Time and Learning in Adulthood

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Funded by the German Research Foundation (448214507) from March 2021 until February 2024

In its leading research interest, the project relates to the relationship between time and learning. The aim is to investigate the role time plays in adult learning, as there are – in contrast to childhood and adolescence – no solid temporal institutions for education (in contrast to compulsory school education). If learning is not simply seen as a lifelong event ‚en passant‘, time for continuing education must be negotiated, structured, and integrated into everyday life. At the same time, empirical research on participation in adult learning and education reveals that time conflicts (e.g. with family or professional obligations), but also missing legal entitlements (e.g. paid educational leave) form decisive barriers for participation. It is therefore of central interest, how and with which effects learning time is realized in practice and conceived individually, and, which different qualities of time are observable. The project examines the configuration of time-related structures and practices in courses (collective temporalities) and experiences and formation of time in the learning of the course participants (individual time modalities). This aims at analyzing relational interplays between collective temporalities and individual time modalities from a practice-theoretical perspective, instead of assuming time as a merely technological-operational entity.

As fundamental as time is for pedagogical issues, it eludes immediate observation. Therefore,  the empirical investigation deploys a qualitative-reconstructive, multi-method and multi-perspective research design: Participant observation of courses aim at a (re)construction of the temporalities by systematically comparing courses from different learning settings (intensive ‘block week’, ‘day or evening course’ as well as the increasingly important ‘online course’). Through narrative interviews with course participants, individual time experiences and different shapes of qualities in learning time come into view (time modalities). Finally, an integrating analysis focuses on the multi-level analysis of the interplay between the collective temporalities in courses and the individual time modalities of learning. For this purpose, the documentary method offers an appropriate methodological framework and methodical approaches to meet the specific challenges of the research object by means of reconstructing implicit knowledge.

The results of the research project not only contribute to fundamental research in the field of time and learning (which offers insights not only for adult education but also for educational sciences in general), they can also help to clarify the phenomenon of (non-) participation in continuing education beyond sociographic and economic characteristics.


Letzte Änderung: 3. February 2021