Paths in education: how students make qualification choices at Level 3 and what influences these choices
AuthorsLewis, Zoe Helen
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AbstractThis study is an investigation into how young people make choices between the ages of sixteen to eighteen about the qualifications they study at Level 3 and the impact these choices have on further progression. Often, the reasons for their choices tend to be obvious and straightforward and are career driven. However, what about those students who may not know about progression routes or how to make informed choices? Given the potential impact on students’ lives, it seems vital that we understand how students make their choices, and whether any aspects of the current decision-making process could be improved. There is increasing interest in the provision of information, advice and guidance focussing on how students are making choices regarding careers and progression to higher education in the United Kingdom (Diamond et al., 2014). However, to date, the majority of research into qualification choice has been focused instead on choice into Higher Education contexts or choices made about GCSE options, thus leaving a gap in literature surrounding Further Education. Since it is now compulsory for students to be in education to the age of eighteen, it is crucial to ask why research is still invisible on student choice into further education, whereas student choice into higher education has the lion’s share of the research attention (Elliot, 2016). This thesis explored the factors that influence the choices made by students who have decided to study on a Level 3 qualification, and to understand how students may go about making these choices. It has been argued that many students are poorly prepared when it comes to making the choices about the qualifications they study post-16 (Leatherwood, 2015). This study has found this is still true for young people today. A mixed methods approach was used which combined a mixture of surveys and interviews. All the research took place in a single sixth form college. At the heart of the study were the stories that students disclosed of what influenced their own qualification choices. Seventeen semi-structured interviews and fifty questionnaires were used. Five main influences and themes emerged from the research as being central to qualification choice. These were peer influence; career aspirations; parental or family influence; advice from careers advisors; media influences. In addition, an emerging theme was the potential role played by schools in shaping qualification choice. These factors played a significant role in the choice of qualifications for students, to the point where it was effectively a ‘non-choice’ for some of them. One implication from the study is that young people need both good impartial information but they also need good advice and guidance in how to use this information, rather than anything offered being seen as a ‘token gesture’. This research shows that students are making key decisions about future qualifications without seeking professional guidance. Instead, decisions are more likely to be based on hearsay from friends or social media. These decisions can be partially explained by examining the kind of career advice students receive in school: only eighteen per cent of students surveyed said that they received enough information to ‘make an informed decision’ (Palmer, 2016).
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Professional Doctorate in Education.
The following licence applies to the copyright and re-use of this item:
- Creative Commons
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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