Adult education for social purpose

The WEA vision and mission commits the WEA to adult education for social purpose, using it to work towards social justice at the local, national and global levels. We deliver our mission by developing partnerships to meet individual and collective needs, using active learning and a student-centred approach in which tutors and students work as equals.

The WEA has developed a framework, the WEA Approach to Education and Learning, which tutors use in the delivery of our courses. It has four key principles -

  1. Teach the subject so that the learning outcomes for the course are achieved and use one of the WEA’s four educational themes to provide wider context to the subject of study.

    The most important job of the tutor is to help students to make progress towards achieving both the course and their personal learning goals. However the WEA has good experience of encouraging students to think and study more broadly. We use the four themes of culture, health and wellbeing, community engagement and employability to provide stretch and challenge to students. Students achieve wider outcomes, developing, skills, knowledge and confidence in these important facets of our lives.
  2. Tutors should take opportunities to develop maths, English and digital skills that occur naturally in the study of the subject.

    These key basic skills will ordinarily be used in most courses. Tutors can help ensure that students build on their existing knowledge and skills by both simple and more complex teaching strategies. These range from  promoting the correct use of English or explaining the maths used in the course through to discrete activities that develop new skills such as digital research on the internet or individual written homework tasks. The skills developed should be explicit for the students to help them recognise the additional skills they are developing.
  3. Students are encouraged to engage critically and actively around their study.

    Tutors can help adult students to develop a rational and critical orientation towards information by encouraging the use of different and alternative perspectives in the course subject and course themes. Students can be supported to research and find information and evidence to develop new knowledge or challenge existing knowledge. Where possible opportunities for practicing subject skills through a community activity can be taken to provide focus and challenge in the practice of subject skills in a real world setting. These approaches often result in transformational learning experiences for students.
  4. Equality, diversity, inclusion and safety are embedded in everything we do.

    The WEA is deeply committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. It is at the heart of good learning practice. This can be evident in our day to day practice, challenging prejudice and discrimination, safeguarding students in the classroom. It also forms part of our course planning drawing on knowledge resources and examples from different cultures or supporting exploration of core values such as equality, democracy, dignity and respect. It helps to challenge fundamentalist world views and to meet our requirements under the Prevent duty.

Taken together the four principles of the approach help us to provide an expansive learning environment that helps students and tutors develop new and unexpected perspectives, knowledge and skills in addition to their subject knowledge. Often these elements form the basis of what OFSTED and many other educational professionals regard as outstanding teaching and learning.


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