Closing The Achievement Gap: Learning from Working-Class Students’ Acculturation and Success in Higher Education
Thèse dirigée par Rasyid Bo Sanitioso et Sébastien Goudeau
Soutenance le jeudi 25 mai 2023 à 10h en salle 2010
Upward educational mobility is a persistent challenge in many countries. One contributing factor may be the cultural mismatch experienced by working-class students in higher education. These students often hold interdependent norms that clash with the independent cultural norms prevalent in universities, potentially leading to lower academic success. Through a combination of longitudinal studies, experimental studies, and correlational research, the present work sheds light on the complex dynamics of working-class students’ cultural mismatch and acculturation, throughout the students’ university experiences. The research aims to enhance our understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by working-class students and ultimately to inform policy and practice in higher education to support their success. Chapter 1 presents longitudinal studies (N = 1357) which reveal that despite prolonged exposure to the university environment, social-class differences persist as working-class students often struggle to navigate and acculturate to the middle/upper-class norms that dominate higher education institutions. However, by analyzing the experiences of successful working-class students in studies presented in Chapter 2 (N = 1217), and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in another study in Chapter 3 (N = 2275), as well as factors that affect working-class students’ acculturation, the research identifies strategies and resources that some working-class students used to overcome barriers and achieve academic success. These include integrating independent norms into their identity, flexibly acculturating to the demands of university life, and reducing cultural mismatch. The present findings highlight the unique challenges faced by working-class students and underscore the responsibility of universities to take action in reducing social-class achievement gaps. To support their success, institutions must provide a supportive environment and tailored interventions, and value interdependence more than they do now. These actions can interrupt the pattern of cultural mismatch and potentially enable genuine upward social mobility.
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