According to european recommendations and european educational policies, universities should be able to promote and support lifelong learning. On the other hand universities are in many cases structured around an idea of a “typical” student. Students with unusual learning careers are often “fish out of water” with experiences, expectations, identity needs that appear not to fit the usual institutional expectations. Adult students who decided to re-enter higher education after (or during) a work period or students who changed faculties can be considered in a negative light as a mere social cost and/or a difficult category to deal with; changes are viewed as “errors” and workers are simply “non attending students”. In line with international literature, there is some evidence that these students have a higher risk of non-completion due to different kinds of difficulties related to their "a-typicality" (Alheit & Merrill, 2004; Longden, 2006). The challenge is to integrate identities that are not only different, but experienced as opposite (student vs. worker, or adult, or parent...); the social feedback (generally negative) to the learning choice; the way they dealt with previous experiences in education and in higher education. My contribution presents some conceptual reflections about auto/biographical work (Merrill & West, 2009) addressed to non-traditional students in the university I belong. A pilot project funded by the EU Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme, was the starting point in building a framework for my own research. The aim was to promote the inclusion of adults at risk of social and institutional marginalization through biographical work. I started to develop my own PhD research by analysing the narrative materials produced during the workshops, searching for some ideas that could help me formulate my research questions. Then I started a co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996) with a team of “researcher/students” that previously experienced the biographical workshops. The co-operative inquiry interrogated the learning experiences of the participants and resulted in a project addressed to the institution. This project is structured around the concept of “learning identity” connected with the constraints and the opportunities of the university environment. The research epistemological background is composed by systemic approach (Bateson, 1972; Varela, 1991; von Foerster, 1981), social constructionism (Gergen, 1999) and theory of complexity (Morin, 1995). I used qualitative methods to interrogate the relationship between students and university: biographical methods (Merrill & West 2009) and co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996). Sociological studies helped me to entail some reflections on narrative materials; in particular I used the ideas of social capital, habitus (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1970; Bourdieu, 1988; Field 2005) and imagined social capital (Quinn 2005). Finally my research required an approach to analyse language and concepts. I drew on different disciplines with a common constructivist approach and an embodied and enacted view of knowledge: the studies of Francisco Varela (1996) and Lakoff and Johnson (1980).

Galimberti, A. (2014). University and Lifelong Learning. A research on "non traditional stories" and learning identities. In B. Käpplinger, N. Lichte, E. Haberzeth, C. Kulmus (a cura di), Changing Configurations of Adult Education in Transitional Times. Conference Proceedings 7th European Conference, 4-7 September 2013, Humboldt-Universitat, Berlin (pp. 44-62). Humboldt-Universitat, Berlin & ESREA European Society for Research on the Education of Adults.

University and Lifelong Learning. A research on "non traditional stories" and learning identities

GALIMBERTI, ANDREA
2014

Abstract

According to european recommendations and european educational policies, universities should be able to promote and support lifelong learning. On the other hand universities are in many cases structured around an idea of a “typical” student. Students with unusual learning careers are often “fish out of water” with experiences, expectations, identity needs that appear not to fit the usual institutional expectations. Adult students who decided to re-enter higher education after (or during) a work period or students who changed faculties can be considered in a negative light as a mere social cost and/or a difficult category to deal with; changes are viewed as “errors” and workers are simply “non attending students”. In line with international literature, there is some evidence that these students have a higher risk of non-completion due to different kinds of difficulties related to their "a-typicality" (Alheit & Merrill, 2004; Longden, 2006). The challenge is to integrate identities that are not only different, but experienced as opposite (student vs. worker, or adult, or parent...); the social feedback (generally negative) to the learning choice; the way they dealt with previous experiences in education and in higher education. My contribution presents some conceptual reflections about auto/biographical work (Merrill & West, 2009) addressed to non-traditional students in the university I belong. A pilot project funded by the EU Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme, was the starting point in building a framework for my own research. The aim was to promote the inclusion of adults at risk of social and institutional marginalization through biographical work. I started to develop my own PhD research by analysing the narrative materials produced during the workshops, searching for some ideas that could help me formulate my research questions. Then I started a co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996) with a team of “researcher/students” that previously experienced the biographical workshops. The co-operative inquiry interrogated the learning experiences of the participants and resulted in a project addressed to the institution. This project is structured around the concept of “learning identity” connected with the constraints and the opportunities of the university environment. The research epistemological background is composed by systemic approach (Bateson, 1972; Varela, 1991; von Foerster, 1981), social constructionism (Gergen, 1999) and theory of complexity (Morin, 1995). I used qualitative methods to interrogate the relationship between students and university: biographical methods (Merrill & West 2009) and co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996). Sociological studies helped me to entail some reflections on narrative materials; in particular I used the ideas of social capital, habitus (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1970; Bourdieu, 1988; Field 2005) and imagined social capital (Quinn 2005). Finally my research required an approach to analyse language and concepts. I drew on different disciplines with a common constructivist approach and an embodied and enacted view of knowledge: the studies of Francisco Varela (1996) and Lakoff and Johnson (1980).
Capitolo o saggio
Lifelong learning, Knowledge Economy, Adult Education,University, Non Traditional Students, Biographical Methods, Co-operative Inquiry
English
Changing Configurations of Adult Education in Transitional Times. Conference Proceedings 7th European Conference, 4-7 September 2013, Humboldt-Universitat, Berlin
978-3-86004-297-7
Galimberti, A. (2014). University and Lifelong Learning. A research on "non traditional stories" and learning identities. In B. Käpplinger, N. Lichte, E. Haberzeth, C. Kulmus (a cura di), Changing Configurations of Adult Education in Transitional Times. Conference Proceedings 7th European Conference, 4-7 September 2013, Humboldt-Universitat, Berlin (pp. 44-62). Humboldt-Universitat, Berlin & ESREA European Society for Research on the Education of Adults.
Galimberti, A
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10281/84852
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