Special Issue "Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Community and Urban Sociology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2018).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Barbara Merrill
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Lifelong Learning, The University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
Interests: child poverty; social policy; economics; early childhood interventions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Community adult education has a long history within the adult education sector, rooted, though not exclusively, in the radical tradition through the work of people such as Paulo Freire, Raymond Williams, Tom Lovett and Jane Thompson. As Freire (1972) reminds us, education is political. As educators we need to be aware, in the feminist sense, that the ‘personal is political’ or as in C. Wright Mills’ (1970) words the ‘public issues of structure’ are reflected in the ‘personal troubles of milieu’. Thus, the core of community adult education is to promote education for social purpose, social justice and social change. As Martin asserts, community adult education is ‘part of a broader democratic process’ (2008: 11). As the word community implies, it is located within a local social and economic context and provides an important learning context for local marginalised groups. Community adult education thus begins with the social reality of people’s lives in the community resulting in what Johnson (1979) terms ‘really useful knowledge’. Learning and living become integrated and in the process challenges issues of social and power inequalities such as class, gender and ethnicity. Community adult education also engages in democratic active citizenship with the aim of enabling adults to become ‘makers and shapers’ rather than ‘users and choosers’ (Cornwall and Gaventa, 2001).

The pedagogical practices of community adult education engenders democratic, participatory and open learning processes breaking down power relationships whereby, as Freire advocates the teacher learns from the learner and the learner learns from the teacher. Often this involves a critical pedagogical approach, based on Freire’s concepts of conscientization and praxis. 

In recent years community adult education, particularly in the UK, has lost its way under as societies have become dominated by neoliberalism and marketization. Yet, in an era of a declining welfare state and economic crisis there is a strong need for community learning and education for collective democratic citizenship. Although written over ten years ago, the words of Finger and Asun (2001) remain relevant today in arguing that adult education from this perspective and practice will help us ‘learn our way out’ of the situation we find ourselves in. Or in the words of Raymond Williams (1961) it offers a crucial ‘resource for a journey of hope’.

Lifelong learning, as Field argues, ‘is the new educational reality’ (2006: 9) changing the way that society views education but there are differing theoretical, policy and practice perspectives about the purpose of lifelong learning and hence its relationship to community adult education. Since the 1990s, lifelong learning has become a prominent policy agenda across Europe largely promoted by the European Union and has grown out of the development to a knowledge society. However, the debate about lifelong learning centres on whether it is economically or socially driven. Those critical of lifelong learning assert that the emphasis is on an economic dimension with the purpose of upskilling people to improve a society’s competiveness and thus a focus on vocational education. The individual is left to take care of their own learning needs. This contrasts with the more collective approach of community adult education. Coffield (1999) takes this further and argues that lifelong learning has become a means of social control while also being viewed as a means for curing society’s ills.

On the other hand lifelong learning has opened up the doors to education for adults in further and higher education particular but also at the community level. Research indicates that participation in learning has social benefits for the individual and community. It can also bring changes to the self, enabling a person to view the world in a more critical and knowledgeable way (Merrill, Kurantowicz and Nizinska, 2014). From this perspective, links can be made between community adult education and lifelong learning; as Connolly (2007) states:

The distinguishing feature of the vision for lifelong learning include: a systematic, cross sector view; a view that accords centrally to the learner and the motivation to learn; and finally recognition of the multiplicity of educational goals, including personal development, personal development, knowledge development, economic, social and cultural objectives. These goals overlap with my vision of adult and community education, though not completely (2007: 113). 

In this Special Issue we invite papers that explore the relationship between community adult education and lifelong learning, including in critical ways. The following are possible areas:

  • Discussions about theoretical perspectives.
  • An examination of pedagogical approaches.
  • The role of the adult educator
  • Issues of inequality, such as class, gender, and ethnicity
  • Impact of community adult education and lifelong learning upon a community

References

Coffield, F (1999) Breaking the consensus: Lifelong learning as social control, British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 25 (4), pp 479-499

Connolly, B (2007) Beyond the Third Way: New Challenges for Critical Adult and Community Education in Connolly, B,. Fleming, T., McCormack, D., & Ryan, A., (eds.) In Radical learning for Liberation 2, Leicester, NIACE

Cornwall, A., & Gaventa, J. (2001) From users and choosers to to makers and shapers: repositioning participation in social policy, IDS Working Paper, No 127, Brighton, Brighton Institute of Development Studies

Field, J (2006) Lifelong Learning and the New Educational Order, Stoke-On-Trent, Trentham Books

Finger, M., & Asun, J., M., (2001) Adult Education at the Crossroads: Learning our way out, Leicester, NIACE/ Zed Books

Freire, P (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth, Penguin

Johnson, R (1979) ‘Really useful knowledge’: Radical education and working class culture, 1790-1848. In Clarke, J., Crichter, C., & Johnson, R., (eds.) Working class culture: Studies in History and theory, London, Hutchinson

Kurantowicz, E., & Nizinska, A., (2014) Equality and improving retention practices for non-traditional students in Poland. In Finnegan, F., Merrill,. B & Thunborg, C., (eds.) Student Voices on Inequalities in European Higher Education: Challenges for theory, policy and practice in a time of change, London, Routledge

Martin, I (2008) Whither Adult Education in the Learning Paradigm?, Keynote Presentation, SCUTREA 38TH Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh

Merrill, B. (2015) Determined to Stay or Determined to Leave? A Tale of Learner Identities, Biographies and Non-traditional Students in Higher Education in Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 40 (3), pp 1859-1871

Williams, R., (1961) The Long Revolution, Harmondsworth, Pelican Books

Wright Mills, C. (1970) The Sociological Imagination, Harmondsworth, Pelican Books

Dr. Barbara Merrill
Guest Editor

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Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
Existence and Resistance: The Social Model of Community Education in Ireland
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(12), 270; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7120270 - 18 Dec 2018
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1253
Abstract
Community education in the Republic of Ireland exists in several forms and in several sites. This article draws on two qualitative research projects in community education to identify the practices of the social model of community education that link them. The context of [...] Read more.
Community education in the Republic of Ireland exists in several forms and in several sites. This article draws on two qualitative research projects in community education to identify the practices of the social model of community education that link them. The context of the research is the impact of policy changes as experienced by the practitioners and providers. The social model can be spoken of in different terms, depending on the practice of the speaker; it can be a process model of curriculum, critical literacy, or feminist emancipatory pedagogy. The article describes different discourses of practice and considers how practitioners could, while differentiating aspects of their practice, find common ground and resist the erosion of adult education for social justice by the state’s drive for vocational education for the labour market. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)
Article
The Rise and Fall of Adult Community Education in Portugal
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 239; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110239 - 15 Nov 2018
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1062
Abstract
In this article, we intend to reflect on community education in Portugal. We analyse the background of the emergence of community education in the aftermath of the revolution of 1974, examine the main reasons that contributed to its dissemination, and identify its characteristics. [...] Read more.
In this article, we intend to reflect on community education in Portugal. We analyse the background of the emergence of community education in the aftermath of the revolution of 1974, examine the main reasons that contributed to its dissemination, and identify its characteristics. We present a case study that illustrates both the rise and the fall of community education. The original investigation was a multiple case study. To gather information, we used non-structured interviews, informal conversations, observation, and document analysis. To continue the original investigation, we used biographical research, which allowed us to obtain more data on some of the key individuals and, at the same time, to improve our knowledge of the communities. Our results show that the period between 1985 and 2005 (roughly) constituted a very important period for community education. National phenomena, European funding programmes, and a notion of adult education that was very close to popular education aided civil society organisations to work with communities with interesting results in terms of social change. After 2005, changes in European social policy, neoliberalism affecting the power of civil society, and a new version of adult education (influenced by lifelong learning) partially caused the fall of community education. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)
Article
Lessons from the South: Research Collaboration as an Educational Practice
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 235; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110235 - 14 Nov 2018
Viewed by 1347
Abstract
Between 1998 and 2011, we coordinated three consecutive research projects in three different provinces of Northern Vietnam. The projects aimed at improving the living conditions of various ethnic minorities in these areas. We focused on poverty alleviation, water management, and nature conservation. In [...] Read more.
Between 1998 and 2011, we coordinated three consecutive research projects in three different provinces of Northern Vietnam. The projects aimed at improving the living conditions of various ethnic minorities in these areas. We focused on poverty alleviation, water management, and nature conservation. In all cases, there was a close collaboration between Vietnamese and Belgian researchers. The participation of the local population was an important ambition in the research. In this paper, we describe the three projects and analyze the relationships among the Belgian and Vietnamese researchers on the one hand, and between the researchers, the authorities, and the local population on the other hand. Furthermore, we examine the opportunities and obstacles to interdisciplinary and intercultural cooperation, with the help of critical theories on participation and decolonization. The three consecutive research projects can be considered as intensive learning processes for the researchers, the local communities, and the authorities. The paper begins with a fragment from the log of one of the participating researchers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)
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Article
Deindustrialisation, Community, and Adult Education: The North East England Experience
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 210; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110210 - 23 Oct 2018
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1792
Abstract
This article argues for the continued importance of adult education in communities, an approach to adult education which has been maligned and ignored in policy that has, instead, incessantly prioritised employability skills training. The significance of adult education in communities is that it [...] Read more.
This article argues for the continued importance of adult education in communities, an approach to adult education which has been maligned and ignored in policy that has, instead, incessantly prioritised employability skills training. The significance of adult education in communities is that it seeks to build the curriculum from the interests, aspirations, and problems that people experience in their everyday lives by providing opportunities for individual and collective change (more below). We draw on data taken from a study by one of the authors, which used a life history approach to explore the outcomes for 14 people from the deindustrialised North East England of participation in either employability skills training or community adult education. We document several themes through these stories: churning, surveillance, precarity, demoralisation, ontological insecurity, and personal renewal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)
Article
Animating ‘The Blank Page’: Exhibitions as Feminist Community Adult Education
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(10), 204; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7100204 - 20 Oct 2018
Viewed by 1039
Abstract
Public museums and art galleries in Canada are highly authoritative, and trusted knowledge and identity mobilising institutions, whose exhibitions are frequently a ‘blank page’ of erasure, silencing, and marginalisation, in terms of women’s histories, experiences, and contributions. Feminist exhibitions are a response to [...] Read more.
Public museums and art galleries in Canada are highly authoritative, and trusted knowledge and identity mobilising institutions, whose exhibitions are frequently a ‘blank page’ of erasure, silencing, and marginalisation, in terms of women’s histories, experiences, and contributions. Feminist exhibitions are a response to this, but few in Canada have been explored as practices of feminist community adult education. I begin to address this gap with an analysis of two feminist exhibitions: In Defiance: Indigenous Women Define Themselves, curated by Mohawk-Iroquois artist, Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde, at the Legacy Gallery, University of Victoria; and Fashion Victims: The Pleasures & Perils of Dress in the 19th Century, curated by Ryerson Professor Alison Matthews David, at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Although dissimilar in form, focus, and era, these exhibitions act as powerful intentional pedagogical processes of disruption and reclamation, using images and storytelling to animate, re-write and reimagine the ‘blank pages’ of particular and particularised histories and identities. Through the centrality of women’s bodies and practices of violence, victimization, and women’s power, these exhibitions encourage the feminist oppositional imagination, dialogic looking, gender consciousness, and a visual literacy of hope and possibility. Yet, as women’s stories become audible through the very representational vehicles and institutional spaces used to silence them, challenges remain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)
Article
Heating Up Online Learning: Insights from a Collaboration Employing Arts Based Research/Pedagogy for an Adult Education, Online, Community Outreach Undergraduate Course
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(7), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7070104 - 25 Jun 2018
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1370
Abstract
This article examines a three-stage collaboration in the design and implementation of a community outreach online course for an adult education program at a Canadian university. The collaboration used a participatory arts-based pedagogy approach that is designed to evoke thought rather than prescribe [...] Read more.
This article examines a three-stage collaboration in the design and implementation of a community outreach online course for an adult education program at a Canadian university. The collaboration used a participatory arts-based pedagogy approach that is designed to evoke thought rather than prescribe meanings. This manuscript has been structured to parallel a script format with Act I reporting how a group of university drama students employed the ‘playbuilding’ research/pedagogical methodology to devise a series of tableaus and video vignettes that examined concepts of community development that would be used in the design of an online community outreach and adult literacy elective course. Act II argues for and provides the devised script as evidence (data) of student learning. Act III discussed how an adult education instructor designed the new course, incorporating the vignettes as a central component and what was observed from delivering the online course over several iterations. Embedded in the discussion were: the processes involved in both instructional environments; and an examination of the impact of the dramatic pedagogical approach in the digital environment, particularly in relation to transformation, meaning making, and community outreach. The insights, however, are not coded in an etic analytical style. Rather, the authors used an emic approach with themes embedded within the narrative structure. Given its collaborative nature, the co-authors employ a polyvocal format through which their individual voices are made explicit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning)
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