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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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14 Mixing Methods to Measure Leaming Benefits

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1 4 Mixing Methods to Measure Leaming Benefits Tom Schuller, lohn Preston and Cathie Hammond Introduction In this chapter we give an account of research on the benefits of leaming, drawn from two phases of work (stage l and 2) within the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Leaming (www.leamingbenefits.net) . The aims of the chapter are: • to show how we approached our fieldwork, and to reflect on our efforts in that phase to integrate the interview data with longitudinal survey data • to present some findings from that work, although the main focus of the chapter is methodological (for a full account of the results, see Schuller et al . 2004) • to describe how we have built on the process of data integration in the current phase of the Centre's programme. We want to argue strongly for the advantages of a mixed methods approach to research and data collection as an essential complement to the much more widely accepted cross-disciplinary collaboration. Biographical research has its own intrinsic merits but we believe these are enormously enhanced the more it can be integrated into and set against other forms of research. This offers significant challenges to the research community - to its methodological and organisational capacity and also to some prevai ling epistemological attitudes. In thi s paper We outline two broad ' stages' of mixed-method research. Stage I (200 1 -2003), which involved a large scale, scoping, qualitative research project contextual ised by analysis of quantitative data; and stage 2 (2003-2004)...

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