Universal to Targeted Community Learning and Development: changed work and a changing profession
Research was undertaken as part of a Postgraduate Diploma in Community Learning and Development (CLD) to investigate the move from universal (or open access) to targeted work. This issue had been identified as a recent change in Scottish practice. A qualitative research approach was selected in order to obtain a rich, detailed picture of CLD professionals’ perceptions and experiences of universal and targeted work. Experienced practitioners were approached for interview and four accepted. The interviewees were all asked the same three questions concerning their experience of engaging with learners through targeted and universal processes, the setting of outcomes through these different ways of working, and how they felt these different processes of engagement/ targeting affect learners. An interpretivist approach was chosen using the subtle parameters of Freire’s concept of empowerment which calls for recognition of the constant flux of interpretation as people develop critical awareness and gain power. Interviewees were quick to point out the assumptions behind the terms ‘universal’ and ‘targeted’ as they are presented antithetically in this context. This ‘either/or’ rhetoric suggests engaging in ‘universal work’ is working without aim, without target. The interviewees were concerned that disempowered people were being asked to change themselves rather than looking for ways for society to change. The interviewees emphasised that a voluntary element is a prerequisite for engagement to lead to the conditions necessary for empowerment. Furthermore, it appeared that the practitioners themselves were disempowered and were not being treated as competent professionals.
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