Psycho-Societal Interpretations in Life History Research

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Henning SALLING OLESEN, Roskilde University, Denmark
The paper will present a development of life history research in education and learning research, in which psycho-societal interpretations play a key role. The horizon of the approach is the lifelong subjective engagement in intended as well as unintended learning, in formal education as well as in everyday life. The paper will describe the reasons for adopting and developing life history approaches by summarizing how a political and practical engagement in adult education and learning led to a critique of the horizon of academic pedagogy. In order to understand learning and education from the perspective of learners the need for empirical studies in the situation and life experiences emerged, and the tradition of (auto)biographical research offered a proven experience for a societal understanding of learning processes.

Life histories represent lived lives past, present and anticipated future. As such they are interpretations of individuals’ experiences of the way in which societal dynamics take place in the individual body and mind, either told by the individual him/herself or by another biographer. The Life History approach at Roskilde University was developing from interpreting autobiographical and later certain other forms of language interactive material as moments of life history, i.e. it is basically a hermeneutic approach. The paper will present two different ways of handling biographies and life histories, and then go deeper into the epistemological and methodological aspects of psycho-societal interpretation. The psycho-societal interpretation of biographical accounts aims at breaking the theoretical and empirical dichotomy of the social and the psychic, both in the interpretation of learning processes and more generally in the theoretical understandings of language, body and mind. Finally it presents examples how such interpretations organized by the concept of (life) experience can illuminate professional and vocational identity building as well as adult learning in general.