Colley, Helen, James, David, Diment, Kim and Tedder, Michael (2003) Learning as becoming in vocational education and training: class, gender and the role of vocational habitus. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 55 (4). pp. 471-498. ISSN 1363-6820

Official accounts of learning in vocational education and training emphasise the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge to foster behavioural competence in the workplace. However, such accounts fail to acknowledge the relationship between learning and identity. Drawing on detailed case studies of three vocational courses – in childcare, healthcare and engineering – in English further education colleges, within the project Transforming Learning Cultures in Further Education, it is argued that learning is a process of becoming. Learning cultures and the vocational cultures in which they are steeped transform those who enter them. The authors develop the concept of ‘vocational habitus’ to explain a central aspect of students' experience, as they have to orient to a particular set of dispositions – both idealised and realised. Predispositions related to gender, family background and specific locations within the working class are necessary, but not sufficient for effective learning. Vocational habitus reinforces and develops these in line with demands of the workplace, although it may reproduce social inequalities at the same time. Vocational habitus involves developing not only a ‘sense’ of how to be, but also ‘sensibility’: requisite feelings and morals, and the capacity for emotional labour.

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