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Changing Configurations in Adult Education in Transitional Times

International Perspectives in Different Countries


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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The International Quest for Changing Configurations in Transitional Times


Bernd Käpplinger & Steffi Robak

1. An introduction or the paradox of observing constantly fundamental change

There seems to be a paradox existing in adult education. Adult educators and researchers in the different fields of adult education are constantly occupied with change, transformations and transitions. But if change and transition are constantly reported, does this mean that the field is by its very nature constantly changing and the notions “change” and “transition” are somehow an odd rehearsal of the same song? Are the changes really every time as new as reported and as fundamental as proclaimed or do we sometimes just put “new wine into old skins”? The diverse fields of practice seem to demand new innovations constantly. The academic community claims paradigm shifts (in German “Wenden”) and new approaches in rapid succession, which makes oneself rather dizzy. Plecas/Sork (1986, p. 50) described almost 30 years ago “the ills of an undisciplined discipline” as “defnimania … the tendency to re-define what has already been defined” and “lexicophilia … an irrational desire to embrace new terminology”.

While reading many articles or books in adult education it is easy to observe an implicit convention to address fundamental societal changes and huge present challenges at the beginning of the publication. This concern with the topic of change and transitions in adult education has certainly a variety of reasons. First, a reason might be the constantly high interest of policy-makers that adult education and lifelong learning should...

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