Stage 8: “Adult Education and Lifelong Learning”



Public and academic discourse has repeatedly emphasized the importance of education, life-long learning and cognitive competencies for adults. However, knowledge on adult education in Germany continues to remain scarce, when compared to knowledge on education in schools, vocational educational training (VET), and in tertiary education. While investigating educational issues in an advanced life phase, we are especially interested in the following questions:

1. Adult Education and Training

The first central aim of Stage 8 is to investigate education and training in the adult life phase, starting at age 23 and proceeding to retirement and beyond. A major challenge for our data survey is to obtain a comprehensive picture of all the educational activities and learning processes in the adult life phase, ranging from formal, certified professional development courses at the workplace to non-formal, private language and training courses. Additionally, we aim to gather data regarding the factors that determine whether individuals decide to take part in continuing education activities or not. We are especially interested in specific contexts during the adult years which have an influence on decisions for or against professional training, such as employment situation and family constellation. In addition, we seek to identify opportunities and obstacles with regard to learning processes and education during more advanced adult-hood.

2. Life and employment courses in adulthood

Learning processes in adulthood are closely linked to prior educational biography, employment situation and employment history, but also to other biographical aspects. Hence we need to gather information not only regarding people’s adult education activities, but also regarding their entire previous lives as precisely and dynamically as possible. This would include their prior educational and employment history, regional mobility, partnerships and children in households, for example.

3. Competence development during adulthood

Thirdly, stage 8 aims at generating results on competence development in the life course of adults. Little do we know about the way competencies are acquired, distributed, and changed over the course of a person’s life. We aim at closing this research gap by gathering data on reading, mathematical and computer skills as well as on non-cognitive skills such as personal-ity, motivation and social competencies. This will allow us to differentiate between different groups and consider individual employment situations and their respective impact. Finally, we will be able to evaluate the returns from formal qualifications, competencies and employment experiences, by which we mean not only wages, but also factors such as successful careers, personal well being and social engagement.