Expanding understanding of the necessity of life long learning brings along the demand for adult educators. The context of adult education becomes more and more complex and complicated (globalisation, market economy, technological developments, orientation towards learner-centeredness, hidden compulsoriness of learning and the resistance of learners to it, the growth of non-state training organisations, new forms of learning, etc) and it constantly poses new challenges to the professionalism of educators who have to realise their role in the changing world and who should be able to direct and support adult learning.
At the same time adult educators are in a unique position among professionals as they have acquired a speciality in the course of their studies but often lack formal preparation for teaching because their studies had not necessarily included teacher training. At some stage of their career they might undertake adult education studies but the general tendency seems to be that the skills of the educator are developed through experience and reflection of their practice. The quality of preparation and professional activity of among adult educators can be very versatile. Adult educators can have different perceptions of their professional identity, personal theories on teaching and their needs for personal training and development. While the responsibility for professional growth and development falls on the adult educator him/herself, it is
important to figure out what his/her perceptions of professional identity, professional growth and development are.
Research related to adult educators focuses primarily on describing necessary competences, requirements to adult educators, establishing norms and standards. But in regard to professional development, it is essentially important to research how an adult educator him/herself interprets professional identity, developmental needs and opportunities. Prior to the current research, interpretations of adult educators of their formation and development, perceptions and beliefs about teaching, have not been researched in Estonia.
The following research questions are posed on the basis of the above described research issue:
- How learning opportunities, professional identity and personal educational theory support the formation and development of adult educators’ professionalism?
- How adult educator substantiates his/her professional development, learning, professional identity and personal teaching theory?
Answers to the questions how adult educators understand and interpret themselves and their learning processes as adult educators (sources, ways, trajectories, patterns) and how the prior experience is sensed/interpreted while acquiring another profession are looked for on the basis of analysis of interview results.