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New European Learners? An analysis of the 'trendsetter' thesis

Brooks, R and Everett, G (2008) New European Learners? An analysis of the 'trendsetter' thesis Journal of Youth Studies, 11 (4). pp. 377-391.

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This paper draws on life history interviews with young adults in the UK to consider Manuela du Bois-Reymond’s claims about the increasing prevalence of ‘trendsetter learners’ across Europe. Du Bois-Reymond has argued that certain groups of young adults are at the forefront of developing new forms of learning in response to what they perceive to be the failings of formal education namely the disjuncture between theory and practice within the education that they are offered and a lack of respect from many of the teachers with whom they come into contact. These young adults, she contends, are the ‘trendsetter learners’, creating youth cultural capital that helps them to realise selfdetermined ways of living and learning. In considering some of these claims, this paper draws on data from the ‘Young Graduates and Lifelong Learning’ project funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. Between September 2005 and January 2006, 90 in-depth life history interviews were conducted with graduates from six higher education institutions. Our findings suggest that the degree of autonomy, freedom and creativity in young people’s patterns of learning that underpin du Bois-Reymond’s analysis is over-stated. We argue that, while du Bois-Reymond’s work makes an important contribution to conceptualising the ways in which young Europeans engage with learning, her dichotomy between ‘trendsetter’ learners and their ‘disengaged’ counterparts overlooks: complexities inherent in this relationship, the social status attached to particular forms of more traditional education and training, and the structuring nature of much workplace learning.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Brooks, R
Everett, G
Date : 11 August 2008
DOI : 10.1080/13676260801946456
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an electronic version of an article published as Brooks R, Everett G (2008). New European Learners? An analysis of the 'trendsetter' thesis. Journal of Youth Studies 11(4):377-391. Available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 06 Jul 2012 15:22
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 14:40

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