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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences Conference Papers and Proceedings
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Authors: Biesta, G J J
Tedder, Michael
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Title: Learning from life in the learning economy: The role of narrative
Editors: Crowther, Jim
Edwards, Vivien
Galloway, Vernon
Shaw, Mae
Tett, Lyn
Citation: Biesta GJJ & Tedder M (2008) Learning from life in the learning economy: The role of narrative, Crowther Jim, Edwards Vivien, Galloway Vernon, Shaw Mae, Tett Lyn (ed.) SCUTREA 2008 38th Annual Conference Whither Adult Education in the, 38th Annual Conference of Scutrea, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK, Edinburgh, UK: Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh in co-operation with The Standing Conference of University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults (SCUTREA), pp. 70-77.
Issue Date: 2008
Conference Name: 38th Annual Conference of Scutrea
Conference Location: University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Abstract: From introduction: The shift from adult education to lifelong learning has not only impacted on the role and position of the adult educator, but has also had a profound effect on the legitimation of the learning of adults. Whereas adult education has historically been connected with learning for personal development and empowerment and learning for social inclusiveness and democratic understanding and activity (see Aspin & Chapman 2001), the rise of the ‘learning paradigm’ (Martin 2006; Biesta 2006a) has been accompanied by an emphasis on learning for economic progress and development. This is not only visible in policy discourse but has also influenced the allocation of public funding for the learning of adults and thus has had a real effect on the kinds of education adults are able to engage in. The rise of the ‘learning paradigm’ can be seen as part of a struggle over the definition of learning: a struggle over what counts as (worthwhile) learning and a struggle over who is allowed to define what (worthwhile) learning is (see Biesta 2006b). In this context an important task for adult education researchers is to highlight the significance of the broad range of learning processes and practices that occur in the lives of adults so as to show that there is more to learning than what is acknowledged in the economic definition of lifelong learning. Doing this has been one of the main ambitions of the Learning Lives project, a 3-year longitudinal study into the learning biographies of about 120 adults of 25 and older (see The research was based upon a series of open-ended interviews in which we invited participants to talk about their lives and the role of learning in it, both retrospectively (using a life-history approach) and in relation to events in their lives over the duration of the project. In this paper we focus on one particular aspect of the learning we encountered in the project, viz., the way in which adults learn from their lives. Our interest in this was prompted by the fact that upon reading and analysing the life-stories of participants we found that in a significant number of cases these stories articulated that participants had reached some kind of insight or understanding about their lives, themselves and their position in the world. The stories evidenced, in other words, that the participants had learned something from their lives. We also found that this learning had had an impact on the ways in which the participants led their lives. We became particularly interested in the role of stories and storying in such learning processes and in possible relationships between the ‘narrative quality’ of life-stories and their potential for learning and action. For our analysis we engaged with literature on narrative in the human and social sciences (Polkinghorne 1988; Bruner 1990; Czarniawska 2004), with the emerging body of work on narrative learning in adult education (Rossiter 1999; Rossiter and Clark 2007), and with research and theory on biographical learning (Alheit 1995; Alheit & Dausien 2002). In this paper we present some of the findings from our analysis and reflect upon their significance for adult learning in the learning economy.
Type: Conference Paper
Status: Post-print (author final draft post-refereeing)
Rights: Authors of papers retain copyright
Affiliation: Education Management and Support
University of Exeter

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