«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 ...»
The numbers are chronological i.e. student 1 is the first student interviewed. In selecting the students to interview from those who had given us permission to contact them, we attempted to ensure that those demonstrating the characteristics we had identified of theoretical interest were included. In particular, we selected the sample to include both first-generation students and students whose parents/carers had been to university. All the students in the interview sample were full-time, Level 2 students. Of those interviewed 37 were female and 24 male, reflecting the greater willingness of women to be interviewed. Fifty-four were White British, two of Asian Pakistani origin, and one each of Mixed White/Asian, Asian Indian, Black Other, Black African and Black Caribbean origin. This is an unrepresentative sample of Leeds Met’s ethnic profile; the current proportion of BME students within the University is more than double this percentage. The number in our sample reflects willingness to be interviewed. Insofar as we were able to, we positively selected BME students.
Forty-four professed to having ‘no religion’, of the remaining 17, two were Muslim with the others answering to being Christian or Roman Catholic. While most were living in student accommodation, ten were living at home with family.
Almost half (29) of the cohort were first generation – that is neither parent had been to university. The sample over-represented students undertaking Sport or sports-related courses again because a greater proportion of these students volunteered to be interviewed.
The purpose of the interviews was to understand how students defined and thought about ECA; what forms of ECA they were engaged in (using their own self-definition of ECA and after having been prompted with a wide list of possible forms of ECA); what was driving, or had driven, participation; whether they considered some activities to have more value than others; whether they The Higher Education Academy 43 had used participation in ECA to support their application to HE; whether they felt employers valued ECA; and whether they would include this information on CVs. The interview schedule and the prompt list are in Appendix III and Appendix IV. The interviews varied in length from approximately 45 minutes to one and a half hours with most of them clustering at around an hour. All interviews were recorded and fully transcribed.
Analysis of the findings was based on repeated reading of the transcripts. From the outset we intended to analyse the responses through the lens of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977). However, it soon became clear that what was also coming out of the data were issues of identity and participation and non-participation. Consequently the data were re-analysed through the heuristic lens of participation or non-participation in communities of practice (CoP) (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). Therefore, following on from a discussion on how students conceptualise the term ‘extra-curricular activities’, the findings are presented in two inter-related sections: first understanding student participation in ECA through the lens of cultural capital and second through the lens of CoP.
In presenting our findings we have identified characteristics of students in brackets after the quotes. All the students quoted are living in student accommodation and have declared ‘no religion’ unless otherwise stated. The full list of characteristics for each student can be found in Appendix II.
7.2.1 Conceptualising ECA The students who took part in the interviews were asked to define what they understood by the term ‘ECA’. Their responses were varied but, in general, the students initially listed sports, sports-related activities, dancing, drama, gaining Duke of Edinburgh qualifications, volunteering and some arts-related activities, particularly music (playing a musical instrument or being in a band), as clear examples of ECA, with a mixed response as to whether paid work was also a form of ECA. However, these activities were, in the main, only considered to be ECA when taking place in organised and formal, or semiformal, settings as is
clear from the following examples:
So anything like a sports team or an associated club or a society I guess, and again I guess even stuff outside that is kind of formal you know, but it is all quite formalised as teams and things, that is what I expect it to be.
(Student 42, Male, 21, White British, PR, sixth form college, 1st generation) This might be understood in part by the fact that, despite having been in fulltime higher education for well over a year, the students still defined ECA as related to ‘out-of-school’ activities and talked at length about how schools had organised ECA for them. They were much less likely to refer to ECA as being outside of their university curriculum, indicating the very strong influence that
the habitus of the school still had over their conceptualisation of ECA:
In addition, the students conceptualised ECA as being activities that had some actual, or perceived, benefit rather than just being done for fun – in other words these activities cease to be hobbies when participation is purposeful, as is clear
from the following examples:
I would just say it’s everything you do outside of what you have to do... But then I suppose if you used that then you could say that students spend their whole life in pubs or something, so is that extracurricular? So I would probably say it’s something that’s actually giving you a benefit in the future.
(Student 39, Male, 20, White British, Christian, Sports Development, comprehensive school in state sector, not 1st generation) I mean it can, I mean for me, it can mean quite a few different things.
I mean I would always say that extra-curricular activities when they are described as extra-curricular activities, are going to be something that are outside the school format anyway and some of the teaching format. But it is still either enriching or educating a learning experience though you can use it to describe anything really, a job outside school, things like that.
(Student 32, Female, 20, White British, Fine Art, FE college, 1st generation) Again this relates to the how they conceptualised ECA with regard to schoolorganised activities that, as later sections will show, were run for very purposeful reasons – partly to support future employability but primarily to support access to further, and, particularly, higher education. Where students were involved in activities that were informal, done alone and without a clear
purpose (other than pleasure) they were invariably not considered to be ECA:
Interviewer: do you currently participate in anything you consider to be extra-curricular activity?
Respondent: No Interviewer: Right okay and are you doing hobbies at the moment?
Respondent: Yeah, I like to make cards and I like to make jewellery, I like walking and I sometimes if I’ve got time go to the dog home and walk the dog ‘cause we can’t have a dog and I like reading and music and I go to the gym (Student 51, Female, 32, White British, Media & Popular Culture, FE college, not 1st generation) Having given an initial definition of ECA, students were then asked to consider whether participation in any of a list of activities (Appendix IV) could also be considered as ECA. Despite most students having given a relatively narrow initial definition they then extended their definition considerably on further consideration, to include most of the things on the list with three exceptions: as mentioned above. Students remained divided as to whether paid work could be The Higher Education Academy 45 considered as ECA, some students saw little value to paid employment, other than financial, which is discussed in greater detail later in the report. In addition, most students did not consider either childcare or faith activities as ECA – arguing that these activities were simply part of a way of ‘being’ – evident from
the following two examples:
Respondent: I don’t really see work as extra-curricular. Although I guess it is really isn’t it? I’ve never seen it as that before but thinking about it, yes it probably is. And they, others, yes I would say they are.
Interviewer: Yes. So there is nothing that sticks out there as, sort of, not belonging to that list?
Respondent: Well family, domestic or caring. I guess that’s just a way of life, isn’t it?
(Student 56, Female, 21, White British, Methodist, Events Management, sixth form college, not 1st generation) I would class the work as extra-curricular, sports and everything, yes that’s extra-curricular. All of these, I don’t know about the faith, culture activities, I don’t know if I would class them as extra-curricular, because if I am thinking, I go to church every weekend and we have activities that we do sometimes on Sundays, we do ball games and parks and all that kind of different things, volunteering, and I don’t know, I just think that’s part of my church.
(Student 13, Female, 21, Other Black background, Seventh Day Adventist, house or flat on own, Law, high school in USA, not 1st generation) 7.2.2 Understanding participation in extra-curricular activities through the lens of cultural capital As identified above, from a Bourdieuian perspective, field refers to a social arena in which people manoeuvre and struggle in pursuit of desirable resources or capital, of which there are three forms: economic, social and cultural – the linguistic and cultural competence required to access dominant systems and structures and subsequent access to academic rewards and higher status in society (Bourdieu, 1986).The position of each individual within the field is the result of the interaction between the agent’s ‘habitus’ (durable patterns of thought and behaviour, resulting from internalisation of culture or objective social structures) and their ‘capital’ (Bourdieu, 1984).
It is clear from this research that there were clear differentials between students,
and in the students’ experiences, as regards:
1. those who had developed a habitus or disposition of participation in ECA – formed through the influence of home and school – and those who had not;
2. the influence individual and institutional habitus and possession of cultural capital had on students’ decision making: to go in to HE or not, to participate in ECA on arrival at the HEI or not, and the forms of ECA to participate in;
3. the awareness that students had about the value of ECA to employers and for supporting their future employability;
188.8.131.52 Habitus on entering the institution A clear and very strong theme running through the interviews was the impact of families, particularly parents, on individual habitus. Many students had parents who valued participation in ECA very strongly and were also still actively participating in a wide range of ECA themselves. As a consequence many of the students interviewed had participated in many different forms of ECA from
an early age as a direct consequence of their parents influence:
I have always done extra-curricular activities since the age of 4 or 5...
[my parents] I mean they were the only reason, I mean I used to play violin, I used to play piano, drums, do all the sports and that was all down to them really initially and they kept me doing it and I am glad they did.
(Student 37, Male, 21, White British, Fine Art, FE college, not 1st generation) Encouraged by their parents many students had used their participation in ECA
to support their application to university:
... my mum and dad are, they were really sort of helpful with my application anyway, but my dad sort of, he’s seen people being interviewed in the past for jobs and things, he’s always said to me that people do take that into consideration what you are about, so he’s always sort of warned me to include stuff... I remember them saying to definitely put Duke of Edinburgh in so they just sort of advised me really on, I mean I didn’t put everything in, like I didn’t put in every sport that I played... they sort of advised me to answer that but not list everything that I liked, so sort of be quite selective.