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The focus of this research is to explore supports that facilitated participation and retention of learners on a community education course and additional supports needed to progress to third level education. This research was in partnership with Irish National Association of Adult Education (AONTAS) and supported by Community Links, Technological University Dublin. (DIT) This research is qualitative in nature. For this purpose, a focus group of community learners and semi-structured interviews with community education professionals was conducted. The research gives in-depth insight into learners experiences of what supports facilitated participation in community education and additional supports needed to progress to third level education.
The study found that learners who participated in this study are motivated to engage for a variety of reasons ranging from, meeting new people and being a positive role model for their children. Learners identified a range of challenges they overcame to participate and remain on this course and identified supports in community education that they found most supportive to overcome these challenges. These included the teaching style of the tutor, learning in groups and the provision of a safe learning environment. Overall the gains from participating on this community education course related to increased personal confidence and an increase in academic belief. However, findings suggest learners’ experience barriers to participation and progression and include economic, social, cultural, situational and dispositional barriers. Additional supports highlighted to overcome these barriers in order to progress to third level education for these learners were confidence boosting, an increase academic knowledge, information supports, financial supports, childcare and flexible third level options.
Perkins, L. Stepping stone, Community education- a stepping stone to third level education. Project submitted to Technological University Dublin in part fulfilment of MA in Child, family and community studies, 2012.