Adult learning in Australia: is choice making conscious or otherwise in a politically and sociologically determined changing landscape?

Year: 2017

Author: Henderson, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Adult learning choice makers are often assumed, by policy makers and other influential parties, to choose in an objective rational manner that is influenced by individual social and economic circumstances. As a consequence, the policy environment and institutional behaviour appear to favour economic and ease of participation motives, with some additional programs provided and engagement strategies enacted for disadvantaged or under-represented groups. Sociological, financial and technology impacts are sometimes assumed to be significant, where the choice maker's perceptions and actions may show otherwise.
The researcher's adult learning choice data collection activities span several studies from 2011 to 2018. The data for this project is and will be from interviewing people about their learning connected choices, their relevant life and learning experiences and future intentions.
This project uses multiple semi structured interviews undertaken over a two-year span. This timespan for individual participation is designed to lead to better understanding of changing circumstances and perspectives, thereby leading to identification of underlying factors that are relevant to learning engagement and the related choices (if any). Data can be linked to several key theories of choice making including rational choice, structure and agency, consumer choice and technology acceptance modelling. Individual experiences described by the participants also correlate with impactful political decisions, sociologically describable environmental shifts, hidden personal stories and agendas.
The question remains over whether choice making takes place in a "real" sense, or whether other factors more strongly correlate with engagement in learning for many adults. The evidence shows an environment that is increasingly complex and choice making that is often only secondarily learning related. Sometimes there appears to be no conscious choice mechanism at all.
The presentation will show how a pragmatic consideration of learning choice making interview data using semiotics gives an improved understanding of choice making. Methodology, method and some findings of the exploratory project will be covered. Therefore, this research will be important to both educators and learning organisations seeking to assist adults in optimising their learning choice making experiences and consequences.