Reflecting back & looking forward: AONTAS (Ireland) & ALA (Australia)

Reflecting back & looking forward’:

Research completed in Ireland & in progress in Australia, October 2019

Barry Golding, b.golding@federation.edu.au

This post summarises research I recently undertook for the peak national Irish adult education body, AONTAS on the occasion of their 50th birthday celebrations. It also summarises  somewhat similar research in progress during 2019 for Adult Learning Australia (ALA), as part of ALA’s 60th birthday celebrations during 2020. A similar summary was published in the PIMA Bulletin 26, September 2019.

The completed AONTAS research in Ireland

Two years ago the peak adult education body in Ireland, AONTAS, as part of its 50 year celebration, put out a tender for someone to comb through their journal, The Adult Learner journal and antecedent Journals and write a history based on the evidence in the journal. I was attracted by the challenge of what I would learn as a consequence, not by the very modest amount they had allocated to undertake this huge task. To my surprise they liked the bid that I crafted with statistical wizard and old friend and colleague, Dr Jack Harvey. Our bid was leveraged off the partly quantitative methodology employed by Roger Harris and Sandra Morrison in their 50-year thematic study published in the Australian Journal of Adult Learning (Vol 50, Special Edition, pp.17-52) in 2011. Part of the method we used in crafting the narrative for our AONTAS research product was to consult key players to reflect back on their experience and cast forward.

Systematic analyses of past publications including journals combined with critical reflective narratives from key players are excellent opportunities for organisations to take a breath and critically look back as well as cast forward. Too often we look for solutions for recurring problems that our past actions have actually created (or worsened), without critically reflecting on what caused the problem in the first place.

A year later and my article was published as a peer reviewed article in the Adult Learner 2019  journal, see link. Its full reference is Golding, B. & Harvey, J. (2019). ’50 Years of AONTAS: Developments in the field of adult education in Ireland as reflected in the contents of The Adult Learner and its antecedent journals’, The Adult Learner, 2019, pp.21-56. The complete 2019 edition including our article is at: https://www.aontas.com/assets/resources/Adult-Learner-Journal/ALJ2019/15010_Aontas_Adult_Learner_2019_WEB.pdf

The in progress research for ALA in Australia

I approached Adult Learning Australia (ALA) early in 2019 with the idea of doing something similar to the above research for their 60th ‘Birthday Celebrations’ in 2020. Again it would be a very big job with 168 journals and 1,031 articles from 1,450 authors over 60 years. Again, it was leveraged in part on the Harris and Morrison (2011) 50-year study, but oriented more towards a history of how and why the national adult learning vision of the 1940s has to 2020 not been realised. While some Australian States took up the challenge and the national government wrote policies and published reports, there was no real commitment to implement a national system. The rest was plain hard work, with a long trail of policy and exhortation without funding or follow through. My aim is to produce an evidence-based research article for peer review and publication in the 2020 Australian Journal of Adult Learning (AJAL).

As part of the same 2020 ‘ALA turns 60: Looking back and casting forward’ project commissioned by ALA, I am also assembling a set of around 35  ‘Cameos’, edited by myself but constructed from contributions provided from a number of key players in adult learning in Australia and overseas, in response to 10 questions. These key players have been asked to provide critical, honest and succinct responses to the following questions.

1. Please add (below) your name and current title (to be included at the top of the Cameo):
2. Please summarise (below) your current affiliations or achievements associated with ACE and/or ALA:
3. Please summarise (below) your main past affiliations or achievements that are associated with ACE or ALA:
4. What do you regard as ALA’s most important achievements?
3. What do you regard as the main issues facing adult learners in diverse community settings in 2019?
4. Have you any suggested solutions to these adult learner issues?
5. What do you regard as the biggest current or future ‘hurdles’ facing ALA (or other peak national ACE organisations) in promoting ACE?
6. Have you any suggested solutions to these national peak body hurdles?
7. What do you regard as the main current or future ‘hurdles’ facing academic journals (such as AJAL) in the field of ACE?
8. Do you have any suggested solutions (below) to the hurdles facing ACE journals?
9. Please feel free to add (below) anything else you think is pertinent to ALA’s history or its 60th anniversary:
10. Please feel free to add anything else (below} you think is relevant that you’d like to see included in, or added to your Cameo.

The intention is for the Cameos, once in a form contributors agree with as ‘Final’, to be circulated (in part or in full) by ALA, such as by posting to the ALA website, and adding to ALA Quest newsletter or AJAL during 2020 as part of the ALA 60th Birthday Celebrations.

The Research Link to the Adult Learner  journal article:

Golding, B. & Harvey, J. (2019) ’50 Years of AONTAS: Developments in the field of adult education in Ireland as reflected in the contents of The Adult Learner and its antecedent journals’, The Adult Learner, 2019, pp.21-56, complete edition available at: https://www.aontas.com/assets/resources/Adult-Learner-Journal/ALJ2019/15010_Aontas_Adult_Learner_2019_WEB.pdf

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