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Gendered Vocational Identities – Female Students' Strategies for Identity Formation During Workplace-Based Learning in Male-Dominated Work
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Competence Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2486-2663
2021 (English)In: International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training, ISSN 2197-8638, Vol. 8, no 3, p. 334-354Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: This article investigates female vocational students' strategies for becoming part of a workplace community, what these strategies are and how they are tied to the formation of vocational identities within male-dominated industrial work. Of particular interest is how female students enrolled on Swedish upper secondary industrial programmes experience workplace-based learning at industrial workplaces as part of their vocational education. The theoretical framework derives from Wenger's concept of community of practice, but his theoretical concept does not explicitly include gender dimensions. Therefore, the concept of community of practice is also combined with Paechter's assumption of gender, whereby femininity and masculinity can be considered as different communities of practice. 

Methods: The article draws on evidence from a Swedish study based on interviews with 20 female students enrolled on the industrial programme at six upper secondary schools. In this vocational programme, there is a distinct gender distribution and only a small minority of the students on the programme are girls. In the analysis, the focus is on the female students' strategies used during workplace-based learning to become part of the work community which consists almost exclusively of male workers.

Findings: The female students deliberately negotiated vocational identities as female industrial workers to become accepted in the male-dominated work community. The findings highlight three specific strategies that the female students used: Acting like gender does not matter, acting like boys (not like drama queens), and acting tough and joking around. The female students' strategies were part of – and tied to – a complex vocational identity formation process that featured contradictory requirements. By taking individual responsibility, they identified relevant information for becoming industrial workers and chose to act like boys. The female students saw no problem with being a girl, yet they struggled with implicit, diffuse and hidden gender structures and prejudices in the male-dominated industrial companies. Nevertheless, they strived for what they perceived to be an attractive vocational identity as industrial workers; it was an alternative, atypically feminine way of being that attracted the female students. 

Conclusions: The study concludes that female students mostly rely on their individual agency when interacting with others in the male-dominated workplace community. A "gendered vocational identity" is formed which shows that the identity formation of female students is a complex double process, in which vocational and gender identities are formed simultaneously and in parallel within the male-dominated workplace. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
European Research Network in Vocational Education and Training , 2021. Vol. 8, no 3, p. 334-354
Keywords [en]
VET, Vocational Education and Training, Vocational Identity Formation, Gender, Student, Workplace-Based Learning
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-184147DOI: 10.13152/IJRVET.8.3.4Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85123597433OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-184147DiVA, id: diva2:1649657
Available from: 2022-04-04 Created: 2022-04-04 Last updated: 2022-04-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Vocational Students’ Agency in Identity Formation as Industrial Workers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Vocational Students’ Agency in Identity Formation as Industrial Workers
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Yrkeselevers agens i identitetsformering som industriarbetare
Abstract [en]

The overall aim of this thesis is to contribute knowledge about vocational identity formation among students within the industrial programme in Swedish upper secondary education, with a particular focus on their workplace-based learning. To break down the aim, three research questions have been formulated and each is addressed in one or two specific articles. These questions are: (1) What learning strategies do vocational students use to become part of a work community, and how do these strategies relate to the formation of a vocational identity at the workplace? (2) How do vocational students experience their identity formation in relation to a vocation within the industrial sector? (3) How do vocational students handle the division between theoretical and practical knowledge as they learn to become skilled industrial workers? 

The thesis builds on 53 semi-structured qualitative interviews with Swedish upper secondary vocational students enrolled on the industrial programme. The interviews revolve around the students’ vocational identity formation, with a focus on their workplace-based learning. The students are between 18 and 20 years old and the majority are boys. The findings are analysed through the theoretical lens of situated learning, where identity formation is viewed as a social learning process that takes place through participation in communities of practice. In addition, the concepts of habitus, gender and social categorisation are used as analytical tools to provide a deeper understanding of issues concerning status, power and exclusion in relation to vocational identity formation. 

The findings reveal that the students’ vocational identity formation is closely connected to the social aspects of participating in workplace communities. Knowledge about the jargon and social norms of the workplace seem to be of more importance for vocational identity formation than knowledge about the concrete working tasks. The study follows the students’ vocational identity formation throughout their vocational learning trajectories, which reveal that vocational identities are formed in heterogenic ways. 

The students may adopt a committed, flexible or ambivalent approach towards industrial work. Aspects concerning agency and status seem to be crucial for the vocational identification process. The forming of a vocational identity also implies positioning oneself in the hierarchy and division between theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as between masculinity and femininity. The students appear as knowledgeable actors who are aware of the generally low status of industrial work, while simultaneously expressing a great deal of pride in relation to their intended vocations. 

In the discussion, a model of the students’ vocational identity formation is proposed to capture the interplay between collective and structural dimensions (e.g. social background, class and status hierarchies at school) and students’ agency and strategies in becoming industrial workers. 

From the findings of this thesis, three main conclusions are drawn: (1) The students form vocational identities through using vocational agency in actively developing strategies for becoming accepted in the workplace community; (2) Workplace-based learning is central for the students’ vocational identity formation, in spite of the relatively short time that the students spend there, compared to the time spent at school; (3) The students’ vocational image awareness, expressed through awareness of, and reactions to, other people’s images of their vocation, constitutes an important part of their vocational identity formation. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2021. p. 127
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 807
Series
Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 228
Keywords
Vocational education, Vocational identity, Industrial programme, Workplace- based learning, Yrkesidentitet, Yrkesutbildning, Industriprogrammet, Arbetsplatsförlagt lärande
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-175179 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-175179 (DOI)9789179296537 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-05-21, TEMCAS, T-Building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2021-04-23 Created: 2021-04-23 Last updated: 2022-04-04Bibliographically approved

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Ferm, LisaGustavsson, Maria

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