[call is now open] Policy and practices in adult education: comparative analysis


Adult education, as a field of research, of policies and of practices, is characterised by diversity (Fejes & Nylander, 2019; Finger & Asún, 2001; Foley, 2004). This situation has led the field to be defined as heterogeneous, pluralistic and fostering interdisciplinarity but also as a weak field (Rubenson & Elfert, 2019). This diversity can be observed when analysing policies, referring to each countries policies, being these national or regional policies, or if considering the policy role of international organisations (governmental or non-governmental) aims, etc. in forms of provision. In fact, adult education policies have been marked by different perspectives, having lifelong learning gained importance. This diversity goes in parallel when it comes to practices’ discussion, reflecting for instance the impact of geography and different parts of the world on adult education understandings. In practices development also the variety of projects and activities is an outcome of the large range of participants, both adult learners and educators, joining formal, non-formal and informal activities and projects, of aims, kinds of initiatives implemented. As a result of diversity, fragmentation arises when considering values, education approaches, pedagogical methods and evaluation involved, as well as settings where practices take place and the weak character of adult education becomes evident, especially when research and discussion of empirical data collection is at stake.

The diversity and fragmentation that characterises adult education carries complexity (Sava & Novotny, 2016), namely when comparison is achieved among different countries and regions of the world. In research, comparison has been occupying a relevant role, stressing the differences in analysis but also the common features to be found: in policies, promoted by governmental and public authorities, as well as by international governmental or non-governmental organisations, fostering lifelong education or lifelong learning (Salling Olesen, 2001); and in practices, such as in teaching/training/learning, like in higher education, adult second-chance education, vocational education and training or literacy, as well as in formal, non-formal and informal adult education projects and activities, different themes might be approached, referring to recognition of prior learning, time issues, citizenship and subjects related to migration.

This thematic issue of Sisyphus aims at contributing to understanding diversity, fragmentation and complexity of comparison in adult education research, focussing on policy and practices developed in different parts of the world. The articles to be include in this issue are the outcome of the vivid discussion held in the INTALL Adult Education Academy, promoted by the University of Würzburg, when the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on every ones’ lives, in special in those attending this educational initiative. Joined by more than 60 students and 20 teaching staff from higher education institutions of 5 continents, the INTALL Adult Education Academy is a significant event to reflect critically about the adult education diversity, fragmentation and complexity within education comparison when a health situation constrained mobility and face-to-face teaching. Therefore, this issue is the outcome of strong and rapid effort of teachers (moderators and co-moderators of the comparative education groups), students and practitioners from different higher education institutions used to hold face-to-face teaching to work within an international virtual environment, fostering online and digital teaching and education. The comparative education transnational essays written by students and practitioners attending the referred Academy are followed by the writing in a joint-effort among teachers, PhD students and practitioners of scientific articles aimed at comparison of policies and practices. These analysis are supported by different theoretical and empirical research approaches. This Sisyphus issue is the reflected image of such work achieved in unexpected conditions that the pandemic forced all authors to bear, requiring quick adaptation and chirurgical innovations in theoretical debate, data collection and critical reflection. Articles to be published in Sisyphus follow a traditional structure that might be found in other scientific journals, including an introduction, a theoretical part, a methodological part, discussion of findings and a conclusion as well as a reference list according to APA style (6th edition) and submission guidelines of the referred journal.

Fejes, A., & Nylander, E. (2019). Mapping out the Research Field of Adult Education and Learning. Switzerland: Springer.
Finger, M., & Asún, J.-M. (2001). Adult Education at the Crossroads: Learning our Way Out. New York: Zed Books.
Foley, G. (2004). Dimensions of Adult Learning. Adult Education and Learning in a Global Era. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin.
Rubenson, K., & Elfert, M. (2019). Examining the “weak” field of adult education. In A. Fejes & E. Nylander (Eds.), Mapping out the Research Field of Adult Education and Learning (pp. 15-32). Switzerland: Springer.
Salling Olesen, H. (2001). Lifelong learning – a political agenda! Also a research agenda? In 8th Conference on “Adults Learning Mathematics”. 8th, Roskilde, Denmark, June 28-30, 2001. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED476846.pdf
Sava, S., & Novotny, P. (2016). Researches in Adult Learning and Education: the European Dimension. Florence: Firenze University Press.