The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 44, Issue 4–5, pp 443–460 | Cite as

Distance travelled: outcomes and evidence in flexible learning options

  • Joseph ThomasEmail author
  • Sue McGinty
  • Kitty te Riele
  • Kimberley Wilson


Flexible learning options (FLOs) provide individualised learning pathways for disengaged young people with strong emphasis on inclusivity and wellbeing support. Amidst a rapid expansion of Australia’s flexible learning sector, service providers are under increasing pressure to substantiate participant outcomes. This paper stems from a national study of the value of FLOs to young people and the broader Australian community. The study enumerates the outcomes valued by flexible learning practitioners, as well as the various evidence forms they cite to substantiate participant outcomes. Framing success as ‘distance travelled’ (i.e. an individual’s progress relative to his or her own starting point), practitioners demonstrate critical awareness of the social and structural mechanisms by which young people are marginalised from mainstream schooling. Holistic assessment practices also reveal practitioners’ efforts to expand the terms of reference by which educational outcomes may be validated in alternative education settings.


Alternative education Educational outcomes Accountability Evidence Distance travelled 



Research for this paper was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects funding scheme for the project, Gauging the value of flexible learning options for disenfranchised youth and the Australian community (LP130100344). The ARC has had no involvement in the study design; collection, analysis and interpretation of data; writing of the report; or the decision to submit this article for publication.


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Business, Law and GovernanceJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies CentreJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Peter Underwood Centre for Educational AttainmentUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  4. 4.Lecturer in Science EducationAustralian Catholic UniversityBanyoAustralia

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