The feeling's mutual : excitement, dread and trust in adult learning and teaching
This thesis has developed out of a longer term action research project relating to a work based programme of study for adult learners in the field of Estates and Facilities Management. Through an investigation of barriers to learning experienced by these students, evidence was emerging of an emotional dimension to the learning experience. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly aware of an emotional quality in my own experience as a teacher. This cohort study of 22 part-time, work-based, adult returners to education uses group and individual interviews, written reflections and logs to examine their emotional experiences during participation on a two-year undergraduate Certificate course. The study takes a diverse approach that links with traditions of action research, grounded theory and critical theory and an inductive approach to the analysis of qualitative data. Data are presented first as narrative biographies, telling the stories of four of the students, second, as thematic accounts, reflecting the experiences of all 22 students, and then finally as an account of my own experience as tutor over the same period of time. Four principal themes emerged from this data. These themes are based on two dimensions; first that of the individual and. second that of the context for learning; and then on the binary distinction between positive and negative aspects of the learning/teaching experience. The data offer some confirmation that work based and returning adult students suffer high levels of anxiety and that these students require concomitantly high levels of support to counter this anxiety. At the same time there is also a deep and positive sense of anticipation and excitement before and during their engagement in higher education. The thesis introduces the notion that student and tutor are linked symbiotically in a mutual learning experience whose essential foundation is trust. One implication for practice is how a student support infrastructure can be developed to build this trust over time.