Page 1

Long-term effects of validation in non-formal adult education: the significance of structures and institutions for achieving sustainability Gerhard Bisovsky, Association of Austrian Adult Education Centres (VÖV) Validation is a core topic for adult education organizations Non-formal adult education is well acquainted with the recognition of prior learning and competences: an important characteristic of many adult education organizations is that they recognize prior learning and acquired competences and provide learners with flexibility as they start taking advantage of educational offerings. The opposite is the case with initial education at schools or universities, which in most cases do not recognize existing competences or prior learning and do not have the tools to do so. When validation is at the centre of an adult education institution, every learner is better valued with his or her potentials. Apart from assuring the access to the job market and continuing education, another key task of validation is contributing to the personal development of candidates. In many adult education organizations, potentials and competences are made visible in competence balance sheets or portfolios. This is a process of formative validation that should also enable the transition to summative validation. The latter is oriented to degrees and qualifications and mainly validates with a mix of tools; certificates are also given as part of summative validation. (Cedefop 2015) Validation procedures improve self-awareness and increase the ability to reflect. The ability to reflect, in turn, is an important foundation for critical thinking and for a critical, reflective practice in adult education. “Reviewing practice (through the lenses of critically reflective practitioners) makes us more aware of those submerged and unacknowledged power dynamics that infuse all practice settings. It also helps us detect hegemonic assumptions—assumptions that we think are in our own best interest but that actually work against us in the long term (Brookfield 1998, p. 197).” The motivation to continue to learn is strengthened; in validation procedures, participants receive support in setting new goals and exploiting areas of interest. Strengths are made visible. The avoidance of duplication in learning processes and qualification measures improves the motivation to learn.

The project is supported by


Validation is a tool to increase participation in lifelong learning Non-formal adult education is a dynamic and rapidly developing sector that can react quickly and flexibly to new educational needs and educational requirements. Long-term effects of validation on adult learning can be seen in connection with adult education institutions and organizations that have existed for many years. With continuity in programming, they guarantee adult learners that today’s offerings will also be available tomorrow and in several years. The significance of adult learning in adult education institutions is visible in the Austrian data of the Adult Education Survey (AES). When asked to identify the provider, in 2011/12 most of them indicated either adult education institutions or their own employer: the numbers were almost the same. It is noteworthy that in comparison to AES 2006/07, the number of adult education institutions as the educational provider had clearly increased. AES

Educational provider One's (adult education employer institutions)

2011/12 25.3 % 2006/07 21.8 %

26.9 % 27.7 %

own Other providers

15.5 % 14.2 %

Commercial providers with a focus other than education 7.0 % 12.4 %

Table 1: Adult Education Survey: participants (25-64 years old) in non-formal educational activities according to provider - Source: Statistics Austria 2009 and 2013

Validation promotes professionalization and quality development The people active in adult education are generally those who have a wide variety of competences. The transfer of practical know-how is the priority; many instructors have acquired these competences in very different ways. Knowledge and competences have not always been acquired in formal educational pathways. Adult education staff includes not only professionally trained teachers, lecturers and learning facilitators but also those who have acquired competences in professional life and/or from volunteer activities and migrants whose school, job or university degrees have not been recognized. Adult education welcomes professionals with many competences, sometimes selfeducated or with an atypical life history. Many teachers, programme planners and counsellors—to give just a few examples—come to adult education via very different routes (Research voor Beleid 2009). Using validation procedures, these professionals can obtain recognized degrees. The acquisition of such degrees is also a process during which quality assurance and quality development play a critical

The project is supported by


role. The example of the Austrian Academy of Continuing Education (wba) provides a brief illustration.1 The Academy of Continuing Education identifies four professions in adult education: teachers/trainers, counsellors, educational managers and librarians/information managers. The degrees of the Academy of Continuing Education are oriented to the professions and two levels can be completed: the first level is a general certificate and the second a diploma with a professional specialization. The Academy of Continuing Education does not provide continuing education; it is simply an accreditation institution with a standardized curriculum that describes the competences corresponding to the professional requirements in adult education. The curriculum for the certificate has seven competence areas with detailed competences, as the following table shows: 1. Educational theory competence Fundamentals of pedagogy Adult education/andragogy Society and education 2. Didactic competence Fundamentals of didactics Didactics in adult education Working with groups

3. Management competence (for education) Fundamentals of educational management Educational management

5. Library science and information management competence Public libraries and their societal significance Fundamentals of information management Library science and information management 6. Social competence Communication in theory and practice Leading discussions Rhetoric Feedback Conflict management in theory and practice 7. Personal competence Analysis of strengths and weaknesses Analysis and reflection on one's own actions and behaviour

4. Counselling competence Fundamentals of counselling Counselling Table 2: Competence areas of the Academy of Continuing Education - Source: wba-certificate: Certified Adult 2 Educator.

The competence recognition process starts with a status quo evaluation and ends with an assessment referred to as the certification workshop. The status quo evaluation establishes whether the candidates have a proof of the required competences. If this is not the case, the proof can be supplied in another way, for example by visiting seminars accredited by the Academy of Continuing Education.

1 2

http://wba.or.at/english/about_us.php http://wba.or.at/login/downloads/Curriculum_wba-Zertifikat.pdf [accessed 10-08-2016]

The project is supported by


The prerequisites for admission to the Academy of Continuing Education are at least one year and 500 hours of practical experience in adult education for the certificate and 900 hours for the diploma. The compulsory practical experience can be obtained either at an adult education institution or in organizations or departments with a connection to adult education or in companies and public institutions active in continuing education (curriculum for the wba-certificate, p. 283).

Validation supports the basic provision of education In remote regions or in regions with few tertiary educational offerings, it is often difficult to find teachers who are appropriately trained in adult education. The lack of adult education structures in such regions can endanger social cohesion (Egger/Fernandez 2014). The current refugee crisis and the rapid growth in educational activities for refugees and migrants have created an acute shortage of German teachers in Austria and Germany. Suitable validation measures coupled with training and coaching sessions can offer an adequate response and increase the number of qualified teachers where they are most needed.

Validation helps recognize practice Many people active in adult education define themselves by their area of expertise and not as adult educators (Merriam/Brocket 1997, p. 246). It is partially linked to the fact that formal education for adult education instructors is clearly defined in only a few European countries. However, a broad recognition of adult educator as a separate profession, while challenging, is necessary for quality assurance. Validation procedures can offer a concrete answer to this problem, as they are suitable for sector-related degrees and qualifications that are not regulated by law, such as is commonly the case for adult education. To assess their competences, adult education instructors can use portfolios. Self-evaluation is now easier thanks to tool kits developed as part of the European Flexi-Path project.4 Competence balance sheets also provide a good opportunity for critical engagement with present developments and educational discourse on one's own or with portfolio facilitators (Adorno 2016). While the fears of overregulation and excessive formalization are not unfounded, it should be pointed out that validation instruments can also be used to reflect critically on one’s own position and practice. Ideally with the “four lenses” that Stephen Brookfield describes: our autobiography as a learner of practice, our learners’ eyes, our colleagues’ experiences, and theoretical literature (Brookfield 1998).

3 4

Ibid. http://www.flexi-path.eu/products.htm

The project is supported by


Bibliography Julietta Adorno (2016): Kompetenzbilanzierungsverfahren als Möglichkeit der produktiven Selbsterkundung. In: Die Österreichische Volkshochschule 259 (forthcoming) Stephen Brookfield (1998): Critically reflective practice. In: Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions; Fall 1998; 18, 4; ProQuest Education Journals pg. 197-205. http://www.anitacrawley.net/Resources/Articles/Brookfield.pdf (accessed 10-08-2016] Cedefop (2015): European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/3073 [accessed 1008-2016] Rudolf Egger/Karina Fernandez (2014): Grundversorgung Bildung. Über die Gefährdung sozialer Kohäsion durch die Ausdünnung der Weiterbildungsstruktur. Wiesbaden: Springer Sharan B. Merriam/Ralph G. Brockett (1997): The Profession and Practice of Adult Education. An Introduction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Research voor Beleid (2009): ALPINE – Adult Learning Professions in Europe A study of the current situation, trends and issues Final report. http://www.erisee.org/node/downloads/lifelong/ALPINE%20_%20Adult%20Learning%20Professi ons%20in%20Europe_%20A%20study%20of%20the%20current%20situation%20trends%20and%2 0issues_August%202008.pdf [accessed 10-08-2016] Statistik Austria (2009): Erwachsenenbildung. Ergebnisse des Adult Education Survey (AES) file:///C:/Users/gerhard.VOEV/Downloads/erwachsenenbildung_2007.pdf [accessed 10-08-2016] Statistik Austria (2013): Erwachsenenbildung 2011/12. Ergebnisse des Adult Education Survey (AES) file:///C:/Users/gerhard.VOEV/Downloads/erwachsenenbildung_201112_ergebnisse_des_aes%2 0(1).pdf [accessed 10-08-2016]

The project is supported by

Long-term effects of validation in non-formal adult education  

The article is written by Gerhard Bisovsky, VOEV director, in the framework of the AVA project. #actionforvalidation

Long-term effects of validation in non-formal adult education  

The article is written by Gerhard Bisovsky, VOEV director, in the framework of the AVA project. #actionforvalidation

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded