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What Makes a Lifelong Learner?


by Stephen Gorard & Neil Selwyn — 2005

This article uses the reports from 1,001 home-based interviews, with adults living in the United Kingdom, to describe their varying patterns of participation in lifelong, learning. It finds that 37% of all adults report no further education or training of any kind after reaching compulsory school-leaving age. This proportion declines in each age cohort but is largely replaced by a pattern of lengthening initial education and still reporting no further education or training of any kind after leaving. The actual patterns of participation are predictable to a large extent from regression analysis using a life order model of determining variables. The key variables are age, ethnicity, sex, family background, and initial schooling, all of which are set very early in life. This suggests that universal theories to describe participation, such as simple human capital theory, are incorrect in several respects. Where individuals create, for themselves and through their early experiences, a "learner identity" inimical to further study, then the prospect of learning can become a burden rather than an investment. This has implications for the notion of overcoming barriers to access, such as those involving technology.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 6, 2005, p. 1193-1216
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11908, Date Accessed: 4/24/2014 7:00:07 AM

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About the Author
  • Stephen Gorard
    University of York
    E-mail Author
    STEPHEN GORARD is a professor of educational studies at the University of York, interested in issues of equity and impact in education through the life course. He is the author of over 400 academic publications, including the recent books Combining Methods in Educational and Social Research (McGraw Hill, 2004), Schools, Markets and Choice Policies (RoutledgeFalmer, 2003), Quantitative Methods in Social Science (Continuum, 2002), Creating a Learning Society (Policy Press, 2002), and Education and Social Justice (University of Wales Press, 2000).
  • Neil Selwyn
    Cardiff University
    E-mail Author
    NEIL SELWYN is a senior lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences in the United Kingdom. He is currently researching adults’ (non)use of information technology for formal and informal learning. Recent publications include Information Technology (Hodder and Stoughton, 2001), Telling Tales on Technology (Ashgate, 2002), The Information Age (University of Wales Press, 2002), and Adult Learning in the Digital Age (Routledge, 2005).
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