Heath, Sue, Fuller, Alison and Paton, Karen
Network-based ambivalence and educational decision-making: a case study of non participation in higher education [in special issue: Challenges of diversity for widening participation in UK higher education]
Research Papers in Education, 23, (2), . (doi:10.1080/02671520802048760).
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Much contemporary theorising on educational decision-making starts from the premise that the process of decision-making is a deeply embedded social practice, which is inextricably linked to behaviours, attitudes and dispositions which hold sway within an individual's social network. Drawing on data from a project focusing on decision-making amongst non-participants in higher education (HE) who are nonetheless 'potentially recruitable' to HE, this paper uses the sociological concept of ambivalence as a useful tool in exploring their educational decision-making within a broader network-based approach. In focusing on the ways in which individuals manage contradictions and tensions within their networks, and how the ways in which they manage these tensions are linked to broader structural factors, the concept provides a framework which is able to bridge social structure and individual agency. The concept of ambivalence provides a useful complement to other frameworks which focus on the degree to which forms of advantage and disadvantage are transmitted between and within different social groups and specific social contacts, and suggests a mechanism by which existing social relations are either reinforced or challenged through individual actions in the realm of education
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