Breaking the Triple Lock: Further education and transformative teaching and learning


Vicky Duckworth and Rob Smith

We have drawn on the UCU Further Education in England: Transforming Lives & Communities research project data to develop a distinctive, theorised conceptualisation of transformative teaching and learning (TTL). The interconnection between teaching and learning resonates with the Transforming Lives research – firstly, by including teachers, it emphasises their role in establishing an environment or space and set of relationships in which students can validate their socially situated knowledge and value the knowledge generated from their lived experiences. Through the concept of TTL, we also seek to avoid locating the motor of transformation (only or primarily) within individuals, rather than seeing it as an effect that is consciously produced through interaction between teachers and students.

The research develops the notion of a ‘triple-lock of symbolic violence’ – that students in further education can be said to be (potentially) subject to. Taking this triple-lock of objectification into account, it seems miraculous that TTL is taking place at all in further education settings, but our research provides evidence that it is.

Our research praxis involved a dedication to challenging the status quo and facilitating people from marginalised communities (and others from more privileged positions) to understand and recognise oppression and the impact of the structural inequalities of class, gender and ethnicity on learning and learning journeys. Our claim is not that all teaching and learning in further education colleges can be described as transformative but rather, that despite hegemonic structures and cultures (broadly underpinned by government policy) that incentivize a triple-lock of student objectification, TTL is still taking place. The research we draw on is less focused on producing a definition of transformative learning that centres on the effects on individual learners or on measuring such phenomena (if they can be measured). Instead the starting point of this research was an awareness that despite the turmoil produced by cyclical policy intervention and a funding model that incentivises ‘gaming’ by providers, some students continue to experience learning in further education as a positive social experience that enhances their agency as individuals going forward in their lives.

Vicky Duckworth, Rob Smith, (2018) “Breaking the triple lock: further education and transformative teaching and learning”, Education + Training,

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