International conference "Cultures of programme planning in adult education: policies, autonomy, and innovation"

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Petra Herre | 15.07.2015 | Science - Articles
Programmes presenting the event and service offering of institutions for adult and continuing education. They provide an overview of the events, courses and projects that are taking place in a given period (annual, half-yearly, quarterly programmes). Programmes inform and promote and are intended to generate demand as well as to respond to it. They are intended to appeal to potential participants. Programmes are a means of communication, a marketing tool and a decision aid. The decision to participate is the result of a balance between the offer of the educational institution and the individual needs, interests and expectations regarding benefits.

The form and format of the publication of event offerings is different: There are book-like brochures, journals, flyers, etc., and today, it is standard that programmes are published on the Internet. 

Programs as business cards of adult and continuing education institutions

The programme offers reflect the educational demands and educational understanding of the respective sponsor or training institution. The different institutions (here, the focus is primarily upon the institutions that are promoted on the basis of the continuing education legislation of the federal states of Germany) differ in their profile of offers and their setting of priorities. Programmes show the setting of priorities and display the content ranges: for example, culture, languages, health, society, information technology, and basic education. They provide information on the educational approach, the format and organisational form of the offer, the target groups, as well as the type of speech of the individuals who are addressed.

The programmes also serve as a performance and activity report for the public funds and grants, the educational institutions of different sponsors, including the municipalities and local authorities (community colleges), churches, parties, trade unions, among others, which are obtained on the basis of legal regulations. In this sense, programmes also serve the function of providing legitimacy with regard to government sponsors. The institutions therefore also account for how they are to meet society's needs.

Programming as the core of professional practice in adult education

Programming is the creative and conceptual core of professional practice in adult and continuing education, whereby this area of education differs from others, such as public school, in that adult and continuing education has no set curriculum. The question of how institutions of adult and continuing education arrive at their offers draws attention to the educational process of programming, which includes all the activities for the creation of programs as well as the alignment of educational institutions.

Programmes are "transforming formats" (Wiltrud Gieseke) which merge demands and needs. In planning various strategies, a special role is played by communication and networking in the local and regional context, the determination of needs through the consultation of possible target individuals, and flexible scheduling through the networking of educational knowledge ("knowledge islands" W.Gieseke).

Programmes are therefore an indicator of which human, financial and infrastructural resources are available to the the institutions.

Programmes as cultural-historical sources

Programmes can also be viewed from a cultural-historical perspective. Adult and continuing education programmes represent an important field of local cultural policy and cultural work. Adult education courses are an important means of addressing socio-cultural changes and their consequences for people's lives. Programmes provide an access which helps in identifying those training opportunities which are offered for the sake of mastering contemporary challenges. They are therefore an important source of cultural history. In German adult education, there is a prevailing consensus that adult education accompanies social change, in that such education pedagogically addresses changes "sensitively with continually new concepts and offerings", to some extent driving them forwards, to some extent accompanying them reflectively (Ortfried Schäffter). In this sense, programmes of educational institutions are an important source for research into the social, cultural and educational history of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Programme research as a research method of adult education science

If programmes are systematically considered as products of educational institutions and made the subject of investigation and research, these documents are very significant sources. The outlined aspects are the subject and topics of programme research, which is considered the genuine research method of adult education science (Ekkehard Nuissl). Programme research has a tradition particularly in Germany and German-speaking countries. Its subject is the professional forms of action in adult and continuing education, the topic and content areas as well as the types of organisations and the regional characteristics. It allows statements to sponsors of further education as well as concerning instruments related to educational policy. In addition to these overarching issues, the form in which the programmes are presented and the way in which target individuals are specifically addressed can also be the subject of research.

Archives and collections of programmes

Moreover, the way in which programmes are documented, collected and archived in order to make research possible is an important question. For example, the Deutschen Institut für Erwachsenenbildung (German Institute for Adult Education - DIE) has an extensive collection of printed programme announcements of community colleges (about 60,000 programs from 967 institutions), covering the period from 1957/1957-2004. For the period after 2004, a sample of 50 community colleges was selected according to size, sponsoring organisation and region, reflecting a broad and representative range of community colleges active in the Federal Republic of Germany. These programmes have been available in an online archive since 2008.

Other representative archives are the "Österreichische Volkshochschularchiv" (the Austrian Adult Education Archive) in Vienna, the central archive of the community colleges in Austria, with its extensive holdings that date back to 1887, and the "Weiterbildungsprogramm-Archiv" (Further Education Programme Archive) for the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, which was established in 1995 by Prof. Wiltrud Gieseke as a collection at the Institute of Educational Science, Department of Adult Education/Further Education. Here, the focus of the collection is institutions of the states of Berlin (about 840 institutions) and Brandenburg (about 250 institutions). A wide range of open and closed further education from various sponsors is depicted here, whereby, in addition to programme booklets, the filing will also include flyers and information materials concerning the institution, as well as some digital materials.

International Conference in September 2015 in Hannover
The expert group "Programmforschung am DIE" (programme research of the DIE), in which the various departments for adult education as well as some adult education associations collaborate, has prepared an international conference on the subject of programme planning and research to be held from 28 to 29 September 2015 in Hannover, with renowned international researchers expected to participate.

The aim of the conference is to make this field of adult education research visible in an international context, promoting international exchange, to become familiar with models and concepts of programming as they appear in various national contexts, and processing differences and similarities with regard to terminology, categories, theories and methods. Furthermore, the topics to be addressed will include the various archives that programmes collect, their respective collection strategies and the access to the materials for users, as well as the challenges to be addressed by digitalisation.

The conference programme and registration documents can be found at the following Link:


Topics/Keywords: Structure/System => Marketing / Advertising
Structure/System => Management / Administration
Science => Research
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About the author

Petra HerrePetra Herre, M.A., Vicar i.R. is a social scientist, theologian, editor and InfoNet correspondent for Germany.



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