Galloway S, Roberts G, Slade B & Swinney A (2018) Mapping adult education in Scotland – hills and glens, challenging roads and hidden pathways. In: SCUTREA 2018 - Conference Proceedings. Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults, Sheffield, 17.07.2018-19.07.2018. Sheffield, pp. 109-118. https://drive.google.com/file/d/136b0PiP8jQholEcifq9JBCpDRk13iZmO/view
Adult education is a very diverse area of practice nationally and internationally, with educators across Europe employing a wide range of skills, knowledge and practices in their everyday activity (Buiskool, Van Lakerveld and Broek 2009, 2010; Wihak, van Kleef, & Harris 2014). There has been acknowledgement that adult education is now contextualised in a period of instability and unpredictability, where learning programmes are more often geared towards assisting learners to compete for employment within a globalised economy (Wildemeerch, 2014; Forster, 2015; Galloway, 2016).
In 2014, the Scottish Government presented its vision document for adult education in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2014) setting set out an intention to achieve world leading adult education provision in Scotland. The Scottish Government launched an unfunded consultation to take forward this vision, creating National Working Groups to consult around themes including ‘learner voice’, ‘professional development’ and ‘family learning’.
This paper describes the difficulties of developing an unfunded consultation around the future of adult learning, the processes of consultation and the findings, particularly as they relate to the ongoing professional development needs of adult educators. The policy context for adult education in Scotland is described (e.g. Tett, Hamilton, & Crowther, 2012), which draws upon community learning and social practice approaches (CLD, 2018, Scottish Executive, 2001; 2005). The scope of the consultation is explained, as informed by professional competencies for adult educators (Galloway, 2015). Consultation took three forms. Firstly, by producing an analysis of existing professional development opportunities for adult education professionals. Secondly, through an on-line survey of the professional development opportunities, needs and requirements for adult education practitioners in Scotland. Finally, focus groups were conducted with adult education practitioners and managers at a series of three consultation events, including one held in a prison context.
The findings indicate that wide range of adult education projects continue to be delivered across Scotland. However, there are challenges relating to capacity building, changing community needs, fewer opportunities to network and exchange ideas and supporting students with specific needs, particularly around mental health. Examples also emerged of practitioners’ initiatives to address these challenges and the authors reflect upon opportunities for enriching the adult education map of Scotland and how researchers might respond.