An auto/ethnographic study of the influences on a student’s dispositions to drop out of doctoral study: a Bourdieusian perspective

Doctorate other than PhD

Templeton, Robert C.. 2015. An auto/ethnographic study of the influences on a student’s dispositions to drop out of doctoral study: a Bourdieusian perspective. Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Education. University of Southern Queensland.

An auto/ethnographic study of the influences on a
student’s dispositions to drop out of doctoral study: a
Bourdieusian perspective

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
AuthorTempleton, Robert C.
SupervisorHenderson, Robyn
Zavros, Agli
Tyler, Mark
Hickey, Andrew
Danaher, Geoff
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Education
Number of Pages147

This research study explores the influence of dispositions as sociological features of doctoral student dropout as experienced by a group of participants from different Australian universities. To elucidate these influences the research poses the two questions of what are the influences on students’ decisions to drop out and how is this experienced by the student? Using an analysis of these personal experiences the study suggests a range of outcomes which illuminate the experience of dropout (and dropping out) through a Bourdieusian decision-making lens. These outcomes are the basis of the research conclusions regarding possible approaches to reducing the incidence of doctoral student non-completion. In addition, suggestions for further research into specific aspects of the dropout and dropping out phenomenon are developed.

Dropout research has historically been focussed on various ‘risk factors’ attributed to students and tertiary institutions. These factors focus on the effects of
student income, race or ethnicity, academic achievement, and behaviours and attitudes on student progression and success (Brown & Roderiguez, 2009). The research project sought to contribute to the understanding of student attrition expressed via dropout and dropping out. This is undertaken by drawing on an application of Tinto’s (1975) theories on student dropout and applied to disposition
as an influence on attrition. The focus of the research is doctoral level student dispositions, habitus and the cultural and social capital of a group of participants and
that of the author/researcher in professional and academic doctoral research programs.

A methodology involving the recollections of the research participants to provide ethnographic (recollections by others) and autoethnographic (selfrecollections)
data was selected to collect personal experience of doctoral program dropout. An interpretative analytical method framed (Chang, 2008) the concept of
dispositions, habitus and capital (Bourdieu, 1977b) to ‘make sense’ of the collected data. With dispositions understood as inherited and oriented around personal and
collective beliefs as borne-out in the cultural capital of the student, this research supposes that student dropout can be ameliorated by influencing students’ beliefs
and understandings - their disposition - towards further study. This supposition is examined with an exploration of the durability of dispositions with respect to student
dropout. The exploration analyses the influence of such factors as the student supervisor relationship, student inadequacy, student life changes and a lack of
student cultural capital relative to doctoral research study.

Within the framework of the sociological model of Bourdieu (1984a, p. 101) dropout decisions are not habitual but developed over time. Dispositions are durable with the
influence on the habitus arising from the person’s capital which may result in a deterministic decision to withdraw from doctoral study contrary to one’s disposition. A student’s experiences of doctoral supervision, especially inadequate supervision does have an adverse effect on the student’s cultural capital, which results in dropout. The endurance of the intrinsic disposition to learn of the student is a factor in the student’s recommencement of
their doctoral program.

Keywordsdisposition; doctoral students; non-completion; dropout; Bourdieusian; postgraduate research; continuing education
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390303. Higher education
390499. Specialist studies in education not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Arts and Communication
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