Issue How might more opportunities be created for some learners without damaging the prospects for others?
Identity and learning
The themes of transition, choice and constraint in this phase are crucially bound up with the notions of identity and identity development. Choices made and pathways adopted reflect young people’s views of themselves as learners and their views on the type of people they wish to become. But navigating a path is a socially constructed process. Peer groups, family and teachers influence the choices that are made. The range of roles and pathways on offer depend on how the labour market is structured and how work is organised. The attitudes of employers are of key importance here.
Issue How do we provide structures and process to support exploratory learning by young people whilst also respecting their agency and emerging identities?
One way of considering an identity is as an unfolding story – an emerging narrative of our self, in which we feel secure. However, a number of young people in the 14-19 phase have relatively fragile identities as learners or experience environments in which they feel vulnerable. 1
It is possible to support the development of more confident learners within education and training, often after making explicit changes from the approaches to learning which caused difficulties in the past. Hence the decision of some learners to opt for programmes on the basis that they do not include formal examinations, and by other learners to seek a new learning environment, for example by moving from school to a further education college. For other young people, a move to a work environment in which they feel more secure and valued helps rebuild their fragile learner identities. But this can only happen in a supportive work environment, and work or work experience is not a magical solution. Its success depends upon the extent to which a work environment can offer opportunities for the young person to develop.
1 The changing role of identity and agency in learning across the lifecourse is an important theme for TLRP as a whole. Ideas drawn from two TLRP studies looking at the learning biographies of children progressing through compulsory education and at adults over the age of 25 would be a useful source of reference for those interested in these issues for 14 – 19 year olds. The former study by Pollard and Filer is a twelve year, longitudinal ethnographic study in which social influences on the learning of two cohorts of children were traced as they moved through their entire compulsory schooling in a city in southern England, while the ‘Learning Lives’ project, led by Gert Biesta, is a longitudinal study involving the development of learning biographies for 150 adults aged between 25 and 65+.