Narrating their liminal journeys: the stories of women 'returning' to education

Murray, Ann (2015) Narrating their liminal journeys: the stories of women 'returning' to education. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the learning experiences of fourteen mature women entrants who successfully completed a Higher National Diploma or degree in a Further Education College in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The women were all from non-traditional backgrounds in that they had left school with few or no qualifications and had returned to education later in life. They all had other competing demands on their time such as families, partners and employment and they were the first generation of their family to gain a Higher Education (HE) qualification. The focus of the study is on the one hand to give a voice to the women and to let them talk and interpret their experience of early education and then of college. On the other hand it focuses on what we, as adult educators, can learn from the successful journeys of non-traditional women entrants and how this can inform our professional practice.

The students were interviewed using semi structured interviews in order to ascertain how they accessed education as adults, the difficulties they encountered and the coping strategies that helped them successfully complete their studies. Liminality was used as a heuristic tool to examine the women’s educational journeys. Concepts of identity, transformative learning and resilience were explored through their personal narratives.

It appears from the findings that gender still adversely affects choice. For women this means less choice of what to do and when to do it. Whilst the women attempt to shape their own biographies anew through education, this is done against a background where their domestic responsibilities still take precedence. Despite this, the supportive and trusting relationship with lecturers contributed to the efficacy of the learning experience, as did the incremental route from FE into HE. For some women the presence of a supportive partner or a significant other appears to have played a part in their success.

In terms of professional practice, an understanding of the women’s journeys is essential if we are to put systems in place to effectively support them and to help them stay. Consideration of this may also help in navigating the tenuous and unsettling journeys which the women take in actually getting to college in the first place. Finally, as adult educators, we should be aware and engage more actively with the political process. Awareness of the link between funding and policy is crucial if we are to develop, not only Scotland’s young workforce, but marginalised learners who may not fit in with the current policy priority.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Keywords: feminist research, second-chance learning, non-traditional, women's adult education, identity, transformative learning, narrative analysis, poor school experience, learning edge, emotions in learning
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Wardle, Dr. Georgina
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mrs Ann Murray
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6826
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2015 16:25
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2015 16:49

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