How can Bourdieu’s ‘Habitus’ inform the development of a parental engagement intervention for secondary school parents?

Wilson, Suzanne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7021-8967 (2018) How can Bourdieu’s ‘Habitus’ inform the development of a parental engagement intervention for secondary school parents? Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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A phenomenological inquiry identified factors impacting on low-income parental engagement at primary and secondary school using the concept of Bourdieu’s habitus. Bourdieu’s framework brings together several related concepts including cultural capital, the field and habitus. After scrutinising the uses and application of Bourdieu’s ideas, the concept of habitus was used to inform and evaluate a programme designed to promote low-income parental engagement in education following the primary to secondary transition. Focus groups (n=22) and interviews (n=50) with low-income parents demonstrated that parents’ values were aligned with the primary schools’, focused on protection of self-concept. Parents felt socially competent to navigate the field and possessed the necessary cultural capital to support their children’s education, resulting in engagement with education. Conversely, parents experienced a habitus misalignment with secondary school, with the schools’ focus of targets contrasting with their own. Parents did not feel socially competent to navigate the field, nor possess the cultural capital required to support their children’s education. Consequently, parents’ engagement with education reduced. In response, the second part of the research involved designing a brief solution-focused mentoring programme to support low-income parents following the primary to secondary transition. Quantitative data suggests the programme acted as a protective factor for academic attainment and attendance. Qualitative data suggests sustained changes in parental engagement within the home. The sample size is too small to draw any significant conclusions, and the qualitative analysis provides only short-term accounts of behavioural influence. Nonetheless, this provides suggestive evidence for the efficacy of the programme. The thesis concludes by discussing how Bourdieu's habitus can explain differences in parental engagement in education and inform the development of programmes designed to close the attainment gap, providing an original contribution to the field of habitus and parental engagement. Implications for policy and practice are be considered, along with limitations and recommendations for future research.

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