Tett, Lyn (2019) Adults’ learning: policy, pedagogy, and equity. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis includes and reviews six publications, drawn from the contexts of adult literacy and higher education, and sets them in the context of the learning of adults. There are two underpinning concepts that guide the thesis: that ideas structure the social spaces we inhabit through dominant discourses; that learning is socially negotiated, shaped by social structures and is part of a social process of identity formation. These concepts are followed by two main themes. The first is that conceptualisations of the relationship between policy, pedagogy and equity have a strong impact on learning because the dominant neoliberal discourse shapes the expected outcomes of education through its focus on the economic and this narrows the pedagogic options available to students. This discourse also leads to narrow conceptions of equity that focus on improving individual skills deficits so that people become more employable. However, although this economic focus favours narrow skills-and qualifications-based outcomes, practitioners have been able to resist these limiting outcomes by prioritising participants’ own goals and including the affective dimension of learning. This results in a broad conceptualisation of social justice that prioritises change that leads to redistribution, recognition and democratic decision-making. The second theme is focused on changes in learning identities, which are conceptualised not as differences that are inherent to the individual, but rather as being created in interaction between the individual and their social worlds. This means that, although relationships of power shape what are assumed to be valuable practices, when knowledge and experiences are recognized and students are members of supportive groups then these assumptions can be questioned and changed.

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