Learning to Cope on Your Own
: The Reflexive Educational Trajectories of High-Achieving, Working-Class Girls

  • Katherine Davey

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores how the personal process of reflexive deliberation is informing the educational trajectories of sixteen high-achieving, working class girls. In particular, it explains how they are making noticeably different educational decisions that are leading to their proposed engagement with high-tariff universities. On the surface, their journeys resemble well-rehearsed stories of high-achieving girls who appear able to glide through education collecting high grades and paving their own ways to a bright future. Yet as young women from some of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the Liverpool City Region and with no family history of access to higher education, their proposed progression extends well beyond the possibilities inscribed in their social positioning.

Using a creative, biographical research design, the thesis incorporates first-person accounts of the girls’ life and educational trajectories for the specific purpose of studying their reflexivity. Informed by Margret Archer’s (2003, 2007a) theorising, this facilitates explanations of precisely how these young women respond to their involuntary social placement and the basis on which they determine their future courses of action in ways that other research does not predict for them. While they cannot make what they please of their circumstances, the thesis rekindles the role of agency in the girls’ decision making. It makes the point that they are becoming increasingly skilled in reflexively navigating their own pathways through education and advance their university goals in innovative and deliberative ways.
Date of Award6 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLisa Russell (Main Supervisor) & Wayne Bailey (Co-Supervisor)

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