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Transformative and reciprocal learning experiences in previously ‘hard to reach’ young adult learners’ initial engagement in learning: A case study A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Staffordshire University for the degree of Doctor of Education Paul Wagg 2013

Wagg, Paul (2013) Transformative and reciprocal learning experiences in previously ‘hard to reach’ young adult learners’ initial engagement in learning: A case study A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Staffordshire University for the degree of Doctor of Education Paul Wagg 2013. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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ABSTRACT

The focus of this thesis is on an exploration of reciprocal processes of learning experienced by
previously ‘hard to reach’ young adult learners, engaged on a Prince’s Trust course at one college
of further education. The research addresses the question: What learning processes influence the
transformative learning experiences of ‘hard to reach’ young adult learners? The theoretical
framework is comprised of four learning perspectives: transformative learning (Mezirow 2000),
reflective thinking (Dewey 1933), critical thinking (Glaser 1941, Brookfield 1987) and
self-efficacy (Bandura 1986). An understanding was sought of how these may, or may not have
reciprocity, at the micro and experiential levels of learning. An interpretivist stance was
adopted, using semi-structured interviews to collect experiential information. Participants were
interviewed at their first point of engagement on a 12 week course and again in the final week. A
constant comparative analysis produced emergent propositions that were then considered for
indications of reciprocity in learning processes. The findings suggested that ‘hard to reach’ young
adult learners within the context of this study were in a process of change even prior to
engagement with the course, but that this change was not fully consistent with Mezirow’s
categorisation of transformative learning. Processes of reciprocity were evident for reflective
thinking, critical thinking and self-efficacy. However, the nature of the processes was too complex
to attribute to transformative learning, and the theory itself was not substantial enough to
account for the learning that had taken place.
An emergent design enabled a flexible response so that a later interviewing of course tutors was
conducted, in order to access and triangulate their experiences with the findings from the
students. The conclusions of this thesis are that the movement into engaging in learning does not
rest on reflecting on discontent alone but necessarily involves the invoking of memories of
previous experiences of self-efficacy. Changes in students could not be equated with transformative
learning, but there were indications of reciprocal processes of reflective thinking, critical
thinking and self-efficacy. Learning was supported by an attitude of respect and valuing of the
students by the tutors, suggesting that the context for learning itself had changed in terms of
tutor/adult learner relationships being on a more equal footing, so that a more fulfilling
experience of personal potential was gained. This thesis adds to the learning knowledge base
through providing a focus on the importance of the particular quality of the tutor/student learning
relationship that is necessary for previously ‘hard to reach’ young adult learners to engage in
and sustain learning, and the complexity of the pre- engagement in learning process. It also
indicates a gathering or clustering of memories of previous experiences of self-efficacy as being a
motivating factor that stimulates an impetus for enquiry into learning.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L300 Sociology
Depositing User: Linda FRADLEY
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2015 14:12
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2015 14:12
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/1987

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