The focus on community based FE reflects the importance of this aspect of provision in encouraging participation in learning among people who have traditionally been least inclined to participate in formal education. This is an under-researched area of educational practice and the fundamental significance of this project is to understand how the learning culture of this section of FE is distinctive.
The overall aim of the project is to facilitate transformations in the learning cultures within community and outreach provision of further education (FE) colleges, and through this to enhance engagement with learning.
The research will focus on four community based learning sites of two FE colleges in Scotland - Anniesland College in Glasgow and James Watt College North Ayrshire campus in Kilwinning.
The research will also be informed by the work undertaken in the TLRP Phase II project Transforming Learning Cultures (TLC), led by Phil Hodkinson. The TLC project is exploring learning cultures in FE, but does not have community provision as its main focus.
Two key theoretical perspectives underpin the work. Firstly, the concept of learning relationships, reflecting a belief that it is in the learners' relationships with others - peers, tutors, but also with people outside the formal learning community - that identity as a learner is forged. The second is dispositions to learning , which are the feelings and attitudes of a person towards learning and how important learning is to them in the context of their life. These perspectives will be examined in the context of learning careers, which focus on the ways that individual dispositions and wider social structures interact and the impact they can have on engagement with learning. The research will also draw on Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital and field.