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Senses of belonging and fitting in? Affinities and emergent identities

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This article will present the initial findings of research investigating the complexity of specific situated experiences of widening participation among two cohorts of undergraduate students. The case study focuses on the recalled expectations and decision-making processes that resulted in the take-up of a higher education (HE) place by a sample of current undergraduate students and on their initial experiences within the institution. Previous studies have used individual interviews and questionnaires to explore different dimensions of student experience and identity. The article will use and reflect on the complementary qualitative method of focus groups and specifically the use of affinity groups. It builds on recent research that emphasises the multiplicity of first-year experiences in higher education and work that highlights the complex lives and heterogeneity of students and the often fragmentary experience they can consequently have. The study aims to contribute to a debate on how to deepen understanding of the complexity of students' experiences using different dimensions of affinity.
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Keywords: affinity; focus groups; identity; student experience; widening participation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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