Summary and Keywords
Since the 1980s, in different countries, researchers and educators have put into action a number of studies of teachers’ biographies, teachers’ narratives and stories, as well as other ways of employing life history methods, in order to renew the field of education. A vast literature has been produced in the last decades on this perspective, giving testimony to a surprising growth of the educational area under the impulse of such approaches. There was a clear need for a methodological renewal of this field but also a need of a revision of the functions of school and to the way of conceiving education. The idea of lifelong learning frames this scenario and the expectations outlined in the turn of this century, altering profoundly the functions of school and the ends of education. The biographical approaches are taken as an attempt of meeting such demands. However, the work with life histories and biographies has shown different directions, following from a conjugation of factors and from more specific demands for education present in the respective contexts where such experiences have taken place. Such approaches are part of a broader movement of individualization and subjectivism that characterizes contemporary society. The two perspectives focused on in this article—that of English-speaking countries, with a predominant focus on the life and career of teachers; and those developed in Francophone environments, with the focus on the continued education of adults—have shown great growth particularly during the 1980s and 1990s, giving testimony to the appeal that biographical approaches exerted upon researchers and educators. It presents the features of these two trends preceded by an incursion into the field of sociology aiming at highlighting some relevant methodological and epistemological issues. By this way we intend to emphasize the potentiality of biographical approaches to the knowledge of education, drawing attention to the challenges for individuals’ lives in the contemporary society and for the emergence of new ways of conceiving the subjectivities by the new human and social theories.
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