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Milieus and Lifeworld Research

Authors: Rudolf Tippelt Published:

Pedagogues need insight into the lifestyles of their students. Milieu and lifeworld research provides glimpses into emerging identities, attitudes, motivations and behavior of a population.

Lifeworld (Lebenswelt) orientation and the construction of social milieus

The social and individual construction of reality as starting point for issues of milieu research and of research on participants and addressees in adult and further education, in general, has its roots in lifeworld (Lebenswelt) research (cf. Schütz/Luckmann 1990).

In adult education, the paradigm of lifeworld research can be seen as a corrective of theory models that are either too limited in their behavioral orientation or too strongly anchored in a subjectivist approach. Individual changes are always to be considered within the context of patterns of interpretation of social reality, i.e., they occur within the respective social environment of individuals and it is there that they unfold their effect on the identity of each individual. Lifeworld references and lifeworld orientation are meant to strengthen the traditional claim of participant orientation and are aimed at allowing for follow-up learning by participants in reference to their lifeworld. Thus, lifeworld orientation takes into consideration the learning capacity, learning barriers, and, above all, the expectations of addressees and participants in adult education. Lifeworld reference should by no means be seen as being in competition with a systematic acquisition of knowledge; however, it takes into account – thus the theoretical and practical claim – the needs of the individual within the context of their work, family, and leisure time (cf. Barz/Tippelt 2010;  Bourdieu 1982; Flaig et al. 1994).

As regards its theoretical conception, lifeworld orientation evolved from philosophical traditions that were shaped by Husserl (1986) and later, in a sociologically modified way, by Schütz and Luckmann (1990). Life philosophy, of which Husserl was a representative, aimed at emphasizing the experiencing of people, the emotional and the intuitive as well as the eidetic. The differentiating, descriptive representation of social facts developed by Schütz and Luckmann (1990) in their approach to life philosophy is based on Husserl, because – in contrast to purely theoretical explanations and traditions of thought that are rather analytic and scientific in their orientation – life-philosophical interpretations do not try to investigate some abstract truth, rather, they try to understand the subjective interpretations of reality by individuals within their social groups.

It was above all Schütz (1974) who succeeded in building a bridge from the phenomenology of the lifeworld to the social philosophy of everyday life and knowledge: “Everyday knowledge refers to those insights, experiences, values, and cultural techniques that are considered self-evident by members of a society. This societal stock of knowledge always precedes the individual; in the course of their socialization each individual takes from this stock those elements that are constitutive for their specific subjectivity” (Barz/Tippelt 2010, p. 118).

In lifeworld research, different classification systems may well coexist, supplement one another or compete with one another, because an objective truth is not presupposed in lifeworld-oriented research on education and further education. Rather, it is clearly relativized through a differentiating lifeworld analysis. Typification results from the special structures of relevance prevalent in the social environments and milieus of individuals, – structures which are always predetermined by the social contexts (Waldenfels 1985, p. 159).

Schütz and Luckmann have shown that, in uncomplicated everyday situations, people develop routinized and partly automatized patterns of thought and behavior, whereas in borderline situations (cf. Berger/Luckmann 1970, p. 103) and in crises the individual tends to develop further and to possibly construe new structures of relevance. To the individual it is of great importance that their actions in everyday situations are grounded on subjectively coherent reasons. The automatized and habitualized reference to everyday life leaves hardly any room for reflection and clear segmentations of individual experiences in different everyday situations emerge. The individual´s life and identity gain in complexity throughout the course of a person´s life because partial identities evolve and there is a constant need for an overall meaning to one´s own actions and for developing a consistent identity. For lifeworld-oriented research on adult and further education, the understanding of the openness and ambiguity as well as the pluralization of the construction of meaning constitutes a decisive moment.

Lifeworld orientation can refer to the situation and the environment of individuals within the social structure and it will then become an approach in its own right in the analysis of social structures. This is clearly the case in milieu research. This is a new approach to a new research on social structures that subdivides society both vertically and horizontally and that distinguishes itself from a simple analysis of life situations and lifestyles by focusing on aspects of conducts and forms of life and on experiencing the lifeworld, in particular. This approach now needs to be concretized for further education, too (cf. Barz/Tippelt 2004).

On the social construction of further education in the context of lifeworld-oriented research on milieus

Milieu research as a more recent instrument of research on inequality allows for this concretization by offering more than a mere description of socio-economically and socio-demographically grounded differences due to the additional horizontal differentiation of social groups according to basic attitudes, values, and lifestyles. Here, milieus are to be seen as groups of people who, on the basis of similar objectives in life and similar lifestyles, form entities within society (cf. Hradil 1987).

One of the most influential German and international research traditions in milieu research is the lifeworld research carried out at the SINUS Institute in Heidelberg. The term lifeworld refers back to Edmund Husserl´s approach (1986) and is to be conceived of both as foundation for scientific knowledge and as comprehensive horizon of diverse areas of meaning. Closely linked to this is the concept of “everyday consciousness” according to Alfred Schütz (1974), which originally represents one area of meaning in the “lifeworld” and is based on unquestionably given cultural techniques, experiences, and values; here, the knowledge of and orientation by the specific everyday world of current and potential participants in further education constitute an indispensable precondition for a micro- and macro-didactic planning of programs.

Milieu research on the basis of the sinus milieus has already been successfully applied in research on adult education since the 1990s (cf. Bremer 1999; Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation 1993). In this approach, the structure of inequality is explored in the form of differentiated, clear-cut milieu profiles and is investigated with particular focus on the subjective assessment of determinants and barriers in participation in lifelong learning and their reference to the lifeworld (cf. Barz 2000).

In view of the increasing individualization of postmodern society and the progressing differentiation of lifeworld concepts, milieu research can contribute significantly to the investigation and mapping of social inequality beyond traditional class- and milieu-specific concepts (cf. Tippelt/Reich/von Hippel/Barz/Baum 2008). In order to understand and categorize decisions regarding further education, this approach not only takes into consideration socio-demographic and socio-structural influences, but also involves additional characteristics, such as psychographic criteria.

Milieu Research, participant orientation in planning, and target-group work

In this context, milieu research is seen as an opportunity to overcome sweeping and much too undifferentiated definitions of target groups by focusing more strongly on social and cultural aspects, in particular (Bremer 2010). Research on milieus is also about classifying values, life orientations and attitudes, and about then planning macro- and micro-didactic action with a pedagogical aim.

As opposed to the school sector, the voluntary nature of participation is a constitutive feature of pedagogical action in adult education. There is no binding educational canon; rather, the contents to be presented have to be construed over and over again and they have to be adapted to – or at least have to take into consideration -the guiding interests and learning opportunities of target groups. Adults already have an ever interesting educational biography, so that we have to assume that learning at an adult age always has to be follow-up learning (cf. Siebert 2011). In terms of differentiation and pluralization of target groups, the programs offered in further education – we could well use the term further education market here – become ever more differentiated, too. This, in turn, is of major significance to the development of programs and courses offered by individual institutions. But which educational needs, which motives, barriers, and preconditions of learning, which interests of potential and current participants can be used as a basis for the planning of programs and courses to be offered?

Research and Practice in Adult Education have pointed out that participation in courses of further education is always the result of complex exploratory movements for, on the one hand, pedagogical institutions orient themselves in their planning by the anticipated interests of participants, – participants they have already reached, but also those they still want to reach ; on the other hand, there are exploratory movements by the target groups themselves, which orient themselves by the respective communication-, distribution-, and price-policies of sponsors and providers (Schöll 2005).

It is important to point out that education, when linked with the concept of the market, is always to be considered a confidence good, with the participants in educational processes orienting themselves, on the one hand, by the performance promise made by the providers and, on the other, always contributing themselves to the performance aimed at. It is very hard to recognize beforehand subjective learning interests that apply to further education. However, to comply with the search movements of the target groups, on the one hand, and those of the providers, on the other, procedures of systematic participant orientation and participant attraction are substantial. Essentially, the aim should be to generate patterns of orientation typical of participants for individualized and group-specific educational work in order to meet the demands of a pluralized and highly differentiated population and to systematically accommodate participants in further education.

Therefore, one of the instruments of planning strategies in further education is the analysis of the always pluralized and differentiated field of participants, in order to be better able to address them according to initially homogeneous characteristics. Subsequently, however, it becomes apparent that, in the real world, homogeneity is not achieved in the composition of study groups, a fact that proves to be positive, in fact, because, in the end, it is more interesting to work with heterogeneous groups in education, because these heterogeneous groups can mutually learn from one another.

Yet, it also is an established fact and has often been proven in milieu research that one can only reach quite specific groups through the different forms of course- and program-planning, hardly ever entirely disparate ones. This may be clarified by looking more closely at research on social environment and on further education. Milieus develop through a “totality” of natural, social (socio-economic, political-administrative, and socio-cultural), as well as spiritual environmental components that have an impact on a concrete group of people and determines their thought and actions (Hradil 1987).

The experience milieus described by Gerhard Schulze (1992), who systematically differentiated entertainment milieu and harmony milieu, self-realization milieu and integration milieu as well as high level milieu along the dimensions of education and age, already reveal a much more refined concept of milieus according to sinus.

Milieus comprise people who resemble each other with regard to social status (vertical differentiation) and with regard to values, attitudes and lifestyles (horizontal differentiation). So, in a sense, milieus constitute entities within plural modern societies. Social status is defined by income, educational status, and professional status, whereas values and lifestyles are an expression of basic orientations which may described by everyday consciousness, aims in life, and living habits. In consequence, when applied to modern society, these dimensions lead to a milieu structure that may be differentiated into traditional milieus, established conservative milieus, precarious milieus, new middle class milieu, socio-ecological milieus, liberal-intellectual milieus, high achiever milieus, adaptive pragmatist milieus, escapist milieus, and movers and shakers milieus.

These milieus, which were valid for Germany in 2010 (Barz/Tippelt 2010), have always been subject to certain prognoses in milieu and trend research because it is assumed that the experimentalists and the milieu of the movers and shakers, in particular, will continue to grow. The high achievers, too, will gain in importance on the basis of their strong education, while established conservative and tradition-rooted milieus will decrease in numbers. The significance of the precarious social groups and escapists is socio-economically dependent on the future social developments in economic terms.

Social change and milieus

In any case, social change can be described by several aspects in the context of milieus. Biographies are increasingly de-standardized; a straightforward course of life, initially planned and then progressing without change, is becoming rather the exception; patchwork biographies evolve in which disparate social experiences from quite different contexts of a cultural kind coalesce in one biography and models or orientations, provided e.g. by parents or other adults, are relativized, so that adult generations feel, if not a lack of orientation, at least the need for a quest for personal life-concepts (cf. Beck 1986; Tippelt 1990).

Social change is characterized, among other things, by a decrease in strongly ideologically determined positions. At the same time, pragmatic attitudes are on the increase; conscious consumption becomes more relevant than demonstrative consumer critique. New generations and milieus do not focus on utopias, rather, the striving for and realization of quite concrete aims is crucial to them (Reich-Claassen et al. 2011). Against the background of such trend prognoses regarding plural and individualized societies and by taking into consideration the milieu system as well as comments on the construction of new milieus (in the tradition of sinus), social environments may be described more precisely (cf. Barz/Tippelt 2004; Sinus 2010; Tippelt 2013):

The established conservative milieu (10%) – “trendsetting milieu in the traditional segment” – follows a success ethic on the basis of conservative bourgeois values (sense of duty and of responsibility), shares with other milieus a basic progress-oriented optimism, and is characterized by a strong class consciousness. From the socio-demographic perspective, it is a milieu of medium age, intermediate to higher educational qualifications predominate, people are often married and have children. As executive or qualified employees as well as higher civil servants, they are well situated and have a high income at their disposal (36% earn more than 3.000 Euro per month). Participation in further education is very low, despite the fact that it is considered useful for other social groups; instead, information is gained informally and people educate themselves within the circle of personal friends whom they trust.

The liberal intellectual milieu (7%) – “enlightened educational elite” – is characterized by a liberal basic attitude (also in economic terms), by post-material values (tolerance, holism, emancipation), and by the desire for a self-determined life. People´s cultural interests are very broad and manifold. The group of the middle-aged (30 to 60 years) dominates, formal education is of high standard and this milieu has the highest proportion of academic degrees compared to the others. Those belonging to this milieu are often married and have children. They usually work full-time and the number of self-employed and of qualified or executive employees is high. A high net income per household is characteristic of this milieu: 45% have more than 3.000 Euro per month at their disposal.
With regard to further education, those belonging to this milieu remain autarchic and rely on strong self-control, which means that the individual search for milieu-adequate information is favored over programs offered by professional counseling services.

The socio-ecological milieu (7%) – “discerning consumers with normative notions of the right way to live” – has internalized a pronounced ecological and social conscience, combined with political demands for justice and solidarity. People consider themselves to be globalization sceptics and are committed to aims such as political correctness or diversity. This leads to a strong commitment to a multicultural society and to slow movement, to a deceleration of social and technological change. The age group has a wide spectrum (30 to 60 years) and women are slightly overrepresented; the proportion of divorced people is high; the level of education is high and this milieu has the highest proportion of part-time employees and people who are no longer actively working. In terms of professions, qualified employees and higher civil servants, partly self-employed persons and free-lance workers predominate; their net income is of an average to higher level.
In this milieu, people have an open mind towards further education, while linking continuing education with a personal, strongly pronounced civic commitment in the social domains, the health sector, or in the environmental field.

The milieu of the high achievers (7%) – “efficiency-oriented top performers with a global economic mindset” – considers itself the new multi-optional elite, has a very high level of IT and multi-media expertise, shares sometimes neo-liberal convictions and is more or less unrestrictedly in favor of globalization. This milieu constitutes the avant-garde in consumerism and style – and is well aware of it. The majority is between 30 and 50 years of age and men are slightly overrepresented; the proportion of single persons is high, but there are also many couples without any or with rather young children. University graduates predominate and many work full-time; self-employed persons or freelancers are overrepresented and people usually hold qualified or executive positions, so that the net income per household is rather high – 43% earn more than 3.000 Euro per month.The strong interest in education is satisfied by browsing online information and websites and only those providers are sought out that meet the highest personal quality standards.

The adaptive pragmatist milieu (9%) – “the ambitious young core of society” – is characterized by a markedly pragmatic outlook on life and a clear sense of expedience; personal values are accordingly rather utilitarian in nature and people belonging to this milieu are success-oriented, yet also flexible and prepared to compromise. They are ambivalent for they have hedonistic as well as conventional, flexible as well as security-oriented needs. There is a need for a sense of belonging and people identify themselves with the competitive and performance-oriented society. The majority is younger than 40; women are overrepresented; every second person is married, but mostly still without children. A larger group is still living with their parents. People belonging to this milieu have average or higher educational qualifications; white-collar workers of all levels, from simple to qualified, and skilled workers as well as part-time employees are characteristic of employment in this milieu. Average and – in the case of dual earners – higher household incomes predominate. Education and further education is considered to be important and people visit events offered by established institutions, because these are thought to be trustworthy.

The movers and shakers milieu (6%) – the “ambitious, creative avant-garde” – is mentally and geographically mobile, deals intensely with medial offers and is thus well networked, both online and offline. Their personal vision in life pushes people to overcome boundaries, to broaden their horizons, and to accept new challenges, all the while feeling a strong desire for autonomy and independence. In pursuing their individual aims in life, they proceed strategically, never being simply spontaneous or naive. This is the youngest milieu, with two thirds of the group being under 30; the proportion of men is very high, many are unmarried or single, and quite frequently they still live in their parents´ household. Formal education is of a high level and, compared to the other milieus, the proportion of high-school graduates is the highest, although 40% have not finished their training yet. Many of those who already hold a job are either self-employed or freelancers. Their household income is above average because they come from privileged homes; during that phase of their lives, their own income is average to high. Persons belonging to this milieu are interested in different forms of coaching, but also in group-oriented further education, because the exchange and interaction with others is considered to be important and to provide guidance.

The new middle class milieu (14%) – “the modern mainstream with the will to achieve and adapt” – is a general proponent of the social order, while striving to become established at a professional and social level. The desire to lead a secure and harmonious existence is highly pronounced in all areas of life. This milieu is composed of groups of middle-aged people and people who are older than 40 and, compared to the other milieus, it has the highest proportion of married people; often, older children are still living in the house or the situation of the “empty nest” has to be dealt with. The proportion of university graduates is small; instead, many of those belonging to this milieu are simple to mid-level white-collar workers or skilled workers, not quite one third has already reached post-employment. Accordingly, we are dealing with the middle-income bracket. Further education and counseling are considered to be of great importance; all in all, people are especially interested in offers by traditional and established providers of further education aiming at advancement and adaptation.

The traditional milieu (15%) – “security and order-loving wartime/post-war generation” – is rooted in the old world of the petty bourgeoisie or that of the traditional blue-collar culture. This is the oldest milieu, with the major segment being formed by those aged 60 and plus; the proportion of women is high, with retired persons, pensioners or widowed people being predominant. For generational reasons, educational qualifications are on a lower level; nonetheless, there are people with average or higher vocational qualifications; income is on a lower to average level, the monthly household income is less than 2.000 Euro per month.
People belonging to this milieu are interested in further education and trust in specific educational offers that are closely linked with their life world. However, there is also a rather large group of people who consider themselves to be “too old” for further education.

The precarious milieu (9%) – “the lower class in search of orientation and social inclusion” – has strong anxieties about the future, is often affected by diverse social disadvantages, thus has scant prospects of social advancement, and develops a basic attitude to life characterized by resignation. Still, people in this milieu try to keep up, quite often by adaptation to the consumer standards of the middle class. The majority is of medium age or older than 50. The proportion of people living on their own is above average, many are widowed, and the number of divorcees is very high by comparison.
The proportion of people out of employment is the highest compared to the other milieus. If people are in employment, they often work as unskilled or semi-skilled workers; furthermore, skilled workers who have slid down to lower positions are characteristic of employment in this group. The net income per household is in general rather low, with the main proportion earning less than 1.750 Euro per month.
The educational situation is closely linked to the precarious economic living conditions. Creative forms of educational and social counseling are needed here that seek out their target groups.

The escapist milieu (15%) – “fun and experience-oriented modern lower class/lower- middle class” – wants to live in the here and now and shuns convention and the behavioral expectations of an achievement-oriented society. People in this milieu mostly belong to younger age groups under 40; the level of formal education varies and shows no clear pattern; however, the proportion of single people is significant. The unemployment rate is slightly above average and the majority of people work as low- or mid-level employees, as blue-collar workers, or as skilled workers; all of them consider their employment as a means to the end of having experience-oriented, individual free time at their disposal. The proportion of university students, trainees (apprentices) and pupils is high; income distribution resembles that of the basic population.
Further education is not a primary interest of that group; however, one is in need of incidental information and financial counseling in order to be able to develop the profile of one´s individual lifestyle and intensive hands-on learning experiences are preferred.

To all intents and purposes, the milieus, lifeworlds, and aims in life outlined in these short characterizations also provide linking points for macro- and micro-didactic planning.

Migrant milieus

Pedagogically oriented research on milieus managed to correlate quite specific educational interests with the respective milieus. The same can be done for migrant milieus. On the basis of narrative interviews and, subsequently, a representative survey by phone, Sinus (2007) was able to specify in more detail the interests in further education of migrant milieus. It is important to note that, from a socio-cultural perspective, migrants do of course not form a unity.

Thus, there is evidence of an extremely low interest in further education, grounded on diverse motifs, among religiously rooted milieus, traditional migrant workers milieus, among uprooted milieus and hedonistic intercultural milieus.

A medium interest in further education is again to be found in certain parts of traditional migrant worker milieus, in as much as they want to better establish themselves, in status-oriented migrant milieus, and in adaptive integration milieus.

A very strong willingness to partake in further education is shown by multi-ethnic achiever milieus and intellectual cosmopolitan trendsetting milieus with educational qualifications of a very high level, an enormous language competency and a strong international orientation.

With regard to milieu orientation, ethnic background is less relevant; more important are the social and cultural orientations of individual persons and population groups. It is not possible to directly infer the milieu from the culture of origin. In turn, one cannot safely infer the native culture from the milieu. Quite often, there are shared lifeworld patterns of perception and of experiencing across different cultures of origin. On the other hand, we find people of different ethnic background in one and the same social migrant milieu. Still, it should be emphasized that ethnic affiliation, religious affiliation and migrant background are important factors with regard to education and the development of lifeworlds.

Milieu research can be connected to an enlightened concept of planning and continuing education marketing

Milieu research can be connected to a holistic understanding of marketing, which is justified by the internal constitution of adult education. The model of social milieus has since proven to be a current and viable instrument; including a detailed description of the structure of the demand side of the market for continuing education. The milieu research also provides the basis for the so-called “market segmentation,” which is an important requirement of a comprehensive customer analysis.

“Social milieus” offer a promising way to break down the pluralistic and diverse market participants, thus creating a detailed analysis of educational settings, educational interests and barriers accessible. “Social milleus” here take both classical socio-demographic and psychographic factors into consideration due to the fact that they include both basic value orientations, as well as the current social situation. Special attention is currently being given to the marketing strategies of practice facilities; especially to the so-called “marketing tools” or “action parameters” (see Scholl 2010). With their help, concrete marketing goals shall be implemented, such as: Supply and performance design, distribution design, communication design, price or compensation design.

Programming the core of educational marketing

The milieu-specific findings for the core of professional adult education activity indicated specific relevance for the supply and program planning. Program planning, based on scientific interdisciplinary findings, is determined by the pedagogical-rule requirement from the relevant adult education institution. In contrast to other areas of education, continuing education is not dependent on a specific and rigid curriculum (ex. structural and substantive reforms in the area of general education). Due to flexible planning action, close proximity to the addressee including the social environment is possible. The main focus is to establish and maintain a “fit” between further education interests, training needs, as well as the training offer, which takes the personal contribution of the participants into account. Specific planning questions are comprised in the following way:

For what and for whom? The “use” can refer to professional, personal and social goals, and in general, the use situation or the specific recycling aspects cannot be anticipated and formulated without the appropriate target group. Target groups in this model represent the potential and targeted participatory groups that can be shared by one or more continuing and relevant education features. Target groups may result from current life situations such as: Young mothers, women returning to the workforce, aspiring managers, senior citizens, etc., but this result could also be formed on the basis of value orientations and attitudes of social milieus.
It is, therefore, clear that the contribution of the milieu related addressees research for the supply and program in, be summarized in the following way (see also Siebert 2011):

Results of the milieu research shall state the targeted medium education and training that will be naturally integrated into everyday life (ex. the current milieus see above) and for specified Milieus development that represents rather unusual and extraordinary activities (ex. for the precarious, the traditionalists and partly the hedonists). The milieu research can illustrate the thematic-content interests, demands on the methodological and didactic design, as well as requirements to the learning setting and ambience in a differentiated way (see Barz / Tippelt 2004). One can determine the closeness and the distance of different milieus at different educational institutions. The milieu research sheds light on relevant milieu-specific value orientations and life-perceptions that shape thinking and acting in different areas of life (including training and qualification). Therefore, training needs can be met by focusing on appropriate situations and learning objectives.

What? Learning Objectives describe knowledge or ability excerpts from an extremely large knowledge or skills inventory. The definition of learning content is automatically a decision field for methods, media and organizational form, as well as a set venue if necessary.

Methods, media and educational content in empirical studies suggest the importance for satisfaction with a learning event. The choice of specific learning content and themes is also closely linked to the respective target group’s specific needs as well as the target group’s specific topics of interest. “Interest” is to be understood as a “special relationship of a person to a learning object” (Krapp 1999, p 388). According to interest theory, people are motivated to learn when they feel thematically addressed, creating the substantive aspects of the learning event of crucial importance for the control of actions (ie. the decision for continuing one’s education and for the inclusion of specific learning processes inside and outside formally organized educational events). In addition to the social statistical research, addressees, especially the research milieu with detailed analysis of value orientations and interests, provide information on thematic preferences.

How? Organizational forms of continuing education programs describe various event formats, such as: Additional studies on catching up on learner qualifications to shorter formats, such as, multi-day courses, lectures or excursions or trips. The duration of the event and the selected time window are important structural features of the organization. A distinction should be made regarding: Evening events, block courses over several days, weekly morning appointments, etc. It depicts an overall significant trend towards shorter, continuous learning activities (see. Bilger et al. 2013). From the milieu research, we know that the time preferences differ depending on their milieu. Thus, members of the middle class, for example, prefer more periodical and balanced events, which do not, curtail their leisure time too much. The social milieus (formerly: Established, Post-materialists, Modern Performers; today: Conservative Established, Liberal-intellectuals, Performer, Adaptive) prefer temporally blocked events to be able to fully engage on the topic. (cf. Barz / Tippelt. 2004)

Where? A place of learning can be understood as a specific educational institution that implements a continuing education program. In a broader sense, it denotes places of learning as spatial units that educationally stimulate the learner. It is important to ensure that the proposed methods can be easily implemented and that at least the general different demands within the social milieus are being taken into consideration when it comes to space, ambience, media and didactic principles.

Who? The “fit” between a lecturer, subject and the target audience is a key aspect in the context of service development. Results of empirical studies on the role of the teacher / lecturer impressively demonstrate that the teacher / lecturer acts as the central quality feature of a training event. Therefore, all milieus agree that an “optimum Instructor,” who is responsible for the success of education events, is essential (see Tippelt et al., 2008). Whether or not the educational and professional social skills of the course administration are more important or rather the personality, appearance or public reputation, is dependent on the milieu. However, course leaders who are in direct contact with the participants show a significant “milieu difference,” which means, that they come from another social milieu which is usually considerably further away within the social space than the one from the participants. It has been demonstrated, for example, in the project “ImZiel” that “Further educationals” – especially full-time pedagogic staff – are recruited mostly from the milieu of post-materialist and adjacent milieus, while facing (depending on the event) a wide range of participants (see Tippelt et al 2008).

Conclusion: Milieu orientation as an element of pedagogical professionalism

Today, milieu and participant orientation and target-group work are central elements of professional pedagogical acting, especially in further education, in both research and practice. Accordingly, different forms of and attempts at structuring demand for education are of major significance and the differentiation of target groups  as well as the competence  of “perspective and role taking” is part of the indispensable knowledge resource of pedagogues. Segmentation and group formation are mandatory to professional acting in research and in practice. In addition to class conceptions – conceptions that emphasize professional status – milieu conceptions play an ever more important role.

Thus, it is of utmost importance – also for the professionalism of pedagogues – not only to recognize socio-demographic foci, but also to gain insight into lifestyles, work- and achievement-related motivation, forms of social identity, behavior and attitudes, while at the same time taking into consideration attitudes towards family and partners, towards leisure time, everyday aesthetics, or religious orientations. These building blocks of milieus stemming from a lifeworld conception of social structures are of great significance to further education. At this point, we would merely like to mention that educational ideas as well as typical interests in further education and educational barriers, considerations regarding health education or personality formation, desires regarding competence development, activities in informal learning and educational counseling (cf. Tippelt 2013) are strongly determined by milieu affiliation.

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Rudolf Tippelt Rudolf Tippelt is Professor for general pedagogy and education research at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. He has published widely on the following themes: lifelong learning and competence development, education and youth research, and vocational continuing education. Contact: Show all articles by Rudolf Tippelt
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