Students as Journeymen between Cultures of Higher Education and Work.

A comparative European project on the

transition from higher education to work life.

Lars Owe Dahlgren, Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren Håkan Hult, Helene Hård af Segerstad, Kristina Johansson, Linköpings universitet, Sweden

Gunnar Handal,Kirsten Hofgaard Lycke, Berit Karseth, Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Oslo University, Norway.

Tomasz Szkudlarek, Maria Mendel, Astrid Meczkowska, Malgorzata Cackowska, Anna Struzynska – Kujalowicz, University of Gdansk, Poland.

Manfred Bayer, Tarek Lababidi, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

In this symposium the question of the feasibility of higher education in relationship to the demands of work life is addressed. The research is undertaken in a comparative context of four European countries. Sweden, Norway, Poland, and Germany.1 Students as Journeymen Between Communities of Higher Education and Work (The 5th Framework Programme, HPSE CT-2001-00068). In–depth interviews make up the data bank. Data are gathered among freshmen and seniors within Psychology and Political science about equally distributed over the four countries. The senior students are also interviewed after their first year of work life experience. To summarise the overall result of the project, professional programs in higher education as well as classical liberal arts studies still seem to produce a discipline-based identity among the students. Where notions of a professional role is developed, this seems to be accomplished during the later, sometimes applied, parts of the studies. The structure of the studies is sequential rather than integrated when it comes to disciplinary and professional knowledge. In this symposium, the issue of learning in transition between higher education and working life is addressed from different theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects against the backdrop of the Bologna process.

The transition from higher education to work life –

a theoretical framework for research

Berit Karseth, Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren, Astrid Meczkowska,

Lars Owe Dahlgren, Håkan Hult

The first contribution of the symposium aims at developing a theoretical framework for research on the transition from higher education to work life. It sets out to do so, taking its point of departure in four discourses discernible in the literature about higher education and worklife. The analysis will focus on how research, higher education and worklife and their mutual relationships are constructed in these discourses. The first discourse concerns the call for knowledge production as a joint enterprise between universities and the surrounding society. The second discourse comprises the call for new research perspectives on the relationship between higher education and work life. The third discourse is the call for contextualising the research on higher education within the experiences of the students and problematises the notion of effects of education as a set of abilities developed within the students. The fourth discourse constitutes the call for an alternative pedagogy of transition between higher education and work life, arguing that the scholastic traditions do not meet the requirements of the process of transition between higher education and work life. Generic skills, like flexibility in relationship to change, capacity for co-operation and communication as well as foreign language skills, and intercultural competence and are other dimensions that should be included in the aims of higher education.

Discourse Analysis in Comparative Studies: Between Phenomenography and Hermeneutics. The example of discursive construction of professional limits in pre-service university training of the psychologists

Tomasz Szkudlarek, Maria Mendel, Astrid Meczkowska, Malgorzata Cackowska, Anna Struzynska – Kujalowicz, Kristina Johansson

The article presents the methodology applied in the project. A combination of phenomenography (individual conceptions of professional knowledge and skills, data concerning motivation, etc), discourse analysis (knowledge construction, transmission and power relations in institutional settings), and social hermeneutics (general understanding of the social contexts in the respective countries based on the insiders' knowledge of the researchers themselves) has been used. The rhetoric that is used by the students in the descriptions and argumentation in this case point to a discursive formation operating within the academia which we have called ‘a discourse of limited professionalism’. It is composed not only from discrepant expectations and academic offers, but also from discursive strategies operating within the institutions that discourage the students from their initial motivation and which form their new expectations, adapting them to the situation in which massive enrolment into higher education clashes with employment limits imposed by professional associations.

The strategy of data collection and subsequent interpretations presented in the paper, passing from phenomenography, through discourse analysis towards general, hermeneutical understanding of the phenomena, is typical of the whole Journeymen project. The proposed paper illustrates the methodology of the project using one of its findings as an exemplary ground.

Conceptions of professional responsibility

- From senior student to novice worker

Tone Dyrdal-Solbrekke, Oslo University

This paper discusses contemporary notions of professional responsibility among students in their ‘journeys’ from higher education to work. Examining issues of professional responsibility, as experienced by graduate students in Law and Psychology in their final term of study and after one year at work, provides a basis for identifying factors critical to formation of conceptions of professional responsibility. Using Steven Brint’s sociological concepts of ‘social trustee professionalism’ and ‘expert professionalism’, as an initial backdrop, the main discussion in the paper draws on the moral philosopher Larry May’s conception of professional responsibility as ‘legitimate negotiated compromises’. The results suggest that although there are substantial differences between the two programmes, the students’ conceptions of professional responsibility in both groups reflects elements ‘in between’ ‘social trustee professionalism’ and ‘expert professionalism’. Moreover, the findings show that conceptions of professional responsibility do not change profoundly in the ‘transition from senior student to novice worker’. However, it becomes evident that the novice workers’ conceptions are negotiated and renegotiated - contingent on the professional roles and positions they are expected to take on, their daily tasks and by the values, norms and practices of their new work contexts. In line with Larry May, I highlight that conceptions of professional responsibility must be understood as legitimate compromises in a ‘web of commitments’.

Professional programmes and employability as cultural practices

Berit Karseth, Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren, Astrid Meczkowska

The expectations on universities to enhance the employability of graduates are at the very core of the contemporary European policy debate on higher education. It can be argued that employability is strongly connected to the global knowledge economy, and that there is a belief that discipline specific skills are significant different from broader employment-related skills. The aim of this article is to shed light on some aspects of this issues by investigating students’ visions on what they perceive as important competences in order to become a professional. The data is based on interviews with psychology students from three different programmes in three different countries. We analyse the data against the backdrop of three discourses of employability discernible in contemporary research and policy, as placed within 1)a disciplinary discourse, emphasising the cognitive dimension, 2) a cultural discourse, emphasising Bildung, and 3) the Bologna discourse, emphasising economic competetiveness. The disciplinary discourse viewing employability as something close to the disciplinary knowledge is supported by the students in all the three programmes. Secondly, we address the relationship between educational programmes and the profession and argue that the institutional discourses mirror the relationship between a particular educational programme and its profession situated within a specific national context.

Approaches to learning among senior students and

novice professionals in psychology and political science.

Gunnar Handal, Kirsten Hofgaard Lycke and Helene Hård af Segerstad.

This paper focuses on students’ approaches to learning in higher education and in work life. So far most research about learning has described learning in these two contexts separatly. The specific aims of this article are to identify approaches to learning reported by informants as senior students and as novice professionals, to analyse these learning approaches in relation to the different contexts (education and work) and the different programmes (psychology and political science), and to relate the results to different discourses of learning in higher education and work life.

The results indicate that students and novice professionals report using quite different approaches to learning. Reading texts from the disciplinary field and writing assignment papers are dominant and favoured approaches to learning at the university. These approaches are very rarely reported by the novice professionals who rather ask colleagues for information and advice. Partly similar and partly different approaches to learning can also be identified between disciplines and programmes.

Students’ approaches to learning may be understood in relation to differences in contexts for learning. Differences between education and work are discussed in relation to what is the primary activity in each of these two contexts, the type of competence that the persons involved are expected to master and the dominant discourses of learning. Differences between programmes are also discussed in relation to the degree of alignment between the higher education learning.

1 Sweden, Linköpings universitet, Norway, Oslo university, Poland, University of Gdansk, Germany, University of Duisburg-Essen.

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