A sociological exploration of the potential challenges faced by mature male and female students in community education
This research explores the potential challenges faced by mature men and women in community education, with three women and two men aged over twenty-one years participating. By adoption of a phenomenological approach, this research sought to provide a subjective understanding of participants lived experiences of formative and community education, relative to the social world in which they lived. It further explored the influential nature of these experiences in the potential challenges participants faced when returning to and participating in community education. Using semi-structured interviews and rigorous thematic analysis, four core themes emerged from the data. Incorporating unedited narratives, the influence of conformity to socially constructed gender roles is highlighted by participants as associated with their lack of confidence and fear of academic failure. Additionally, participants associate social class and inequality in access to education as a factors influencing life decisions. For the participants, community education provides new experiences for personal and academic development, however this requires support from educational organizations to navigate an unfamiliar environment.