Metaphors we learn by: practitioners’ conceptions of the meaning of nonformal learning in Estonian context


  • Halliki Põlda Tallinn University
  • Katrin Karu
  • Riina Reinsalu


nonformal learning, life-long learning, adult education, educational metaphor, metaphor analysis


Non-formal education is the central standpoint and practice of lifelong learning. The aim

of the article is to demonstrate the possibilities of construing the meaning of non-formal

education through practitioners’ conceptions in Estonia. At the same time, we show how

non-formal education practice can enrich other types of education and how these

principles may be more widely applied in formal education as well. The current research

based on metaphor analysis draws on the materials collected in focus group interviews

with practitioners (n=17). Analysis revealed that practitioners describe non-formal

education as a cooperational journey of discovery which requires effort, concentrates on

development and is related to emotions, play and creativity. At the same time, non-formal

education is defined through metaphors of cultural symbols and open space. The diverse

opportunities of non-formal education create the basis for choices and tolerance to

differences, whereas the emergence of border area metaphors confirms the deep rooted

idea that non-formal education’s place lies in between different types of education.


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How to Cite

Põlda, H., Katrin Karu, & Riina Reinsalu. (2021). Metaphors we learn by: practitioners’ conceptions of the meaning of nonformal learning in Estonian context. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 13(2), 143–158. Retrieved from



30 years of research on adult education, 30 years of ESREA