Success in college is not simply a matter of students demonstrating academic ability. In addition, students must master the “college student” role in order to understand instructors’ expectations and apply their academic skills effectively to those expectations. This article uses data from focus groups to examine the fit between university faculty members’ expectations and students’ understanding of those expectations. Parallel discussions among groups of faculty and groups of students highlight important differences regarding issues of time management and specific aspects of coursework. We find definite incongruities between faculty and student perspectives and identify differences between traditional and first-generation college students. We argue that variations in cultural capital, based on parents’ educational experiences, correspond to important differences in each group’s mastery of the student role and, thus, their ability to respond to faculty expectations. The conclusion discusses the theoretical and practical implications of considering role mastery a form of cultural capital.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aschaffenburg, K., & Maas, I. (1997). Cultural and educational careers: The dynamics of social reproduction. American Sociological Review, 62, 573–587.
Baker, W., & Faulkner, R. (1991). Role as resource in the Hollywood film industry. American Journal of Sociology, 97, 279–309.
Bean, J. P., & Metzer, B. S. (1985). A conceptual model of non-traditional undergraduate student attrition. Review of Educational Research, 55(4), 485–540.
Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. New York: Macmillan.
Bourdieu, P. (1973). Cultural reproduction and social reproduction. In R. Brown (Ed.), Knowledge, education and cultural change (pp. 71–112). London: Tavistock.
Bourdieu, P. (1977). Cultural reproduction and social reproduction. In J. Karabel & A. H. Halsey (Eds.), Power and ideology in education (pp. 487–551). New York: Oxford University Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. (1977). Reproduction in education, society, culture. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Callero, P. L. (1986). Toward a Meadian conceptualization of role. Sociological Quarterly, 27(3), 343–358.
Callero, P. L. (1994). From role-play to role-using: Understanding roles as resources. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 228–243.
Callero, P. L. (2003). The political self: Identity resources for radical democracy. In P. J. Burke, T. J. Owens, R. S. Serpe, & P. A. Thoits (Eds.), Advances in identity theory and research (pp. 57–70). Kluwer/Plenum Press.
Collier, P. J. (2000). The effects of completing a capstone course on student identity. Sociology of Education, 73, 285–299.
Collier, P. J. (2001). The differentiated model of role identity acquisition. Symbolic Interaction, 24(2), 217–235.
Dumais, S. (2002). Cultural capital, gender, and school success: The role of habitus. Sociology of Education, 75(1), 44–68.
Elkins, S. A., Braxton, J. M., & James, G. W. (2000). Tinto’s separation stage and its influence on first-semester college student persistence. Research in Higher Education, 41(2), 251–268.
Eraut, M. (1994). Developing professional knowledge and competence. London: The Falmer Press.
Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 113–136.
Eraut, M., Alderton, J., Cole, G., & Senker, P. (2000). Development of knowledge and skills at work. In V. I. Frank Colfield (Ed.), Differing visions of a learning society: Research findings (pp. 231–261). London: The Policy Press.
Hurtado, S., & Carter, D. B. (1997). Effects of college transition and perceptions of the campus racial climate on Latino college students’ sense of belonging. Sociology of Education, 70, 324–345.
Kingston, P. W. (2001). The unfulfilled promise of cultural capital theory. Sociology of Education Extra Issue, 2001, 88–99.
Kraemer, B. A. (1997). The academic and social integration of Hispanic students into college. Review of Higher Education, 20(2), 163–179.
Krueger, R., & Casey, M. (2000). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Lareau, A., & Weininger, E. (2003). Cultural capita in educational networks: A critical assessment. Theory and Society, 32, 567–606.
Lecouteur, A., & Delfabbro, P. (2001). Repertoires of teaching and learning: A comparison of university teachers and students using Q methodology. Higher Education, 42, 205–235.
Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Morgan, D. L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research. Sage publications on qualitative research methods (2nd ed., Vol. 16). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Morgan, D. L. (2002). Focus group interviews. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), The handbook of interview research (pp. 141–159). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2005). First-generation students in postsecondary education: A look at their college transcripts. NCES 2005–17.
Polanyi, M. (1966). The tacit dimension. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Portland State University Student Support Services/Educational Opportunity Program Grant Application (2000).
Terenzini, P. T., Springer, L., Yaeger, P., Pascarella, E., & Nora, A. (1996). First generation college students: Characteristics, experiences, and cognitive development. Research in Higher Education, 37(1), 1–22.
Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89–125.
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures for student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Turner, R. H. (1978). The role and the person. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 1–23.
U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (1998). Statistical Analysis Report, First-generation students: Undergraduates whose parents never enrolled in postsecondary education. NCES 98–082.
Weidman, J. (1989). Undergraduate socialization: A conceptual approach. In J. Smart (Ed.), Higher education handbook of theory and research (Vol. 5). New York: Agathon.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Collier, P.J., Morgan, D.L. “Is that paper really due today?”: differences in first-generation and traditional college students’ understandings of faculty expectations. High Educ 55, 425–446 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-007-9065-5
- College student adjustment
- Cultural capital
- Faculty expectations
- First-generation students
- Focus group methodology
- Role mastery
- University retention