With an increased interest in and focus on lifelong learning and adult education as a means to economic development, social cohesion and participation in a democracy, comes an enhanced attention on adult educators and their qualifications. In light of this, the aim of Becoming Adult Educators in the European Area (BAEA), results of which are presented in this publication, has been to investigate ways prospective adult educators qualify for their jobs in terms of professional competences beforeentering the profession. Inspired by Bronfenbrenner (1979, 1986), among others, the study is grounded on the premise that individuals exist in multiple, multilayered and interacting contexts, each of which is a domain of social relations and physical contexts. The specific aims of the project have been:
- To analyse ways in which adult education policies and initial education andtraining opportunities for prospective adult educators affect professionalisation processes in the field of general, vocationally-oriented and liberal adult education;
- To investigate social and cultural factors that influence the individual formation of initial competences and qualifications of adult educators in the field of general, vocationally-oriented and liberal adult education;
- To investigate the main factors that influence the construction of a professional identity among prospective adult educators.
Professional development in this study is defined as a process that involves the acquisition of a specialised body of knowledge, the formation of personal teaching-learning theories grounded on both theoretical principles and the self-interpretation of one‟s own practice, as well as the construction of a professional identity. The study is designed as a comparative study involving four European countries: Denmark, Estonia, Italy and Sweden. The empirical data was collected in the period of 2008-2009, in two steps. In the first step, a literature review of existing informationon adult education and learning and on the structural conditions surrounding the adult educator at work was conducted. The documents analysed included research reports and articles, official descriptions of national education systems, policy papers, laws, by-laws and reports, including national reports to the European Commission on the implementation of lifelong learning strategies at national levels. The second step consisted of narrative interviews which were conducted with a total of sixty-two persons undertaking specialised studies in adult education and learning. Each interview was first analysed in depth following a common frame of reference. Thereafter, cross-case analyses were carried-out nationally, and finally comparisons were made cross-nationally. Though the four countries studied differ in relation to adult education traditions as well as structural and political conditions, the analysis unveils similar trends for all – both in relation to adult education and training and in relation to the qualification of current and prospective adults educators. The empirical evidence brought together underscores that while the quality of adult education represents a topic of concern, it nonetheless underestimates the difficulties embedded in the provision of qualified teaching-learning transactions by adult educators who often enter the profession without specialised pedagogical knowledge. Further, the evidence highlights that professionalism in the field of adult education embodies contrasting views and understandings of its purpose, characterisations and possibilities, not least due to weak social recognition, fragile collective representativeness and individual protection. To better the conditions for the professionalisation of prospective and current adult educators, hence the quality of adult education provisions, more research-based knowledge in the field is needed. At the same time, the European Commission, governments, and other institutional actors and education agencies should:
- Develop policies and practices aimed at defining and implementing initial education and training paths and appropriate support for further career development in the field of adult education;
- Recognise adult educators as a professional group with complex cultural and professional competences;
- Create new opportunities for participation in specialised studies and concrete or virtual communities for professional exchange and mutual enrichment;
- Organise functional internships;
- Improve recruitment strategies and working conditions.
Copenhagen: Danish School of Education, Aarhus University , 2010. 43-53 p.