Community learning projects: Transforming post-compulsory education provision in rural communities

Kathryn McLachlan, Catherine Arden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Rural communities such as Stanthorpe on Queensland’s Southern Downs, in Australia, are familiar with turbulent environmental, social, technological and economic change and the adversity that frequently accompanies such changes. The capacity of individuals and communities to bounce back from adversity is referred to as resilience. Participation in lifelong and life-wide learning is promoted as a strategy for rural community development, resilience and renewal. Stanthorpe, which declared itself as a ‘learning community’ in 2005, has been described as resilient, not only by the people who live there, but also by outsiders who view the community as a friendly, vibrant lifestyle choice. This paper reports a reflexive analysis of three learning community projects undertaken by a group of community leaders in partnership with their regional universities that used Participatory Action Research (PAR) and evaluation to draw on and mobilise ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ resources and expertise to promote purposive action to address their particular issues. Using processes of introspection and collaborative, critical reflection, the authors review each of these projects and propose these as a form of non-accredited post-compulsory education that succeeds in serving the lifelong learning aspirations of the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-162
Number of pages17
JournalRural Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Action learning
  • Adult learning
  • Communities of practice
  • Community engagement
  • Community learning
  • Fourth generation evaluation
  • Learning communities
  • Lifelong learning
  • Participatory action research
  • Post-compulsory education
  • Resilience
  • Rural renewal


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