Researching with Communities: Challenges in Adult and Community Education in New Zealand

Dr. Liz Tully,
Dr. Marion Bowl
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This paper explores the challenges and opportunities in undertaking collaborative action research with a diverse range of largely community-based Adult and Community Education (ACE) practitioners. ACE in New Zealand is currently the focus of a government-funded, sector-wide initiative aimed at enhancing professional development (PD) opportunities for practitioners, who work in a wide range of settings, urban and rural, and under the considerable constraints of funding and time. The aim of the initiative (Tertiary Education Commission, 2006) is to improve learner outcomes by increasing the effectiveness of teaching and learning in ACE. One of the TEC's four key strategies is to assist the development of an infrastructure for ongoing ACE PD, and to strengthen the sector as a whole, by encouraging existing networks of practitioners to adopt a 'community of practice' (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, 2002) approach to PD and capability building. Responsibility for supporting the achievement of this outcome was given to a small team of university-based ACE practitioner-researchers who undertook a 12-month project with six ACE networks, located in diverse regions of New Zealand. Their study used a participatory action research methodology (Cardno 2003; Reason and Bradbury 2001) to collaborate with network members in exploring different individual and group PD needs and evaluating the effectiveness of various approaches. The paper describes the process of the research and some of the lessons it offered - for practitioners, researchers and policy makers.

Keywords: Adult Education, Adult Educators, Community Education, Adult and Community Education, Professional Development, Communities of Practice, Participatory Action Research
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Researching with Communities

Dr. Liz Tully

Manager, Community Education, UC Opportunity, University of Canterbury
Christchurch, New Zealand

Liz was a national executive member of ACE Aotearoa, a national association of adult and community education practitioners and providers, and had particular responsibility for improving communication within, and on behalf of, the ACE sector. She is also co-coordinator of the steering group for the local Christchurch ACE practitioner network.

Dr. Marion Bowl

Senior Lecturer in Adult and Community Education, UC Opportunity, University of Canterbury
Christchurch, New Zealand

Until January 2006, Marion was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, School of Education and Head of the Division of Informal Education and Social Pedagogy. Dr. Bowl is a community worker, teacher and academic, with 25 years' experience in developing and managing Adult and Community Education initiatives both in the U.K. and overseas.

Ref: I07P0180