What conception of the self does adult education operate with? Adult education involves processes in which particular kinds of learners (adults) engage in activities leading to desirable kinds of change. Thus, the very notion of adult learning as a process where desirable changes are brought about is itself dependent upon particular yet very often taken-for-granted conceptions of the self. There are, however, clear if largely implied assumptions about the nature of the self in the way in which adult learning is typically conceived. The best way of showing this is by considering the notion of autonomy. As Boud (1989) points out, ‘autonomy’ in the context of adult learning refers both to a goal of self-awareness, of empowerment in the sense of an ability to exercise choice in relation to needs, and to an approach to learning of active personal involvement and self-direction.