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Research themes

Our approach to research and scholarship is theoretically informed, methodologically rigorous, and practically useful. We enable impact and engagement through our extensive range of networks including professional bodies, community links, policy forums, and contacts with members of the public. We seek to understand and include the needs of research participants, students, and service users.

We take a holistic and integrative approach that links research and scholarship to all aspects of academic practice including teaching, management, and outreach work. We have strengths in innovative mixed methods, qualitative, and interpretive approaches ranging from action research to theoretical projects. We support exploration of the varied ways in which lifelong learning can be facilitated, supported, and enhanced through pedagogy, andragogy, personal development, and social change.

Our work supports the departmental strategy in relation to research and scholarship and the University’s strategic research priorities in relation to: connecting cultures, futures of work, creativity, sustainable development, decent work, understanding the human, and social justice.

The four interconnected themes representing our research and scholarship in the field of lifelong learning are explained in more detail below:

Concepts of Lifelong Learning

The range of our research and scholarship is diverse to reflect staff interests and linked by a common language centred on concepts of lifelong learning:

    • The sociological, psychological, and cultural dimensions of lifelong learning.
    • Learning theories including transformational learning, experiential learning, social learning, cultural learning, and situated learning.
    • Transformative pedagogies including critical pedagogy, anti-racist pedagogy, andragogy, and learning alliance.

    • The role of playfulness, emotion, and relationships in learning.
    • Work-based learning including initial and continuing professional development and forms of reflective practice.
    • Social policy and the role of education and welfare policies in lifelong learning.

People-focused Professions and Lifelong Learning

A particular feature of our research and scholarship is its focus on professional and vocational learning. Specifically, people-focused professions that use lifelong learning concepts to inform their work with people and enable participation in formal and informal lifelong learning. We have national and international expertise linked to:

  • Adult education.
  • Career development work.
  • Coaching.
  • Counselling.
  • Early childhood practice.
  • Psychotherapy.
  • Social studies.
  • Social work.

Wellbeing, Identity, and Lifelong Learning

Our research and scholarship focus on issues of wellbeing and identity particularly as they relate to concepts of lifelong learning and people-focused professions:

  • Wellbeing and health including the sociology of health, mental health, personal development, and mindfulness.
  • Professional identities, growth, career development, and anti-oppressive practice.
  • Emotional labour, nurturing, caring, and compassion in the workplace.
  • Links between wellbeing/identity and depth psychology, spirituality, and calling.
  • Cultural, familial, political, policy, and work environments that inform people’s identity and sense of wellbeing

Participation, Collaboration, and Lifelong Learning

Participation and collaboration are important aspects of our approach to research and scholarship:

  • Participation in informal and formal learning.
  • Inclusion and access to education linked to gender, class, race, disability, and sexual identity.
  • Collaboration and engagement with local, regional, national, and international organisations and communities including professional bodies, learned societies, colleges, voluntary groups, and employers.
  • Collaboration between staff and students, across disciplines, and across the University.
  • Critical transformation of policy and organisations to enable participation.
  • People-focused professions that enable wider participation in society and connection with others.
  • Participation in research and practitioner research including methodologies which involve the researched in co-creation.