Learner identities and educational engagement a framework for understanding learner identities of Northern Australian regional learners with implications for educational pedagogy, policy and practice

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Learning is a social process, informed by social interactions and connected through place, time, language, culture and context. Addressing the inequities in educational outcomes impacts on individuals', communities and nations' employment and wellbeing and is underpinned by understanding the influences that inform adults' decision making about engagement in formal education. Learner identities are socially informed and connected to learners' communities based in school, peer, family, local and global contexts. These learner identities are mutable and non linear as they relate to complex sets of social relationships. This outcomes of this research examine the disparities between individuals' learner identities and those operating in a range of learning contexts. The discontinuities in learner identity impact, significantly, on the meaning-making frameworks and resources that learners' access to engage their learner identities and mediate their engagement in formal education.

    The study analyses twenty regional adult learners' in-depth narratives and identifies the key themes in their learning experiences that impact on their engagement in formal education. The research finds that peoples' identities related to learning, that is, their learning identities, formed a core part of the adults' decision making across a range of educational experiences, institutions and purposes over their lives. It also describes the ways adults' engagement with post compulsory learning is mediated by an individual's socially informed learner identity. The management of learning identity draws on and creates identity resources to manage the intersections of discordant, or opposing, learner identities. This learner identity work is described here in terms of a sense of agency within learning contexts.

    This thesis identifies and typifies participants' learner identities and provides a framework for describing learner identities by adapting educational institutions and experiences to support the development of learner identities that successfully engage with post compulsory learning. The resultant learner identity framework draws on social perspectives of learning and identity and social capital theory to describe the key features of different learner identities. The four broad groupings of learner identity are described as resistant, persistent, transitional and enacted. The work of people and educational institutions to develop and maintain their identity, as it relates to being a learner, is conflicted, discontinuous, and can have an impact on behaviour without the overt knowledge of the participants. Developing an understanding of the underlying themes within the learning profiles can inform educational policy and practice in order to improve the engagement of disenfranchised regional learners. In addition it can improve learners‘ perceptions of their relationships to educational institutions and their own social networks.
    Date of AwardApr 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan Falk (Supervisor)

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