The Pedagogy of Lifelong Learning: Understanding Effective Teaching and Learning in Diverse Contexts

Editor(s) Mike Osborne, Nuala Toman, Muir Houston
Publisher Routledge
Published 2007
Pages 232
Price £23.99
ISBN 9780415424950
Reviewed by Mr Jonathan Tummons
York College
Review published 31 October 2007

Books that include the words ‘lifelong learning’ in the title can take the reader in all sorts of directions. This edited collection, drawing on a 2005 conference held at the Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning, imagines the reader to be of catholic tastes to say the least. Chapters in this collection, drawing on a range of research projects variously funded by the TLRP, cover topics as diverse as academic identities within UK and Australian Higher Education, the literacy practices of vocational students within Further Education colleges in both England and Scotland and the impact of web 2.0 technologies on lifelong learning pedagogies. This collection is nothing if not diverse, reflecting the diverse range of practices and cultures that are (perhaps not always satisfactorily) described as being within the ‘lifelong learning sector’.

To cover sixteen fields of research in a relatively small volume (only 232 pages) necessarily leads to some brevity, and as such reading this volume, whilst always stimulating, can be occasionally frustrating. Some chapters are quite brief, and occasionally a little unsatisfactory as a consequence: the reader is, more than once, left wanting more detail in terms of ideas and concepts, breadth and depth of data, and accounts of research methodologies. The chapters by Carmichael et al and by Kop spring to mind. The former draws on the Literacies for Learning in Further Education TLRP project: as someone who has followed and read the work of this project in some detail before reading this book, I felt that the chapter presented here didn’t really do justice to the work that the project has done. The latter chapter, which looks at the potential impact of blogs and wikis on lifelong learning pedagogies, whets the appetite of the reader but is over all too quickly and assumes quite a lot on the part of the reader: Kop’s summary of current epistemological arguments and socio-cultural models of learning is brief to the point of being terse. Other chapters are more effective. The chapter by Field and Malcolm, drawn from the ESRC Learning Lives project, works very well, and provides a compelling account of two individuals’ orientations to learning across the lifespan. Solomon’s analysis of workplace simulation within a vocational educational context raises all kinds of interesting ideas and offers a powerful critique of dominant discourses of ‘real education’ within the vocational curriculum. Both of these chapters – and some others – stand alone quite effectively and do not suffer as a consequence of their brevity.

So who should read this book? Who should buy it? In my professional role as a teacher educator for the post-compulsory sector, I am always interested to find new books that provide syntheses of current research in learning and teaching in the lifelong learning sector. Certainly, I would recommend this book to colleagues. I’m not so sure that I’d recommend it unreservedly to my students, however, as not all chapters stand alone as well as others. As a sort of up-to-date smorgasbord of research in lifelong learning, however, this volume is hard to beat.