Barriers to learning at a U3A in Lebanon: A structurationist perspective
This study examines the barriers older learners experience at a University for the Third Age (U3A) in Lebanon. Contemporary literature often categorizes these barriers into dispositional, situational, and institutional realms, arising as individual or structural phenomena. This article envisages barriers as the (un)intended consequences of (inter)actions among different institutional agents — namely, learners, teachers, and administrators — within the learning environment. Following Anthony Giddens’ dualistic understanding of agency and structure, the article aims to transcend the typical dichotomic approach in understanding barriers older persons face when engaging in lifelong learning. Shedding light on this new perspective on barriers as (un)intended consequences of agents’ (inter)actions at the U3A, this work raises two research questions: (i) what barriers confront older learners when engaging in non-formal learning? Moreover, (ii) taking older learners’ perspective, how are these barriers (re)produced in the (inter)actions of different institutional agents? Following a reflexive deductive thematic analysis of interview data with ten members at a U3A in Lebanon, this article generates two types of barriers. First, barriers as outcomes of interactions involving learners with teachers and administrators (curricula issues, teachers and teaching methods, language of instruction, class protocol, and accessibility). Second, barriers as outcomes of interactions involving learners (unwillingness and inability to socialize, as well as social bias and prejudice). This paper concludes that the actions of institutional agents at the U3A (re)produce its modus vivendi and modus operandi and calls for the promotion of continuous dialog and reflexivity as countermeasures against bias and exclusion to enhance the U3A’s age-friendliness.
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