Examining the perspectives of adult working learners and key stakeholders using critical race theory

Gloria E. Jacobs, Jill Castek, Kathy Harris, Jen Vanek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: This article reports on a critical race theory (CRT) analysis of the perspectives of providers of employer-supported educational opportunities and adult learners, who identified as Black, indigenous or as a person of color, and were employed in service industries. Design/methodology/approach: A review of the literature was used to shape an initial interview protocol. Data were collected from working learners in retail, hospitality, restaurants and healthcare industries. An “a priori” coding scheme that drew from CRT was applied to transcripts during analysis. Findings: Analysis revealed that working learners' skills, experiential knowledge, learning mindset, language flexibility and knowledge gained from previous learning experiences were not consistently acknowledged by employers. CRT analysis illustrated that endemic racism exists within educational opportunities and in workplace learning. Originality/value: CRT has not been widely used to examine adult education practice, especially for workforce development and employer-based education programs. This research expands the use of CRT in adult education and encourages critical conversations around equity in learning opportunities offered by employers. CRT informed data analysis uncovered barriers to equitable learning opportunities and workplace learning. A discussion of inequities in work-based learning illustrates there is insufficient awareness of implicit bias, which points to the need for initiatives focused on social justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1108-1121
Number of pages14
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 25 2022


  • Adult working learners
  • Critical race theory
  • Workforce development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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