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Selected Development Project
Project Title

Towards a Cross-cultural Understanding of Learning by Senior Adults: Hong Kong and Australia

Principal Investigator Dr Tam, Siu Ling Maureen
Area of Research Project
Education Development, Policy and Leadership
Project Period
From 01/2013 To 12/2014
  1. Describe and conceptualize the meaning of learning as elders experience it across and within two cultural perspectives – Hong Kong and Australia; 
  2. Investigate why and how elders in Hong Kong and Australia engage or do not engage, in learning, by comparing within the Hong Kong and Australian samples the differences between the learning and non-learning groups; 
  3. Identify important learning issues for older learners in the two cultures, including their interests, needs, motivations, and instructional preferences; 
  4. Explain and compare the interactions between the conceptualizations of learning, the involvement of elders in learning, and important elder-learning issues, including similarities and differences in the reasons, choices, and processes used by various elderly groups in the two cultural contexts.
Methods Used
  • Mixed-method approach: survey and interview
  • 2 samples of 400 elders (aged 55 - 75 and above) from Hong Kong and Australia
  • Survey: 800 (400 in each place)
  • Interview: 80 (40 in each place)
  • Two groups in each sample: learning vs non-learning
Summary of Findings
  • Identify issues for elder learning in the two different cultures and lifestyles
  • Identify the differences and similarities in conceptualizations of learning, reasons for participation, interests, and barriers to participation
  • Identify the meaning of successful ageing and elder learning
  • Predict successful ageing after controlling for background variables
  • Identify the role of learning in successful ageing, life satisfaction and well-being of elders
  • Provide new knowledge about elders and later life learning
  • Produce new knowledge about elders and late-life learning
  • Fill a critical gap in the literature, which is largely based on Western research
  • A cross-cultural study that encompasses two cultural contexts
  • Contribute to the understanding of elder learning and successful ageing
  • Inform policy and development of learning activities and programmes for active ageing
  • Tam, M. (2013). A model of active ageing through elder learning: The Elder Academy Network in Hong Kong. Educational Gerontology, 39(4), 250-258.
  • 譚小玲(2013). 高齡學習與樂活晚年的模式:香港長者學苑網絡。在中華民國成人及終身教育學會編著,終身學習行動策略(頁197-210)。台北市:師大書苑。
  • Tam, M. (2014). Understanding and theorizing the role of culture in the conceptualizations of successful ageing and lifelong learning. Educational Gerontology, 40(12), 881-893.
  • Tam, M. (2014). A distinctive theory of teaching and learning for older learners: Why and why not? International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(6), 811-820.
  • Tam, M. & Chui, E. (in print). Ageing and learning: What do they mean to elders themselves. Studies in Continuing Education.
  • Boulton-Lewis, G. M. & Buys, L. (in print). Learning choices, older Australians and active ageing. Educational Gerontology.
  • Tam, M., Aird, R., Boulton-Lewis, G.M., & Buys, L. (under review). Ageing and learning as conceptualized by senior adults in two cultures: Hong Kong and Australia. Current Aging Science
  • Boulton-Lewis, G.M., Aird, R., & Buys, L. (under review). Older Australians: Structural barriers on learning in later life. Current Aging Science.
Biography of Principal Investigator
Dr. Maureen Tam has extensive experience in teaching, research and management in higher education institutions, both local and overseas. Currently, Dr. Tam is Associate Professor in Elderly Education with the Department of International Education and Lifelong Learning at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Also, she is Associate Dean (Engagement and Communication) of the Faculty of Education and Human Development ,Co-Director of Centre for Lifelong Learning Research and Development and Head of HKIEd Elder Academy, and Programme Leader of PVE programmes. Before joining the Institute in February 2009, Dr. Tam was Dean of the Community College and Further Education of Lingnan University from January 2007 to March 2008. And between 1996 and 2007, Dr. Tam had worked as Director of the Teaching and Learning Centre of Lingnan University responsible for teaching and learning development, quality assurance, assessment of institutional effectiveness and student experience. Dr. Tam's research interests are wide-ranging which cover elderly education, lifelong learning, professional and vocational education, quality assurance, outcomes-based education, teaching, learning and assessment in higher education.
Funding Source

General Research Fund