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

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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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1 Introduction: Why this Book, and Why Now?

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Linden West, Peter Alheit, Anders Siig Andersen and Barbara Merrill This book is concerned with the uses of biographical and life history approaches in il luminating processes of adult and lifelong learning, in diverse ways, in diverse settings, across Europe. It draws on a rich body of research, noting, in the process, what has become a major turn, over two decades and more, to biography and life history in the study of adult and lifelong learning. This is part of a much broader trend across the social sciences (Chamberlayne et al . , 2000). The use of biography and life history research in the study of adult and lifelong learning tends to be orientated to two main ends: first, providing material for analysis or documentation of themes related to learning and or education; second, to chronicle and theorise processes of learning in their own right, in the context of learners ' life histories. There is often an overlap and no easy delineation between these two preoccupations. The book is written for researchers in education and social science, as weil as students on PhD or masters programmes . It will help people develop their methodological understanding and appreciation of the powerful contribution that biographical and life history research can make to exploring the complex processes that fall under the label of learning. It will also be of interest to diverse professionals involved in education, training and professional development, in formal as weil as informal settings, such as teachers or guidance, community and youth workers....

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