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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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8 Life History and Leaming in Working Life


Anders Siig Andersen and Rebecca Savery Trojaborg Introduction In re cent years, political parties, employer organisations and trade unions have come to agree on seeing leaming - within public as weil as private organisations - as an important key to growth in social wealth and welfare. The diagnosis of current times as a ' knowledge society' and the proposed treatment ' l ifelong leaming' has achieved hegemonic status in societies with a high material standard of living. This fundamental consensus around diagnosis and treatment has produced an increase in requests for knowledge of leaming in working life. Concurrently with the political development, there has been an increase in an orientation towards leaming at work amongst researchers that have traditionally been occupied with other research domains. This is the case in relation to, for instance, research into organisation and management (Senge, 1 994; van Hauen, 1 995), organisational culture (Alvesson, 1 993; 2002; Schein, 1 986) and social psychology (Volmerg et al . , 1 986). In terms of research on education and leaming, a similar deve\opment has taken place. The focus on formalised education has extended to include leaming and development of competences in work and in other contexts of daily life (Olesen, 1 999). The aim of this article is to provide a contribution from educational and leaming research to the theoretical and methodological development of this relatively new area of research by including a life history dimension in the analytic work. The present article is based on case studies...

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