EdgeHillUniversityAn empowering monograph written by an Edge Hill University academic follows the journeys of vulnerable learners and shows how critical education can be truly life-changing.

Vicky Duckworth, Senior Lecturer in Post-Compulsory Education and Training, has just published Learning Trajectories, Violence and Empowerment amongst Adult Basic Skills Learners, which offers deep insights into the lives of marginalised communities and the link between learning, literacy and violence.

Described by Professor Diane Reay from the University of Cambridge as ‘a gripping picture of the complexities and contradictions that shape their lives, and attests to the enduring power of feminist ethnography to illuminate the workings of class and gender in education’, it breaks the negative stereotypes of adults who struggle to read and write or who are often labelled and stigmatised in society.

The monograph is based on a longitudinal, feminist, ethnographic and participatory action research six-year study, which followed the journey of 16 learners joining a basic skills programme and the impact it has had on their lives.

Vicky said: “One of the learners is Marie, a single mum, who described herself as ‘thick’ and left school struggling to spell. But her drive to be a role model for her children and provide a better future for them spurred her on in education. Marie’s journey has been truly liberating. She has been sharing her experience both locally in the community and getting people to believe in themselves and internationally at conferences. She has written her learning journey autobiography, published by Gatehouse, which follows her trajectory from basic skills learner to qualified nurse; the book is now a national and International teaching resource.  It is stories like Marie’s that are reflected in the book and show just how powerful a tool education can be and the doors it opens in life.”

The book contributes to the debate on the impact of violence on learning and its link to class, gender and basic skills as well opening up a discussion on the power of a critical curriculum to empower people across the domains of their lives.

“I try to offer a personal position as an ’insider’ with ‘insider knowledge’ of marginalised communities,” said Vicky, “which is woven throughout the chapters and offers insights into the struggles, conformity and resistance faced by the participants in the study. The learners’ narratives expose the contradiction, complexities and ambivalences they experience in their daily lives, and how they try to make sense of them from their structural positioning as basic skills learners in a society based on inequality of opportunity and choice.”

The book will be valuable reading for trainee teachers, teachers, education and sociology students, postgraduate students, as well as literacy specialists, researchers, academics, policy makers and managers of public services.