Transformative learning and frontline teaching in NSW technical and further education since Myer-Kangan : an adult educator's account

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In this thesis, I present an historical account from the mid 1970s until the mid- 2000s of three programs that were delivered by the Department of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) in the state of New South Wales, Australia. They are (a) an Outreach community education program; (b) an adult literacy program and (c) a women’s return-to-work and study program. All three were borne out of educational policies introduced by a newly elected federal Labor Government in 1972, led by Gough Whitlam and spearheaded through the recommendations of the Myer-Kangan Committee Report (1973-4). These programs had in common their emphasis on first and/or second-chance learning opportunities for marginal adults. Furthermore, they shared a broad but clear philosophical commitment to a progressive and humanist approach to teaching that emphasised learners’ own life experiences as the starting point and foundation of knowledge and learning. The significance of my doctoral study should be understood against a backdrop in which over the last fifteen years there have been substantial shifts in philosophical and policy approaches by different governments. There was once much to admire in these programs because they were overtly committed to social justice and equality. Today, TAFE has moved in a different direction and away from its commitment to equality of educational opportunity. Instead there is now a stronger policy commitment to vocational outcomes, greater emphasis on youth workplace preparation and training and a user-pays philosophy. It is one thing to espouse a commitment to social justice and equity in adult education, it is another to develop and deliver strategies that realise it. In my thesis I describe and analyse in detail the efforts of frontline teachers to do this. I draw heavily on my experience as someone who has developed curriculum materials and engaged in classroom teaching across all three programs over a period of three decades. The rich and analytical description that I present offers insights into the possibilities for frontline teachers of developing and delivering what I call transformative education. I present case studies from the three programs which describe and analyse the nature of teaching strategies that led to transformative learning. I place value on building theoretical insights about teaching in a bottom-up perspective by critically discussing the details of curriculum and teaching-in-action. Having said that I value a bottom-up process of theory development, I should state the major bodies of literature and educational philosophies that I draw on include progressive schooling, radical adult education, feminism, and humanist developmental psychology.
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