Learning in Social Action

A Contribution to Understanding Informal Education

Griff Foley


clearly written and refreshingly open
This book seeks to increase our understanding of those non-educational contexts and informal circumstances in which people learn. Adult educators, Professor Foley argues, ought not to neglect the importance of the incidental learning which can take place, in particular, when people become involved in voluntary organisations, social struggles, and political activity of every kind.

In developing the argument that such involvement can provide extraordinarily powerful learning opportunities, he uses case studies from the United States of America, Australia as well as Third World countries - Brazil and Zimbabwe - and embracing very diverse environmental, women‘s, worker and political struggles. He is particularly interested in how involvement in social action can help people to unlearn dominant, oppressive ideologies and discourses and learn instead oppositional, liberatory ones, even if such processes of emancipatory learning are inevitably complex and contradictory. He relates these processes of informal learning in contested contexts to current thinking in adult education and points the way to a somewhat different, and more radical, agenda in adult education theory and practice.

For adult educators, community workers and others working with socially engaged citizens, the insights and lessons of this book ought to be especially useful as they try to develop their own practice in such contexts.

Author Bio

Griff Foley is director of the Centre for Popular Education, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Ideology, Discourse and Learning.
  • 2. Learning in a Green Campaign. 3. The Neighbourhood House: Site of Struggle, Site of Learning.
  • 4. Adult Education and Capitalist Reorganisation.
  • 5. Learning in Brazilian Women's Organisations.
  • 6. Political Learning and Education in the Zimbabwean Liberation Struggle.
  • 7. Conclusion.


'For adult educators who really want to assist in the struggle for democratic and radical solutions to massive social and political inequalities, there are few better places to begin their understanding than with this book.'
Jane Thompson, Ruskin College, Oxford

'A powerful and lyrical account of how engagement in social struggle can lead to learning that transforms power relations, confidence and capacity to handle change. Generous spirited, clearly written and refreshingly open, this timely book reminds us of resources for hope to set alongside global economic restructuring.'
Alan Tuckett, Director, NIACE

‘A very illuminating contribution to current conceptualizations of adult education. Readers of this book will never again take informal learning lightly.'
Nelly P. Stromquist, University of Southern California, Los Angeles


Publication Date: 1 May 1999
176 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781856496841
Library Edition: 9781856496834

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