Navigating the uncertain and complex mix of learning, life and work

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

The relationships between people's lives, work and learning are complex and uncertain. In the past, higher educational institutions have focused attention on these interconnections as being factors in student success or failure within formal educational courses, or as part of the economic and social outcomes of course completion. Recent research shows however that people's lives are not as simple or clear cut as this, and that learning takes place across and throughout a diverse ecology of life contexts ranging from learning in everyday life to formal educational institutions. The research reported in this paper utilised semi- structured in-depth interviews with a small sample group from a range of backgrounds to investigate the learning from and within people's everyday lives. This rich data was utilised alongside a ‘patchworked’ theoretical framework to connect and analyse the emerging evidence and key aspects of the existing literature on adult learning. The findings suggest that people's learning is not restricted to education from institutions but also involves a range of learning practices within and across numerous learning sites and life contexts that integrate in unique ways within different people's lives. This means that learning for life and work will have different meanings for different people and can have a range of repercussions. This paper argues that if the Higher Education sector wishes to provide more seamless learning with life and work, they must seek to better understand how formal education interconnects with the lives and wider everyday learning of their current and prospective students.

Keywords integrated learning, learning contexts, everyday learning