German Institute for Adult Education (DIE)  
 
 

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Background

The successful participation of adults in lifelong learning depends crucially on the availability of qualified staff in the adult and continuing education sector.

Current developments such as the changes in learning and teaching methods, new learning offers and environments, the need to combine formal, non-formal and informal learning, to develop guidance and counselling for adult learners, to promote and market learning offers etc. imply a considerable change and expansion of the roles and work activities of adult educators. The updating of their skills and competences is therefore of crucial importance for improving the conditions under which learning of adults can take place successfully.

For the professional development of adult educators it is important to realise that this group is far from begin homogeneous. Rather it includes a wide range of actors who differ considerably in terms of occupational status and educational background and who perform very different types of activities in their job.

If adult education is understood as comprising every type of activity that is performed in order to enable and support the learning of adults, it becomes clear that adult education involves much more than teaching or training in the narrower sense. Besides teaching/training, adult education work involves other important fields of activity such as educational management, policy and administration, guidance and counselling, or technical and organisational support.

In the concrete work places and jobs these types of activity may then be combined in different ways, and, what is more, they may be combined with other activities that do not relate to adult learning. As opposed to other educational sectors, it is characteristic of adult and continuing education that only a minority of adult educators work full time in the sector. Of these, again, only a minority is permanently employed whereas many others earn a precarious living as free-lancers. Many adult educators work as a sideline in the sector. For other groups, adult education activities represent just one bigger or smaller part of their regular job. As a consequence, although their activity does contribute to promoting learning of adults, quite a few of these people will not even consider themselves as adult educators.

Strategies to promote professional development and quality in the field of adult learning will need to give attention to all these different groups. However, so far few reliable data are available on the actors in adult and continuing education in Europe and little is known about the situation of their professional development.

The European Commissionís Call for tender on Adult Learning Professions in Europe (no DG EAC/35/2006), launched in July 2006, was a first important step to collect relevant data at a European level. It has confirmed both the importance of this target group and the need for further action concerning their professional development.

Aim and Structure of the Conference

The three-day conference is designed to highlight the key role of staff in adult and continuing education (ACE) in ensuring provision of high quality learning offers for adults in the field of formal, non-formal and informal learning. The conference pursues three aims:

  • present the state of art of professional development of ACE staff in Europe in different working fields;
  • initiate a European dialogue between ACE researchers, practitioners, project leaders, policy makers and educational administration representatives about the current state of art and ways to improve the situation;
  • formulate recommendations for the improvement of the situation and discuss them with policy makers.

Plenary keynote speeches will highlight general aspects of the topic in the European perspective, both from a policy and a research point of view.

Thematic workshops over the first two days will be devoted to different types of activity in the field of adult learning (teaching and learning, training and development, counselling and guidance, policy making and managing, organisation and technical supporrt, evaluating and assessing). The workshops will review existing research and current practices in Europe, identify skill and competence needs, and discuss possible strategies for improving the professional development. In each workshop, one or more short input presentations will provide the basis for further discussion in the group. On the first day, the workshops will concentrate on reviewing the state of the art; on the second day the same thematic workshops will discuss perspectives for the future and formulate recommendations.

A Plenary discussion with policy makers on the realisation of the recommendations will conclude the conference on the third day.

Two Poster Sessions will be arranged on the first two days. The first session will include country presentations of the current situation of adult education staff and their professional development. In the poster session of the second day best practice examples - both national and transnational projects and initiatives - in the field of professional development of adult and continuing education staff will be presented. In this context there will also be space to discuss plans for new projects with European colleagues.

Target groups of the conference
Target groups are ACE practitioners and ACE experts on the one hand and education policy makers and educational administration representatives on the other. The number of participants will be around 120.

Workshop Descriptions
Workshop 1: Teaching and Learning
Workshop 2: Training and Development
Workshop 3: Counselling and Guidance
Workshop 4: Policy making and managing
Workshop 5: Organisation and technical support
Workshop 6: Evaluating and Assessing

Poster Sessions
Poster Session A: Country specific situation of professionality of ACE staff
Poster Session B: Initiatives and projects on professional development of ACE staff