Understanding participation in learning for non-traditional adult learners: learning careers and the construction of learning identities

Beth Crossan, John Field, Jim Gallacher, Barbara Merrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Concepts of learner identities and learning careers have recently acquired popularity as ways of analysing participation in learning among young adults. This paper presents a conceptual challenge to unilinear approaches to the concept of learning careers. It draws on empirical data gathered during a study of new entrants to Scottish further education colleges, and illustrates the analysis through two biographical studies. It argues that learner identities can be fragile, contingent and vulnerable to external changes, and indeed can incorporate elements of hostility to education, as well as a degree of denial of responsibility even on the part of enthusiastic learners.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003



  • careers
  • learning identities
  • adult learners

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