Many contemporary concerns in higher education focus on the student experience of learning.With a larger and much more diverse intake than ever before, linked with a declining unit of resource, questions are being asked afresh around the purposes of higher education. Although much of the debate is currently focused on issues of student access and success, a simple input-output model of higher education is insufficient.
This book turns this conversation on its head, by inserting a full consideration of student agency into the context of higher education.Working sociologically, it explores the influence of the social context on what the individual student achieves. The theoretical tenets of a social realist approach are laid out in detail in the book; the potential value of this approach is then illustrated by a case study of student learning in engineering education.Employing Margaret Archer's social realist theory, an analysis of student narratives is used to work towards a realist understanding of the underlying mechanisms that constrain and enable student success.Building on this analysis, the book develops a novel set of proposals for potential ways forward in improving student learning in higher education.
Jennifer Case is a professor, with a particular focus on academic development, in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Part I: Setting the Scene 1. Contemporary Chellanges in Higher Education 2. Researching Student Learning: Accounting for structure and agency Part II: A Theoretical Framework 3. Critical realism as philosophical function 4. Realist Social Theiry: Archer's morphogentic approach 5. A Socialist Realist Perspective on Knowledge and Curriculum 6. Conceptualising Student Agency Part III: Developing a Case Study in Engineering Education 7. Geographical Context for the Study: Locating UCT Chemical Engineering 8. Disciplinary Context for the Study: Locating engineering education 9. Choosing Engineering 10. Studying Engineering- defining your project 11. Studying Engineering - engaging with others 12. Studying Engineering - the knowledge project 13. Conclusions for the Case Study Part IV: Drawing the Strands Together 14. A Social Realist Approach to Research on Student Learning