Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Literature Review Blog #5

Minding the Gap? Young People’s Accounts of Taking a Gap Year As A Form of Identity Work in Higher Education
By Andrew King

1. Visual 

2. Citation
King, Andrew. "Minding the Gap? Young People’s Accounts of Taking a Gap Year as 
     a Form of Identity Work in Higher Education." EBSCO eBook Collection, 
     Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, May 2011, web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ 
     ta=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=59530281&db=aph. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017. 

3. Summary
I his piece, Minding the Gap? Andrew King extends gap year research into the context of higher education. He explores the relationships between students who have taken a gap year and how it has further prepared them for college in terms of identity work that they have performed and various forms of cultural capital they they have acquired.   

4. Author
Andrew King joined the University of Surrey in December 2012 and teaches across a range of programs in the Department of Sociology. He is also the Co-Editor of Sociology (the flagship journal of the BSA), Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender and former Chair of the European Sociological Association Sexuality Research Network (2011-2015), and received the Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence in 2014.

5. Key Terms
Identity Work: the notion of identity negotiation may arise from the learning of social roles through personal experience. Identity negotiation is a process in which a person negotiates with society at large regarding the meaning of his or her identity.
Cultural Capital: social assets of a person (education, intellect, style of speech and dress, etc.) that promote social mobility in a stratified society

“Educational credentials are no longer a guarantee of success: university students must therefor seek to gain advantage through alternative channels, including developing a suitable”personality package” composed of communication skills and character traits favored by graduate employers” (page 343). 

“…third world travel experiences act as cultural capital, giving one something to display to peers….a social network that will be used to actively gain material advantage in the future” (page 343).

7. Value
This piece has become one of the main sources for my research, it is the major building block for my thesis and major argument. That being, students who take a gap year are able to explore, manipulate, and enhance their identities while at the same time gaining social skills and  connections that will greatly benefit them in their higher education and future career searches. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Research Blog #9: Argument and Counter-Argument

Originally, the major counterargument against my topic was that gap years are only an option for the to affluent students, in which I believed was false, being that my research provided me with evidence that there were many options for financially backed gap year programs. However, this counterargument has sort of morphed into a supporting idea in my new topic. It has come to my attention that despite university programs with financial aid and corporations like Americorps, gap year programs are dominated by middle class students. So, it seems that wealth is a huge factor in the demographics of those participating. This counterargument-turned supporting argument-is going to play a huge roll in my research pertaining to two major ideas. The first being that is the identity work and cultural capital gained during the gap year an opportunity for affluent students only, and furthermore, is it widening the gap between upper/middle class students and those from the working class. 

Relevant Sources:

Research Blog #8: Case

My case has shifted from a very broad summarization of a wide range of aspects pertaining to the “gap year” to a more specific and unique point. In my research I am exploring the opportunity for students to undergo immense identity work while also gaining social skills and connections as well as other forms of cultural capital, throughout their experience. It is obvious that the gap year can be a time for travel, work experience, saving money and much more. However, is it also a time to possibly gain a leg up on other students when returning to academic life and further on career searches? The identity work and cultural capital that students who participate in gap years acquire is undoubtably beneficial. But, is taking a gap year and further gaining these qualities an equal opportunity for all? In my paper, I am also looking into the possibility that privatization of universities and a possible lack of funding in the near future (under the new Trump administration) for gap year programs, is and will continue to act as an advantage for more affluent students.

I have gathered a few cases that explain the concepts of identity work and cultural capital as well as specific examples of students who portray these ideas. I have also looked into resources pertaining to the idea of the obvious (and growing) social stratification between students from various financial backgrounds that can be applied to my gap year research. 

Some useful links:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Research Blog #7: Frame

Since the main focus of my paper has become the idea of “identity-work,” (explained in last blog post) my research has become more and more sociological. Many sociologists ideas are brought up in various cases and articles as well as many terms and concepts that stem from the field of sociology. For example, one term that is relevant to students taking a gap year is Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital. Cultural capital refers to the social assets of a person (education, intellect, style of speech and dress, etc.) that promote social mobility in a stratified society. Students who take a gap year develop skills, relationships, and connections which are later used as a form of cultural capital wen they return to university and future career paths. 

The use of academic terms like identity work and cultural capital, as well as “the personality package” and emerging adulthood, is a constant reminder of what my paper should be about and what topics are extremely important to focus on as well as develop throughout my research and the writing of my final paper. 

So far, the most influential academic source I have  fond has been Minding the Gap? by Andrew King. In his case study he interviews students who have taken a gap year which is not only beneficial to my research but also interesting to read. He also gives a great background to the main ideas of identity work and other key concepts regarding the gap year. I will use this piece both as a starting point for major ideas as well as for specific details about certain students cases. 
Image result for bourdieu cultural capital

Research Blog #6: Visual

Identity work: a set of active processes (such as forming, strengthening, and revising) which serve to construct a sense of identity. 

The main focus of my paper is the intense, reflexive, “identity-work” that students accomplish over the period of their gap year. Identity work is an idea introduced by Mats Alvesson and Hugh Willmott in relation to the management of corporations and further organization control. However, this idea is highly relatable to students taking gap years, who undergo extreme identity work which will prove to further affect their higher education career as well as future job searches. 

This flow chart depicts the ongoing flow and ins and outs of the process of creating or changing ones personal identity through identity work.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Literature Review Blog #4

1.       Visual

2.       Citation
Snee, Helene. "Doing Something ‘Worthwhile’: Intersubjectivity and
     Morality in Gap Year Narratives." Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons,
     2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/1467-954X.12116/asset/
     Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

3.       Summary
In her paper, Doing Something ‘Worthwhile’: Intersubjectivity and Morality in Gap Year Narratives, Helene Snee acknowledges the fact that gap years are often put forward as an opportunity to engage in individualized, reflexive, identity work. However, she has a small criticism; when it comes to student accounts of their gap-year experiences, Snee feels that many narratives of gap-year travel tend to be framed with reference to standard ‘scripts’ and are influenced by structural forces. The paper explores gap year narratives in online travel journals or ‘blogs’ of 39 students, both male and female and from differing social classes and backgrounds, throughout their journeys.

4.       Author
Besides being an award winning author, Helene Snee has worked as a sociology professor as well as a research associate to the head of Manchester Business School. Snee earned her PhD in Sociology from the University of Manchester.

5.       Key Terms:
Intersubjectivity: existing between conscious minds; shared by more than one conscious mind
Reflexivity: therefore, comes to mean an act of self-reference where examination or action "bends back on", refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination.
Self-development: the process by which a person's character or abilities are gradually developed

The following two quotes are examples of blog posts by students during their gap year experience:

The realisation that there are so many amazing things you can do has really hit me today. There is absolutely no need at all to be a sightseer. Whether it is teaching, working at a rescue centre or building furniture for Tsunami victims [as (Friend), one of the other GAPpers is], working in a place gives you so much more than just passing through and seeing the sights. Getting to know a place, networking with the Thais – learning the lingo and having fun, is infinitely more rewarding. (page 849)

On the back of our staff shirts it said: “Be the change you want to see in the world” and this summer i’ve realised how true that is I mean, i haven’t done much yet but i know that i’ve affected some kids lives for the better and that’s an amazing feeling. (page 850)

A key part of the successful gap year is the recognition that enjoyment is an intrinsic part of the experience, as long as orientations to doing something worthwhile are also evident. Thus, the gappers who only focus on having fun tell a less successful story than those who strike a balance, aligning with the imperative to be a well-rounded, socially conscious employable person. (page 851)

7.       Value
One criticism that Snee has about gap-year narratives is that they may not be genuine because they tend to be framed by standard scripts. So, the fact that this journal focuses on the true feelings students had in the process of experiencing their gap year will give a great insight towards how students are affected in the midst of the learning experience.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Research Proposal

Else DiGiacopo
Professor Goeller
Research in the Disciplines: College!
March 7th, 2017
Research Proposal Final Draft

Working Title: The Gap Year: A New Norm?
I will be researching the gap year that has recently been gaining popularity and encouragement as an intermediate step for students between high school and college. The paper will explore the many questions that students must ask themselves before making the decision to take a year off or proceed directly to a university, as well as the various aspects affecting students decisions regarding the matter, whether they are financial, social, or emotional matters, and finally the effects that the gap year had on students who participated in it.
Research Question:
Based on recent trends, will students taking a gap year between high school and university become the norm? And what are the major factors affecting the growing popularity of the gap year? Furthermore, does it work?
Theoretical Frame:
The ongoing and ever-changing debate of the “gap year” has gained a lot of attention recently due to Malia Obama’s decision to take a year off with intentions of broadening her horizons. In fact, in an article by Mike McPhate of the New York Times, it is explained that Malia's decision is proving to spark major discussions regarding a year of growth and development between high school and college, and that some educators and universities (including all 8 Ivy League schools included) are strongly endorsing and even have programs dedicated to this process. Likewise, in his book, Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs, Joseph O’Shea sheds light on the various ways in which the gap year can have a global effect with many programs in place to help many people in need. It becomes apparent that while many students are looking for personal clarity during their time off, they may be able to change the world in the meantime, being that many gap year programs are centered around community service and charity work.
It is obvious Malia Obama represents a certain case. It goes without saying that she is a famous public figure who does not need to spend her time worrying about how her financial standing ( as well as many other factors) will affect her decision in taking a gap year. That being said, while her case is a great example as well as spark for discussion, I will be focussing more on students who don’t necessarily “have it as easy”. I have found various case studies that delve into to lives of various students, each one unique in its own way. The first, by Helene Snee, analyzes the travel blogs of 39 gap year students along their journeys. Another, by Melinda Coetzee and Suzanne Bester (of South Africa) is a study regarding 3 students who come from predominantly middle-class families and how their decision to take the gap year was made as well as the affects it had on them. Lastly, a study conducted by Allison J. Spenader investigates how 4 US students who travelled to Sweden as a pre-collegiate year off (with no prior knowledge of the target language) adapt and further learn the language and to what extent of proficiency. As you can see by just these three case studies, the gap year is an extremely elaborate topic with many different ins and outs of which I will try to connect in my final research paper.
I am very interested in this topic, especially being a student who very recently took the big step from high school to college and knowing people who chose to take a gap year, as well as many who did not. I wonder if the long-lasting trend of continuing education directly from high school to college will change, and if taking a gap year will become the new norm.
Case, Additional Questions, and Research Plan:
Like I said previously, I will use the case of Malia Obama as a kickstart, being that her fame has brought much attention to the topic. However, I have become aware that although the gap year is becoming more popular and widely accepted, many still view it with trepidation for various reasons; a main one being that the gap year is for affluent students, those who can afford to delay the start of their college experience. In my research, two resources that I think will be helpful regarding this point are the article "The 'Gap Year’ Not Just for Rich Kids Anymore", and also the AmeriCorps program which places young adults in non-profit agencies around the country, one that many students take advantage of when taking a gap year. In fact, in her article, Rebecca Kern explained how AmeriCorps helped focus the lives of two different gap year students.
I would like to further research the number of students from various social backgrounds and financial standings who have chosen to take the gap year (or perhaps those who have wanted to but could not), and for what reasons as well as what were the main motivations and limitations in the decision making process. The recent increase in popularity of the gap year is drawing much attention to the topic and causing great discussion as well as a change in mass attitude regarding the matter, a change that I hope to fully grasp in my final paper.

Works Cited
Coetzee, Melinda, and Suzanne Bester. “The Possible Value of a Gap Year: A Case Study.”         Sabinet, Higher Education South Africa (HESA), Jan. 2009, journals.co.za/content/high/23/3/EJC37535. Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.
Couric, Katie. “The ‘Gap Year’ Not Just for Rich Kids Anymore.” Global Citizen Year, 23 Sept. 2016. Global Citizen, www.globalcitizenyear.org/press/gap-year-not-just-rich-kids-anymore/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
Kern, Rebecca. “AmeriCorps Helps Focus the Futures of Two Gap Year Students.” USNews.com, U.S. News & World Report L.P., 26 May 2010, www.usnews.com/education/articles/2010/05/26/americorps-helps-focus-the-futures-of-two-gap-year-students. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
McPhate, Mike. “Malia Obama’s ‘Gap Year’ Is Part of a Growing (and Expensive) Trend.” New York Times, 2 May 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/malia-obamas-gap-year-is-part-of-a-growing-and-expensive-trend.html?_r=0. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.
O’Shea, Joseph. Gap Year : How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs. Johns Hopkins UP, 2013. EBSCOhost, site.ebrary.com/lib/rutgers/reader.action?docID=10790488. Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.
Snee, Helene. “Doing Something ‘Worthwhile’: Intersubjectivity and Morality in Gap Year Narratives.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/1467-954X.12116/asset/sore12116.pdf?v=1&t=izxlxcsp&s=7f4de72bdc64da5e4228ed41d161ccaeadca3e62. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.
Spenader, Allison J. “Language Learning and Acculturation: Lessons from High School and Gap-Year Exchange Students.” Wiley Online Library, Foreign Language Annals, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2011.01134.x/epdf. Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.