Learning about student success from students’ stories: A narrative study of successful business degree students at a New Zealand university

Reid, F
(2018) Learning about student success from students’ stories: A narrative study of successful business degree students at a New Zealand university. Doctor of Education thesis, University of Liverpool.

[img] Text

Download (1MB)


The purpose of this study was to better understand how students’ prior experiences and contexts contributed to their success in an undergraduate business degree in a New Zealand University. The study used a narrative approach underpinned by hermeneutics. I undertook semi-structured interviews with ten students about their family background and educational history, followed by a two-stage analysis process. Firstly the data were developed into stories and then the data were re-analysed using a Bourdieusian lens. Three different developments by scholars of Bourdieu’s thinking tools, namely the concepts of learning career, habitus tug and interrupted trajectories, were combined to provide the theoretical framework to analyse the data. The findings revealed diverse backgrounds and experiences of the student participants but all had a positive fit with the university environment, and possessed attitudes and behaviours consistent with possessing the habitus of an educated person. While the narratives did not disclose significant parental involvement in the students’ education, they did disclose emotional support by parents, reinforcing the value the parents placed on education. The study also revealed differing journeys in the development of academic confidence, with experiences of success in education fostering academic confidence to varying degrees. The study makes a contribution to our knowledge about student success through extending the concept of educated habitus to higher education as an explanation for success, and using a combination of the concepts of learning career, habitus tug and trajectory interruption as a means to explore how the students developed that educated habitus. The application of those concepts in the New Zealand higher education context, where Bourdieu’s thinking tools have seldom been used, resulted in some nuances to be added to these concepts including that the study showed that cultural and peer attitudes can trigger habitus tug, and that the devastation of failure appeared to be less about being a non-traditional student and more related to fragile levels of academic confidence. The implications for practice in supporting students in the business degree include recognition of the individuality of students’ lives and the role experiences outside university have to play in success, suggesting holistic rather than only academically-focused support for students is desirable, along with encouragement for students to specifically address their concept of success and how to achieve it. A further area for study is analysis of the experiences and context of students who are not successful. Keywords: narrative analysis, hermeneutics, student success, educated habitus, interrupted trajectories, habitus tug

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Education)
Divisions: Fac of Humanities & Social Sci > School of Education
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2018 16:30
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2021 05:00
DOI: 10.17638/03028046
  • Davidson, Janis
  • Winston, Kalman
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3028046