What makes a lifelong learner?

Stephen Gorard, Neil Selwyn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


This article uses the reports from 1,001 home-based interviews, with adults living in the United Kingdom, to describe their varying patterns of participation in lifelong, learning. It finds that 37% of all adults report no further education or training of any kind after reaching compulsory school-leaving age. This proportion declines in each age cohort but is largely replaced by a pattern of lengthening initial education and still reporting no further education or training of any kind after leaving. The actual patterns of participation are predictable to a large extent from regression analysis using a life order model of determining variables. The key variables are age, ethnicity, sex, family background, and initial schooling, all of which are set very early in life. This suggests that universal theories to describe participation, such as simple human capital theory, are incorrect in several respects. Where individuals create, for themselves and through their early experiences, a "learner identity" inimical to further study, then the prospect of learning can become a burden rather than an investment. This has implications for the notion of overcoming barriers to access, such as those involving technology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11908
Pages (from-to)1193-1216
Number of pages24
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes

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