Adult education has enjoyed increasing attention from scholars and policymakers alike in recent years, and this special issue of the Teachers College Record is designed to call attention to the growing body of scholarly work that is shaping contemporary thinking about the educational needs and possibilities associated with adults. The papers in this issue represent the wide range of topics and approaches that make the study of adult educational vibrant area within educational research.
The issue begins with an article by Stephen Brookfield that seeks to render the major ideas of Jürgen Habermas more accessible to adult educators and those who study adult education. As Brookfield points out, the work of Habermas offers important theoretical background for the adult education movements interests in developing the critical reasoning skills required of citizens in a democracy.
Leona English continues the exploration of foundational issues in a paper that examines individual spiritual growth and social change as important aims of adult education. English considers the historical origins of these aims as well as contemporary thinking and advocates a redoubling of commitment by both scholars and practitioners of adult education.
Shifting from the theoretical to the contemporary reality of adult experience with education, Gorard and Selwyn examine the patterns of lifelong learning for adults in the United Kingdom. They pay particular attention to the barriers to continuing education for adults.
Four papers draw attention to work that creates new possibilities for adult education. Yorks considers how adult education can develop the social space necessary to produce actionable knowledge within organizations. Manglitz, Johnson-Bailey, and Cervero examine the work of adult educators to challenge racism. Zellenmayer and Margolin report on their study of the professional learning community that developed among a group of supervisors of student teachers in an elementary teacher education program. Rose, Jeris, and Smith study the lives of adult educators working in steel mill learning centers.
Two papers highlight developments in adult education in China. Lo, Lai, and Xiao consider the needs and possibilities for workplace training and adult education in Shanghai. Xu reports on a study of the impact of on-the job and off-the-job workplace training on wage levels in urban China.
The issue concludes with an article by Belzer and St. Clair who reviews the limitations of scientifically based research on adult education, particularly attempts to address problems of adult literacy.