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A (re)negotiation of identity: From ‘mature student’ to ‘novice academic’

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The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of an investigation into the first-year experience of mature students. The research focuses on the identity shift that these students underwent throughout the year and problematises the construct of ‘student’. Semi-structured interviews were used at key points throughout the academic year. The research employs communities of practice as a framework for identity shift. The students in this research engaged in the learning aspect of student identity but some felt alienated and marginalised by the predominant discourse of student social life. The paper concludes with the argument that mature students align themselves with the community of practice of ‘academia’ and therefore form a position of ‘novice academic’ rather than ‘student’. The study aims to contribute to the debate over whether universities may need to change some practices in order to improve the experience of mature students, which will become an increasingly important demographic group as the number of school leavers drops.
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Keywords: communities of practice; identity; mature students; non-traditional students; student experience

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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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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