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
12 An Auto/biographical Imagination: The Radical Challenge of Families and their Leaming
1 2 An Auto/biographical Imagination: The Radical Challenge of Families and their Leaming Linden West Introduction In this chapter I focus on the place and nature of leaming, in a lifewide as weIl as l ifelong sense, in the context of groups of parents (as weIl as staft) involved in parenting and family support programmes in marginalized communities in the United Kingdom. I draw on in-depth, ' auto/biographical ' research among a diverse group of parents (as weIl as educators and other professionals) in a range of projects. The research sought to chronicle, i lluminate and theorise the impact and meaning of programmes, and struggles for agency, through parents ' eyes, in the context of whole lives and life histories; rather than, as is more often the case, primarily from the perspectives of Govemment, policy makers and or the managers of programmes. The programmes sought, at least in their rhetoric, to provide sustained support and a range of new leaming opportunities for vulnerable families. The research, over time, generated rich, complex data on the biographical impact and meaning of particular forms of intervention and leaming - formal, informal and intimate - in specific lives. My basic argument is that parenting and similar programmes, despite conflicting agendas, can provide some sustenance and support for hard-pressed parents, especially mothers (see Schuller et al . , this volume), as weIl as, more surprisingly, perhaps, given certain preconditions, what we might call ' transactional ' space for parents to talk back to power. In fact, programmes...
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