ERIC Number: EJ718912
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Feb
Reference Count: 29
The Construction of "Age Difference" and the Impact of Age-Mixing within UK Further Education Colleges
British Journal of Sociology of Education, v26 n1 p55-70 Feb 2005
"Age" is an important social category used to define individuals and groups within our society and, often, to structure access to power, prestige and status. However, within educational research, age has been relatively neglected when compared with other social categories such as gender, class and ethnicity. In an attempt to begin to explore the impact of age within schools and colleges, this paper focuses on students' and teachers' experience of mixed-age learning groups within the UK further education sector. First, the paper outlines various assumptions about the distinctiveness of age groups that underpin much sociological theorizing as well as current educational policy within the United Kingdom. It then draws on an empirical study of six further education colleges in Yorkshire and the south-east of England to suggest that the ways in which students and members of staff construct notions of "age" and "age difference" bear little resemblance to the models adopted by policymakers. Nevertheless, the paper goes on to argue that, although there was little consensus about where the boundary between "younger" and "older" learners should be drawn, most respondents were able to identify specific age-related differences that they believed affected the process of learning. In particular, mixed-age classes were believed to offer considerable advantages over more age-homogeneous groups. The final part of the paper explores some of these putative advantages and discusses their significance in the light of current debates about the "postponement" of adulthood and the nature of inter-generational relationships.
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Learning Processes, Educational Policy, Educational Research, Age Differences, Grouping (Instructional Purposes), Continuing Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom