It’ s now or never: The Experiences of ‘Older’ Mature Learners in Further Education and Training in Ireland


  • Conor Mellon National College of Ireland
  • Karen Ryan National College of Ireland


mature learners, adult learning, further education, arts-based research


For mature learners, the challenges and successes in undertaking a formal learning programme can be particularly significant, as they bring with them a range of prior experiences of, and attitudes toward learning. ‘Older’ mature learners i.e., 40+ years, represent a notable proportion of learners in further education and training in Ireland. This study endeavoured to capture the learning journeys of this specific group so as to better understand their needs, aspirations, and motivations. Six learners took part in a phenomenological arts-based project, where they created ‘identity boxes’ and participated in in-depth interviews, revealing the story of their re-engagement in further education. Three distinct themes emerged. Resilience, in the face of past and present challenges, was key here. A sense of belonging and the supports that underpinned their experience was also evident, as was a clear sense of renewal, as they developed a reconstructed learner-self, bolstered by feelings of success and a focus on future paths.


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