A new conceptualisation of adult participation in education

A. Blair, Joanna McPake, Pamela Munn, Scottish Office Education Department (Funder)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a new conceptualisation of adults' process of return to formal education, arising from an in-depth qualitative study of 50 Scottish adult returners to various institutional settings. The new way of thinking developed because existing explanations proved ill-equipped to reflect the complex and diverse data gathered in interview about adults' reasons for returning to education. The paper begins by describing the context of the study, the study itself and the questions it raises about participation issues. It goes on to consider three conceptualisations of participation that may be found in the literature, the main barriers to participation and the challenges presented to them by data from the research. The new conceptualisation is then introduced and discussed further with reference to relevant data. The paper closes with some issues prompted by this idea for institutions and policy-makers in adult education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-644
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1995


  • adult learning
  • adult education
  • continuing education


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