Transformative Learning in English Further Education

  • Vicky DuckworthEmail author
  • Rob Smith
Reference work entry


This chapter draws on the Further Education in England: Transforming Lives & Communities project, commissioned by UCU. This research project aims to understand and provide evidence of how the further education (FE) sector is vital in transforming lives and communities in twenty-first-century Britain. The research provides learners, teachers, family members, and their communities with the opportunity to tell their stories, linking the distinctness of FE to the impact it has on individuals, society, and the economy.

The research provides evidence of how further education offers a “differential space” (Lefebvre H 1991) that can subvert the prescriptive, linear spaces of compulsory education and lead to critical spaces for transformative learning. The study proceeds from an understanding that educational practices are positioned as ideologically imbued, driven, and shaped by policy. Indeed, the model of curriculum can determine whether education is an emancipatory or oppressive process. While productivist approaches to vocational education and training support and perpetuate ideologies that legitimate and authenticate prescribed knowledge, reproducing inequality and injustice through the practices employed (Ade-Ojo G, Duckworth V. 2016; Duckworth V, Smith R 2017b) transformative teaching and learning shifts to a more holistic and dynamic approach. It seeks engagement with learners through a purposeful acknowledgment of their cultural background and biography and nurtures critical insight into education as a socially situated process. Transformative teaching and learning is orientated to affirming agency and as such has a ripple effect that impacts on learners’ families and their communities.

This chapter draws on a range of theoretical perspectives to provide an appropriate and illuminating framework to explore the themes around transformative teaching and learning that have emerged from the evidence. Among these, hope, space, egalitarianism, and symbolic violence feature strongly. Learners’ experience of symbolic violence (Bourdieu and Passeron 2013; Duckworth V 2013) was a key focus of the analysis. This symbolic violence consists of labeling individuals, reifying social division and the current (dis)order, and stymying creativity through the erasure of critical insights. It seeks to locate “failure” within the individual as a determining and essentialist aspect of their identity thereby thwarting the development of empowering learner agency. Transformative learning spaces move beyond the symbolic and institutional violence that often shapes learners’ understandings of themselves within the educational context and into a transformative critical space, restoring participants’ hope and enabling them to transcend the internal and external influences and violence that have shaped their learning journey to date.

The chapter suggests that in challenging inequalities in learners’ lives and communities, adult education and vocational education and training should reflect a transformative pedagogy, providing a curriculum that is culturally relevant, learner-driven, and socially empowering (Ade-Ojo and Duckworth 2016; Duckworth and Smith 2017a).


Transformative teaching and learning Further education Social justice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationEdge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUK
  2. 2.Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in EducationBirmingham City UniversityBirminghamUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Lesley Powell
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationNelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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