Work-life balance and well-being in a group of women adult learners in Higher Education

Smith, Joanne ORCID: 0000-0002-7602-563X (2018) Work-life balance and well-being in a group of women adult learners in Higher Education. PhD thesis, University of Bolton.

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Joanne Smith Thesis Amended Final Version 24.pdf

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This thesis explores women’s experiences of undertaking Higher Education (HE) study through a Foundation degree in Early Years, considering how they navigate and experience work-life balance and well-being. The overall aim is to explore the women’s experiences of managing work life balance (WLB) and well-being when HE study is added to the existing commitments of employment and family, forming a trio of spheres of commitment. Drawing on social constructionism and feminist approaches, the study uses the qualitative methods of interviews, and a focus group, to consider subjective, personal experience and perception. The women involved represent a convenience sample of students on the Early Years Foundation Degree at a University in North West England. The main themes identified from a thematic analysis of findings are: (1) WLB tension created by the trio of spheres of commitment (2) Adaptation (3) Motivation. As the women engaged in HE study, while continuing with other commitments, they experienced some disequilibrium in WLB which impacted on their well-being. The women underwent a transformative process, with their initial academic inexperience and lack of belonging in HE being replaced by feelings of confidence and a new student identity. The women’s transformation was made possible through personal adaptations, based upon diverse strategies, and fuelled by their motivation. One part of the strategy involved overlapping commitment spheres, as HE study took place in the home space. While this was challenging to manage initially, it contributed to an important cultural shift as HE study became a norm for the household, creating the ‘learning family’. The findings of the study provide useful contributions to knowledge and practice with increased understanding of the complexity of WLB for HE students, outside of the dualistic framework of work and family. Greater insight was gained into the complex experiences of working class women entering HE, which created a cultural capital within households through academic role modelling and the development of the ‘learning family’. Further knowledge gain was related to the role of motivation and use of creative solutions, in the development of resilience and bolstered well-being. Greater collaboration and understanding between Universities and employers is required to enhance support for widening participation learners and aid their transition into learning by establishing joint responsibility for learner well-being.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: This is an amended electronic version of the thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of University of Bolton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Appendix 3 Ethics has been removed from this version due to privacy issues.
Divisions: University of Bolton Theses > Health and Well Being
Depositing User: Tracey Gill
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2018 09:58
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2019 08:50

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