Master students' trajectory towards a professional identity

  • Annie Aarup Jensen, Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark

    Lone Krough Kjaer-Rasmussen, Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark

    Higher Education today is characterized by being mass education due to the high proportion of the population of young people attending university and as such the individual student might experience being ’just one-in-the-crowd’. In general the post-modern student (Giddens, 1991; Simonsen and Ulriksen, 1998) is likely to feel the strong impact of indvidualism and self-responsibility for success as well as failure already from an early stage in the educational process. Studies in Danish youth and youth culture have shown that young people as early as in secondary school have a strong feeling that it is their own responsibility to make the right choices in life to secure their happiness and success in all areas, personal as well as professional (Illeris et al 2009). International studies have shown that the students are generally more reflective and self-centered than earlier generations (Antikainen and Kauppila, 2002). This pattern is reflected in the Danish university context where students appear to be ”distinctively self-reflective and self-confronting regarding their life-biography and consequently also in relation to their choice of education.”[1] (Thomsen 2007: 4).

    In a university setting where problem oriented project based group work is the pedagogical model there may be a tension between the individual student’s wishes and career plans (and the implicit understanding of sole individual responsibility for future possibilities) and the group work philosophy. This may in particular be the case at master level in the two-cycle system, since this is where the students start – or are supposed to start - to imagine professional life and consider job options. A further ’complication’ may be seen in master programs with broad admission requirements where students’ bachelor background may point to very different professional fields, such as primary school teacher, nursing, sociology. Creating your own master-identity in these circumstances in two years’ time is experienced to be a daunting task by many students (Dauer Keller and Jensen 2012).

    This paper will present a model for individual student development dialogues as a support for individual students’ professional identity creation in a 2-year master program in Learning and Innovative Changetaking place in an educational culture based on collaboration, critical approaches and self management.Based on empirical data the paper will investigate students’ reflections on and stock taking of their existing knowledge, skills and competencies in their attempts to create their specific professional profile, or master-identity, while integrating their personal life biography. The empirical data consist of 132 written forms prepared by students for their development dialogues in semesters 7 through 9 in the master program and they document some of the struggles the students have been going through. The data cover a period from 2007 to 2010.

    [1] Authors’ translation