oa South African Journal of Higher Education - Resourcefulness matters : student patterns for coping with structural and academic challenges

Volume 33 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



There is general agreement that there are many structural constraints beyond students’ control which influence the degree of success that students can attain as they learn to participate in academic practice. Less understood are the patterns of students’ experiences of the socio-economic environment of their schooling and university, their views of the enabling and constraining conditions of learning and their perceptions of their agency in overcoming these conditions. The data for our study were collected through a questionnaire survey of 591 Bachelor of Education students across three years of the degree at a South African University. To examine students’ strategies for coping with the challenges and adversities they encountered at school and at university (the object and mode of their engagement), the study expounds on the idea of “resourcefulness” (Dison 2009; Cottrell 2001) as students articulate their experiences of learning. Patterns of student resourcefulness and levels of articulation emerging from this study present a way for lecturers to understand students as social beings who bring with them a range of strategies which shape their engagement with material, social, academic and affective challenges.

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