Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
Wright_2010.pdf (8.84 MB)

Integrating lives through adult education: a case study of mature women training to work in childcare

Download (8.84 MB)
posted on 2023-08-30, 19:46 authored by Hazel R. Wright
This predominantly qualitative study explores the student experience of adult education focusing on expectations, practices and consequences. The research draws upon the characteristics of 150 women enrolling on a level three childcare diploma in a Further Education College over a ten-year period, and, in particular, a semi-stratified sample of 33. The study is real-world research, interdisciplinary, and using a flexible, emergent design. Data was gathered through background questionnaires and informal interviews where the researcher used a combination of conversational and close listening techniques to explore students’ views. Interviews were transcribed in full and ‘conversation analysis’ coding used to illuminate meaning concealed within the dialogue. The research outcome is an in-depth interpretative account demonstrating how education mediates students’ biographies and exploring the tensions between instrumental and liberal values. The findings suggest that despite choosing a vocational qualification, many of the students seek and achieve broader goals, and that at all times, their decisions are bounded by the perceived needs of their children and families. In contrast to many other accounts that associate education with life change, it is remarkable how the students appear content to focus on their current ‘being’ and ‘doing’, accepting the limitations that parenting imposes on their ‘functioning’. The study seeks and finds patterns within and across the data. Narrative analysis suggests typologies relating to attitude and career progression. Thematic analysis reveals that despite diverse backgrounds, the students hold similar attitudes to work, favouring convenient hours and a blurring of work/life boundaries over remuneration. The thesis presents an ‘integrated lives’ model that captures the reciprocity of family, education and workplace ties and links this to Sen’s ‘capability approach’, an important philosophical conceptualization that places individual choice at the centre of policy decisions. It also offers a format for charting ‘capability’ throughout the life-course, facilitating comparison of non-standard biographical data and suggesting a means of examining the conversion of ‘capability’ into ‘functioning’.



Anglia Ruskin University

File version

  • Accepted version


  • eng

Thesis name

  • PhD

Thesis type

  • Doctoral

Legacy posted date


Legacy creation date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Theses from Anglia Ruskin University/Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences

Usage metrics

    ARU Theses


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager