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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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7 Professional Identities, Subjectivity, and Leaming: Be(com)ing a General Practitioner


7 Professional Identities, Subjectivity, and Leaming: Be( com)ing a General Practitioner Henning Salling Olesen This chapter brings an example of the life history approach to professional identity and professional learning, or more broadly the subjective aspects of professions. The Roskilde Life History Project studies learning across a number of educational and other contexts l . Theoretically we organize our research around subjectivity and the mediations between societal context and subjective processes of learning and identity. The general perspective is to develop critical empirical research into learning, which seems to be of utmost centrality in a ' knowledge society' (Salling Olesen, 2002a; 2004b) . I have chosen to illustrate with examples from just one empirical study because concrete interpretation is the best way to illustrate our approach in the brief format allowed in this book. Kirsten Weber' s article in this book provides another example. The example here i s from a study of professional identity and learning of general practitioners2 • Other studies deal with nurses, engineers, teachers, and similar studies on a number of white-collar special ist workers (Salling Olesen, 200 I a; 200 I b; 2002c; 2003 ; 2004a; Weber & Salling Olesen, 2002, and a number of PhD dissellations publ ished only in Danish). Quite often, especially outside education, the challenge has been to convince readers about the importance of subjective aspects of learning. This can be assumed to be a shared vision in this book. Instead I can concentrate on methodological questions about the interrelation between theorising and concrete interpretation....

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