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Dr. John Field

Dr. John Field

Hall of Fame Class of 2014

Dr. John Field has become one of Europe’s most significant adult education researchers, scholars, and writers by seeking to bridge the UK with the international world of adult education practice and research. His research focuses mainly on the social policy and historical contexts of adult learning, often upon issues of inequality, agency, and change in relation to adult learners and lifelong learning. He has written or edited 16 books, written 86 papers in referred journals and 89 book chapters, and published many reports and pamphlets. His book Lifelong Learning and the New Educational Order, listed Book of the Week in the Times educational supplement, became a standard text in many university courses. 

Field has used his visibility as a researcher both to try to inform policy and to build capacity. As a founding member of the European Society for Research in the Education of Adults (ESREA), he engaged western researchers with colleagues working in often embattled and difficult circumstances in the former Soviet bloc countries. He has had a longstanding collaboration with adult education scholars in Poland, particularly at Wrocław, and took a leading role in developing ESREA’s research network on adult education and active citizenship. His recent research projects attest to his scholarly leadership, including RANLHE – Retention and Access of Nontraditional Learners in Higher Education, an eight-country collaborative project funded by the European Commission, aiming both to illuminate the lives of nontraditional learners and to improve policy and practice in the higher education sector;  Learning Lives, a collaborative mixed methods study of learning, identity, and agency across the life course, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council; and Working Men’s Bodies, a study of masculinity, work, and the body supported by the Carnegie Trust. 

One of his greatest contributions to adult continuing education is bridge-building between researchers and policy makers. Field sees policy engagement as an important obligation of critical scholarship. He served on two major UK public committees: the National Advisory Group on Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, which influenced the Labour government’s policies for adult learning, and the Inquiry on the Future of Lifelong Learning. He was appointed to a leadership role on the UK Government Office for Science’s Foresight project on mental capital and wellbeing, which influenced government thinking on the importance of elder learning in later life. Throughout his career, he has promoted the field of adult learning in general and, particularly, the interests of under-represented learners.

Field has worked to bring the field closer to the world of practitioners. He is active in the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), the main professional association in UK adult learning, serving on the board as well as a speaker for their conferences. He is committed to presenting research to a wider audience of practitioners and learners, through presentations, media appearances, and social media. He writes regularly for Adults Learning, the main print forum for practitioners in the UK and has his own blog, covering many aspects of adult learning.

In 2006, Field was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University for his services to adult learning, and he holds a visiting professorship at Birkbeck, University of London. He has also made contributions in sociology, and his textbook Social Capital is cited widely across the social sciences.