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Ellen Skinner and Emily Saxton
Academic coping describes the profile of responses children and adolescents utilize when they encounter challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures in their scholastic work. Coping is one of multiple strands of research from a variety of subareas within educational and developmental science that share a common interest in this topic, including work on academic resilience, buoyancy, mastery versus helplessness, tenacity, perseverance, and productive persistence, as well as adaptive help seeking, self-regulated learning, and emotion regulation. These approaches focus on the responses (including emotions and goal-directed behaviors) students actually undertake on the ground when they encounter academic difficulties in their daily lives; patterns of action can be contrasted with the belief systems, motivations, or skill sets that underlie these responses.
Since the mid 1980s, several dozen studies have examined academic coping in children and youth from 2nd to 12th grade (ages 7–18), including samples from 29 countries (Skinner & Saxton, 2019). These studies have identified multiple adaptive ways of dealing with academic stress, including problem solving, help seeking, and comfort seeking. These responses are considered productive because they allow students to gather resources and strategies, and so re-engage in demanding tasks with renewed purpose, vigor, and effectiveness. Multiple maladaptive ways of coping have also been identified, such as escape, rumination, or blaming others. These are considered unproductive because when enacted in response to academic demands, they are more likely to trigger disaffection, amplify distress, or provoke negative reactions from social partners.
In general, research indicates that students normatively show a profile of coping that is high in adaptive strategies (especially problem solving, help seeking, and support seeking) and low in maladaptive responses. Studies find that students’ adaptive coping is linked to their academic functioning and success, including their educational performance, engagement, persistence, and adjustment to school transitions. In contrast, maladaptive coping is linked to a pattern of poor academic performance, disengagement, and school-related burnout. Students cope more adaptively when they possess motivational assets (such as self-efficacy, relative autonomy, or sense of belonging) and experience interpersonal supports from their parents, teachers, and peers. Studies documenting developmental trends suggest normative improvements in the coping repertoire during elementary school. However, over the transition to middle school in early adolescence, many adaptive ways of coping decline while reliance on maladaptive responses generally increases. Starting in middle adolescence, these problematic trends stabilize, and some studies indicate renewed improvement in coping, especially problem solving.
Current research on academic coping faces theoretical, methodological, and applied challenges: (a) theoretically, more comprehensive conceptualizations are needed that integrate coping perspectives with social contextual, motivational, and developmental approaches; (b) methodologically, standard measures are needed that focus on core categories of academic coping, and that utilize allocation scoring; and (c) to further applied work, additional studies are needed that describe and explain normative and differential age-graded changes in adaptive and maladaptive coping across childhood and adolescence. Researchers who study academic coping believe that this work has much to offer educational theories, research, and interventions aimed at understanding how to help children and adolescents develop the capacity to deal constructively with the obstacles and problems they will inevitably encounter during their educational careers.
Martinette V. Horner, Derrick D. Jordan, and Kathleen M. Brown
Academic optimism was developed in 2006 as a latent concept that provides insight into the improvement of student outcomes especially for those who, because of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other demographics, have historically been labeled as underperforming. The three main components of academic optimism (academic emphasis, collective emphasis, and faculty trust) underscore the reality that the teachers, parents, and students all play a critical role in the education arena when it comes to ensuring that students fully grow and stretch to the fullest extent possible. High academic optimism in a school suggests that academic achievement is valued and supported; the faculty has the capacity to help students achieve; and students and parents can be trusted as partners of the school for student achievement. Each of these can be controlled by the actions and decisions of school leaders and faculty so that schools can overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement.
Bob Lingard, Sam Sellar, and Steven Lewis
This article surveys developments in educational accountabilities over the last three decades. In this time, accountability in schools and schooling systems across Anglo-American nations has undergone considerable change, including a move away from bureaucratic approaches that endorsed teacher professionalism. Educational accountabilities have evolved with the restructuring of the state through new public management and the emergence of network governance. Accountability can be understood in two senses: (1) being held to account; and (2) giving an account. Within the post-bureaucratic state, the former sense has become dominant in the work of schools, principals, and teachers, and has affected curriculum, pedagogy, and student learning. For instance, schooling systems in Anglo-American nations have introduced standardized testing to hold schools and teachers to account. Comparative performance data are now made publicly available through websites and the creation of league tables of school performance. These processes are central to the creation of markets in schooling, where comparative test data are deemed necessary to enable parental choice of schools and, in turn, to raise standards. This top-down, performative mode of accountability also moves the field of judgment away from teachers and the profession. There are now emergent attempts to reconstitute more democratic and educative modes of accountability, which are multilateral and multidirectional in character, and which seek to limit the negative effects of top-down data-driven accountability. These approaches reassert trust in the teaching profession and reconstitute parents and communities as democratic participants in schooling. We argue that accountability is a pharmakon that requires balancing of mechanisms for holding educators to account and opportunities for educators to give accounts of their work. The article reviews relevant literature to provide a brief history of accountability in schooling, with particular emphasis on Anglo-American contexts. Drawing on the work of Ranson, we examine four types of existing educational accountabilities before concluding with a discussion of three alternative approaches.
Esther Dominique Klein
Accountability has always been deemed a necessity for schools to fulfill their purpose in society. Because of the nature of their operational core, this has for a long time been based on bureaucratic and professional accountability in most countries. In the second half of the 20th century, several countries have started implementing instruments of managerial accountability. While bureaucratic accountability means that accountability is focused on functionality and regularity, and professional accountability means that the profession itself defines standards and mechanisms of holding one another accountable, managerial accountability focuses on the effectiveness of schools based on externally defined standards instead. In many countries, this change of focus in the accountability system has entailed strengthening the managerial power of school leadership and introducing performance measurement through tests and inspection. This has shifted the power balance between teachers and schools on the one hand, and education authorities on the other. At the same time, it has created the opportunity for schools to use the new data for improvement, albeit with varying results. The fact that so many countries have adopted managerial accountability accordingly is not based on evidence about its positive effects, but on convergence in an international organizational field. However, comparisons of accountability systems in the United Stated, Germany, and Finland show that the adoption of this global strategy is dependent on how it fits with the local institutional norms in each country. While the United States have traditionally had a system of managerial accountability, the other two countries have only recently supplemented their systems with elements of managerial accountability, and the instruments are therefore adapted to each context.
Arsaythamby Veloo, Ruzlan Md-Ali, and Rozalina Khalid
Changes in the education system will invariably alter the modes of assessment and practices moving forward. This will demand high expectations among stakeholders who are directly involved with the accountability of assessment administration. Presently, professional education organizations have codes of conduct, principles and standards for administration assessment that outline certain responsibilities to ensure that the inherent accountability of the assessment administration system is maintained and continually improved. Accordingly, it is important that assessment administration practices are aligned with the institution’s assessment policies. Similarly, assessment administrators should collaborate with institutions to develop and unify assessment standards and practices and to pay particular attention to the accountability of assessment administration, which includes maintaining assessment security and integrity. Assessment practices are expected to be fair, equitable, and unbiased when measuring students’ performance, which is heavily reliant on the accountability of assessment administration. Assessment practices previously have been focused more on the cognitive aspects involved in paper and pencil tests based on a standardized test. Thus, not many issues concerning assessment administration have been discussed.
However, there is a need to accommodate and modify assessment administration according to the needs of current assessment modes and practices, where most countries have now adopted school-based assessment. The accountability of teachers towards the student’s assessment becomes even more important within the school-based assessment system. Hence, the teachers are accountable for students’ performance in the classroom environment rests with teachers. Therefore, to overcome and address many of the challenges associated with administration assessment as we move towards the future; close attention must be paid to the accountability of how the process around the administration of assessments is administered. Assessment administrators are accountable and expected to display honesty, integrity, due care, validity, and reliability, and to ensure that fairness is observed and maintained during assessment. The assessment process can impact the teacher’s orchestration and design of assessment administration practices and in addressing the issues of fairness in the eyes of stakeholders when determining student performance. Assessment administration involves processes that need to be well planned, implemented, and continuously monitored. Likewise, there are standardized, documented rules and procedures that assessment administrators need to follow to ensure that accountability is maintained.
Judith Meece and Charlotte Agger
Achievement motivation theories are used to understand gender discrepancies in motivation across various academic domains. Early on in the field of motivation research, researchers commonly used an attribution framework to study achievement-related outcomes among men and women. Self-efficacy theory and a revised expectancy-value theory of achievement-related choices dominate the current literature on gender differences and achievement motivation. Current trends in research on gender and academic motivation include the shifting and expanding of theoretical frameworks, a new focus on the motivation and achievement of male students, and the use of advanced methodologies and cross-national data to conduct comparative research on gender and patterns of motivation.
A Collaborative Process for Incorporating Universal Design for Learning and Evidence-Based Practice into Inclusive Teacher Education Programs
Spencer Salend and Catharine Whittaker
In light of the need to prepare reflective and effective teachers who can differentiate their instruction to support the learning of all students in inclusive classrooms, this article describes the collaborative process faculty have used to incorporate universal design for learning (UDL) and evidence-based practice (EBP) into an inclusive teacher education program’s curriculum and practicum experiences. Initially, faculty mapped the curriculum by agreeing upon a common definition of UDL and EBP, reviewing the research to create EBP documentation charts, which were used to constructing self-assessment tools known as innovation configurations (IC). Faculty used the IC to identify and address the strengths and gaps within the program’s courses and clinical experiences and align courses with online interactive instructional resources related to UDL and EBP. To bridge the gap between research and practice and guide educators in making evidence-informed decisions, faculty developed a 10-step practice-based evidence assessment and instructional model to collect and analyze classroom-based data about the efficacy, acceptability, and fidelity of one’s instructional practices and use of UDL and EBP. Faculty revised and field-tested a lesson plan template that prompted educators to personalize their instruction and make it more explicit by addressing such factors as student diversity and collaboration, and employing UDL, EBP, instructional and assistive technology and formative and summative assessment. Faculty also redesigned the program’s lesson observation form used to better evaluate preservice teachers working in inclusive classrooms and provide them with feedback related to their effective use of EBP, UDL, instructional and assistive technology, and assessment and classroom management strategies. The lesson observation form also was revised to make it more reflective of the program’s curriculum reform efforts related to the use of UDL and EBP, and to align it with the national teacher education accreditation standards, national and statewide teacher evaluation, curriculum and teacher education certification standards.
Laura Colucci-Gray, Pamela Burnard, Donald Gray, and Carolyn Cooke
“STEAM education,” with its addition of “arts” to STEM subjects, is a complex and contested concept. On the one hand, STEAM builds upon the economic drivers that characterize STEM: an alignment of disciplinary areas that allegedly have the greatest impact on a developed country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). On the other hand, the addition of the arts may point to the recovery of educational aims and purposes that exceed economic growth: for example, by embracing social inclusion, community participation, or sustainability agendas. Central to understanding the different educational opportunities offered by STEAM is the interrogation of the role—and status—of the arts in relation to STEM subjects. The term “art” or “arts” may refer, for example, to the arts as realms/domains of knowledge, such as the humanities and social science disciplines, or to different ways of knowing and experiencing the world enabled by specific art forms, practices, or even pedagogies. In the face of such variety and possibilities, STEAM is a portmanteau term, hosting approaches that originate from different reconfigurations or iterative reconfiguring of disciplinary relationships. A critical discussion of the term “STEAM” will thus require an analysis of published literature alongside a review and discussion of ongoing practices in multiple field(s), which are shaped by and respond to a variety of policy directions and cultural traditions. The outcome is a multilayered and textured account of the limitations and possibilities for and relational understandings of STEAM education.
Gerardo del Cerro Santamaría
Neoliberalism—the prevailing model of capitalist thinking based on the Washington Consensus—has conveyed the idea that a new educational and university model must emerge in order to meet the demands of a global productive system that is radically different from that of just a few decades ago. The overall argument put forward is that the requirements, particularly the managerial and labor force needs of a new economy—already developing within the parameters of globalization and the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs)—cannot be adequately satisfied under the approaches and methods used by a traditional university. Neoliberalism affects the telos of higher education by redefining the very meaning of higher education. It dislocates education by commodifying its intrinsic value and emphasizing directly transferable skills and competencies. Nonmonetary values are marginalized and, with them, the nonmonetary ethos that is essential in sustaining a healthy democratic society.
This study addresses a common concept, ethical school culture, in 30 countries. It presents and outlines its dimensions, based on an analysis of their codes of ethics for teachers. The findings generated a multi-dimensional model of ethical school culture that included six dimensions: caring for the pupils, teachers' profession, teachers' collegial relationships, parental involvement, community involvement, and respecting rules and regulations.
The study indicated that “ethical school culture” generates from the interaction between the formal ethical aspects, such as educational policy that encourages high standards, and informal ethical aspects, such as ethical norms that perceive teachers’ role modeling as important for maintenance of the profession’s status. In addition, the findings elicited that schools with an ethical culture are not closed educational systems but rather open educational systems that ensure that knowledge will flow from the school to the community and vice versa. This flow of knowledge is in accordance with the ethical goals that advance equity and opportunity for all pupils.
Moreover, the similarity that exists between the dimensions in this study and the dimensions in the corporate ethical virtues (CEV) model expand conceptual validity to the generated multidimensional model. In general, this study reveals that schools have an ethical culture characterized by a teachers’ active approach toward promoting their pupils’ ongoing learning and well-being, initiating collaborative learning with colleagues, and promoting parental involvement.
This study generated the common meaning of ethical culture in schools, based on teachers’ interactions with colleagues, pupils, parents, community, and regulations. Understanding the meaning of an ethical culture in schools, can help promote ethical teachers, who will know what is expected from an ethical teacher and help promote an ethical culture in their schools. In addition, the findings of this study support the universal nature of the concept ethical school culture and provide deeper insight into the concept of ethical culture in educational systems. This study hopes to encourage the promotion of teachers’ continuing professional development, which focuses on the proposed six dimensions that can lead to a consistently applied ethical school culture.
Eileen S. Johnson
Action research has become a common practice among educational administrators. The term “action research” was first coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, although teachers and school administrators have long engaged in the process described by and formally named by Lewin. Alternatively known as practitioner research, self-study, action science, site-based inquiry, emancipatory praxis, etc., action research is essentially a collaborative, democratic, and participatory approach to systematic inquiry into a problem of practice within a local context. Action research has become prevalent in many fields and disciplines, including education, health sciences, nursing, social work, and anthropology. This prevalence can be understood in the way action research lends itself to action-based inquiry, participation, collaboration, and the development of solutions to problems of everyday practice in local contexts. In particular, action research has become commonplace in educational administration preparation programs due to its alignment and natural fit with the nature of education and the decision making and action planning necessary within local school contexts. Although there is not one prescribed way to engage in action research, and there are multiple approaches to action research, it generally follows a systematic and cyclical pattern of reflection, planning, action, observation, and data collection, evaluation that then repeats in an iterative and ongoing manner. The goal of action research is not to add to a general body of knowledge but, rather, to inform local practice, engage in professional learning, build a community practice, solve a problem or understand a process or phenomenon within a particular context, or empower participants to generate self-knowledge.
Sarimah binti Shaik-Abdullah, S. Kanageswari Suppiah Shanmugam, and Mohan Chinappan
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
The quality of education in any country rests on school communities as a whole. However, the real implementers of innovations and changes in curriculum are teachers. Teachers, as practitioners, are the ones most often held accountable for successes and failures in educating schoolchildren. The way to facilitate teachers in handling challenges and keeping up with curriculum renewals is through constant support in the form of continuous professional development (CPD) by means of action research. Action research as CPD has been viewed as a critical platform for advocating change, which is the outcome of teachers’ ability and autonomy to lead in making informed decisions about their own practices. Given its usefulness, action research is found well established, vastly practiced, and widely published in the Western countries. This has raised the question of the spread of action research as CPD in the Southeast Asian region. Preliminary analysis reveals that in some Southeast Asian countries, such as Timor Leste, there is limited literature on action research, while in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, action research has been well documented. At the same time, there’s an emerging trend in Southeast Asian countries to adopt different models of action research. In Malaysia, for instance, action research has been primarily classroom based, whereas in Indonesia, a critical and community-based approach to action research seems to be prevalent. This suggests that the kinds of action research conducted in the different Southeast Asian countries may reflect variations in cultural, economic, and geographic landscapes. Given the importance of action research to teacher practitioners and school leaders, and in providing an identity to the action research approaches conducted in Southeast Asia, the historical trail of action research presents a window to the nature of CPD concerns of each country, as well as the successes and challenges of conducting action research as CPD for sustained impact.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Herein the term Action Research is addressed by reflecting upon two words, action and research, united within this century to create something quite useful and commonplace. The word research, which has a long and traceable evolution, has been linked to seeking and to action, which is certainly the opposite of inaction. Upon closer examination, it is the action that can be either covert or overt, since thinking can be an action. When used together Action Research presents an opportunity to seek, pursue, and track one’s actions to arrive at a target. Yet how a person decides to seek provides context. Regardless of the path taken, Action Research involves certain steps, such as reflection, that are focused, strategic, and seeking within a social context to move forward.
Action Research is malleable, flexible, and therefore can be many things depending upon how the terms are demarcated. However, herein Action Research is both a strategy and orderly process that supports those who may seek to examine, to change, and/or to improve. Action Research is a commitment and an approach from within that provides a structure that can simplify and guide an inquiry. Action Research (AR) can meet the needs of the individual or a group as it supports self-inquiry and group-inquiry equally, while unfolding in a series of steps and phases. The action step may include either cognitive and/or psycho-motor acts; the reflection step includes efforts to look back and within, whereas the third step, revision, demands that an action researcher plan for their next step. This AR process may include additional steps; however, AR remains cyclical and recursive and at times piecemeal as steps may overlap, accelerate, and challenge the action researcher over time, since theory and practice can be quite disparate.
A common definition of listening distinguishes between hearing and listening. The basic distinction describes hearing as a passive action of perceiving sounds, whereas listening involves paying active attention to various layers and elements of what one is hearing. Active listening to music, featuring the discerning of sounds, musical structures, harmonies, and the interrelations between the sounds, is akin to contemplating complex ideas. Providing meaning for this nexus of relationships requires listeners to grapple with these complex musical nuances, listening to different layers of the melody and harmony and connecting them to cultural and historical aspects. Challenging students to grapple with the complex nuances of musical pieces, to listen to different layers of the melody and harmony, and to connect those elements to cultural and historical aspects will provide them the opportunity to reflect upon the social and cultural contexts in which they live. The concept of what it means to be active (or mindful) has been examined from various perspectives and theories and holds great potential in advancing individual growth and social sensitivity.
Actor–network theory (ANT) is an approach to research that sits with a broader body of new materialism; a body of work that displaces humanism to consider dynamic assemblages of humans and nonhumans. Originally developed in the social studies of science and technology undertaken in the second half of the 20th century, ANT has increasingly been taken up in other arenas of social inquiry. Researchers working with ANT do not accept the unquestioned use of “social” explanations for educational phenomena. Rather, the social, like all other effects, is taken to be an enactment of heterogenous assemblages of human and nonhuman entities. The role of the educational researcher is to trace these processes of assemblage and reassemblage, foregrounding the ways in which certain entities establish sufficient allies to assume some degree of “realness” in the world.
Aligning most closely with ethnographic orientations, ANT does not outline a method. However, it could be argued that a number of propositions are shared in ANT-inspired approaches: first, that the world is made up of actors/actants, all of which are ontologically symmetrical. Humans are not privileged in ANT. Second, the principle of irreduction—there is no essence within or beyond any process of assemblage. Actors are concrete; there is no “potential” other than their actions in the moment. Entities are nothing more than an effect of assemblage. Third, the concept of translation and its processes of mediation that transform objects when they encounter one another. Finally, the principle of alliance. Actants gain strength only through their alliances. These propositions have specific implications for data generation, analysis, and reporting.
Brahm Norwich and George Koutsouris
Inclusive education has become a prominent international ideal and value in educational policies and practices. It is a seemingly simple concept about opportunities, equality, and solidarity that has wide global appeal. However, inclusion as applied to education connects with various social and political values that have been contested over many decades. One issue that underlies inclusion as a value is whether it represents a single coherent value or multiple values that can come into tension leading to dilemmas that need to be resolved. This issue is often overlooked in considerations about inclusive education but does affect various key issues about differentiation in the design of curricula and assessment, the location of provision, and how difference is identified and labeled and about participation in the social interaction between students who are different. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Public organizations in Greece have been facing the challenges of electronic government since early 2000. Information and communications technology(ICT) adoption in public administration is a necessity and an unnegotiable need, taking into consideration the internationally recognized benefits. The main aim of e-government is to shape efficient and effective provision of services through the effective use of ICT. The modernization of public administrations is the key to transforming and generally improving the level of customer care (front office) as well as the level of internal administrative processes (back office). Modern technology provides improved information tools for e-services with minimum cost that facilitate transparency and lead to a democratic and effective transaction system.
In the school environment, an effective and efficient administration is closely linked with the provision and delivery of improved and interconnected services that offer its users (parents, students, educational staff, etc.) the opportunity of direct and reliable customer service, effective transactions with the school, and accessibility to available administrative information. The development and formation of interconnected and decentralized services not only almost eliminates geographical and time limitations but also enhances users’ rights in terms of access to information and participation in public administration. The execution of administrative and school transactions in real time through the Internet and interconnected services ensures a speedier flow of information, allowing for a more economical use of time and resources. Thus, ICT facilitates and enhances the efficiency, connectivity, and effectiveness of services while reinforcing users’ direct and reliable access to available information.
Information is closely linked with economic factors and has a major economic value. Technological means and tools reduce notably the cost of the delivery services and provide for instant and efficient transactions. Thus, given that there have been limited public economic resources in recent years, ICT provides the means of developing innovative platforms for administrative transactions that improve efficiency and productivity while at the same time reducing transaction costs. Beyond its reference to the process of producing quality public (and hence educational) services with less cost, it also provides an indicator of how public resources are used, particularly the extent to which the public services delivered actually meet users’ needs, at least to a certain level of satisfaction.
Jim Crowther, Aileen Ackland, Margaret Petrie, and David Wallace
Historically, the relationship between adult education and democracy has been one of mutual synergy with education providing the context for thoughtful reflection and democratic action. The social purpose of adult education was precisely in its contribution to making the world a more socially just and more democratic place. However, this relationship has been eroded over the years as adult education and democratic life have become increasingly distanced from each other. Can this be repaired? This is the central theme of this entry, which is explored through trends relating to adult education, community, and democracy, and articulated through the particular experiences of the Scottish context we are familiar with. This article argues that adult education can enrich democratic culture and practice and that in turn democratic issues and debates can energize and stimulate adult education.
While the Scottish lens is distinctive, our argument has a broader reference point, as the neoliberal economic forces and subjectivities shaping adult education are global and pervasive, busily percolating in, down and across all sectors and levels of education. Our claim is that adult education can still play a critical role in nurturing democratic life. Rather than abandon democracy, the task of education is to deepen it at all levels and ensure politics is educative. From this view, adult education for democracy can reinvigorate the culture and institutions of democracy and, in the process, help to reclaim the lodestone—or soul—of adult education. For some readers, this may seem a nebulous idea; however, for others it will mean that which animates what is worthwhile in adult education. A profession without a soul is a dead one.
This article is a collaborative effort that draws from different university institutions involved in the training and formation of community educators. Together these institutions represent a spectrum of the Scottish university sector involved in this work and bring to this analysis considerable experience. Although different interests and distinctive emphases are represented in the perspectives here, this entry focuses on common ideas and values. We start therefore by situating ourselves in terms of professional, political, ideological, and theoretical orientations.
Antonio Alfaro Fernández
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Victims of trafficking, once they are released from their captors, need psychological and educational intervention to achieve their recovery and integration. For this, it is important to design and develop educational programs that foster language learning, professional training, and good habits of nutrition and higiene, and that provide alternatives for leisure and free time.
These education programs, designed for adults, should be initiated in the shelter houses where the victims are released. They are developed by multidisciplinary teams formed by professionals in education, psychology, nursing, and social work. The final objective is to provide competences to the people included in the program so that they can leave the shelters and be able to live autonomously and independently in the host society.
Adult learning is described as learning undertaken by adults in natural educational settings as opposed to the experimental settings often undertaken in psychological research on learning. As such, the theory and research on adult learning referred to in this article primarily draws on applied educational research reported in adult education journals. Much of this research is informed by psychological and social research and theory, and this is acknowledged in each of six adult learning themes outlined in this article. These themes are self-directed learning, experience and learning, learning styles, the development of identity in the adult years, intellectual and cognitive development, and transformative learning.
While these themes focus on adult learning in a general sense, our understanding of adult learning also needs to be seen in relation to the context in question; contexts such as health, the third age, indigenous knowledge, literacy and numeracy, the environment, disability, community education, gender equity, race, and migrant and refugee education.
The literature on adult learning offers very few prescriptive bridges linking research, theory, and practice. This is partly because there are competing theories posing different questions and offering opposing interpretations of research findings, but it is also because the purpose and function of education and learning is a contested field. In these circumstances the best approach for practitioners is to interrogate and improve their practice through engaging with research findings, competing models, and competing theories. In this way they are aware of the variables at play and can formulate practices that are consistent with their educational aims and purposes.
The link between research, theory and practice is conceptual rather than prescriptive, with practitioners interrogating and improving their practice by engaging with the issues and the competing claims of theory and research.