Students' experiences of academic play within transitional space in higher education

Mackenzie, Helen Elizabeth (2011) Students' experiences of academic play within transitional space in higher education. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (21MB) | Preview


This thesis argues that Donald Winnicott's theory of transitional space and play casts new light upon the ontological dimensions of students' experiences of transition within Higher Education. Winnicott enables the illumination of the different ways that students might react, cope and personally develop when faced with similarity, difference and change, demonstrating this can have powerful influences upon the facilitation and hindrance of individuals’ transitions.

The qualitative case study, conducted at a Russell Group University, involves an in depth exploration of eight second-year undergraduate Biological Science students' transitional journeys during their study of one module. The students' study included designing their own experiments, working with others, presenting orally, analysing their data and individually writing a scientific report, as part of a creative group project. I argue throughout this thesis that this module invited learners to engage in adult, transitional academic play spaces. Here, learners had the freedom to risk putting him or herself into relation with sameness, uncertainty, difficulty, challenge and change.

The study reports that the potential and enjoyment of transition, as Winnicott proposed, might be only fully realised when the conditions are 'good enough' in the mind of the learner. This involves achieving a delicate balance between firstly, the provision of a teaching and learning environment that provides the freedom and opportunities to engage with transition and secondly, the capacities of students to engage with change which might include, toughness, resilience and a will to learn. In the light of the empirical findings it is argued that students' transitional journeys are both idiosyncratic and complex and students emerge in different ways. It is found that at this stage in their degree study all students required the sensitive support of teaching staff in order to have the confidence to engage within transitional space.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: McLean, M.
Murphy, R.J.L.
Keywords: Undergraduates, learning, philosophy, learning, psychology of
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 13449
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2013 08:23
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2016 13:42

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View