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A Longitudinal study of Swedish learners’ educational interests and how these contrast to learners in U3A: the role of “symbolic resources”, teacher expectations and reflexivity

O'Dowd, Mina LU (2006) ECER
Abstract
Description of the paper – e.g. topic, research question, objective, purpose, value, conceptual or theoretical framework, state of the art:

Adult learning is a subject of ever growing interest, as the population of persons 65 and older grows in industrialised countries. By 2010 the number of retired persons in the European Union will be almost twice as large as in 1995 (Ilmarinen & Costa, 2000). Increasing longevity, better health care and medical services, early retirement or forced retirement through redundancy and retrenchment are among the reasons cited for the increasing numbers of persons 50 years of age and older, who have reached what is called “mature age”, “the third age”, “the second adulthood” and “mature... (More)
Description of the paper – e.g. topic, research question, objective, purpose, value, conceptual or theoretical framework, state of the art:

Adult learning is a subject of ever growing interest, as the population of persons 65 and older grows in industrialised countries. By 2010 the number of retired persons in the European Union will be almost twice as large as in 1995 (Ilmarinen & Costa, 2000). Increasing longevity, better health care and medical services, early retirement or forced retirement through redundancy and retrenchment are among the reasons cited for the increasing numbers of persons 50 years of age and older, who have reached what is called “mature age”, “the third age”, “the second adulthood” and “mature adulthood” (Giddens, 1998; Illeris, 1999). Many of these individuals can look forward to as many as 30 or more years of mature adulthood. From a learning perspective, mature adulthood encompasses the years after retirement until ageing processes constitute a hinder for learning (ibid).

Whether or not education systems, educationalists and educational research will be able to provide for and/or understand the learning needs of the growing numbers of persons who have reached mature adulthood or will shortly do so, may arguably depend upon the extent to which a re-conceptualisation of adult learning is undertaken.

Illeris’ learning theory and Melluci’s theory constitute the theoretical framework.

Methodology or methods/research instruments or sources used:

The aim of this paper is to describe what makes people want ”to learn to learn” and keep on learning in mature adulthood, against the background of the Malmö Longitudinal Study. Utilising data on individuals who have reached retirement age and who have expressed a desire to take university courses after retirement, this group of individuals will be described. Firstly, however, the Malmö Longitudinal Study will be briefly described, followed by a short description of Malmö in 1920-1930s. Secondly, the paper will focus on learning in mature adulthood, especially learning within the context of the University of the Third Age (U3A).. Thirdly, quantitative and qualitative data from the Malmö Longitudinal Study will be presented as regards this group of individuals. Finally, a discussion will be undertaken, followed by the conclusion.

Conclusions or expected outcomes or findings:

This paper has attempted to describe what makes people want “to learn to learn” and keep on learning, even after retirement. The results can be interpreted to show that schooling and working life conditions, among other factors, play a significant role in individuals’ capacity “to learn to learn”. As this article has demonstrated, longitudinal data can provide insight, although their usefulness is unfortunately restricted by the often exclusive use of quantitative data collection and analysis methods, which provide little or no space for respondents’ voice.

In this article the voice of a group of persons, who grew up when the Swedish welfare state first came into being and have retired when the welfare state---for all intents and purposes-- is dismantled, has a central role. Despite the hardships that characterised their childhood, and problems they face in mature adulthood---personal tragedies, financial problems and illness---these individuals appear even after retirement to be social actors who make use of their options and continue to construct their own identities. In this work they make use of their “symbolic resources”. Among the resources these people appear to have in common are self-esteem and reflexivity. Arguably a sense of solidarity, and the benefits of strong working-class organizations and long-standing egalitarian policies can also be considered to comprise resources for this population. Unfortunately, the latter resources are not available for individuals in contemporary Sweden to the same extent that they have been for this population.

Although the focus of this article is older adult learners who have expressed an interest in university courses, the extent to which the remaining population as a whole has indicated an interest in education after retirement would seem to indicate that these individuals as a group grew up in a culture of learning that had significant impact on their lives and their interest in education. The role that teachers had in forming pupils’ futures--for better or for worse---provides food for thought: the characteristics of the individuals in Malmö Longitudinal Study raise important questions regarding the role of education for health and well-being, as well as the association between learning and longevity. (Less)
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ECER
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yes
id
4b2df4f7-7b78-4aee-ab39-cd3007da8f25 (old id 620181)
date added to LUP
2008-02-26 12:04:54
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2016-04-16 11:53:48
@misc{4b2df4f7-7b78-4aee-ab39-cd3007da8f25,
  abstract     = {Description of the paper – e.g. topic, research question, objective, purpose, value, conceptual or theoretical framework, state of the art:<br/><br>
Adult learning is a subject of ever growing interest, as the population of persons 65 and older grows in industrialised countries. By 2010 the number of retired persons in the European Union will be almost twice as large as in 1995 (Ilmarinen &amp; Costa, 2000). Increasing longevity, better health care and medical services, early retirement or forced retirement through redundancy and retrenchment are among the reasons cited for the increasing numbers of persons 50 years of age and older, who have reached what is called “mature age”, “the third age”, “the second adulthood” and “mature adulthood” (Giddens, 1998; Illeris, 1999). Many of these individuals can look forward to as many as 30 or more years of mature adulthood. From a learning perspective, mature adulthood encompasses the years after retirement until ageing processes constitute a hinder for learning (ibid). <br/><br>
Whether or not education systems, educationalists and educational research will be able to provide for and/or understand the learning needs of the growing numbers of persons who have reached mature adulthood or will shortly do so, may arguably depend upon the extent to which a re-conceptualisation of adult learning is undertaken. <br/><br>
Illeris’ learning theory and Melluci’s theory constitute the theoretical framework.<br/><br>
Methodology or methods/research instruments or sources used:<br/><br>
The aim of this paper is to describe what makes people want ”to learn to learn” and keep on learning in mature adulthood, against the background of the Malmö Longitudinal Study. Utilising data on individuals who have reached retirement age and who have expressed a desire to take university courses after retirement, this group of individuals will be described. Firstly, however, the Malmö Longitudinal Study will be briefly described, followed by a short description of Malmö in 1920-1930s. Secondly, the paper will focus on learning in mature adulthood, especially learning within the context of the University of the Third Age (U3A).. Thirdly, quantitative and qualitative data from the Malmö Longitudinal Study will be presented as regards this group of individuals. Finally, a discussion will be undertaken, followed by the conclusion. <br/><br>
Conclusions or expected outcomes or findings:<br/><br>
This paper has attempted to describe what makes people want “to learn to learn” and keep on learning, even after retirement. The results can be interpreted to show that schooling and working life conditions, among other factors, play a significant role in individuals’ capacity “to learn to learn”. As this article has demonstrated, longitudinal data can provide insight, although their usefulness is unfortunately restricted by the often exclusive use of quantitative data collection and analysis methods, which provide little or no space for respondents’ voice. <br/><br>
	In this article the voice of a group of persons, who grew up when the Swedish welfare state first came into being and have retired when the welfare state---for all intents and purposes-- is dismantled, has a central role. Despite the hardships that characterised their childhood, and problems they face in mature adulthood---personal tragedies, financial problems and illness---these individuals appear even after retirement to be social actors who make use of their options and continue to construct their own identities. In this work they make use of their “symbolic resources”. Among the resources these people appear to have in common are self-esteem and reflexivity. Arguably a sense of solidarity, and the benefits of strong working-class organizations and long-standing egalitarian policies can also be considered to comprise resources for this population. Unfortunately, the latter resources are not available for individuals in contemporary Sweden to the same extent that they have been for this population. <br/><br>
 	Although the focus of this article is older adult learners who have expressed an interest in university courses, the extent to which the remaining population as a whole has indicated an interest in education after retirement would seem to indicate that these individuals as a group grew up in a culture of learning that had significant impact on their lives and their interest in education. The role that teachers had in forming pupils’ futures--for better or for worse---provides food for thought: the characteristics of the individuals in Malmö Longitudinal Study raise important questions regarding the role of education for health and well-being, as well as the association between learning and longevity.},
  author       = {O'Dowd, Mina},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {A Longitudinal study of Swedish learners’ educational interests and how these contrast to learners in U3A: the role of “symbolic resources”, teacher expectations and reflexivity},
  year         = {2006},
}