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«S u e Cl e g g J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n J o h n W ill ot t Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we ...»

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E X T R A - C U R R I C U L A R AC T I V I T I E S



F i na l r e po r t

S u e Cl e g g

J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n

J o h n W ill ot t

Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we express our appreciation.

We are grateful to the Higher Education Academy for funding.

Pauline Wilson worked on the project for six months. She had to leave the project for personal reasons and so was unable to contribute to the data analysis or the writing of this report. We would like to acknowledge her valuable contribution, as the report could not have been written without her input.

The University staff gave up a considerable amount of their time and provided detailed and thoughtful responses to our interview questions.

Finally, we are very grateful to all the students who took the time and trouble to respond to the questionnaire, and in particular we thank those who agreed to be interviewed. Many responded in detail and with considerable frankness about their background and experiences.

Sue Clegg, Jacqueline Stevenson and John Willott The Higher Education Academy 2 Contents Acknowledgements

Executive summary

1 Introduction

2 Policy context and background

2.1 Employability and graduate outcomes

2.2 Changing student profiles

3 A cultural capital approach

4 Research context and site

5 Research questions and methodology

6. The survey

6.1 Methods

6.2 Definitions

6.3 Demographics of respondents

6.4 Findings

6.4.1 Conceptualisation of ECA

6.4.2 Engagement in ECA

6.4.3 Valuing ECA

6.4.4 Employment

6.4.5 Tensions between work, ECA and academic study

6.4.6 Prior cultural capital on entering the institution Influence of parents Influence of previous educational institution

6.5 Implications of the findings

7 Student perspectives

7.1 Methods

7.2 Findings

7.2.1 Conceptualising ECA

7.2.2 Understanding participation in extra-curricular activities through the lens of cultural capital Habitus on entering the institution The influence of habitus and capital on participation in ECA at university The forms of ECA valorised by employers The forms of ECA valorised by students The valorisation of ECA by the HEI Building capital through participation in ECA Capital building and habitus

7.2.3 Understanding participation in ECA through the lens of Wenger’s theory of communities of practice The different communities of practice The development of learner identities

8 Staff perspectives

8.1 Staff interviews – methodology

8.2 Findings

8.2.1. Blurring of the curricular and extra-curricular

8.2.2 Instability of definitions

8.2.3 Staff knowledge

8.3 Disciplinary orientations, epistemology and ontology

The Higher Education Academy 3 8.3.1 Degrees of introjection and projection

8.3.2 Knowing and being

8.3.3 Possible disbenefits

9. Conclusions

9.1 Discussion and recommendations


Appendix I Student survey

Appendix II Profile of the 61 students interviewed

Appendix III Student interviews – semi-structured interview schedule............109 Appendix IV Prompt sheet

Appendix V Staff interviews – semi-structured interview schedule..................112

–  –  –

Extending conceptualisations of the diversity and value of extra-curricular activities: a cultural capital approach to graduate outcomes Sue Clegg, Jacqueline Stevenson and John Willott Background and research questions There is a prima facie case why extra-curricular activities (ECA) should be thought to contribute to graduate outcomes, and some of the more sophisticated literature on employability and graduate outcomes recognises this.

Very little research, however, has directly addressed the question of what constitutes ECA, the extent to which students engage in ECA, and how students experience and conceptualise benefits from their engagement. Nor is there research that looks at how staff understand ECA. Our research sought to address these questions from a cultural capital approach. Traditionally conceived ECA include campus-based cultural and sporting activities and volunteering. We are aware, however, that many students work for economic reasons, continue their faith and caring activities, and continue to live at home.

We were interested in the possible differential recognition and valuing of activities undertaken by different groups of students. We wanted to explore issues of inter-generational capital that might shape both the capacities to participate and how students understood the benefits.

Rather than proposing our own definition of ECA at the outset, we have taken the definitional issue as a research problem to be investigated. With these

questions in mind our research was designed to:

• establish the full range of ECA that students engage with;

• ascertain whether there are differential patterns of participation by social group/ gender/ethnicity between the types and location of these ECA;

• explore both student and staff conceptualisations of ECA, and whether there are differences between the types and location of ECA;

• explore student and staff perceptions of the value of participation in ECA to the enhancement of graduate outcomes, and whether these varied with the types and location of ECA;

• explore whether staff and students draw on ECA in relationship to curricular activities and in shaping graduate futures.


Three instruments were used:

• a web-based questionnaire survey to second-year undergraduate students, which was designed to establish the type and location of activities students were engaged in outside their academic studies. The questionnaire distinguished between prompted and unprompted responses to the question of whether students engaged in ECA. We collected data on parental participation in higher education and parents’ activities outside the home and workplace. The 640 responses provided The Higher Education Academy 5 both descriptive information and were analysed through the lens of our cultural capital approach;

in-depth interviews with 61 students who were contacted through the • survey. The interviews explored students’ understandings of ECA, previous engagement with ECA, influences on their participation, and if and how they envisaged their participation helping them in their graduate futures. The data were analysed using open coding influenced by our cultural capital approach. The data were further explored through the heuristic lens of the communities of practice literature, as how students understood their engagement was related to learner and employment identities and participation;

in-depth interviews with 18 staff members with a variety of disciplinary • and professional backgrounds and experiences. The interviews explored staff understandings of ECA, their knowledge of their students’ participation, and relationships to the curriculum. The interviews were analysed based on developing open codings looking at definitional issues, the boundary between curricular/extra-curricular, and relating these to a Bernsteinian framing of the differences between the disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and professional courses as described by staff.

Findings and recommendations

The overall conclusions from our research can be summarised as follows:

1. There is a considerable lack of clarity in definitions of ECA. While traditional definitions based on volunteering, cultural activities and some forms of work are shared, there was greater ambivalence regarding other forms of paid work, caring, and faith-based activities.

2. There is considerable variation in the habitus of courses, both as described by students and in the different disciplinary and professional orientations of courses as described by staff. Valuing of student ECA is influenced both positively and negatively by the dispositions of staff and their disciplinary orientations.

3. There is considerable evidence that inter-generational cultural capital is influential in the dispositional stances of students to taking advantage of ECA. The influence of the parents’ own participation and dispositions towards voluntary and other forms of social engagement appears to be more important than parental education per se, but parental education is positively associated with the likelihood of their own participation.

4. School experiences strongly influence the dispositions of students towards ECA.

5. While structural factors shape the likelihood of participation, students exercise considerable agency in the ways they engage in ECA and in the identities they form in relation to both learner and employment communities of practice.

6. Some forms of paid employment are valued by both students and staff but tensions are reflected by both. The recognition of these tensions seems unlikely to be capable of resolving the dilemmas faced by staff and students alike.

–  –  –

Recommendation 1 Graduate outcomes should be properly debated and specified within the fields made up by the different disciplines/professions. This work should include considerations of both the curriculum and the extracurricular and should produce definitions of ECA relevant to the field.

Recommendation 2 In recognising the contribution of ECA to the curriculum and to likely graduate outcomes, staff should consider ways appropriate to their field of allowing students opportunities to identify community cultural capital including that derived from school.

Recommendation 3 More research is required to identify the active role of student agency in creating learner and employment identities.

Recommendation 4 Research is required that explores how employers regard their student employees and what, if any, attempts are made to recognise curricular pressures on students in relationship to what for them is an ECA.

Recommendation 5 More research is required that addresses issues of intersectionality in relationship to the differential valuing of ECA.

We are aware that three of our five recommendations relate to calls for more research. The reasons for this are twofold: the relative lack of prior research, and our findings themselves, which revealed a complex, messy story. Our data are immensely rich and provide insight into the complexity of the meanings and valuing of ECA. We are cautious, therefore, of making firm policy or curriculum recommendations that are not entailed by our findings. Rather we hope the readers of this report will be stimulated to ask more questions of their own students, to consider more deeply the meaning of their curriculum, and to question their own definitions and valuing of the different forms of ECA.

–  –  –

Sue Clegg, Jacqueline Stevenson and John Willott With the assistance of Pauline Wilson

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