Transformative Teaching and Learning in Further and Adult Education Pedagogies of Hope and Social Justice

Rob Smith, Vicky Duckworth

    Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


    This book grows out of the inspiring Transforming Lives project, in which tutors and students bear witness, through video sessions, to the powerful impact on their lives of learning and teaching in further education. It constitutes a passionate, polemical yet reasoned case for major change in the over-regulated and data driven fiscal and assurance processes that shape current British policy. Drawing on the thinking of Paulo Freire, Jack Mezirow, Gert Biesta and others Rob Smith and Vicky Duckworth ground their approach to transformative teaching and learning in a commitment to education in pursuit of social justice. It is an approach that seeks to re-assert the centrality of students’ experiences, of the need to start from where they are, to build critical enquiry through dialogue, and uses evidence from learners and teachers to argue against the narrow utilitarianism of government skills policies, to assert the right of everyone not only to have access to education, but also to help shape it. They argue that ‘every student’s encounter with knowledge has the potential to critique it, to change it, to build on it, to reach beyond it’ (121), but that this is currently achieved despite the system, rather than because of it , as teachers are burdened by ever growing forms of accountability – a view of UK Further Education incidentally critiqued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – and college leaders are increasingly caught between meeting the needs of local communities and economies and the demands of an ever-more centralised system.
    At the heart of the book is the evidence of learners whose lives have been enriched and transformed through their experience at further education colleges. No-one reading their testimonies can be left without a strong conviction that exam results alone fail to capture the complexity and richness of the learning journeys of people juggling their studies with caring and parental responsibilities, problems with housing, mental health, and for some not having enough to eat. Yet despite the severe constraints on colleges and their teachers and students the testimonies in the book exude agency, energy, confidence and a passion for what comes next. As Herbert who struggled through school with undiagnosed dyslexia put it, ‘When you are at school it feels like it’s for the government. Whereas when you are at college you feel: this is for me, it’s my livelihood. It’s going to be my future.’ He describes his brilliant college teacher as the reason for his transformation, and the way she helped him see his dyslexia as a talent and source of creativity. That story is repeated time after time, and clearly shows how important what Herbert calls ‘time for people’ is beyond the formal curriculum.
    Transforming Teaching and Learning also makes a powerful case for locality – for further education colleges at the heart of communities, and responding to their needs. How far that responsiveness to place is achievable within the present, funding, accountability and performance measures that shape so much of colleges’ work takes the authors back to their central argument – that further education deserves a system responsive not only to the vocational studies needed for labour market entry, but also to the needs of people returning to learning and seeking afresh, in the words of Raymond Williams, to understand, to adapt and help shape their, and our, lives.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBristol
    PublisherPolicy Press
    ISBN (Print)9781447362333
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 27 Jul 2022

    Publication series

    NameKey Issues in Social Justice: Voices from the Frontline


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