The rise of the life narrative

Ivor Goodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The author discusses how narratives, which are part of the common currency of the day, have dramatically changed over the years. Grand narratives, which grew exponentially in the mid-nineteenth century, have now been replaced by two different narratives: life narratives and small-scale narratives. He also discusses how small narratives have been expressed in emerging patterns of art, politics, and business; and describes an example of a research project that seeks to address some of the dilemmas present in life history work. The Learning Lives project, which is a large interdisciplinary project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in Britain from 2004-2008, seeks to deepen understanding of the meaning and significance of informal learning in the lives of adults, and aims to identify ways in which the learning of adults can be supported and enhanced. To see learning as located within a life history is to understand that learning is contextually situated and that it also has a history, in terms of (a) the individual's life story, (b) the history and trajectories of the institutions that offer formal learning opportunities, and (c) the histories of the communities and locations in which informal learning takes place. In terms of transitional spaces learning is seen as a response to incidental transitions, such as events related to illness, unemployment, and domestic dysfunction, as well as the more structured transitions related to credentialing or retirement. Hence, these transitional events create encounters with formal, informal, and primal learning opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-21
Number of pages15
JournalTeacher Education Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


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