Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jane Higgins on learner identity for young people who leave school with no or low qualifications

Attended a short 'lunch time' presentation by Dr. Jane Higgins, on - "Towards a learning identity: young people becoming learners after leaving school" -  at the mental health resource centre in Chch.

Jane's work with Judith Sligo and Dr. Karen Nairn on 'vocational imagination' the project on 'first year apprentices' experiences in the workplace. So good to do a catch up f2f with Jane and the work of the education employment linkages group at Lincoln University.
Jane presented initial findings from draft prepared for research participants for feedback. Strong themes coming through which are likely to be in final report. Final report will be on eel website.

She summarised research process, then defined learning identity and progreesed to discussing what supports formation of learner identity with respect to pathways into employment.

Project began with international research lit. review, then the mapping of educational-employment linkages provision in NZ for young people with low or no qualifications (which is in flux and change now). Interviews carried out with providers, policy analysts and the voices of the young people. Unable to make contact with NEETs (not in education, emploment or training) due to difficulties encountered last year through the Canterbury/Christchurch earthquakes.

Research question - what do young people who have left school with low or no qualifications have to say about the capacity of agenccies to assists, including facilitators and barriers.

12 focus groups in 5 learning organisations (n=51) - 2 learning centres with young people facing multiple difficult circumstances, one for teen mothers and one offering youth guarantees programmes

What learning took place across activities leading to NCEA levels, nat certs, drivers licence, or involving fitness, work experience, sport/leisure.

Young people construct a sense of self as a learner that changes over time and is mediated by the institutional structures in which they learn and which therefore impacts upon their view of work/career possibilities. Young people's understanding of their own learning capacities are critical to their aspirations and ability to engage with particular education-employment linkages. (eel lit review p.22)

Towards a learning identity - all participants were in learning environment, left school disengaged, most have been NEET for a period post-school, did not want to be NEET, saw themselves as learners, therefore significant identity formation.

Relationships (between learner and teacher) important in establishing recognition of transition from NEET, low school attainment to learner identity. Being provided with trust in their integrity, choices they could make, being treated as an adult, relevance and paced learning, small class size and positive encouragement.

matrix from 'positive youth development in Aotearoa: Weaving connections: tuhonohono tangitahi - WFCT - details low support/low challenge to high support/high challenge.

Themes on crafting pathways - individuals require emotional support (someone who understands, trustworthy, listens, have patience, high expectations, honest about employment). self motivation important. recommendation from known trusted source.

Finding a way into work - methods used include informal networks of tutors into labour market, individualised assistance, internet, acquaintances, career expos, job search assistance, work experience.

Maintaining a learner identity - and crafting a worker identity - what happens if jobs are not available?? points to fragility of the learner identity.

Current policy environment -- has challenges and may not solve all problems. Including:
Current focus on 16-17 risks missing those who shift towards learning identity over a longer time - confidence building is complex and take a lot of one to one support.
Pursuit of NCEA level 2 but may lead to organisations to replicate school. Gateway and trades academies do not currently cater for many of the young people who participated in this project.

Therefore, shift towards learning identity is a crucial moment for young people who have been in NEET. requires high levels of support and tailored education to facilitate and support, takes time and access to work experience and employment opportunities.

New Book - "Children of Rogernomics" - will be of interest and provide background to the impact of neoliberal economics on youth today.