Research, adult literacy / education and criticality: catalysing hope and dialogic caring

Vicky Duckworth, Rob Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding (ISBN)peer-review


This paper draws on a research project: FE in England - Transforming Lives and Communities to explore the intersection between women, literacy and adult education and to argue for the place of research in affirming localised understandings of education that cut across the grain of contemporary educational reform. In the context of the dominance of a ‘skills’ discourse in further education in England and the flux of continual policy interventions, this research project focused on further education as “differential space” (Lefebvre 1991) that is emancipatory for many learners at the local level. The research data illustrate that further education is disruptive of the rigid linearity of the model of ‘learning progression’ at the heart of neoliberal models of education that assesses and sorts individuals according to a qualification/age matrix. Instead, it offers organic tools for consciousness raising (Freire 1995) and transformation (Mezirow 1992), acting as a hope catalyst for significant changes in learners’ lives and teachers’ practice (Duckworth 2016; Ade-Ojo & Duckworth 2016). To support the discussion, our paper draws on a range of learners and teachers’ narratives to expand on the view of adult education as a space for the exploration of a curriculum informed by an ethic of what we term dialogic caring. We also develop a theoretical position that anchors research in learners and practitioners’ experience as an empirical antidote to the simulations (Baudrillard 1994) conjured up by the decontextualised statistical data such as PIAAC driving current reforms. In that sense, we see education research as having an important role to play in providing an understory for neoliberal ‘grand narratives’ of international competition and comparison; in the same way, we see critical pedagogy as working towards a model of education with social justice at its heart and against education structures that marginalise women, their families and communities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNot Known
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 May 2017
EventEuropean Conference on Educational Research: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research
Abbreviated titleECER
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Research, adult literacy / education and criticality: catalysing hope and dialogic caring'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this