'What's identity got to do with it, anyway?' Constructing adult learner identities in the workplace

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This paper explores the interrelationships between identity and learning for adult learners participating in vocational education and training programmes situated within workplaces. Identity is understood to be integral to learning. A theoretical position for understanding identity is developed using a narrative standpoint. Adult learners are understood to bring particular dispositions to workplace learning, in particular, their previous experiences and biographies of learning. The notion of wounding learning practices is articulated to discuss the impact of adult learners' previous encounters with learning. These previous experiences may contribute to weaker identities and dispositions to learning in the workplace. Individuals' identities and relationships to learning impact upon their current and future engagement with affordances of workplace learning. Three significant pedagogical practices, from a two-year workplace training programme involving adult learners from a regional Australian town, are offered as insights into the interrelationships of identity and learning. In doing so, this paper contributes to the discussions of identity construction through workplace learning. Adult educators are invited to reflect on the potential pedagogic practices which might contribute to and foster the reconceptualisation of learners' identities and their participatory trajectories within the workplace.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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