Community Educators and the Struggle
Theorising meaning, educator and institution in Ireland’s
community education field using a generative grounded
PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
This thesis explores community education in Ireland in a threefold enquiry examining;
(a) the core meaning which community education holds for practitioners in the field,
(b) how the role of community educators shares a connectedness with liberatory struggle
for social justice, and
(c) what space community education and its educators occupy within its institutional
provider, the Vocational Education Committees (VECs).
Community education in Ireland is a vibrant field of practice operating on the fringes of
mainstream education. Its origins can be traced to the early instructors of the Vocational
Education Committees in the early part of the last century. Women’s community education
has shaped the practice in Ireland since the 1970s. The year 2000 marked a significant step
forward in terms of recognition for community education with the publication of the White
Paper on Adult Education.
In this thesis the author draws on his experience working in the community education
sector to engage with other community educators to reflect on the generative themes of
meaning, educator role and institution in this field of practice.
The first aspect of the research explores the meaning of community education from the
practitioner perspective, and finds a clear preference for an empowerment meaning.
However, the findings suggest there is no clear settlement on the meaning of
empowerment, and concludes there is a need to articulate an understanding of
empowerment in the context of a critical analysis of power.
The second aspect of the research concerns the role of the community educator and the
connectedness of this role to a broader liberatory struggle for social justice. Using
Honneth’s concept of a struggle for recognition, the findings point to a critical role which is
poorly recognized within the education field in Ireland. A key purpose of the research is to
rediscover the roots of this role in Gramsci’s organic intellectuals and Freire’s radicals and
reclaim the critical role of the community educator within the Irish education site.
The third aspect of this research examines the space which community education occupies
within its institutional provider, the Vocational Education Committees in Ireland. The
research presents an assessment of the institutional culture of the VECs. The findings recall
the VEC’s radical origins, and its later immersion within the mainstream educational
apparatus. Findings point to the tensions between a dominant school ethos and subordinate
community education ethos in the VEC and proposes a critical coalition for the future. The
findings suggest that community education facilitators have a role to play in occupying a
critical space within the VECs.
The unique contribution of this research is that it presents a theorized community education
from the perspective of its workers, the community educators. The research methodology
combines Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory with Freirean liberatory pedagogy.
The result is a unique contribution to a generative grounded theorization of community
education in Ireland today.
||Community educators; theorising meaning; generative grounded theory;
||Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
||26 Sep 2012 12:10
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