Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show how a typology of participating patterns is developed to deepen understanding of participation in formal adult education and the relationship between current workplace and educational programmes. Design/methodology/approach – The approach takes the form of conceptual work based on a qualitative analysis of 89 cases studies covering 113 participating employees in small and medium‐sized enterprises in 12 European countries. Findings – Five main types of participation patterns in formal adult education are identified. When employed participants focus on their education, they may complete their formal programme (“Completing”), overrule an earlier decision to leave the educational system (“Returning”) or look for a starting‐point to change their professional career (“Transforming”). When focusing on employment, employees may use formal adult education for “Reinforcing” their earlier career decisions. Here, four subtypes are proposed. Finally, employees may enjoy their studies for features not available at work (“Compensation”). Research limitations/implications – The typology was based on qualitative data; the sample does not claim to be representative. However, it could become the basis for a quantitative survey design. Practical implications – The typology is likely to be of value in a wide array of fields such as whether the employer organisation should offer support, or whether there should be an economic return to education. Originality/value – The typology builds on a life‐cycle model and combines it with the relationship between the educational programme and the workplace. It is not restricted to certain groups of learners or formal programmes.
Journal of Workplace Learning – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 23, 2010
Keywords: Adult education; Workplace learning; Europe
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