Learning from labour: Critical pedagogy for working students: Project preliminary report

Project report


Morrison, C., Dashtipour, P. and Keles, J. 2023. Learning from labour: Critical pedagogy for working students: Project preliminary report. Middlesex University.
TypeProject report
TitleLearning from labour: Critical pedagogy for working students: Project preliminary report
AuthorsMorrison, C., Dashtipour, P. and Keles, J.
Abstract

This study has sought to investigate student work life and its impact on learning at a post-92 HE institution. Previous research, including a small-scale study at Middlesex University, established that disadvantaged, first-in-family students may be exposed to the detrimental effects of precarity when financial hardship forces them into part-time low-pay/low-skilled jobs. Debates have ensued about student agency overcoming challenges and generating resilience. A significant amount of research has been built on student employment primarily in the education and management fields. Interest reflects a global rise in working students’ and worked hours’ numbers, raising concerns about work-study balance. Issues of inequality have been related to the differential impact of work and financial pressures, primarily affecting ‘atypical’, ‘first-in-family’ and working-class students. Management studies focus on youth’s transition to work and labour market impact in employing industries like hospitality and retail with concerns about growing precarity, generational work attitudes, retention and turnover. HR and employment studies have been less forthcoming as student jobs are considered short-term or amalgamated into the wider fold of precarity. Unlike the above, this study focuses on the student workplace experience exploring task performance. It aims to learn about the subjective and objective constraints and opportunities to their labour power and its impact on learning. Findings should lay the basis for renewing teaching and learning practices framed by critical pedagogy and recommendations to educational and industry institutions to pursue compatibility between work and higher education.
The research employed a mixed method approach including a survey, semi-structured interviews as well as in-class reflective exercises and analyses of reflective essays on task performance and workplace experiences. The study presents a picture in line with national and local data about trends in student labour market engagement and employment as adjusted by the pandemic watershed.
We tested the hypothesizes that student workers’ social suffering from precarity, and incompatibility between work and study might have been underestimated and, consequently, that a stronger link exists between bad jobs and bad education than previously acknowledged. If this is the case, then it is not allegedly poor education that prevents students’ labour market success but, conversely, it is the latter, due to the various forms of suffering it causes, that prevents students from fully benefiting from their learning opportunities. Therefore, post-92 universities that rely so heavily on such students should not be unfairly blamed for failing students’ employability outcomes. However, recognition of the significant challenges student face should lead universities as well as students and educators to turn these struggles into an opportunity for collective, social and pedagogic, innovation.
This report is structured as follows: after a brief review of existing literature, we outline the project aims, its pedagogic and research strategy. Preliminary survey data analysis includes the description of the sample and findings on student labour market engagement, the terms of employment, conditions at work and specifically data on rights violations and student knowledge of them. The last sections analyse the labour process based on student’s accounts of workplace challenges and coping strategies. Conclusions are followed by initial recommendations.

Sustainable Development Goals4 Quality education
8 Decent work and economic growth
10 Reduced inequalities
Middlesex University ThemeSustainability
Research GroupEmployment Relations group
LanguageEnglish
PublisherMiddlesex University
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Apr 2023
Completed27 Mar 2023
Output statusPublished
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