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Identity and Exclusion: motivations, dispositions and identities on adult numeracy courses

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Abstract:

This article draws on research conducted in 2002–2003 into adults studying numeracy in two colleges of further education. It uses case studies of two white, middle-aged, working-class women designated to be working at a relatively low level of mathematics (Entry Level), and argues that a study of the micro world will often relate to, and help us understand, the macro world. The narratives explore the women's motivations for attending numeracy courses, and suggest that relatively short, part-time courses have the potential to transform learners' identities, aspirations and dispositions towards learning. The article explores the relationship between agency and wider structures (such as social class and gender) which, are argued, constrain the learners options and opportunities. However, the article also draws on Bourdieu's concept of habitus and suggests that it is dynamic and can be modified to a certain extent. The article also raises questions about a perceived shift in the discourses found in government adult basic skills policies of moving away from an entitlement of lifelong learning towards a concentration on more narrowly defined skills at higher levels for employability.

Keywords: FURTHER EDUCATION; GENDER; HABITUS; IDENTITIES; LIFELONG LEARNING; NUMERACY; SKILLS FOR LIFE LEARNERS; WIDENING ACCESS; WORKING-CLASS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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  • The Journal of Access Policy and Practice informs and supports development in access and widening participation. It explores education policy and practice as it affects access to learning and surveys the field, both nationally and internationally. Informed by theory and current research the journal shares ideas and practical solutions to create wider and deeper participation in lifelong learning and offers a space for practitioners and academics to critically reflect and debate different perspectives.
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