Socialization for Lifelong Learning Research Paper Starter

Socialization for Lifelong Learning

(Research Starters)

This article presents examples of the socialization process and subsequent impacts on lifelong learning. Additionally, contrasts are made to better explain differences between positive and negative outcomes on different groups despite socialization processes. Also presented are insights into ways socialization and lifelong learning philosophies affect sociological thought and an examination of transformed ways of thinking for sociologists viewing societies through the lens of lifelong learning. A conclusion is offered that describes solutions for conceptualizing theories of socialization and lifelong learning into sociology practices. Further recommendations are offered for constructing socialization processes that will positively initiate lifelong learning for individuals despite societal background.

Keywords Collective Socialization; Differentiated Occupational Opportunity; Lifelong Learning; Social Capital; Social Control; Socialization

Socialization for Lifelong Learning


Socialization Processes

Weidman (1989), quoting Brim, stated that socialization is "the process by which persons acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that make them more or less effective members of their society" (Brim, as cited in Weidman, 1989, p. 293). Dunn, Rouse, and Seff (1994) echoed Weidman by stating that socialization is "the process by which individuals acquire the attitudes, beliefs, values and skills needed to participate effectively in organized social life" (p. 375). Socialization can also be described as the process through which a "child or other novice acquires the knowledge, orientations, and practices that enable him or her to participate effectively and appropriately in the social life of a particular community" (Garrett & Baquedano-Lopez, 2002, p. 339). Bragg (1976) further indicated that "the socialization process is the learning process through which an individual acquires the knowledge and skills, the values and attitudes, and the habits and modes of thought of the society to which he or she belongs" (p. 3).

While culture can be described as the sum of activities in a given organization or community, socialization can be described as the processes by which individuals acquire and incorporate an understanding of those activities (Tierney, 1997). Culture within an organization or community is relatively constant and can be understood through reason. An organization's culture, "teaches people how to behave, what to hope for, and what it means to succeed or fail" (Tierney, 1997, p. 4). Within this framework, some individuals become competent, and others do not. From a learning standpoint, socialization determines key attitudes that "proactively direct or re-direct change for human well-being and development" (Preece, 2006, p. 307). These attitudes directly impact the individual's attitude toward learning.

Postmodernists have expressed concerns with these definitions and have argued that:

• The modernist assumption is that socialization is a process where people "acquire" knowledge,

• Socialization is viewed as a one-way process in which the initiate learns how the organization works, and

• Socialization is little more than a series of planned learning activities (Tierney, 1997).

The postmodernist lens offers a different methodology of thinking about culture and socialization. Bloland (1995) argued, "Postmodernism points out that totalization hides contradictions, ambiguities, and oppositions and is a means for generating power and control" (p. 525). McDermott and Varenne (1995) noted, "Being in the world requires dealing with indefinite and unbounded tasks while struggling with the particular manner in which they have been shaped by the cultural process" (p. 337). Moreover, socialization involves give-and-take where new individuals make sense through their own unique backgrounds and current contexts (p. 337).

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning is a concept that describes ways that people learn many things in "a variety of spaces throughout their lives, both inside and outside educational institutions" (Schugurensky & Meyers, 2003, p. 328). For purposes of informed theoretical understanding, lifelong learning can be understood in a broader category rather than just education, and instead encompasses formal, non-formal, and informal learning, whether the learning is "intentional, incidental, or unconscious" (p. 330). From a Freirean approach, Elliot (2000) argued that lifelong learning has great potential for extending citizenship for women that encourages critical awareness, political skills, and civic participation. Regardless of context, learning itself is "an uninterrupted, complex, and dynamic lifelong and life-wide process in which agency and structure constantly interact" (cited in Schugerensky & Meyers, 2003, p. 331). Important also to this discourse is the understanding of the three types of learning settings: formal, non-formal, and informal.

• Formal learning refers to the institutional system that extends from preschool to higher education, which is organized in a sequential system and is controlled, regulated, and funded by the state typically dictated by a prescribed curriculum.

• Non-formal education refers to all "organized educational activities" such as workshops or short courses that are outside the formal education system, which can be organized by a variety of agencies such as government, professional associations, non-profits, business groups, business groups, churches, or unions.

• Informal learning is a residual category that is comprised of learning that occurs outside of formal and informal settings. This learning typically consists of activities that are either self-directed, incidental, or socialization (Schugerensky & Meyers, 2003, p. 331).

5 Mechanisms of Learning Socialization

According to Ainsworth (2002), within the context of lifelong learning, socialization is especially relevant, because the sense-making involved in the socialization processes can be activated through five interrelated mechanisms that specifically impact learning and education attitudes (specifically in urban environments). Specifically, these five interrelated mechanisms include:

• Collective socialization,

• Social control,

• Social capital,

• Differential occupational opportunity, and

• Institutional characteristics (Ainsworth, 2002).

For purposes of enhanced understanding these will be examined within the context of school socialization and neighborhood environments.

Collective Socialization

Collective socialization can be described in the context of neighborhood characteristics that shape the role models youth are exposed to outside the home. Neighborhoods in which most adults work steady jobs foster behaviors and attitudes that are conducive to success in school work. From this standpoint, "children in such advantaged neighborhoods are more likely to value education, adhere to school norms, and work hard because that is what they see modeled for them by neighborhood adults" (Ainsworth, 2002, p. 119). Wilson (1991) argued that life can become "incoherent" for youth because of the lack of "structuring norms" modeled by working adults. With potentially "fewer positive role models in the neighborhood, children may be less likely to learn important behaviors and attitudes that lead to success in school" (Ainsworth, 2002, p. 119).

Social Control

A second mechanism for determining lifelong learning is social control, which can be described as the "monitoring or sanctioning of deviant behavior." Neighborhoods with fewer adults or adults with limited time to influence the lives of youth may experience stronger peer-group influences which may create anti-school attitudes and behaviors (Ainsworth, 2002, p. 120).

Social Capital

Social capital or "social networks" is a third mechanism through which neighborhood context can influence educational (learning) outcomes. Sampson and Groves (1989) and Wilson (1996) argued that children who live in advantaged neighborhoods are more likely to be exposed to supportive social networks or adults who can provide positive resources, information, and opportunities that may be educationally beneficial. These opportunities may include the use of personal computers, job opportunities, or help with projects. Neighborhood socialization context was also supported by Wilson's (1996) argument that in impoverished neighborhoods "children are disadvantaged because the social interaction among neighbors tends to be confined to those whose skills, styles, orientations, and habits are not as conducive to promoting positive social outcomes as are those in more stable neighborhoods" (p. 63).

Differentiated Occupational Opportunity

Perceptions of differentiated occupational opportunity have a positive effect on educational outcomes. Most individuals are socialized to believe that anyone "can be successful if they work hard enough; however, the degree to which this ideology is supported by the concrete experience of adolescents and may vary by neighborhood context (Massey, Gross, & Eggers, 1991; Turner, Fix, & Struyk, 1991; Wilson, 1992; Wilson, 1987)." (Ainsworth, 2002, p. 121). Circumstances and educational outcomes strongly determine youth learning outcomes which are impacted by how educational opportunity impacts employment (Ainsworth, 2002, p. 121).

Institutional Characteristics

Ainsworth outlines a fifth mechanism through which neighborhood context can influence educational outcomes:

… the neighborhood's impact on institutional characteristics, such as schools or other educational institutions. Wacquant (1996) argued that students from disadvantaged neighborhoods are more likely to attend inferior schools that spend less time on teaching and learning (cited in Ainsworth, 2002, p. 121).

Resulting strains could decline school atmosphere and the school's resources regarding student behavior. Simcha-Fagan and Schwartz (1986) postulated that neighborhood effects on an individual's association with "delinquent peers are primarily indirect and mediated through weak attachment to school" (cited in Ainsworth, 2002, p. 121). Social workers working in urban districts should consider these mechanisms as potential indicators to mediate adult and student success.

While each of these five mechanisms can be activated through neighborhood environment, generalizations can be drawn between neighborhood...

(The entire section is 4697 words.)