Adult education and attitude change
(2004) John Preston and Leon Feinstein
Wider Benefits of Learning Research Report No.11
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Previous literature on learning and attitude change suggests that there may be a role for adult education in changing attitudes, but there is little evidence to suggest how (or why) adult education may change a variety of opinions. Moreover, there is little rationale for the importance of changing norms in terms of their impact on behaviour. This report aims to address these research questions. Using data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS) we construct seven attitude scales – racism, political cynicism, environmentalism, willingness to work, collectivism-markets, authoritarianism and traditional family values. By using changes in the lives of over 8,000 individuals in our sample between age 33 and 42 we demonstrate that adult learning has effects on positive attitude change.
The report shows that adult education is implicated in a movement towards more 'open minded' perspectives on race and authority and suggests that adult learning may be used as a policy instrument in influencing and sustaining key attitudes and concerns. In particular, there is a role for adult learning in increasing community cohesion and engagement through reducing racism and political cynicism. Given policy concerns related to community cohesion such as the entrenchment of racist attitudes amongst youth and adults in some areas, adult learning might have an important role to play in reducing such tensions.
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