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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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9 Developing an Auto/biographical Imagination


Nod Miller This chapter is about the theoretical and methodological approach to research in adult education and l ifelong learning on which I have been working over the last twenty years, in collaboration and conversation with colleagues across a wide range of disciplines. When I was asked to contribute a chapter to this book on the topic of "an autolbiographical imagination", I struggled to find a clear focus and a way into this text. Although I know I have sometimes used this term in the context of describing my preferred orientation towards l ife history and biographical research, I have mostly avoiding defining it with any precision. For the time being, I shall define an autolbiographical imagination as a set of ideas, skiIls, metaphors and multi-disciplinary perspectives focused on making sense of personal, social and psychological experience through narrative life history. I have used the present continuous verb ' developing' in my title in order to indicate that my intellectual, personal and professional journey is incomplete. To the extent that I see the attainment of an auto/biographical imagination as the object of a l ifelong learning quest, that quest is far from finished, and I am not entirely sure what it will feel like when I reach a conclusion. I am working on my auto/biographical imagination as I create this text, weaving together strands of theory and practice, stories of my past and present selves, and perspectives drawn from a variety of academic disciplines. I describe and analyse what I...

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