The balancing act: combining higher level study with work and family life
Keywords : Teacher Training and Education
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This research investigates the strategies employed by part-time postgraduate students to overcome the challenges associated with undertaking study alongside full-time teaching careers and busy family lives. Using purposeful sampling, qualitative data was collected via telephone interviews with participants on two masters’ programmes in the UK, both primarily aimed at school teachers. The findings strongly suggest that students were able to overcome the perceived challenge of balancing the demands placed on their time and energy to achieve a work-life-study balance by developing specific time-management, personal organisation and self-reward strategies. Similarly, a range of support mechanisms, both formal and informal, were utilised or constructed with particular value placed by the study’s participants on the collaborative networks and discussions that they were able to have with fellow students. These collaborative encounters are represented as communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) in this paper. The strategies and mechanisms identified through this research are offered as a heuristic to other students who are invited to consider them as possibilities in navigating their own way through similar, challenging terrain. There are also implications for educators supporting part-time postgraduate learners which, again, are offered for heuristic consideration.