Creating and Sustaining International Connections: exploring the learning opportunities for Studying Creative Understandings about Teaching and Research for Equity and Access

Creating and Sustaining International Connections: exploring the learning opportunities for Studying Creative Understandings about Teaching and Research for Equity and Access

Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference
University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK
Tuesday 5th to Thursday 7th July 2011

Ann-Marie Houghton

SCUTREA Proceedings 2011

Published by the Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sussex, in conjunction with the Standing Conference on Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults, SCUTREA

Copyright 2011 SCUTREA and the individual authors

ISBN: 978-0-904242-71-3

The authors of the papers reproduced herein have asserted their moral rights to be known as the authors thereof under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Additional copies of this volume are available from:

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Price £28 per copy. Please send remittance to the above address with your order. Please make your cheques payable to ‘SCUTREA’.


At the 40th SCUTREA conference we looked back and began to look forward from the perspective of time. Whilst we remembered designated international conferences we also recognised that over time the networks within adult education have become international and that the opportunities to explore adult education considerations do exist. The 41st conference provides us with opportunities to create new and sustain existing international collaborations.

The international context is one that is hard to escape. Universities are increasingly motivated to internationalise their reputations through research collaborations, their curriculum, student body, and staff. There are a myriad of drivers including institutional survival based on economic, political and legislative factors influenced by national and international contexts. For instance, the Bologna Process promoting student mobility and shaping to varying degrees the response to qualifications, the curriculum and shape of higher education. The economic imperatives influence the relationship between academic and vocational higher education and raise questions about the purpose of adult education. The response of adult educators working in both a national and international context provides a basis for building on the social justice themes present within adult education as well as responding to equality and human rights legislation.

As intended papers explore how the international perspective is already shaping how:

  • communities of practice within and between universities and their partners help to create and sustain international collaboration;

  • local, regional, national and international educational, social, welfare and economic policies impact on adult educator’s teaching and research for equity and access to learning;

  • individuals and organisations who participate in the process of creating international connections shape the nature of the connections created;

  • international collaborations can lead to more creative understandings about teaching and research;

  • information technology and e-learning support or stifle the creation of international collaboration between learners, educators and researchers.

The conference has received papers from across the globe including new contributors that extend the international reach of SCUTREA. The adult literacy symposium picks up a recurrent theme from past conferences, the papers illustrate the benefits of comparing and contrasting national policy and practice responses to the global challenges associated with literacy. Overall, the spread of papers cover policy and the influence of international messages on national higher education and vocational programmes of teaching and learning. Papers discuss the contrasting and evolving roles, remits and freedoms of adult educators working in different countries within the academy and community. Others consider the needs or better still the entitlement of specific groups of students as well as highlighting the challenges and opportunities a more diverse student body offer educators, the student body and our institutions.

The role of academic journals in enabling international debate and discussion in the research community interested in aspects of adult and university teaching is covered in several papers. The impact of our research in an international arena is likely to gain increasing importance within the context of quality audit frameworks such as the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA).

Finally, in common with previous SCUTREA conferences there are papers inviting us to ask questions and consider the possible risks as well as the benefits of internationalisation agenda which seems very apt as we come together to Study Creative Understandings about Teaching and Research for Equity and Access.

Ann-Marie Houghton


The editor would like to thank the following people for their help in organising the conference and in the production of these proceedings:

Paul Armstrong, Pam Coare, and previous conference organisers and Council Members who have shaped the paperwork and processes involved with the organisation of a SCUTREA conference.

A particular thanks to Jess Walmsley and other Lancaster colleagues Alice Jesmont, Rebecca Marsden, Steve Dempster for their support with the conference.

Finally, thanks to those who have been able to present papers at this year’s conference and to those unable to attend but whose ideas will no doubt feature in conference debate.


Creating and Sustaining International Connections: exploring the learning opportunities for Studying Creative Understandings about Teaching and Research for Equity and Access 1

Introduction 3

Acknowledgements 4

Contents 5

Lost in translation: some methodological reflections on working on a pan-European research project 8

Paul Armstrong, Leeds Trinity University College 8

Negotiating gaps: adult educators between policy and practices 17

Tannis Atkinson, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, Canada 17

HE educators teaching international students: questions of purpose, participation and the need for reflection 25

Jeannie Daniels, La Trobe University, Australia 25

Full-time adult undergraduates as a new group in Chinese public universities in the 21st century: An intrinsic case 33

Qun Ding, University of Sheffield, UK 33

A local case of global learning: critical reflections on leadership education for international community development practitioners 41

Behrang Foroughi, Catherine Irving & Shelagh Savage Department of Adult Education and Coady International Institute St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, Canada 41

Considering adult literacies education as empowerment or emancipation 49

Sarah Galloway, Stirling University, UK 49

Creative pedagogical approaches using fiction to prepare educators to work in international and intercultural contexts 58

Patricia A. Gouthro, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada, Susan M. Holloway, University of Windsor, Canada, Erin Careless, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada 58

Who learns from international education? Intellectual colonialism or nurturing diversity in teaching and learning 65

Lyn Hall and Ann Harris, University of Huddersfield 65

Adult worker-learners moving between academic and vocational education sectors: A comparative analysis of Australia and Singapore 74

Roger Harris University of South Australia, Australia and
Catherine Ramos Institute for Adult Learning, Singapore. 74

The European indicator of adult participation in lifelong learning: the significance of interview questions 85

John Holford & Agata Mleczko, University of Nottingham 85

Transcending traditional social justice conceptualizations: adult educator activists enacting a fourth way 94

Sherri Lawless and Talmadge C. Guy, The University of Georgia, USA 94

Creating and sustaining international connections: an analysis of the development of an international journal concerned with critical scholarship and equity and access in the field of education and ageing 103

Keith Percy, Lancaster University, UK 103

Informal learning in older adults – the Doing2Learn journey 112

Brec’hed Piette, Sheila Hughes and Shan Ashton, Bangor University, Wales, United Kingdom 112

Geography matters: promoting an international spatial, educational community 120

Aideen Quilty, School of Social Justice, University College Dublin, Ireland 120

Exploring Indonesia’s new journalistic identity: Sifting through the complexity of international collaborative teaching and research 129

Jeffrey A. Ritchey & Nurhaya Muchtar, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA 129

Has Australia turned its back on international students? 137

Erica Smith and Andy Smith, University of Ballarat, Australia. 137

Improving articulation in education and work transitions in Canada 146

Alison Taylor and Bonnie Watt-Malcolm, University of Alberta, Canada 146

Literacy, educational policies, arts and prisons 155

Lyn Tett, University of Edinburgh; Kirstin Anderson University of Edinburgh; Sarah Colvin, University of Birmingham; Fergus McNeill, University of Glasgow; Katie Overy, University of Edinburgh; Richard Sparks, University of Edinburgh, UK 155

Higher education in the Australian context: regulation or transformation in policy and practice 163

Eileen Willis, Flinders University, Adelaide Australia 163

Messing about in boats & banging around in sheds: Scenario sketches for a life giving civilisation 171

Peter Willis, University of South Australia, Australia 171

The downside of internationalization: when universal policy damages localized practice 179

Hazel R Wright, Anglia Ruskin University, UK 179

RMIT University Youth Work UK Study Tour June 17 – July 15 2011 188

Jennifer Brooker, RMIT University, Australia 188

Adult education interventions by rights-based development NGOs in Cambodia: transformative learning towards agency 191

Rikio Kimura, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan 191

Differences in learning approaches and academic achievement between full-time and part-time sub-degree students 194

Yiu Kong Ringo CHAN, University of Hong Kong, School of Professional and Continuing Education, Hong Kong, China 194

Practising equity in a policy-for-profit world: international perspectives on adult literacy Introduction 206

Tannis Atkinson, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada 206

Searching for Alberta’s literacy policy, if found what difference would it make? 208

Audrey Gardner, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada 208

Analysing adult literacy policy and equity in England using a literacy as social practice perspective 211

Mary Hamilton, Literacy Research Centre, Lancaster University, England 211

Contradictory discourses: the politicization of the ‘local’ and access to literacy education 214

Suzanne Smythe, Simon Fraser University, Canada 214

Adult literacies in Scotland 217

Lyn Tett, University of Edinburgh, Scotland 217

Lost in translation: some methodological reflections on working on a pan-European research project

Paul Armstrong, Leeds Trinity University College

Three issues in doing comparative research

This paper is offering autoethnographical insights (Chang, 2008, Meneley and Young, 2005) through a recent experience of working on a European-funded research project, focusing on ‘access’, ‘retention’, ‘completion’ and ‘drop out’ (RANLHE). Several papers referring to this project have been presented at previous SCUTREA conferences including two symposia (Johnston, et al., 2009; Field et al., 2010). In the 2009 symposium, our attention was drawn to the fact that ‘Working transnationally highlights methodological issues particularly in relation to comparing research findings when research traditions and approaches and cultural contexts are different. These have to be worked through and discussed at team meetings.’ (Johnston et al. 2009; p, 282). Originally the abstract for this paper was intending to focus on a relatively well-rehearsed debate in doing comparative education research, which now is the first of three methodological issues to be discussed in this paper: ‘are we talking the same language?’ The issues of language have not been substantially discussed at SCUTREA since the 33rd annual conference in Bangor in 2003. Even then, though the conference – entitled Speaking in Tongues (Davidson et al., 2003) – focused on the power and significance of language in lifelong learning, through a ‘global conversation’, research issues were not offered as a topic for discussion. But it was accepted that ‘we were speaking in many tongues’.

Shared meanings of key concepts?

As the RANLHE project drew to an end, I realised that we may not have been ‘speaking in many tongues’ nor yettalking the same language. In the call for papers for the international dissemination conference of RANLHE in Seville, April 2011, the following were among the key issues identified as areas which the conference was interested in addressing:

  • Access

  • Retention

  • Drop-out

  • Institutional and cultural contexts and perspectives

  • Theoretical and conceptual approaches

  • Issues of inequality (class, gender, race, age, disability, location etc)

  • Methodological research approaches

  • Policy, practice and managerial issues and perspectives

The three original key concepts that gave focus to the project were: access, retention and dropout, and later ‘completion’ was added. Each of these concepts are problematic even in English language, let alone finding equivalence in other European languages represented across the project (German, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish). ‘Drop out’, for example, has negative connotations. ‘Access’, by contrast, is almost universally considered to have positive connotations. The value of accessing higher education is rarely considered negatively; higher education is a universal good to which everyone should have equal access. In the USA, the policy practices are around ‘persistence’, putting the responsibility very much on the students to take the decision to leave or stay. It is a deficiency model that leads to compensatory strategies to keep students in the university. The focus is then on what is ‘wrong’ with the student who decides to leave. One factor that came across very strongly in the student surveys was that for many of those who made the decision to leave, this was a solution, not the cause of ‘the problem’. The notion of ‘retention’ invites an examination of the systems put in place to keep students (sometimes the data suggest, ‘at all costs’) by the institution. An element of this which facilitated making sense of data was the use of metaphors, which if not explanatory were certainly illuminative, as I myself discussed at the dissemination conference (Armstrong, 2011).

Another key concept being used within the project was the assumption of a shared understanding that the focus of the project being on ‘non-traditional’ students. Access is a familiar concept in the UK, although it has become more familiar through being linked to ‘widening participation’ strategies. It was important to specify in this context, which socio-economic and cultural groups were being targeted for widening participation. In the UK, there is a recognisable, if not continuously contested, idea of a class structure. Labelling of social classes often reflect the socio-economic status of the individuals and their families. In the UK, use is made of the Registrar-General’s classification. The categories for this have been modified over the past 150 years or so, especially in more recent years to ensure that the socio-economic categories are inclusive and reflect the diversity of the UK population. The European partner countries will also have been able to identify and categorise their populations by socio-economic status. However, less tangible dimensions of stratification and classification would make cross-national comparisons difficult. Much of the literature on retention stems from research in the USA, where their conceptual framework for classifying their populations are framed in terms of social status rather than social class, and differentiation is based on a much wider range of socio-economic and socio-cultural variables, including family origins (indigenous/immigrant, languages spoken, ethnicity, religion, and so on). To focus the issue, the project agreed to refer to ‘non-traditional students’; that is, students who were entering higher education as the first in their family, from socio-economic groups who had not previously considered going to university, living in what the Higher Educational Funding Council in the UK (HEFCE) called ‘low participation areas’. In its project brief, in appealing for student volunteers to be interviewed for the project, it was stated that

‘We are interested in listening to a range of learners, such as:

  • the first in your family to go to university

  • adult learners and those from the local area

  • those caring for children or others while studying

  • students from a minority background

  • students from another country

  • those who have done an Access programme

  • students with a disability

  • learners who have dropped out

  • learners who may have dropped out but have now returned to study.’

‘Non-traditional students’ is a phrase that originated from the United States. The National Center for Education Statistics did not have a precise definition for non-traditional student, but suggests that part-time status and age are common elements in most definitions. In a 1996 study the NCES included anyone who satisfies at least one of the following as a non-traditional student:

  • defers enrolment (does not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she finished high school);

  • attends part time for at least part of the academic year;

  • works full time (35 hours or more per week) while enrolled;

  • is considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid;

  • has dependents other than a spouse (usually children, but sometimes others);

  • is a single parent (either not married or married but separated and has dependents); or

  • does not have a high school diploma (completed high school with a GED or other high school completion certificate or did not finish high school).

By this standard, the NCES determined that 73% of all undergraduates in 1999–2000 could be considered non-traditional, therefore comprising the vast majority of total undergraduate students in the United States, and representing the newly ‘typical’ undergraduate. If we compare this with a UK list, derived from the Harris Report (2001)( which identified the relative under-use of careers services by students from ‘’non-traditional’ backgrounds including:

  • mature students;

  • those from lower socio-economic backgrounds;

  • first generation undergraduates;

  • students from ethnic minorities; and

  • students with disabilities.

Indicative of the complexities of making such definitions is a report of a research study conducted for the Sutton Trust and Birkbeck, University of London (MORI, 2005). The typical student at this higher education institution is part-time, in full-time employment, aged between 25 and 45. For them, a ‘non-traditional student’ would be an 18 year old studying full-time. Indeed, the need to commission the report was felt necessary to correct the ’widely held (and erroneous) perception that this college of the University of London does not offer undergraduate courses to ‘conventional’ higher educational applicants’.

A more thorough comparative analysis of ‘non-traditional students’ was undertaken by Schuetze and Slowey (2000, 2002). Although the political and economic context was a little different when they were considering who were to be categorised as ‘non-traditional’, even then they concluded that the term ‘non-traditional student’ was not meaningful., on the grounds that higher education in the USA and Europe was undergoing a process of transformation, and was no longer elitist and was being subject to the processes of massification. Using ten case studies from across Europe (UK, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Ireland) as well as from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the USA, they noted the growing consensus around the focusing on the concept of lifelong learning rather than higher education. It is also worth noting their limitation to OECD countries and did not offer the diversity of developing nations in their sample when coming to the conclusion that there was now ‘a different, more hetereogenous, composition of students in terms of previous education, social and family background, gender, age, life-situation, motivation to study, current and future occupational profiles.’ (Schuetze and Slowey, 2002, p.311). They conclude:

From an internationally comparative perspective, differences between national educational systems and other facts (not least the demographic composition of the population) means that the term ‘non-traditional’ covers both different populations and different models of participation. Moreover, the meaning of ‘non-traditional’ students and the associated image of an underrepresented, marginal group varies with the general participation level in higher education. In countries reaching or exceeding a participation rate of – say – fifty percent of the age group, it might be expected that the distinction between traditional and non-traditional students might inevitably become blurred. (Schuetze and Slowey, 2002, p. 313)

Disciplinary discourse

The second and third ‘threats to validity’ relate to the data analysis. The research teams in the European partners agreed that the research would be qualitative and based around biographical data. In process, the project generated a series of key sensitising concepts to be used in the analysis of the data: habitus (Bourdieu), transitional space (Winnicott) and social recognition and respect (Honneth). On the face of it, these concepts are strange bedfellows, coming from sociology (Marxist), psychology (psychoanalytic) and social psychology (Frankfurt critical theory). Whilst the process of generating key sensitising concepts was itself problematic, once agreed there appeared to be few difficulties in applying those concepts in interpreting data in Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Spain and the UK. This suggests that academic discourse is more easily transferable to different cultural settings in which language is not a barrier, because the meanings of these sociological, psychological and social psychological concepts have been negotiated within a range of different linguistic but academic communities. The themes to emerge from the data were largely generative, emerging from the research experience. However, the consensus over the sensitising concepts was a little more restrictive. Certainly, each of the three concepts was generated through the work of project partners, all of whom were encouraged to consider the application of each of these ‘sensitising concepts’ to the data that were being collected in each partner country. This consensus was not straightforward, and to some extent felt like an imposed series of analytic frameworks that did not necessarily fit easily together, and data were possibly being forced to fit the framework.

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