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The role of men’s sheds in adult learning Professor Barry Golding Associate Dean, School of Education & Arts, University of Ballarat,

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Presentation on theme: "The role of men’s sheds in adult learning Professor Barry Golding Associate Dean, School of Education & Arts, University of Ballarat,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The role of men’s sheds in adult learning Professor Barry Golding Associate Dean, School of Education & Arts, University of Ballarat, Patron Australian Men’s Sheds Association, President, Adult Learning Australia Wednesday 3 Oct 2012 Western Australian Men’s Sheds Association Conference Mosman Park Men’s Shed, Mosman Park, Perth, Western Australia

2 Thanks to all participants WAMSA AMSA my university research participants and colleagues 2

3 Men’s sheds in community settings … Golding 2012, p.129 Golding 2012, in Bowl, M., Tobias, R., Leahy, J., Ferguson, G. & Gage, J. (2012) Gender, masculinities and lifelong learning 1. tend not to patronize participants as clients, customers, students or patients 2. do not describe the activity or the participants in the shed (other than being men). They provide places for men to exercise agency over the shed activity as well as their lives. 3. are radical in that they promote holistic learning without the need for teachers, curriculum, teaching & assessment. 4. are safe, health and wellbeing-promoting spaces deliberately inclusive of all men (more about that tomorrow). 3

4 Men’s learning Golding 2012, p.143. is essential to men’s identities in and beyond the labour force, as well as through formal education is neither available, accessible nor appropriate in its current form for many men who are not in paid work. tends to occur by default through some community organisations is most effective for many men where learning intentions are not formalized, with pedagogies (= ways of learning) that build on what men know and can do, where social relationships rather than courses and enrolments are emphasized. 4

5 What do ‘professionals’ see in a shed? A place for: men’s health (health worker) learning (educator) social engagement & connection (community services) counseling about behaviour (psychologist) retiring and ageing (a gerontologist) doing stuff (occupational therapist) men to get out of the house (a sociologist) tackling substance abuse (drug worker) masculinities (gender academic) research (academic) wooing votes (politicians) Men’s lives (and needs) beyond paid work are diverse & do not fit into one, neat, academic box. 5

6 6 What do men learn in sheds? Hands-on skills through practical, productive activity. The positive value of leisure activity & friendships with other men. Importance of health, fitness, relationships, identities as men & emotional well being. Coping with changes associated with unemployment, separation, ageing, disability & retirement. to develop, share & enjoy lives & identities beyond work & home.

7 7 Why do sheds work? They positively accommodate men with an aversion to (dislike of) formal education. They encourage mentoring & sharing of leisure, trade, craft, health & safety skills. They match the specific learning needs of the men that use them & make men ‘feel at home’, valued and valuable. The focus is on the needs of men as equal and joint participants in the activity. They help men productively age.

8 8 Sheds provide opportunities for: active participation & situated, informal learning in communities of (men’s) practice safe, positive, therapeutic & male-positive contexts. a voluntary social & community outlet for diverse, mainly older men beyond paid work. opportunities for sharing & mentoring opportunities for informally learning how to stay well, fit & healthy grassroots involvement for diverse men of all ages at a local level building better communities.

9 9 Men learn new ways to: break social isolation & ‘underfoot syndrome’ regularly share workshop-based, hands-on, trade skills with men & sometimes boys give back to their communities model positive and diverse ways of being a man (particularly beyond work) regularly participate & socialise in community settings with other men learn, that does not involve shame contribute to the community at any age.

10 10 Shed practice informs educators by identifying factors that ‘put men off’ formal learning & keep them unwell & out of work: previous negative experiences of schooling a dislike of formal learning & literacies limited access to education, training & services that match men’s preferred ways of learning limited access to computers & internet age discrimination in employment & training sickness, disability, caring & family roles.

11 11 ‘Shoulder to shoulder’ activity is preferred since it: is enjoyable, hands-on & practical. involves doing tasks, of real & transferable benefit (to individuals, group, family, business or community). is often outside. is about informal mentoring in groups rather than teaching. is in places where men feel ‘at home’ with other men.

12 Wider lessons… When will governments learn the social (& economic) value of grassroots wellbeing through community organisations rather than just measuring the cost? How can other services be transformed in similar way ways that value participants over clients? What role might the Western Australia government play in all this? 12

13 There is a bigger picture view that men’s sheds fit like a glove People of all ages have a right to do and be: that is to develop all of their human capabilities throughout life at any age. 13

14 Capabilities What people are able to do & to be (Sen, 1980) Life ( being able to live to the end of human life, … not dying prematurely …) Bodily health Bodily Integrity Senses, Imagination, Thought Emotions Practical reason Affiliation (belonging) Other species (being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature). Play Control over one’s environment (political, material) Sen, 1980, ‘Equality of what’, in The Tanner lectures on human value, M. Sterling Ed., pp ). 14

15 Sheds are about agency: ‘the capacity of individuals to act independently & to make their own, free choices’. We learn more & best ‘through’ rather than ‘about’. Sheds particularly attract men who sense their agency has been reduced beyond work &/or through age, & who want to be useful & give back. ‘Sheds that men inhabit are of more of their own scale and stand up for and enable personal and local practical engagement, usefulness and resourcefulness. Practical problem solving and resourcefulness translate happily into lots of areas of life. Such small-scale relief can generate a kind of local wellbeing from being useful, belonging and fitting into a place in the physical and social world.’ * * Peter Willis, AJAL p.414,

16 National Men’s Sheds Associations Australian Men’s Shed Association Irish Men’s Sheds Association New Zealand Menz Sheds Association UK Men’s Sheds Association 16

17 Questions Comments 17


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