Is it the placement that counts? A small scale phenomenological study of ‘gap year’ accounting and finance students

Edden, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8068-7671, 2014. Is it the placement that counts? A small scale phenomenological study of ‘gap year’ accounting and finance students. In: ASET Annual Conference 2014: The Placement and Employability Professionals’ Conference, Northumbria University, City Campus, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2-4 September 2014.

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This research came about through my interest in students’ learning whilst on periods of work experience as part of their four year accountancy and finance undergraduate degree programme. Approximately half of students studying the degree at my own institution opt to undertake a period of formal university approved work experience between the second and final year of the degree (sandwich placement). A small proportion of students who have opted to take the placement route are unsuccessful in securing a university approved placement and return to their final year having engaged in various activities (previously largely unknown to university staff) during this ‘gap year’. As far as I have been able to establish, no previous research has been undertaken on this particular group of students. Importantly, given that a growing body of literature points to the “good news story” of placement (Auburn, 2007:119), are we in danger of attributing an impact to the placement year that may have come about irrespectively of the experience? My research investigates the extent to which the experiences of gap year students compare to those reported in previous research concerned with placement students. Much previous work exploring the impact of the placement has sought to establish quantitative relationships between students who undertake a placement and their subsequent academic performance. This small-scale research project is an anti-positivist, qualitative research inquiry employing elements of the transcendental phenomenological approach originating from Husserl (1859-1938) to uncover the essences of student experiences during their gap year. Rather than seeking to interpret the experiences of the students involved, the research aims to provide a description which accurately portrays how students experience their gap year from their point of view (Denscombe, 2007). Four semi-structured one-to-one interviews were conducted with gap year students, transcribed and analysed in order to understand what these students were engaged in during their gap year and the implications of this for their approach to the final year of their degree. A phenomenological analysis following Moustakas (1994) was adopted and eight themes emerged: an inability to articulate ‘skills’; a sense of growing up/maturing; increased motivation; greater focus and discipline; difficulty associated with the working environment; wanting to get a ‘good’ degree; and development of thinking. Overall the findings indicate that similar improvements to academic practices are found by students who have had a gap year to those previously reported from students who have undertaken a placement.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Edden, R.
Date: 2014
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 15 Feb 2016 15:49
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:59

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