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A study of structure and agency interactions in the changing context of English higher education: what is happening to pedagogy and what are we doing about it?

Connors, Bushra; (2015) A study of structure and agency interactions in the changing context of English higher education: what is happening to pedagogy and what are we doing about it? Doctoral thesis , UCL Institute of Education. Green open access

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Abstract

This research explores aspects of emerging pedagogy in the work of seven members of faculty across disciplines, in three English higher education institutions. It takes place in a context of changing global and national circumstances and contributes insights into pedagogy as it is enacted under the distortion of market forces and the commodification of education. A case study approach, underpinned by critical realism is used to analyse participants’ pedagogic endeavours. This is combined with a multi-level consideration of the global, national and institutional processes influential in each case. To overcome the epistemological challenges involved with dealing with the complexity of the myriad possible influences, methodological features of the research involve the use of retroduction and abductive inference. Features of agency, of human knowledge and pedagogy and of the changing nature of higher education are analysed by identifying structures as having interacting social, cultural and material aspects within a stratified reality. An Archerian morphogenetic approach reveals structure and agency interactions over time in participants’ accounts. The study finds that, in spite of adverse conditions, there is a richness and depth to participants’ understanding and facilitation of their students’ learning. Participants draw upon significant internal resources to overcome the problems faced in teaching. Pedagogic approaches that are most distorted, under the drive to commodify and marketise aspects of higher education, are those that allow students to develop their own practices within the discipline they are entering, and to reformulate external knowledge for themselves within their own unfolding experiences. This study claims that the use of critical realism has been an extremely fruitful way to analyse emergent aspects of participants’ pedagogy within the current complex and shifting terrain of English higher education.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: A study of structure and agency interactions in the changing context of English higher education: what is happening to pedagogy and what are we doing about it?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10021763
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