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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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11 Leaming, Language and Transition

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1 1 Leaming, Language and Transition Agnieszka Bron All immigrants and exiles know the peculiar restlessness of an imagination that can never again havefaith in its own absoluteness. Ewa Hoffinan ( 1 989, p. 275) While talking to adults in different circumstances, and over cultural and national borders, in everyday life encounters, in teaching and researching, I have often heard statements dealing emotionally and cognitively with the issues of cultural changes involving language, class and gen der. The awareness of belonging to a certain social strata, national group or gender, and the problems one faces while coping with one ' s identity is often stated and commented upon in the stories people tel l . One interesting example comes from interviews my Japanese graduate student conducted with mature students at Stockholm University who achieved access to university through the Folk High School qualification l . She bel ieved that Swedish society was classless and equal so it struck her when the students mentioned their own social class affiliation. It needs to be stated at the outset that while class and gen der form integral aspects of this article I am primarily concerned here with the use of language in these settings. We also hear stories about commuting between cultures, i .e. between an original culture and the newly acquired one. This awareness often comes through biographical learning, as in the case of my students who were trained to become folk high school teachers, and who through telling and analysing their life histories discovered...

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