Learning careers and the social space: exploring the fragile identities of adult returners in the new further education

Jim Gallacher, Beth Crossan, John Field, Barbara Merrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper examines the concept of 'learning careers' as a way of understanding the processes through which adults return to education. It particularly considers the ways in which adults from groups who are at risk of social exclusion develop identities that enable them to engage with learning. The concept of learning careers is derived from symbolic interactionist theory, with its origins in the work of the Chicago School. To illuminate the concept of learning career, the paper presents qualitative data produced in a research study set in Scotland in which the processes that underpinned participation and non-participation in further education (FE) colleges were explored.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Lifelong Education
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2002



  • learning careers
  • further education
  • adult learners

Cite this