A life course perspective: Life course learning for adult learners in Higher Education - an examination of the NUI Diploma in Applied Social Studies and the BA in Applied Social Studies
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This research study examines the concept of the life course and why it may be considered an issue of critical importance in the context of teaching and learning policy and practice for adult learners in higher education. By choosing to adopt a life course perspective this research seeks to understand the learning experiences of part-time adult learners in higher education within the context of wider society and changing social structures. It is imperative that the needs, expectations, voices and life realities of adult learners feature in the decision making, design and implementation of programmes of higher education. Higher education as an institution of society has a fundamental role to play in promoting the ideals of democracy, justice, and human rights in addition to contributing to the economic and social development of society as a whole. As the author is a practitioner within the field of adult education focusing on the ‘real world’ problem of the ‘lived life’ realities of adult learners in higher education, this study adopts a pragmatic research perspective utilising mixed methods research. The purpose of the research is to examine life course influences on adult learning in order to contribute to a conceptual model of life course learning for adult learners in higher education through an examination of two part-time community education programmes: the NUI Diploma in Applied Social Studies and the BA in Applied Social Studies. Research findings are discussed in terms of messages to the adult learner, recommendations for higher education institutes, and suggestions for national and international educational policy makers influencing the development of wider civic society.