Educational encounters with adult students in difficult learning situations

Lisbeth Ohlsson

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    The present study is a retrospective investigation of the researcher’s pedagogic and psychological praxis in Municipal Adult Education in Sweden. At the time, the adult education unit in question had an outreaching project at Samhall, a state-owned company producing goods and services with an assignment from the government to provide meaningful work to employees with disabilities. A group of 23 workers failed in an earlier diagnostic procedure for admittance to adult education. The aim of the present study was to investigate possibly hidden resources for learning in a second educational encounter between the applicants and the present researcher in what is considered as difficult learning situations. The research questions concern how learning and teaching can be understood, when traditional test procedures are replaced by dialogue in educational and psychological diagnosis. It is part of the research question to understand how the students experience themselves as learners and how they give meaning to problem solving, mainly in Swedish and mathematics, and also which impact the interaction with the educator has. The study is inspired from hermeneutic and phenomenological traditions with a special focus on contextual analysis and life-world perspectives. Data were gathered as audio-taped records of the educational encounters. Verbatim transcripts from four of the encounters were chosen for in depth analysis and these texts were analysed in detail in several successive turns, oscillating between parts and whole of phenomena. A picture emerges, through the different phases of analysis, described as rings of an ever-moving model where the complexity of the whole, only by artificial means of 'freezing' the constant dynamics, can be taken apart and interpreted. The main findings are characterised as a 'relational grammar of interaction’ with form aspects, delimited as sequences and shifts where some shifts are considered as more significant than others. Relations and aspects of meaning were discerned as themes of content, focussing primarily the perspective of the student but also considering the impact of the researcher. The common denominator over the four encounters appears in terms of metacognition as a relation between life and learning, where existential aspects of exclusion as well as the content of curriculum and subject matter appear as important. Mediation in diagnostic and didactic encounters between students and important others, such as the teacher, are viewed in relation to Martin Buber’s dialogic philosophy and encounters between an I and a Thou. Teaching and learning in difficult learning situations is in the present study understood as ‘being part of each others’ intelligence’, thereby making possible the release of hidden potentials for learning. Implications are seen for adult education, suggesting that metacognitive aspects of teaching and learning may unite students and a normal variation of differences in mixed settings rather than separate them.

    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • Pedagogy (50301)


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