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Whose knowledge? Learners' perceptions of progression from community based adult learning in Scotland

McIntyre, J. (2009) Whose knowledge? Learners' perceptions of progression from community based adult learning in Scotland. In: ESREA Life History and Biographical Research Network, 2009-03-12 - 2009-03-15.

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Abstract

This paper explores the contrasting types of knowledge that are expressed in policy and by learners in connection with progression from community based adult learning (cbal) in Scotland. The Scottish Government supports cbal and acknowledges the importance of a 'range of progression pathways' for learners (Scottish Government, 2007, p. 24). However lifelong learning policy in Scotland emphasises progression to more formal types of learning or enhanced employment opportunities (Scottish Government, 2007). The aim of the research described in this paper was to explore the meaning of progression from the point of view of participants. In order to ensure that learners' voices were heard in debates about the purpose of informal learning, it was the participants' own perceptions of progression which were important in this study. Life history interviews were carried out with ten adults who had participated in cbal in the recent past. The life history approach was chosen for three reasons. Firstly this approach ensures that the context in which learning takes place is taken into account. It puts participants' 'experiences of adult education programs in the context of their everyday lives' (Bingman and Ebert, 2000, p. 7). Secondly it allowed the participants' views to remain at the heart of the research. Finally it acknowledges the differences in the participants' experiences of progression (Polkinghorne, 1995). Narratives were created jointly by the researcher and the participants to allow participants' views to be reflected in the stories. This study suggests that cbal has an important role in supporting learners' progression. However diverse definitions of progression were highlighted by the participants' narratives. For the participants in this study progression was linked to their personal circumstances. The paper discusses participants' perceptions of progression and contrasts these with the expressions of progression found in policy. In the paper commonalities and differences between learners' views and those found in policy are highlighted, and implications for practice are explored.