Useful key competences


Useful key competences for adult learning professionals

To improve the quality of staff and support the professional development of adult learning professionals throughout Europe, Research voor Beleid has now identified a useful toolkit of interesting key competences, that are needed to deliver good quality provision.
Simon Broek from Research voor Beleid in Holland presented two levels of key competences at the Professionalization of Adult Educators Conference: Generic and specific competences. The generic competences are competences that are relevant for carrying out all activities in the adult learning sector. Every professional working in the sector ought to possess these competences regardless of whether they carry out teaching, managing, counseling or administrative activities.

The cluster of generic competences consists of seven competences:
1) Personal competence in systematic reflection on their own practice, learning and personal development: being a fully autonomous lifelong learner.
2) Interpersonal competence in communicating and collaborating with adult learners, colleagues and stakeholders: being a communicator, team player and networker.
3) Competence in being aware of and taking responsibility for the institutional setting in which adult learning takes place at all levels (institute, sector, the profession as such and society): being responsible for the further development of adult learning.
4) Competence in making use of their own expertise and the available learning resources: being an expert.
5) Competence in making use of different learning methods, styles and techniques including new media and be aware of new possibilities and e-skills and assess them critically: being able to deploy different learning methods, styles and techniques in working with adults.
6) Competence in empowering adult learners to learn and support themselves in their development into, or as, fully autonomous lifelong learners: being a motivator.
7) Competence in dealing with group dynamics and heterogeneity in the background, learning needs, motivation and prior experience of adult learners: being able to deal with heterogeneity and groups.

The specific competences are competences that are needed to carry out a specific array of activities. The set of key competences can be used on voluntary basis by stakeholders (professionals, employers, training providers, sector organizations and governments) as a toolkit to start the discussion on competences, to develop job descriptions, educational programs, to start benchmarks, and to help developing policy to improve the quality of staff. The key competences are related to the activities professionals carry out and the context in which they work.

The competences, which are directly linked to specific activities carried out by adult learning professionals in the learning process, consists of six separate competences:
1. Competence for assessment of prior experience, learning needs, demands, motivations and wishes of adult learners: being capable of assessment of adult learners’ learning needs.
2. Competence in selecting appropriate learning styles and didactical methods for the adult learning process: being capable in designing the learning process.
3. Competence in facilitating the learning process for adult learners: being a facilitator of knowledge (practical and/or theoretical) and a stimulator for own development of adult learners.
4. Competence for continuously monitoring and evaluating the adult learning process in order to improve the learning process: being an evaluator of the learning process.
5. Competence in advising on career, life, further development and, if necessary, the use of professional help: being an advisor/counsellor.
6. Competence in designing and constructing study programmes: being a programme developer.

There are six additional specific competences supportive to, or indirectly related to the learning process:
7.  Competence in managing financial resources and assessing the social and economic benefits of the provision: being financially responsible.
8.  Competence in managing human resources in an adult learning institute: being a (people) manager.
9.  Competence in managing and leading the adult learning institute in general and managing the quality of the provision of the adult learning institute: being a general manager.
10. Competence in marketing and public relations: being able to reach the target groups, and promote the institute.
11. Competence in dealing with administrative issues and informing adult learners and adult learning professionals: being supportive in administrative issues.
12. Competence in facilitating ICT-based learning environments and support in using these learning environment by adult learning professionals and adult learners: being a ICT-facilitator.

The adult educator – a variety of activities

In total 13 fields of activity have been identified, noting that not all activities need to be carried out by one professional but can be divided amongst a group of professionals at a institutional level.  The activities are monitoring and evaluation, facilitation of learning, preparation of courses, need assessment, financial management, human resource management, management of the quality, marketing and PR, administrative support activities, network activities, ICT support activities, network activities, programme development activities, councelling and guidance activities.

Background for the study

The European Commission launched a study on key competences of adult learning staff leading to these results: a set of key competences of adult learning professionals. First we collected existing material. Then experts abstracted this set of key competences from the different adult learning contexts like e.g. basic education and vocational education & training. Finally this set of key competences where discussed on national level. The result is an overarching framework of common elements for working in the adult learning sector.

A pragmatic startingpoint

Simon Broeck pointed out, that this set of key competences is a toolkit for people to use. It is a starting point for discussion on competences in different countries and in different sectors, institutions and organizations. We need to have a pragmatic startingpoint, so that we can say, that this is the field in which we can discuss key competences of adult educators whether they work two hours a week or have a full time job.

Simon Broeck

Simon Broek