University of Leicester
2018ATKINSONSPPhD.pdf (16.13 MB)

Recoding Heritage Sites as Non-Formal Learning Institutions: enabling the self-directed adult learner

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posted on 2019-06-12, 15:36 authored by Simon Paul Atkinson
The aim of this research is to examine the provision of education at heritage sites for the self-directed adult learner (SDAL) as perceived by heritage educators themselves. This doctoral research makes two original contributions. It proposes an alternative typology of learners in the heritage sector by redefining SDALs as heritage visitors to non-formal learning institutions. In exploring this recoding through the use of a unique learning model, explored in partnership with heritage educators in a modified World Café workshop format, the research offers a second original contribution. The data reported demonstrate that, while individual heritage educators are enthusiastic to support the SDAL, the dominant professional narrative perceives such visitors as informal learners. Literature suggests that, despite the fact that the majority of institutions foreground their educational remit, their self-perception remains defined as guardians of heritage. The research workshops exploring the perspectives of heritage educators illuminates the distinctions in missions between the institutional guardianship and preservation of cultural heritage and their educational role, which is focussed on schools and engaging with marginalised communities. The thesis addresses the questions as to the current institutional recognition of the needs of the SDAL amongst participant institutions and the extent to which such needs are supported and met through current practice. This doctoral thesis challenges the prevailing assumption that heritage education for the SDAL is principally informal learning. Instead, it concludes that a redefinition of educational provision in the light of contemporary literature suitable for a digital age is required. In doing so, this thesis contributes to the recoding of heritage institutions as non-formal learning providers for self-directed adult learners. It also supports the notion that inter-professional dialogue between different educational practitioners has significant value.



Vavoula, Giasemi

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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