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Article

Centering Race Within Adult Education Theory in the United States  

Sydney D. Richardson

Higher education in the United States operates as it was originally designed: to benefit traditional-aged, middle-and upper-class White men. People of color and White women were meant to adapt to this structure and persevere through the higher education structure in order to succeed (i.e., graduate). This structure continues to exist. Institutions were originally designed for one student demographic; any student who does not fit this image is presented with barriers and obstacles as they matriculate, especially when the student is nontraditional (i.e., adult) and a person of color. As universities take on the challenge of creating diverse, inclusive campuses, one cannot help but realize how far education has to go to create this utopia for racially minoritized adult students. When reviewing many popular theories of adult education, it becomes easy to see that andragogy, self-directed learning, and transformative learning were not created with the Black and Brown student managing nonacademic adversities in mind. The theories were designed based on the ideal adult student at the time of development: White, young, middle or upper class, and needing education in the classroom. This ideal is very different from the Black or Brown student facing discrimination while walking to class due to societal microaggressions and preconceived stereotypes. However, reviewing adult education theories using components of critical race theory as a framework makes it possible to understand how racially minoritized adult students are at a disadvantage on college campuses.

Article

European Studies and Research in Adult Learning and Education  

Oriol Rios-Gonzalez

The European Commission launched a renewed agenda for adult learning with the objective of ensuring access to high-quality educational opportunities to adult learners for the promotion of their personal and professional development. Thus, European researchers in this field are paying attention to lifelong learning actions in order to address this challenge. Studies in this area are exploring how adult education can strengthen adults’ skills, in particular those required in the current knowledge society (information and communication technologies, problem solving, foreign languages, etc.). Simultaneously, some investigations focus in depth on the role that adult education can play in overcoming social exclusion for the most underserved groups. This paper describes the contributions of these investigations as well as the steps carried out by programs and theories that have contributed the most to adult learning. Lastly, future developments and challenges on this field are explained.

Article

Adult Education for African Victims of Human Trafficking  

Antonio Alfaro Fernández and Beatriz Villora Galindo

For decades and due to the dire situations that exist in many African countries, the migratory phenomenon to Europe has witnessed an unprecedented increase. The desire to seek a better future, to flee from poverty, hunger, and war, among other reasons, has caused the victims to employ legal or illegal means to leave their country and reach Europe. The receiving countries have increased the restrictions to welcome immigrants from African countries, which means the arrival of migrants by illegal means has grown spectacularly. Likewise, this situation has caused trafficking in persons, especially women, to become a common phenomenon in Europe. Spain, due to its geographical location, is one of the countries where the greatest number of people are exploited. The eradication of this problem involves the identification of the exploited and liberation from their captors. But the problem does not end with their release; psychological and educational intervention is essential to achieve their integration. The importance of designing and developing educational programs are main objectives, including language learning, professional training, establishing good habits of nutrition and hygiene, and providing alternatives for leisure and free time. These education programs, designed for adults, should be initiated in shelter houses where the victims are first placed. Multidisciplinary teams formed by professionals in education, psychology, nursing, and social work can cooperatively help the victims, offering the best method for successful integration. The final objective is to provide competences to the people included in the program, who can then leave the shelters, join the local community, and live autonomously and independently in the host society.

Article

English Education in the United States  

Ashley Boyd

English Education, broadly defined, is the study of the teaching and learning of English teacher education. The curriculum of English Education addresses all aspects of reading and writing, including language and rhetoric, and the teaching of those entities. Historically, the field has been punctuated by contention, with debates over what texts, contexts, and approaches should be included, and has been subject to the political influences that have impacted all public education, ranging from calls for progressive approaches that are student-centered to an emphasis on standards and accountability. Intertwined with these forces have been scholars whose theories greatly affected teachers’ approaches, especially related to the teaching of literature and methods for writing. While some movements advocated for basic skills and isolated drills, others pushed for a more critical and culturally situated English Education that expanded traditional notions of literacy to include social practices. Scholarship and research in the field mirrored these trends, with much focus on preservice teacher education, secondary students’ performance, and teachers’ use of various strategies to further engage youth. Future directions for the field include more classroom-based research on how English Education can respond to the demands of our technology-saturated and media-driven society as well as longitudinal studies of English teachers from preservice through their induction years to further study the impacts of their preparation programs.

Article

Biographical Approaches in Education  

Belmira Oliveira Bueno

Since the 1980s, in different countries, researchers and educators have put into action a number of studies of teachers’ biographies, teachers’ narratives and stories, as well as other ways of employing life history methods, in order to renew the field of education. A vast literature has been produced in the last decades on this perspective, giving testimony to a surprising growth of the educational area under the impulse of such approaches. There was a clear need for a methodological renewal of this field but also a need of a revision of the functions of school and to the way of conceiving education. The idea of lifelong learning frames this scenario and the expectations outlined in the turn of this century, altering profoundly the functions of school and the ends of education. The biographical approaches are taken as an attempt of meeting such demands. However, the work with life histories and biographies has shown different directions, following from a conjugation of factors and from more specific demands for education present in the respective contexts where such experiences have taken place. Such approaches are part of a broader movement of individualization and subjectivism that characterizes contemporary society. The two perspectives focused on in this article—that of English-speaking countries, with a predominant focus on the life and career of teachers; and those developed in Francophone environments, with the focus on the continued education of adults—have shown great growth particularly during the 1980s and 1990s, giving testimony to the appeal that biographical approaches exerted upon researchers and educators. It presents the features of these two trends preceded by an incursion into the field of sociology aiming at highlighting some relevant methodological and epistemological issues. By this way we intend to emphasize the potentiality of biographical approaches to the knowledge of education, drawing attention to the challenges for individuals’ lives in the contemporary society and for the emergence of new ways of conceiving the subjectivities by the new human and social theories.

Article

Study Circles  

Staffan Larsson

The study circle is a “free and voluntary” pedagogy that has become a mass phenomenon in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It was initiated within the popular movements in the first years of the 1900s as a tool for education among their members. Around 10 adults typically meet a few hours a week to develop their interests, for example, in art, political topics, music, or foreign language. The “study circle grammar” includes voluntary participation, an extremely wide span of topics to be studied, no requirements of a teacher, and no entrance qualifications, grades, or exams. Tradition stresses deliberations among participants, but practical topics often have a workshop pedagogy. They have received subsidies from the state and from municipalities through various organizational structures depending on country since the early 1900s. They grew and spread fast, reaching a peak in participation in the late 1900s, but have since stagnated; however, a substantial share of adults in Nordic countries continue to engage in them.

Article

Adult Education, Community, and Learning for Democracy in Scotland  

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.

Article

Adult Learners  

Mark Tennant

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.

Article

Adult Literacy and Basic Education in the United States  

Thomas Sticht

From colonial times to the modern era the United States has provided adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) for those adults seeking better work, a better home life for themselves and their families, greater educational achievement for their children, and engagement in civic duties for community development. In the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky, illiterate country folk learned to read and write to run their farms and towns better. In the cities, immigrants learned English and their civic duties as citizens in programs of “Americanization.” By the 1960s, civil and voting rights movements helped tens of thousands of African Americans learn to read and write so they could exercise their rights of self-government through democracy. In 1966, the United States established for the first time a national Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) formed in a partnership of the federal and 50 state governments. From serving some 50 thousand or so adults in its early years the AELS enrollments rose over the next 35 years to around 4 million. Then, following the implementation of a National Reporting System with stringent performance accountability requirements, enrollments fell over the next 20 years to less than 1.2 million. But during all these years the AELS provided basic education aimed at achieving general educational outcomes and benefited from research and development projects leading to the implementation of special programs in which the basic skills of English language, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught contextualized within the domains of workplace, health, civics, family, and digital knowledge. At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, the AELS had seen its mandate extended from helping adults gain contextualized skills and knowledge, and the achievement of a secondary school level of education, to gaining access to postsecondary, college, and specialized certificate programs within a career pathway with recurring education and credentialing. There is increasing interest in moving forward with ALBE within a full “lifelong” and “lifewide” AELS.