Learning to Keep the Faith: Investigating learning and participation in the Scottish Northern Soul scene

Project Details


This is a small-scale preliminary study of situated learning in the contemporary Scottish Northern Soul Scene. The study aims to investigate the nexus between participation and learning in a well-established music oriented ‘subculture’. The theoretical concept informing the project is the notion of situated learning in the context of a community of practice conceived and defined by Lave and Wenger (Lave 1991 & Wenger 1998). The focus for enquiry will be the respective learning experiences of both seasoned Northern Soul Scene participants (‘old-timers’) and those who have joined the scene more recently (‘newcomers’). The latter group generally comprises adults, young people and children, however the main focus for my study will be the learning relationship between adult old-timers and young people as newcomers.

The Northern Soul Scene offers up a unique setting that attracts cross-generational participation in a community of practice that has existed (in varied forms) for almost 5 decades. Moreover, there have been very few studies of Northern Soul, none to date specifically looking at the Scottish context. This research will be of interest to educators engaged in community-based informal learning as well as formal schooling. An examination of cross-generational learning will offer insight to the ‘extra-curricular’ potential of such a cultural context. The findings from this preliminary study will assist in developing a funding application for a larger interdisciplinary study.

The main aims of the project are to:
• Gather qualitative data from a small sample of adult and youth participants in the Northern Soul Scene
• Analyse data with a view to identifying core themes and issues to inform a large-scale study
• Categorise potential interdisciplinary domains for subsequent funding bid
• Produce sole-authored peer-reviewed journal article focused on pilot study.

Description of research activity
Provide a description of the proposed research activity and how this will lead to submission of a research proposal.
This small scale qualitative study will collect data using semi-structured interviews with a sample of 3 adults (old-timers) and 3 young people (newcomers) participating in the Scottish Northern Soul Scene. The age range for the young people will be between 14 and 25. The respondents will be recruited using purposive sampling. The interviews will explore aspects of participation and situated learning as experienced by the participants. Data will be digitally recorded and transcribed and analysis informed theoretically by an interpretive paradigm.

Layman's description

This project will investigate how young people engaged in the Northern Soul Scene learn from older adults who have participated over a number of years.
AcronymProject KTF
Effective start/end date1/12/1730/06/18


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