Adult education theory makes a number of claims about the value of prior knowledge learners bring to a learning process. Our work as adult educators in a university setting attempted to operationalize these claims by placing value on the prior knowledge and professional practices of adults with whom we worked during the period 1999-2007. We developed three postgraduate workbased learning degrees that were conducted at the nexus of work and learning within the community, adult education and emergency services. Within these programs we established “communities of practice” (Wenger 1998) within which learners and academics represented their practices, conducted research, developed new knowledge and produced applied outcomes in public spaces. As educators, we invited student/professionals to engage in dialogue and public processes of discovery and problem solving. The very nature of this work meant that there were times of exposure to narratives about professional practices that were highly problematic. Sometimes those narratives came close to breaching legislative frameworks, and other times they simply resonated painfully against our own deeply held convictions about oppression, injustice and social exclusion.
This book chapter is published as Childs, M and Wagner, R, De-reifying learners: grappling with student ethics in postgraduate workbased degrees, in Kell, P, Vialle, W, Konza, D and Vogl, G (eds), Learning and the learner: exploring learning for new times, University of Wollongong, 2008, 236p. Complete book available here.