Listening to Men Learning: An Exploration of Men's Learning Preferences in Community Contexts
This paper reports on the results of a study of the learning preferences of adult males in small, rural Australian towns. The researcher employed a survey of men in each of ten towns in 2004 to explore and compare their learning experiences and preferences — in adult and community education (ACE) programs on one hand, and in community-based volunteer organisations (fire services, landcare senior citizens and football clubs) on the other. The research is considered timely given that male learning preferences generally, and the relatively low levels of male involvement in ACE in Australia in particular, remain poorly understood and researched. The focus of the study on small (population less than 2,500) rural towns and its exploration of less formal learning contexts is also deliberate. It acknowledges the relatively poor outcomes from school exhibited by Australian rural boys, and the very limited choice for their fathers and grandfathers to engage in formal learning programs in sites other than ACE. The main findings the study reports are what and how men in the five community organisations surveyed say they want to learn. The research confirms the considerable importance for men of regular learning experienced in less formal learning contexts as community volunteers, and highlights the barriers ICT poses for older men. It also identifies approaches to learning provision in ACE and other community-based contexts that are more likely to attract and retain men. The research and its investigations of gender segmentation in adult learning in small town settings have important potential implications for adult learning practice in rural communities generally, and for men learning through ACE in particular.
Keywords: Men, Learning Preferences, Community Contexts, Volunteers, Adult and Community Education
Prof. Barry Goanna Golding
Senior Lecturer, School of Education, University of Ballarat