Further Education in England: Transforming Lives (summative report)


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Commissioned by UCU, the Further Education in England: Transforming lives & Communities research project aims to understand and provide robust evidence of how further education is vital in transforming lives and communities in 21st century Britain. It also provides evidence of how and why further education is an important lever for supporting social justice, sustainability and social cohesion; it presents a picture of colleges challenging intergenerational poverty and of offering people from diverse communities hope, agency and a positive orientation towards the future. The first phase of the project (2016-17) led to the generation of a number of outputs which included, the production of an interim report, an interactive digital platform and a National practitioner handbook (Duckworth and Smith 2017A & 2017B). We gathered data from more than 150 participants across more than thirty five institutions: learners, teachers, managers, employers, community members, parents and other family members shared their stories. This enabled us to build up a robust qualitative evidence base to illustrate the nature of transformative teaching and learning, the power of further education to reach into diverse communities and its expanding ‘ripple effect’: the powerful individual, social, economic, and health benefits it produces (e.g. see Duckworth and Smith 2016, 19). The first stage of the research sought to collate qualitative evidence of the distinctness of further education and its impact on individuals, society and the economy. In addition, we gathered evidence related to why teachers enter further education, how teachers conceive of themselves as further education teachers, how they respond to and overcome challenges and difficulties in their teaching career and finally how these factors influence their career progression. We emphasised the role of the teacher in making a difference to quality teaching and learning. The second phase of the study (2017-19) expanded the qualitative data set and added a quantitative dimension. This involved developing, implementing and analysing two key surveys: one for staff and one for students. This enabled us to expand the theoretical underpinnings of the central concept of transformative teaching and learning that sits at the heart of the project. The first stage of the research used a sociological lens to uncover substantive evidence about how further education impacts hugely on research participants’ identities as learners, their lives and the lives of their families and communities. The second phase sought to build on this and to flesh out key aspects of teachers’ and students’ experience in order to strengthen the psychological and quantitative basis for the claims we are making about transformative teaching and learning. Together the data from both phases constitutes a powerful evidence base to support the contention that the ‘transformative’ aspect of the research participants’ educational experiences was an effect of a multitude of variables but that the teachers’ role in this transformative aspect was a crucial facilitating factor. Central to the project was the establishment of the UCU website, Further Education in England: Transforming Lives and Communities1 as a ‘live’ interactive platform through which project findings can be uploaded and shared with an ever-growing project audience (Duckworth and Smith 2019B). The website provides timely evidence of how further education has played, and continues to play, a vital role in contributing to transforming lives, families and communities in Britain by providing educational opportunities across age ranges and disciplines and across communities. The research illuminates learners’ and teachers’ narratives, the overarching aim being to acknowledge, understand and celebrate the journeys of students and the work of teachers against the backdrop of wider socio-economic, political and historical contexts (Duckworth and Smith 2016, 2017A, 2018A, 2019B).
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages75
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


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