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(From Site) Guided Autobiography 

Research Studies – Exploring the Fabric of Life


Why this web site?


This web site is dedicated to sharing research studies that explored the life stories and reported learning experiences offered by participants in Guided Autobiography Workshops that are based on concepts and methods of shared reminiscence and life review while enhancing the learning activities which help us tell and write our life stories.


The website outlines and provides the basic research study and protocols that were used in the initial qualitative research study of participants learning experiences and their submitted learning reports – the data set for this research study and its published papers.  Additional published papers are available that make it possible for further research studies of the data set. Also available are web pages for other initiated guided autobiography activities, workshops and studies.


This Guided Autobiography Research Website is a companion and affiliate partner with The Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies ( The Birren Center is dedicated to enriching the lives of adults through writing, sharing, and preserving life stories and life experiences.


What is available?


The initial published reports and research documents that provide the foundation for this web page are extracted from – Community-Based Qualitative Research Study: Adult Learning and Meaning-Making in Guided Autobiographies Development Exchange –  and are offered in this website for further explorations and in-depth research studies. The Qualitative Research Study is available for download.


Further, a Learning Survey Form is available for those offering or participating in guided autobiography workshops or courses who wish to collect information about their shared learning experiences.


Dedicated to James E. Birren


Jim Birren initiated Guided Autobiography courses in Summer Institutes at the University of Southern California in the mid-1970s, attracting many academics and professional in the emerging multi-disciplinary studies of later life transitions and transformations. Over the next three decades Jim Birren and Betty Birren offered Guided Autobiography courses in the United States, Canada, Germany, Korea, the Netherland, Japan and Singapore. These events resulted in many requests seeking information on how to create and conduct guided autobiography groups and the publication of three books:


Guiding Autobiography Groups for Older Adults, Exploring the Fabric of Life, 1991. James E. Birren and Donna E. Deutchman, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London.

Where to Go from Here: Discovering Your Own Life’s Wisdom in the Second Half of Your Life, 1997. James E. Birren and Linda Feldman, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups, 2001, by James E. Birren and Kathryn N. Cochran, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London.


Our Goals


Throughout the current literature on adult learning there are various notable themes: (a) social growth and development, (b) purposeful adaptive lifestyle change, (c) reconciliation and therapeutic healing, (d) restructuring interpretations of past experiences, (e) acquiring new skills, (f) making meaning, (g) personal growth, and (h) involvement in learning communities of peers.


All these themes and topics emerge in our guided autobiography groups and are found in this research study data. Also, they are expressed by scholars who have focused their professional careers on the study of lifelong learning and adult development. The question remains whether adults themselves interpret their own learning experiences in terms similar to those expressed by professional scholars and writers.


This research study perhaps provides some insights into this territory by bridging and connecting self-learning with collaborative learning group experiences.  All of which are critical to the meaning-making process essential to adult development.


Special Thanks 


Cheryl Svensson  

Director, Birren The Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies

In the late 1990s, Cheryl reconnected with Jim Birren and enrolled in his Guided Autobiography course at UCLA. She has been a firm believer in the power of the GAB process and the potential to change lives ever since. Cheryl worked closely with Jim and activated the present Guided Autobiography work groups to develop and expand the program internationally. She has now train more that 300 GAB instructors worldwide in a live, interactive online GAB training course.


Wendy Bancroft 

Wendy provided significant input in developing this web page and its research materials and resources. Wendy leads workshops in Guided Autobiography, a way of helping people remember and write about key experiences in their lives through memory triggers, writing support, brain exercised, self-awareness learning and small group sharing. “It’ about writing and a whole lot more. It’s stimulating, creative, and thoughtful. Lots of laugher; occasional tears.  I love this work.”


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