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The Construction of 'age difference' and the impact of age-mixing within UK further education colleges

Brooks, R (2005) The Construction of 'age difference' and the impact of age-mixing within UK further education colleges British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26 (1). pp. 55-70.

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‘Age’ is an important social category used to define individuals and groups within our society and, often, to structure access to power, prestige and status. However, within educational research, age has been relatively neglected when compared with other social categories such as gender, class and ethnicity. In an attempt to begin to explore the impact of age within schools and colleges, this paper focuses on students' and teachers' experience of mixed‐age learning groups within the UK further education sector. First, the paper outlines various assumptions about the distinctiveness of age groups that underpin much sociological theorizing as well as current educational policy within the United Kingdom. It then draws on an empirical study of six further education colleges in Yorkshire and the south‐east of England to suggest that the ways in which students and members of staff construct notions of ‘age’ and ‘age difference’ bear little resemblance to the models adopted by policymakers. Nevertheless, the paper goes on to argue that, although there was little consensus about where the boundary between ‘younger’ and ‘older’ learners should be drawn, most respondents were able to identify specific age‐related differences that they believed affected the process of learning. In particular, mixed‐age classes were believed to offer considerable advantages over more age‐homogeneous groups. The final part of the paper explores some of these putative advantages and discusses their significance in the light of current debates about the ‘postponement’ of adulthood and the nature of inter‐generational relationships.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Brooks, R
Date : 2005
DOI : 10.1080/0142569042000292716
Uncontrolled Keywords : Further education Education Age
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in British Journal of Sociology of Education 26 (1) 2005, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 25 Jul 2014 09:00
Last Modified : 25 Jul 2014 13:33

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