This feels like a good time to do a bit of taking stock and forward planning.
I’ve been looking at some of the DR2 modules and what comes through most clearly is the need for focus. This came across particularly clearly in the lit review module which emphasised not getting sidetracked by interesting ideas, but was also very clear in the research methods module. This made sense to me as one of my main concerns is scoping my work so that it is actually both meaningful and doable in the allotted time.
Although I haven’t got a neat and tidy lit review, I do feel I have a good understanding of the informal learning area and some of the problematics of working in that area. I am also clear about the problems of language, especially the use of ‘informal learning’ in corporate training contexts and the changing use of ‘social learning’. Looking at the informal learning literature has clarified the connections with adult education, lifelong learning, etc, and has also shown the paucity of material on children and informal learning – just one futurelab report as far as I can see. I am keeping up-to-date with Second Life and virtual worlds more generally through both literature and involvement in a number of mailing lists and attendance at various workshops and conferences. I have also explored the literature around virtual communities, including that focusing on 2D communities. Although I have revisited community development material, I have not done so as thoroughly as I originally intended to and there may be a need to look at more of this.
Other blogs and entries in my wiki focus on the reading I have been doing on motivation – Csikszentmihalyi and Deci and Ryan – and on social learning theory as propounded by Bandura. These are potentially useful theories for analysing data in the studies I am proposing.
So what am I actually proposing to do and why? I am increasingly coming to the view that my work needs to be located in relation to the recent government white paper on informal learning. The white paper makes a number of assumptions about informal learning, including about its potential role in adult education and about the need for it to be recognised in some way or other. Apart from the potential elements of cost-cutting or of formalising the informal, I feel the white paper raises a number of issues which are not properly addressed.
So where do I go from here?
Firstly, I think I need to re-read the white paper and the earlier consultative document and responses. I will be looking particularly at how informal learning is understood in those documents and how it is seen to relate to the lifelong learning and widening participation agendas.
Secondly, I need to frame my research question(s) in the context of the white paper. (Given the forthcoming general election, it would be useful to check what the position of other major political parties is on informal learning, but given there is also an EU dimension, I suspect the changes are more likely to be in relation to priorities rather than direction.)
Thirdly, I need to revisit the work I have been doing in outlining potential studies and ensuring these actually address my research question.
That sounds like enough for the moment.