Forming learning identities in higher education in Sweden
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The aim of this paper is to deepen understanding of the forming of learning identities amongst non-traditional students in Higher Education (HE). Learning identities are related to how actors experience themselves as learners in relation to their previous experiences, social background and different academic cultures and contexts. The forming of learning identities is a part of the forming of overall identities, and we use three identity types for our analysis: multiple integrated, floating and adopted. The study is built on biographical interviews with six students (chosen from a pool of 100) and 37 semi-structured interviews with staff from three HE institutions in Sweden. The results show that non-traditional students tend to feel like outsiders, and that this seems to be related to class and age rather than ethnicity and gender. Nevertheless, they form different identities and learning identities. Those forming a multiple integrated identity define themselves as learners and sometimes even as independent learners, while students forming an adopted identity seem to identify themselves with the academy generally. The learning identity they form is that of a "good student". Students forming a floating identity have difficulty defining themselves within the academy. Finally, some students seem to form a pragmatic identity, identifying with their future profession rather than the academy. In doing this an instrumental learning identity is formed. In the academy and in the case of lecturers, status is related to research orientation, whereas in the case of students, the value of education seems to be related to gaining employment. This creates tensions in the HE system.
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