Adult students' citizenship discourses within and beyond the curriculum

Students demonstrating

The aim of this project is to widen knowledge about citizenship learning by identifying adult students’ citizenship understandings and activities relating them to those discourses emerging within the curriculum. The project is a response to two major difficulties identified in the current debates on citizenship education and learning.

A first major difficulty is that debates to some extent ignore that those adult students who are the target of citizenship learning already enact citizenship. The policy language of citizenship learning in the curriculum often positions (adult) students to be in need of a preparation for civic life (mostly in the sense of learning for citizenship), even though adult students already practice citizenship in a variety of ways in their everyday living (most adults are for example already legally citizens in that they can vote). The policy language further positions students as ‘needing’ the knowledge, values and competencies for citizenship and further development, which is to position them outside the existing community of citizens who act – as excluded and lacking in a way that they have to overcome. This masks understandings and activities, also the opportunities to practice citizenship in other ways than those that ‘counts’ as being part of (a proper) citizenship activity. 

A second major difficulty emerges from the notion that discursive and material resources or ‘conditions’, support specific forms of activity. Although current citizenship research explores student motivations and contexts for the activity to be encouraged, the emphasis on citizenship learning moves attention from the wider support for activities which are already on going which may be important. Based on interviews with students and teachers in Swedish municipal adult education (Komvux) as well as Folk high schools (Folkhögskolor), drawing on discursive and poststructural theorisations as well as more critical theoretical perspectives, the project problematizes the ways students construct themselves and are constructed as citizens. 

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