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Time and generation in the life histories of adult learners Birkbeck Institute for Lifelong Learning 13 May 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "Time and generation in the life histories of adult learners Birkbeck Institute for Lifelong Learning 13 May 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 Time and generation in the life histories of adult learners Birkbeck Institute for Lifelong Learning 13 May 2005

2 Learning Lives - key questions What is the place of learning in different phases of peoples lives? How does identity influence learning, and vice versa? Do people have to be more agentic in order to learn?

3 Learning Lives - methods Emphasis on learning as an active construction of meaning Qualitative mixed methods (life history, life course) Quantitative (use of BHPS)

4 This paper - key issues Problematising the concept of age Seeing how age relates to identity Seeing how age relates to agency Considering how all this influences learning (and vice versa)

5 Approaches to age and time Chronological age/time Social time, with markers, rituals, continuities and discontinuities of lived (remembered) experience Historical time (especially longue durée)

6 The importance of generations Inherited definitions – common sense language Inherited definitions – Mannheim and the sociological tradition Recent empirical work (Kohli, Antikainen, Gaskell)

7 Generations and issues of method Is our jargon familiar to all generations and understood similarly by them? Are the underlying concepts accepted and understood by them? Are there changing folk wisdoms about learning which lead to significant generational differences?

8 Antikainen et al a group of people born during the same time period and who are united by similar life experiences and a temporarily coherent cultural background Antikainen et all 1996, p. 34

9 Antikainens four cohorts 1.Cohort with little generation (born up to 1935) 2.Cohort of educational growth and inequality (1936-45) 3.Cohort of educational growth and welfare (1946-65) 4.Young people (born 1966 on) Each cohort shares common views of its own educational futures and each gives a different meaning to education (Antikainen et al 1996, 36-7, 51)

10 Antikainens four cohorts Excessive focus on formal education (though attitudes to informal learning are considered) Definition by a negative The fourth category is not analysed further

11 A Learning Life - Jeannie Glaswegian, mid-thirties, languages degree, call centre manager Father – schoolteacher from the Highlands Mother – book publisher, Irish Catholic A member of Cohort 3!

12 A Learning Life - Andy West of Scotland, mid-70s, National Service, craft-trained bricklayer, labour movement background Father – unskilled labourer Mother – barely mentioned A member of Cohort 1!

13 A Learning Life - Sue Glaswegian, 27, Ordinary Grades, personnel officer Mother – young single parent, studying at night, like a sister Grandmother – very significant influence (and like a mother) A member of Cohort 4!

14 A Learning Life - Jeannie University was the normal biographical choice: All the way through to primary and to secondary again fairly uneventful, very studious and very well behaved… Did six years at [secondary] school and my sixth year I treated kind of a little bit of a holiday

15 A Learning Life - Jeannie Mobility and flexibility and choice (sometimes deferred): Once I graduated I just kind of bummed about for two years. I couldnt really find anything that I wanted to do. I had a job in a shop at that point and then eventually round about twenty- five I started working for telephone banking

16 A Learning Life - Jeannie Main experiences quoted: giving feedback to others, moving between jobs Main values discussed: working with people, curiosity, handing on skills

17 A Learning Life - Jeannie Civic engagement: taken on May Day rallies as child, student politics, active supporter of Labour until Iraq Main markers discussed: Thatcher, university, Labour Party family background

18 A Learning Life - Jeannie May Day was an event we would go and … cause theres always been that element of, this is just what you do, this is how youre brought up You would go and you would sit in the middle of the road during the demonstration [at uni] and again it was just that it was there and you did it because thats the way you were brought up

19 A Learning Life - Andy Trade training under family pressure was a normal biography: I come in and he said, when I left the school, and he says Have you been and seen aboot a job, I says Ay, Im starting on Monday, he said Where?, I said At [name] Pit, he said No yer no, yere getting a trade, he says.

20 A Learning Life - Andy Experience is highly valued: All the education I got, I suppose, I think I got more education after I left the school than I ever did when I was at the school even though I wisnae a bad student but I wisnae the best by a long shot.

21 A Learning Life - Andy Main experiences quoted: book-loving father, army service, apprenticeship, labour movement activity, cheap flights Main values: independence, physical strength, embodied skill, solidarity and watching out for others, doing the right thing

22 A Learning Life - Andy Civic engagement identified: senior lay office in Labour Party, lay union officer Main markers discussed: apprenticeship, military service, marriage, different workplace roles, the grip

23 A Learning Life - Sue Work was the normal biographical choice, and left school after prelims: I sat my mother down and said that I really wanted to leave school and she said no and I said yes and what she agreed with me was that if I found a job I could leave school at Christmas... It was my choice, that was what I wanted to do.

24 A Learning Life - Sue Life is an open sequence of changes and challenges: I could have gone to uni and studied and probably never have ended up with the experience and the – just, just the life experience that it gave me and Some of it (uni course) was very interesting, some of it I found a complete waste of time because sometimes youre standing in front of a lecturer whos been in HR ten years ago and youre, like your theorys great but that doesnt work in an office environment.

25 A Learning Life - Sue Main experiences cited: – family (mothers help and example, grandmothers illness and death, boyfriend troubles – smelly boy), work (secretary in tea company, visits Sri Lanka, IT company, games software company - mothering the boys, time out in the USA, call centre work, supervisor, HR officer), travel (Sri Lanka, time out in USA, UK-wide role) and networks. Also started PG Dip at Paisley, planning PG Dip at Glasgow Caledonian Main values identified: family, problem-solving, expertise, taking responsibility, sociability, facing and enjoying the new

26 A Learning Life - Sue Civic engagement identified: none Main markers discussed: primary to secondary, leaving school, changing jobs, old-fashioned gentlemen and computer nerds, grandmothers death

27 A Learning Life - Sue I think Im as settled as you ever get here because every time you sit down something else happens Im looking forward to going and doing the postgraduate diploma – really looking forward to it …Ive missed uni, I have missed it, I havent missed it, oh God Ive got to go to Unit tonight and Ive had a busy day at work, but I have missed, I have definitely missed the learning part of it and the social part of it as well, actually its quite – I dont know, its quite a social environment

28 Reflecting on generation Generation matters and both senses are openly discussed without prompting Generation affects self-identities and helps shape orientations to learning People also use generation and time actively to stress belonging and to differentiate themselves and others Generation intermeshes with a range of other factors, including (more or less localised) opportunity structures

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