Professor at Linköping University, Sweden
The role of theory in research on the education and learning of adults
Research in the education and learning of adults is diverse and draws inspiration from quite different disciplines, traditions and conceptual domains such as cultural and gender studies, policy studies, psychology, sociology, history, and working life research. One might say that such research is interdisciplinary, and although perhaps still closely related to that of the wider field of education research it has a specific flavour in its agendas and concerns. Research on the education and learning of adults is thus, as will be argued in this presentation, not a separate discipline, rather it is a practical field of knowledge that has emerged as a response to political initiatives and the emergence of diverse institutions and practices in which adults are invited and engaged in learning activities. Thus, one might think that the theories mobilised within such area of research are diverse. Even though this might be correct to some extent, as will be illustrated in this paper there are certain theories and theorisations that are more popular than others.
The aim of this presentation is to discuss the present day situation regarding the use of theory and theorisations in the study of adult education and learning. What trends can be discerned of what theories and theorisations are mobilised? Do mobilisations of certain theories have specific geographical locations? To what extent are Nordic scholars in the field engaged in such debates? And what might be the role of theory in the study of adult education and learning?
In order to elaborate on these questions, I will firstly discuss what constitutes and characterise the field of adult education and learning research and what the forces are that might strengthen and weaken the field. Secondly, all articles published during 2011 in four academic journals within the field of adult education and learning are analysed with a focus on what theories and theorisations are mobilised. The four journals represent four different geographical locations, Europe, the UK, USA and Australia. A special attention will be directed at how Nordic scholars are represented in these journals. The presentation ends with a discussion about the role of theory in adult education and learning research.
Dr. Andreas Fejes is professor and chair of adult education research (Vuxenpedagogik) at Linköping University, Sweden. He was appointed as professor in 2012 and is probably the newest professor in the field in the Nordic countries. He has been the secretary of the European society for research on the education of adults (ESREA) for the last six years, as well as Editor of the European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults (RELA). Fejes has published a large number of books and articles on various aspects of adult learning. The use of theory in the research and practice of adult education has been a recurrent theme. But also various aspects of the practice of adult education.
Fejes‘ newest book: The confessing society: Foucault, confession and practices of lifelong learning which he co-authored with Magnus Dahlstedt was published in September 2012. Andreas Fejes was consequently honoured with the title Routledge author of the month for September 2012.
Fejes has a wide experience of teaching, from bachelor to doctoral courses. He has also taught general courses at the teacher training program in Linköping, as well as a range of liberal arts courses in adult education and adult learning. Recently, he directed and taught PhD level courses on Discourse analysis and Adult Learning.
CEO of the Education and Training Service Centre in Iceland
How can research and theory support the practice of adult education?
Ingibjörg will reflect on her experience and the use and support she finds theory and research have had in the practice she has lead and supported for the last years. The focus of the keynote presentation will be on describing how practice gradually develops its own principles and looses the connection with theory, but at the same time how important it is to reflect on practice on a regular basis. Research and theory within the field of adult education are important for this purpose, but other disciplines might be able to add value to the practice as well. Education is often expected to reach overarching goals and it can be hard to demonstrate that implementation and execution meet the expectations of laws, labour market, institutions/organisations and individuals. Research has the potential to support practice and be a catalyst for review and change within the field of adult education by bridging practice and theory. Likewise research can be the route for practice to influence theories on adult learning and adult education. The synergy of theory and practice might be able to move mountains.
Ingibjörg Elsa Guðmundsdóttir is the CEO of the Education and Training Service Centre in Iceland. She has a B.A. Degree in Psychology as well as a teaching proficiency examination from the University of Iceland, an M.Ed. in education from Harvard University in USA and a Nordic diploma in Adult education from Linköping University.
Ingibjörg has been active in the practical field of adult learning for many years: administrating, teaching and organising in institutes for adult education since 1985. She has led the Education and Training Service Centre since it was founded in 2003 and through it influenced adult education in Iceland in a profound way. The centre has been leading in various innovative processes connected to many aspects of adult learning such as accreditation of prior learning, counselling for adult learners, quality management in adult learning institutions, teaching and training methods in adult education to mention a few. The Education and Training Service Centre has through its annual journal Gátt, published the only journal in Icelandic dedicated to adult learning.
Professor at Aarhus University, department of Education(DPU),
Leader of the Danish National Centre for Competence Development
Conference Summary and Fishbowl Discussion
Bjarne Wahlgren reflect on his research into the relationship between theory and practice and connect it to what he has heard during the conference. Consequently he will lead a summary “Fishbowl” discussion with presenters and participants from the conference. Wahlgren will draw on his extensive research on the connection between theory and practice to lead the fishbowl discussion and thus create a possibility for participants to summarize what they have experienced and learned during the conference and deepen the conversation in a plenum with all the participants .
Bjarne Wahlgren is professor at Aarhus University, Departmentof Education (DPU). He leads the Danish Centre for Competence Development (Nationalt Center for Kompetenceudvikling). Bjarne has more than 30 years experience of research in the area of adult learning and adult education, touching on many aspects of the field, notably themes such as theory and practice, transfer, participation, educating professionals, educating adult educators and didactics to mention a few.
Before coming to the conference you might like to check out Bjarne Wahlgrens research on theory and practice, which is probably is most prominently expressed in his two books on the theme co-authored with Vibe Aarkrog: Theori i praksis (2005) (Table of Contents) and Transfer (2010) – you can see a shortInterview with the authors and listen to his lecture for Danish Television on Transfer.