Exploring teachers' and students' conceptions of learning in two further education colleges

Carl Towler, Pam Woolner, Kate Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The Learning to Learn in Further Education Research Project (L2L) is coordinated by the Campaign for Learning and run by researchers at Newcastle and Glasgow Universities. The project involves teachers at two further education (FE) colleges, Lewisham and Northumberland, using practitioner enquiry methodologies to explore and share what works in learning and teaching in their context. This article uses data collected as part of the larger project to explore how the combination of societal, political and economic forces that have shaped provision in this sector impact on students' and teachers' views of learning when compared with the compulsory sector. The authors sought to establish whether factors such as an ethos of performativity and instrumentalisation of the curriculum were indeed at play in shaping understandings of teaching and learning, and what it means to learn in an FE context. Telephone interviews with 16 teachers provided evidence that such pressures were impacting on teaching despite the ambitions of the teachers that their practice be responsive to student need rather than curricular imperatives. Involvement with the university and the L2L project was seen by many as a way of countering perceived constraints on their freedom to exercise professional judgement. Face-to-face mediated interviews with 64 learners drawn from a number of qualification routes revealed a simplistic model for learning based around listening and the practising of skills. The authors discuss the extent to which students appear to understand this as building the necessary foundations for later, more sophisticated learning rather than as requirements of their courses per se.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-520
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number4
Early online date29 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • further education
  • learning to learn
  • practitioner enquiry

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