Career-faring policy
: the use of graphic elicitation and visual representations to analyse life course narratives of teaching assistants in pursuit of a teaching career

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Unstable, expensive and complex routes for mature students in part-time higher education remain a barrier to hidden potential and talent that could serve to address current teacher shortages. This study assesses the effect of transient policies on inequities in access and success in the educational career routes of eight teaching assistants in pursuit of a teaching career, alongside celebration of their concomitant persistence and ingenuity. By employing Bourdieuian based Careership theory with the novel use of graphic elicitation and visual representation techniques, it introduces and enhances methods that draw out nuances affecting people in a variety of contexts at different times in the life course. The focused attention on temporal influences significantly enrich the life course narratives educed from the semi-structured interviews.

Findings indicate interrelationships in temporal, agentic, cultural and structural dimensions in the participants’ ever-changing contexts. Consistencies were seen in socio-cultural dimensions, particularly through recognition, by managers, peers and family. Acknowledgement of their value, contribution and potential, supported their tenacity to reach their goal. Common challenges were in having to be constantly alert to risk factors: in the length of time to acquire qualifications, financial sustenance and work/life balance issues alongside expected financial gain, personal satisfaction and meeting of affective needs.

Results enabled by the novel methods, show findings that contribute to a call to enable stable yet flexible career routes to teaching that are designed for access across the life course. The research suggests that lowering the risk threshold of entry to teaching and raising the reward between investment and work/life balance requires policy makers to recognise diverse lifelong rights of entry to the profession.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPete Sanderson (Main Supervisor) & Samantha McMahon (Co-Supervisor)

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