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Using Biographical and Life History Approaches in the Study of Adult and Lifelong Learning: European Perspectives


Edited By Linden West, Peter Alheit, Anders Siig Anderson and Barbara Merrill

This book illuminates the rich and creative uses of biographical and life history approaches in studying adult and lifelong learning, in diverse ways and settings, across many European countries. It draws on the work of internationally known scholars – under the auspices of the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) – and encompasses learning in the workplace, in families, communities, schools, colleges and universities, as well as in the professions, and in managing processes of migration and building new social movements. The reader will discover, in these pages, a compelling chronicle of the interplay of learning across people’s lives – formal, informal and intimate – and how to make sense of this, using interdisciplinary perspectives. The book will speak to researchers – new and experienced – and educators and other professionals wanting to extend their understanding of learners and learning as well as the potential of this ‘family’ of research methods.


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This publication is the second in a series of edited volumes resulting from conferences and seminars organized by the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA). Two of the themes introduced in Volume I - 'identities' and ' Ieaming' - surface again here in a variety offorrns (see Karseras et al . , 2005) . The 3rd theme 'citizenship' is also present in certain chapters in this Volume but the focus is more deliberately on research and the use and potential of biographical and life history approaches in ' the study' of adult and Iifelong leaming. A broad disciplinary range informs both volumes, in keeping with ESREA's aspirations, while there is a significant endeavour to explore and map the borderlands of relevance between the disciplines. Critical theory, psychoanalysis, postmodernism, gender studies, phenomenological, hermeneutic, existentialist, narrative and post-positivist perspectives - these and more are brought to bear at interdisciplinary interstices relevant to adult leaming. Moreover, biographies, in their complexity, tend to challenge, confound even, conventional academic boundaries. The impact of individual nations ' socio-culture, history and economics on research cultures, methodological approaches, inc1uding processes of data collection and their interpretation, are better understood as a result of the work of the ESREA Biography and Life History network. Volume 2 offers a significant body of writing across language barriers and cultural difference, creating a basis for deepening conversations and research collaboration. As the intel lectual traditions and influences of different European countries engage, so the community of shared understanding has grown, even...

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