Professorship for Adult Education

Prof. Dr. Christine Zeuner

Welcome to the Professorship for Adult Education!

“Everyone has the right to education” – this is Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. In the course of time, this human right has also been associated with the idea of or demand for lifelong learning opportunities. Education and lifelong learning are requirements of modern societies. In this context, adult education asks why, how and under which conditions adults learn. It asks how it is possible to strengthen democracy and to enable the social, (inter-)cultural, political and economic participation of people through learning and education. But adult education also focuses on personal goals of education and learning, such as the participation in the labor market or personal development.

Research and teaching

Adult education includes a variety of theoretical positions that refer to different scientific theoretical principles. It incorporates findings from other sciences such as sociology, history, philosophy, psychology and political science. As a sub-discipline of educational science, it is in close dialogue with other sub-disciplines such as historical, intercultural and empirical educational research as well as vocational and business education, women’s and gender studies and organizational education. Adult education is a practice-oriented science that partly draws its inspiration for research from practice and in turn applies its research findings to practice.
This heterogeneous character of adult education is reflected in the differentiated research foci conducted at the professorship. We are concerned with:

  • Biographical Research
  • Community Education and Development
  • Continuing Vocational Education and Training
  • Education for Democray/Citizenship Education
  • History of Adult Education
  • International and Comparative Adult Education
  • Literacy/Numeracy/Basic Education
  • Peace Education
  • Professional Development in Adult Education
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Sustainability

The courses offered in Adult Education are part of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in Education and Educational Science. They focus on the theoretical and historical foundations of adult education and establish references relevant to the profession. For example, courses are offered on didactics and methodologies of adult education, on competence development or on the planning and organization of (continuing) education programs.

Practical field(s) of adult education

In contrast to the public education system, the adult education sector presents itself as differentiated and diverse. It is characterized by plural structures of its organizations and institutions, its legal and financial frameworks, and very heterogeneous employment relationships.

General, political and cultural adult education as well as in-company and vocational continuing education and training take place in institutions such as adult education centers (Volkshochschulen), folk high schools (Heimvolkshochschulen), and in educational institutions of different associations or foundations. Vocational further education and training is offered by federal agencies such as the department of labor and the regional employment offices, by commercial trainin providers and, above all, by companies. In these institutions, employment relationships vary. Staff may be

  • full-time (pedaogical) management
  • full-time pedagogical staff
  • full-time and part-time freelance staff
  • part-time pedagiocal staff and
  • volunteers.

Their tasks may vary depending on the employment relationship:

  • management
  • public relations
  • further education needs analysis
  • program planning
  • curriculum and course planning
  • teaching
  • evaluation
  • transfer
  • quality management or
  • consulting

There is no consistent and integrative field of tasks and activities yet. Institutions not only develop different goals, contents and methods in their mission statements, they also draw on different financial resources. This heterogeneity is reflected in the job titles of those working in adult education. Depending on the institution, they vary between education manager, education planner, trainer, lecturer, coach, speaker, moderator, course instructor or pedagogical staff. Their common goal is,

“to open up learning opportunities for adults and to promote processes of acquiring social knowledge and, to support through mediation processes, the opportunity of personal development – that is, of education (Bildung)” (Faulstich/Zeuner 2010, p. 16).

Reference: Faulstich, Peter/Zeuner, Christine (2010): Erwachsenenbildung. Weinheim: Beltz Verlag.