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Familiar territory and making links

I’ve begun to read some of the informal learning texts and I’m finding them fascinating – there is so much that is familiar as well as seeing connections I hadn’t been aware of before.  I’ve just read McGivney, V. (1999). Informal learning in the community: a trigger for change and development. Leicester: NIACE and the whole debate about what is informal learning is there, together with changing perceptions of community, stuff about learning in community groups, etc.  It has triggered reminders of the different sponsorship of different community/voluntary initiatives – education/social services/home office/etc and the different training and career paths of professionals in those areas – although doing similar things very often projects existed in parallel with little communication between departments. Looking at McGivney’s references to numbers of community groups and involvement in them has taken me back to my MSc work and the figures there – and references to other community studies.

It has been interesting too to read of the changing views of the use of the word ‘community’ because of its usage to mean various different things in different contexts – at least 4 different categories of community are identified. That is one of things that makes community fascinating for me, but there is almost a criticism that because some forms of community have no geographical basis, that makes them problematic.

It is also interesting looking at the whole area of pathways into learning.  I am reading about what SLN was about and I didn’t realise it at the time.  The whole widening participation agenda is laid out fairly clearly and questions raised about whether accreditation of learning is always a good thing. There seems to be a tension between learning for its own sake and learning in order to progress – discussion too about progression routes.

It is interesting to note the plethora of NIACE publications at the end of the 1990s before the strong emphasis on work based learning and progression into HE.  Thinking back to what was happening in adult education then, apart from continuing financial pressure and raising the numbers for viability of classes, it was the time when leisure classes where being challenged to have clear learning objectives and progression pathways leading to many classes ceasing or moving out of the formal education arena (I know this happened with lacemaking, but that was no doubt not the only casualty).

It’s quite reassuring to find books saying what I was thinking/feeling which suggests my ideas about informal learning are not completely off the wall.  I still have to get back into the community literature – will be interesting to travel back in time but also to look at community and virtual environments. I’m actually getting quite excited at the moment – how long will this last!?

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