars have been interested in the interaction between individual resources and the institutional cultures which (mis)recognize them, i.e. in the ways in which particular institutional structures and practices translate students’ social (dis)advantage into educational (dis)advantage. McDonaugh (1996) and Reay et al. (2001, 2005), for example, elaborate on Bourdieu’s work on social inequalities in education through their use of the concept ‘institutional habitus’, challenging the notion of individual responsibility for educational success/failure. They work with the concept to signal a complex blend of agency and structure which encompasses the influence of gender or social class on an individual’s behaviour as it is mediated through an educational institution. In this sense, ‘institutional habitus’ seems to capture, on the one hand, institutional characteristics which are accommodating of socio-cultural differences between students (i.e. positive mediation) and contribute to equal educational outcomes. However, on the other hand, it also encompasses characteristics which reinforce socio-cultural differences between students (i.e. negative mediation), leading to the educational advantaging of the socially advantaged. Building on Reay et al.’s (2001, 2005) discussion of ‘classed’ aspects of institutional habitus at secondary school level this paper empirically focuses on how educational institutions favour the knowledge and experiences of dominant social groups in a Croatian higher education setting. The paper draws on qualitative data on students’ study experiences gathered in focus groups and interviews at three higher education institutions in Croatia. 47 students, belonging to groups identified as educationally “at risk”, participated in the research. These groups include students from low socio-economic backgrounds, students working during their studies, commuters, students with children, mature students and students with disabilities. The collected data was analysed in NVivo, the data analysis roughly following Miles and Huberman’s (1994) six steps of analysis though building on them from a more grounded perspective. Identified marginalizing/empowering institutional practices have been classified in the study according to the following three categories adopted from Reay et al. (2001): organisational practices, such as study timetable, attendance requirements, group size, forms of assessment and faculty resources including scholarships ; cultural and expressive characteristics encapsulating student-teacher and student-student relationships as well as student social profile ; and curriculum characteristics addressed through students’ perceptions of values embedded in their study curriculum. It is argued in the paper that the institutional habituses of the case study institutions cannot be assigned to categories such as ‘inclusive’ or ‘exclusive’ (e.g. Thomas 2002). Rather, the institutional habitus of each institution has been identified as shaped by both inclusive and exclusive practices and characteristics (though exclusive practices dominate). Inclusive aspects of institutional habitus have been identified as: good timetable, freedom to govern one’s schedule, availability of resources, small student groups, socially mixed student intake, objective assessment, opportunity for direct contact with helpful and supportive academic staff (preferably face-to-face, but also via e-mail), lecturer sensitivity to differences in prior knowledge and life circumstances, as well as adequate institutional facilities. On the other hand, exclusive aspects have been identified as: an overcrowded timetable, obligation to attend lectures, institutional lack of study resources, large student groups, unsupportive lecturers, assumptions of prior knowledge, subjective assessment, lack of scholarship programmes and inadequate institutional facilities. Such exclusive institutional characteristics have been identified as perpetuating social inequalities in study experiences and outcomes. The paper discusses the theoretical implications of working with the concept of institutional habitus, the ways in which the analysed empirical data challenges the rhetoric of individual responsibility for educational success and discusses these findings in light of what a socially just higher education institution might look like.

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