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Changing Configurations in Adult Education in Transitional Times

International Perspectives in Different Countries

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Edited By Bernd Käpplinger and Steffi Robak

Change and transition are prominent buzzwords in the discourse upon adult education. International conferences like the European ESREA triennial research conference 2013 in Berlin focused on these terms. But is to deal with change and transitions really something new for adult education? What is new? What has changed? Which kind of transitions do we experience and how can we systematically observe and analyse them as researchers nowadays? This anthology wants to stimulate an exchange beyond buzzwords and European perspectives and investigate what these terms could mean for research in terms of institutionalisation and professionalization in adult education in different national contexts. Therefore, distinguished scholars were invited to contribute to this anthology.
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Changing Configurations of Adult Education Research: Exploring a Fragmented Map

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Kjell Rubenson & Maren Elfert

1. Introduction

In this article we will review adult education as a field of study in a historical perspective.

Our assumption is that the evolving configuration of adult education research is closely aligned with the broader developments in the social sciences. At the same time it is directly impacted by the particular changes to the organization of the field as such as well as by the social and economic role awarded to adult learning and education by the policy community. Thus, as adult learning and education has come to the forefront of public policy adult education research is becoming of vital interest to a broader community than the traditional group of adult education scholars. The emergent discussions on the relevance of adult education research in the policy community is part of a broader movement, partly driven by supranational organizations like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU), to build a tradition of evidence-based policy making anchored in research in the education sector. The central role afforded to the PISA and the recently launched PIAAC1 programs should be seen as reflections of this shift. This development is inducing countries to introduce changes to its educational research and development (R&D) system. For example in England the government has changed the relation between basic research and pure applied research through creating what is being labelled “use-inspired basic research” that is carried out...

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