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A systematic review of effective strategies to widen adult participation in learning

What do we want to know?

The consultation document on the widening adult participation strategy of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), published in March 2003, emphasises the importance of having the best evidence, based on high-quality research into what helps widening participation.  This review aims to determine effective strategies for widening participation in learning by adults with traditionally low participation.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers; those involved in post-16 education.

What did we find?  

The most promising strategies appear to involve:

  • a substantial degree of flexibility in learning provision and support services, tailored to learners' needs
  • programmes tailored to the needs of employees and the workplace, including occupationally specific learning.

The outcomes of interventions to widen participation are rarely clear-cut and success or failure can be the product of interaction between many different factors.

What are the implications?

National and local LSCs may wish to consider the following:

  • Work with providers to increase the flexibility and tailoring of provision and support and to ensure the effective management of interventions

  • Steps to ensure adequate funding and resourcing of interventions to widen adult participation

  • Incorporation of widening adult participation strategies into workforce development programmes

  • Piloting of interventions to widen adult participation, coupled with evaluation strategies that enable impact to be measured with confidence.

Learning providers may wish to consider:

  • Steps to increase flexibility and tailoring of provision and support, including provision tailored to workplace requirements

  • Steps to ensure the effective management of widening participation interventions.

How did we get these results?

Seventeen studies were included in the in-depth review.  All were published after 1992.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Taylor S, MacLeod D, Houghton N, Zwart R, Sachdev D (2005) A systematic review of effective strategies to widen adult participation in learning. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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