Exploring Bourdieu for engineering education research

Devine, J. (2012) Exploring Bourdieu for engineering education research. In: 40th Annual Conference of European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI 2012): Engineering Education 2020: Meet the Future, 23-26 Sep 2012, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Text (Published Version)

Download (267kB)


This paper explores the potential for the work and theories of Pierre Bourdieu to provide an alternative approach to engineering education research on student diversity. Bourdieu's theories were developed as a means of exploring the role of social class on individual aspirations and behaviour. Current governmental and institutional aims to diversify the intake of engineering students renders it appropriate for researchers to explore the motivations behind student decisions to study engineering.
Issues of academic performance, retention and progression in an engineering program can be better understood against the background of individual student choice and behaviour.
Bourdieu, an eminent French sociologist of the late 20th century, was most concerned with identifying and articulating the societal factors that perpetuate the 'status-quo' of a hierarchical social structure. He saw educational systems as a key factor in the perpetuation and reproduction of social structures and so focused much of his work on educational settings. Bourdieu's concept of habitus and its relationship to his concepts of field, cultural capital and dispositions form a theoretical framework and the basis of a methodology which enable the rigorous investigation of human actions and interactions.
His theories can be directly applied to questions of why students choose a particular career path and their subsequent behaviour and academic performance once within an educational institution. He proposes that whether students stay in school or drop out is largely determined by their perceptions of the probability of success for students of their background. As yet, Bourdieu's concepts have not been widely used as a framework within engineering education research; his theories are complex, fluid and relatively inaccessible to the novice sociologist. Bourdieu's work presents a challenge to engineering education researchers to adopt or adapt this theoretical framework to underpin new investigations into engineering education phenomena. This paper will discuss his theories as a framework for future investigations into student choices (of engineering as a career, institution of study and mode of study); academic performance; retention and progression; institutional strategy and subsequent career trajectories.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 22745
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: This publication is copyright. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for the purposes of study, research, or review, but is subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Agricultural, Civil and Environmental Engineering (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Agricultural, Civil and Environmental Engineering (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2013 10:22
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2017 01:15
Uncontrolled Keywords: diversity; student success; Bourdieu; habitus
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130305 Educational Counselling
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3902 Education policy, sociology and philosophy > 390203 Sociology of education
39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390404 Educational counselling
39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390113 Science, technology and engineering curriculum and pedagogy
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970109 Expanding Knowledge in Engineering
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/22745

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only