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Using habitus as a tool: exploring the narratives of computer science students. IPSE Seminar Peter Chalk EdD 29.4.13. Can Bourdieu's concept of habitus provide a useful tool for analysing early life history interview data?.

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using habitus as a tool exploring the narratives of computer science students

Using habitus as a tool: exploring the narratives of computer science students

IPSE Seminar

Peter Chalk EdD

29.4.13

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Can Bourdieu's concept of habitus provide a useful tool for analysing early life history interview data?
  • This talk focuses on one aspect of my EdD research into computer science education and the problem of its high rate of student failure and drop-out.   It will suggest how their emerging 'computer science habitus' is constructed, using a case study method, and what influences, experiences and preferences have affected its development

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the importance of family influence
The importance of family influence
  • In particular, it will examine the influence of the family - using an approach similar to that of Louise Archer's work on science education and the importance of family influence.

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issues in computer science education
Issues in computer science education
  • Why (in the West) has their been a long history of failure and drop-out?
  • Are students not prepared?
    • ICT vs. Computer Science curriculum in schools
    • ACM, Schmitt, Gove...
  • Why make wrong choice?
    • Expectation (money, job)
    • Image (cool to be geek? Steve jobs effect)

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why do some students seem so well prepared like fish in water
Why do some students seem so well prepared ‘like fish in water’?
  • Led me to explore concept of ‘Computer Science Habitus’
  • Based on theoretical framework of Bourdieu
    • Habitus and capital
    • Field, practice, doxa (‘rules of the game’)...
  • And recent work of Archer on family influence in science education, ‘family habitus’ - with reservations

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bourdieu s work on habitus
Bourdieu’s work on habitus
  • Most well known for class habitus and cultural capital, reproduced through family and school:
    • E.g. habitus as ‘dispositions’ or “a set of historical relations ‘deposited’ within individual bodies in the form of mental and corporeal schemata of perception, appreciation, and action” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, p16).

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bourdieu on forms of capital
Bourdieu on forms of capital
  • Bourdieu also discussed forms of (cultural) capital:
    • Symbolic capital as a ‘reputation for competence’ (Bourdieu, 1979, p291) – this is very important in computer science (in my data)
    • Cultural capital in the form of ‘scientific capital’ p82)
  • And other ‘modes of generation’, e.g. autodidactism (p83) – again, very important in computer science (in my data)

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types of habitus
Types of habitus
  • Some talk of institutional or family habitus (Reay, David and Ball, 2001, and Archer et al 2012) – contested by Atkinson, more later...
  • Others of ‘subject habitus’ (as educational sub-field).
  • ‘Computer science habitus’ (Me) – is it useful? What is it? How does it develop?

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examples of subject habitus research
Examples of subject habitus research
  • ‘“Mathematics habitus”, was such that for her “maths is fab” and the practices of the new field, in turn, supported that habitus’ (Hernandez-Martinez and Williams, 2013, p15, on resilience of working class children coping with transition to HE STEM)
  • “Women need to fit the engineering habitus – an assertive masculine habitus”(Campbell, 2010, p261, in PhD research study into gender issue)
  • “The move into the universities of inculcation of a design habitus is more problematic for students must learn to take things for granted and this is another area for further research” (Kennedy, 2002, p228, a PhD study into what makes for successful designers)
  • Scientific habitus: ‘practical sense of the problems [and] appropriate ways of dealing with them’ (Bourdieu 2004, p38)

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archer s 2012 research on children s engagement with science
Archer’s 2012 research on children’s engagement with science
  • Used concept of ‘family habitus’ to identify 3 ‘broadly classed patterns of family relationships with science’:
    • Middle class family with ‘science-specific capital’: result was particularly powerful
    • Without such capital, ‘generic resources’ used to develop child’s interest (especially in some ethic groups)
    • Working class without capital, ‘interest pursued individually’ (generally, some other cases)

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does my data from cs student interviews fit this approach
Does my data from CS student interviews fit this approach?
  • 3 case studies chosen from the 20 which most closely resemble Archer et al’s (2012, p903).
  • All demonstrate importance of family influence, but this is usually a specific person at a certain moment, in a certain context, sparking an interest then pursued in individualistic ways.
  • But not ‘pastimes, leisure, TV, books, conversation, social networks’ in ‘everyday family life’ (Archer et al, 2012, p888)

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case study 1 marios
Case Study 1 - Marios
  • Middle class family with computer science capital
  • Russell Group pre-1992 HEI, doing MEng (AAA* equivalent including maths and Informatics), father programmer, mother informatics teacher, both at uni
  • “my dad taught me how to use windows and stuff [and was] a big influence... [My mother] played games with me at christmas”
  • But no mention of ‘everyday’ engagement with computer science in sense of Archer et al (2012)?

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case study 2 paul
Case Study 2 - Paul
  • Middle class family without computer science capital
  • Russell Group pre-1992 HEI, doing MEng (AAA* equivalent including maths and Informatics), father dentist, mother school psychologist, both at uni – pastimes classical piano, chess
  • ‘there was no-one into computing in my family’
  • Paul attributes interest to a friend at age 12

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case study 3 denise
Case Study 3 - Denise
  • Post-1992 HEI with NVQ in Car Mechanics, mature single mum from council estate, neither parent at uni (builder/ housewife)
  • Granddad ‘inventor’ and very influential, led to job in car mechanics and growing interest in computers
  • Self-taught (autodidact) and aspiration for recognition of competence (Bourdieu’s symbolic capital)

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does concept of family habitus add to existing categories
Does concept of family habitus add to existing categories?
  • Atkinson (2011) contests concept ‘family habitus’ as habitus is individualist – although Marios’s family certainly possessed ‘computer science capital’ in abundance
  • And looking at Archer et al’s caveats:
    • ‘our analysis also highlighted the nondeterministic nature of habitus’ (Archer et al, 2012, p904)
    • citing ‘children going against the grain’ (Reay et al, 2010)
    • Also using construct ‘interplay of family capital and habitus’
  • All suggest problems with concept of ‘family habitus’ – better to use ‘family influence’ (alongside others)?

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other examples of family influence in my data
Other examples of family influence in my data
  • Matt’s grandfather“is quite into hardware stuff, he’s an electrician, and I got some stuff from him”
  • Asif“just watched my brother, that’s the way I learnt it”
  • Bruce [in Africa] “had a little brother actually, who came from the States and he was, like, teaching me”
  • Charles’s “father teaches design and technology so he’s been an influence... nobody else”
  • Following mention of family influence, frequent responses:
  • Rupert “bought a book and I started doing examples”
  • And one student Alon explicitly stated that he had no influences within the family, although his mother is an engineer, so influence may not be apparent!

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games and puzzles
Games and puzzles
  • Very common response in my data was family influence through pastimes, especially chess (which may help to form a ‘problem-solving’ disposition in computer science habitus):
  • Niraj’s “dad used to bring me loads of puzzles”
  • Sarthi played “Board games, I learnt chess, and apart from that, any word game”
  • Saru “was into puzzles like riddles”
  • Alicia “used to play Mario, [and] other computer games”
  • Odd one out, Margaret “My mother studied history at university maybe why I loved history. My father studied music at university”. Another ‘Archer Type 2’ (cultural capital, with no computer science capital).

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computer science habitus influences
Computer science habitus influences
  • Bourdieu on class habitus focussed on influence (role) of family and school
    • And discussed others, egautodidactism
  • Research has identified other influences:
    • Peers (shared interests with friends)
    • Media (geek as cool)
  • Habitus property of individual, but also classed/ gendered/ etc with multiple dispositions?

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conclusions
Conclusions
  • Is Bourdieu’s framework a useful approach to understanding why some students succeed, others fail, and how they come to study computer science?
  • It seems to have a certain coherence, especially when including other concepts like field, practice and doxa
  • Identifying how to develop a successful subject habitus may address under-representation, under-performance & field/ practice problems

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references
References
  • Archer, L, DeWitt, J, Osborne, J, Dillon, J, Willis, B & Wong, B (2012) ‘Science aspirations, capital, and family habitus : how families shape children’s engagement and identification with science’, American Educational Research Journal, 49:5, 881-908.
  • Atkinson, W (2011) ‘From sociological fictions to social fictions: some Bourdieusian reflections on the concepts of ‘institutional habitus’ and ‘family habitus’’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32:3, 331-347.

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slide21

Bourdieu, P (1979) Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (h/b translation 1984).

  • Bourdieu, P (2004). Science of Science and Reflexivity. Translated by R. Nice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Bourdieu, P and Wacquant, L (1992) An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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slide22

Campbell, R G (2010) Professional Identity, Commitment and Gender in Engineering: Exploring the (mis)match between dispositions and cultures. PhD Thesis, University of Alberta.

  • Hernandez-Martinez, P. and J. Williams. (2013) Against the odds: resilience in mathematics students in transition. British Educational Research Journal, online. DOI: 10.1080/01411926.2011.623153.

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slide23

Kennedy, P (2002) Design Practice: Routine Creativity. PhD Thesis, University of Glasgow.

  • Reay, D, David, M and Ball, S (2001) ‘Making a difference?: Institutional habituses and higher educational choice’. Sociological Research Online 5: 4. www.socresonline.org.uk/5/4/reay.html.

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