How can arts-based methods support narrative inquiry into adult learning in the arts?

A case study




Arts education, narrative, arts-based research, adult learners, experience


This article considers an arts-based project, Learning Returns (2023), that seeks to capture the experiences of adults who have returned to arts study after some time away from formal education. The aims of the project are twofold: firstly, to evaluate the combination of narrative inquiry and digital film-making hosted on YouTube as a method of investigating adult learning and secondly, through an analysis of the Learning Returns content, to discover what themes the participants considered important to communicate to an imagined, virtual audience. The findings suggested that the aesthetics of the videos/films interconnect with the lived experiences of the participants. The participants were able to give an account of their experiences spontaneously, and at the same time communicate messages of hope to prospective adult returners. It was also discovered that the editing process offers a means of analysing the content of the films that is analogous to the approaches associated with qualitative research.


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Author Biographies

Samantha Jane Broadhead, Leeds Arts University

Professor Samantha Broadhead is Head of Research at Leeds Arts University. Her research interests include access and widening participation in art and design education and the educational sociology of Basil Bernstein (1924–2000). She serves on the Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning’s editorial board. Broadhead publishes work on access and widening participation. Broadhead has co-authored with Professor Maggie Gregson (2018) Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education - Phronesis, Art and Non-traditional Students, Palgrave Macmillan. She also has co-authored with Rosemarie Davies and Anthony Hudson (2019) Perspectives on Access: Practice and Research, Emerald Publishing. She has also produced an edited book, Access and Widening Participation in Arts Higher Education, Palgrave Macmillan (2022). Broadhead is working on Learning Returns, a practice-based project that aims to capture the experiences of mature students studying art and design on YouTube. 

Ms Sharon Hooper, Leeds Arts Univerisity

Sharon Hooper is a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Arts University. She is also a filmmaker working largely with the community, third and voluntary sectors. Before education, she worked in television and as an independent filmmaker. Hooper has an MA in Feminism and Visual Arts from University of Leeds, specialising in representations of women in film. She has also travelled widely around Central and South America.

Hooper's research is a development of having worked on films for organisations such as Barnardo’s, Age Concern and Women’s Aid. She has facilitated participatory design projects for community, third and voluntary sector organisations, some of which have been educational participatory design projects. Key research themes currently are feminist approaches to filmmaking and the impact of digital technologies on feminist practice and activism.


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How to Cite

Broadhead, S. J., & Hooper, S. (2024). How can arts-based methods support narrative inquiry into adult learning in the arts? A case study. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 15(1), 63–80.