Adult education, community development and democracy: renegotiating the terms of engagement

Mae Shaw, Jim Crowther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is an attempt to address what we consider to be a widespread loss of confidence in the purpose, politics and practice of community-based educational work. It is informed by our contact with a professional field that is increasingly beleaguered by managerialist imperatives and in which democratic engagement has become increasingly compromised. Although focussed on the UK, we are confident that the experience we describe will be familiar in many other national contexts. Our purpose here is to re-engage with a significant historical tradition of theory and practice which has been largely neglected, and which we believe offers a rich resource for renegotiating the relationship between those forms of adult education and community development with a particular interest in furthering democratic life. In order to develop the argument, we will concentrate on the critical confluence of democratic participation in public policy and the social purpose tradition of adult education, as expressed in two key policy documents from the broadly social democratic era in UK politics which were significant in creating the professional legitimacy for community-based educational practice. We then selectively review three broad pedagogical models that have been historically influential and go on to explore the idea of engagement in three related ways: professional, pedagogical and political.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-406
Number of pages17
JournalCommunity Development Journal
Issue number3
Early online date17 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014


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