How do students’ accounts of sociology change over the course of their undergraduate degrees?
In this article we examine how students’ accounts of the discipline of sociology change over the course of their undergraduate degrees. Based on a phenomenographic analysis of 86 interviews with 32 sociology and criminology students over the course of their undergraduate degrees, we constituted five different ways of accounting for sociology. These ranged from describing sociology as a form of personal development focused on developing the students’ opinion to describing sociology as a partial way of studying the relations between people and society. The majority of students expressed more inclusive accounts of sociology over the course of their degrees. However, some students’ accounts suggested they had become disengaged with sociology. We argue that the differences in the ways that students were disengaged were not captured by our phenomenographic categories. In conclusion, we argue that our analysis illustrates the crucial role that students’ relations to knowledge play in understanding the transformative nature of higher education.
KeywordsConceptions Knowledge Phenomenography Sociology Students
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [Grant Number: RES-062-23-1438]. Our warm thanks to the students and lecturers who took part in the study. We acknowledge the work of Ourania Fillipakou, Xin Gao, and Alison Kington, who conducted many of the interviews.
- Abbas, A., & McLean, M. (2010). Tackling inequality through quality: A comparative case study using Bernsteinian concepts. In E. Unterhalter, & V. Carpentier (Eds.), Global inequalities and higher education: Whose interests are you serving? (pp. 241–267). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Ashwin, P., Abbas, A., & McLean, M. (2012). The pedagogic device: Sociology, knowledge practices and teaching-learning processes. In P. Trowler, M. Saunders, & V. Bamber (Eds.), Tribes and territories in the 21st-Century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in higher education (pp. 118–129). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Baxter-Magolda, M. (1992). Knowing and reasoning in college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
- Bowden, J., & Marton, F. (1998). The University of learning: Beyond quality and competence in higher education. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
- Hofer, B., & Pintrich, P. (2002). Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Perry, W. (1999). Forms of ethical and intellectual development in the college years: A scheme. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
- Richardson, J. (2013). Research issues in evaluating learning pattern development in higher education. Learning and Individual Differences, 39, 66–70.Google Scholar
- Richardson, J. (in press). Epistemological development in higher education. Educational Research Review. doi: 10.1016/j.edurev.2012.10.001.
- Stokes, A. (2011). A phenomenographic approach to investigating students’ conceptions of geoscience as an academic discipline. In A. Feig & A. Stokes (Eds.), Qualitative enquiry in geoscience education research: Geological Society of America Special paper 474 (pp. 23–35). Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- van Rossum, E., & Hamer, R. (2010). The meaning of learning and knowing. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
- Watson, D. (2012). The university and its student community: Knowledge as transformation? In P. Temple (Ed.), Universities in the Knowledge Economy: Higher education organisation and global change (pp. 197–211). London: Routledge.Google Scholar