We are undertaking two separate but linked projects on this overarching theme.
The aim of project 1 (“conceptual frameworks”) is to compare the conceptual and theoretical frameworks of the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning with those of TLRP research and learn the lessons of this inter-disciplinary collaboration.
The aims of project 2 (“data collection and secondary analysis”) are:
- to support the integration of TLRP research and future data collection in the national birth cohorts;
- to assess and make recommendations about the extent to which the TLRP research has led to hypotheses that could be tested in available longitudinal data.
Overview of Project 1: Conceptual frameworks
Through the work of the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning, we have been involved in the development of a conceptual framework for understanding the specific role of education through the lifecourse as a particular domain of interest that provides resilience, protection but also risk in the lives of individuals, families, communities and nations. Our conceptual framework centres on the application of the ecological models of Bronfenbrenner , that recognise the important interactions of individuals and context in the formation of life outcomes and opportunities. The framework recognises the multi-level aspect of social structure with individuals engaging in multiple contexts that we have come to frame within a systems theory analogy that recognises distinct level of social aggregation, from the individual, up to the nation state and then to global society. These levels of context interact with each other but each also has distinct units of analysis and dynamic properties.
The aim of the work on this theme is to compare and contrast this framework with others used and developed in the TLRP programme, mapping the complementary contributions of each to understanding of the role of education through the lifecourse. Reviewing the work of the TLRP in this area will enhance the development of our own conceptual framework and also support the testing of the Bronfenbrenner model as a useful synthesising and general framework, alongside others, for understanding the role of context in the work of the TLRP.
Overview of Project 2: Data collection and secondary analysis
The longitudinal data of the UK birth cohorts has in the last few years led to an unprecedented opportunity to undertake lifecourse analysis in large sample, nationally representative data. This data has been developed to support analysis of development and change for individuals across a wide range of domains of life, though the stages of childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood. The data does not just focus on continuity and discontinuity for individuals, however, but also recognises and assesses through survey designs the multiple contexts in which individuals live, work, form relationships, take leisure and so on. Thus, for example, we have for both the 1958 and 1970 cohorts questions in 1999/2000 (at ages 42 and 30) about general life satisfaction but also about satisfaction in more specific domains such as job, home and with self.
These datasets are ongoing and so it is important to continue to develop survey designs and domains of investigation that best make use of these national research resources so as to address those issues of lifecourse research that are not just pressing now but likely to be of interest to generations to come. Therefore, it is vital that the development of the data be linked to ongoing theory, conceptual development and research of the kind that the TLRP is supporting and enhancing. The seminars and research outputs we propose will support this integration of survey design and research.
The third aim is to build on the first two elements of the programme to frame a series of specific hypotheses that emerge from the conceptual and empirical work of the TLRP and which could be addressed in longitudinal analysis.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge , MA : Harvard University Press.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. Developmental Psychology, 22 , 723-742.