Elements of reflexivity in the academic socialization of first-generation students in higher education

Elizabete Caregnato & Sfredo Miorando / Educação e Pesquisa / October 2023


This article analyzes how first-generation higher education students elaborate expectations and action possibilities based on the relation between academic environment and social background. The authors analyze student trajectories to interpret the presence of elements of reflexivity associated to academic socialization. Based on ten in-depth interviews conducted in 2022 with students from a traditional federal university, the authors sought to understand how these students organize their action schemes, making sense of the university experience from their everyday practices. In the situations and standpoints expressed in their statements, the authors identified instrumental, moral, and political approaches which signal meta-pragmatic reflexive procedures. The authors verified that the inequalities experienced by the students in their relationships with classmates and the institution lead to socialization processes permeated by shocks. Individuals’ symbolic work on some of these dislodgments reconfigures perspectives of action in coping with difficulties. Results show that students are mobilized to persist and succeed in university by distinct types of ends: instrumental, to achieve a better life; moral, to fulfil responsibilities with their families; and political, to build up social change. Their dynamics of individuation are therefore produced with the critique of the academic environment from schemes cultivated in the transit among distinct normative environments.