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Piattaforma elettronica per l'apprendimento degli adulti in Europa



Turning on the pause button and listening

di Mark Ravenhall
Lingua: EN


Pause written in the wire of a set of headphones


Many of us working in adult learning are accustomed to not always being fully prepared for the nature and complexity of challenges awaiting ahead. We take it for granted that being constantly resourceful and thinking on our feet is an unavoidable part of the profession. To be able to work to our full potential, wouldn’t it be great to develop skills and knowledge in preparation for what lies ahead? 

As part of my own preparation, I became part of a UK-wide project on adult learning workforce development. An exciting prospect of learning from others, listening and reflecting. This was also vital for me because I lead the tutor development work in my organisation. The question of meaningful workforce development is my daily preoccupation.


Outline of human ear made up of people seen from bird's eye view


Old solutions may no longer be an option

My key question was about the skills that the adult learning workforce may need in order to work as a partner to local citizens and health services. With less public money, more demands on health and social services and greater needs of the aging population, neither the state nor communities alone have all the answers to address a plethora of health and wellbeing needs. New approaches seem inevitable. As Healthy, Wealthy and Wise suggests, this could include co-producing curricula which is person-centred and well-grounded in citizens’ experience, networks and agency. A way forward could include health services working more collaboratively with communities who are, in turn, less reliant, more resourceful and who look after their health better. Adult learning could occupy a new position in this space as it facilitates collaborations and empowers communities to share the power.


A Co-produced New World

These new ways of working would need changed and refreshed mind sets of professionals, citizens and the adult learning workforce. This would be the space where local knowledge forms an equal part of the health system. The space for more collaborative services; more empowered and linked up communities. The space where adult learning acts as a collaborative partner, and less so as a main subject expert. The space where adult learning learns to innovate, reflect and let go.


Elderly citizens taking part in an exercise class in a community centre

A starter pack for a Co-produced New World 

When entering this New World, there are some tools educators must not forget:

  • Citizens need to be prepared to share the power, whilst educators need to give up a role of subject specialist with their unique teaching authority
  • Co-production needs to be ongoing, otherwise it can quickly become outdated
  • In order to devise outcome measures for co-designed curricula, there needs to be a system-wide rethink
  • Co-designed processes can learn from and complement a thriving world of non-formal learning in libraries, gyms, cafes and community centres
  • Adult educators and leaders need specific training to manage the co-design process


What obstacles might be faced along the way?

Creating new relationships may take a long time and add an element of uncertainty. Achieving shared outcomes may take much longer than what we are used to.

Could educators ‘loosen up’ within their own fast-paced environments and invest time into this? Could we get over our fear of audits and scrutiny? Could we learn a new language; less jargonised and more easily understood to potential new partners? Could we develop and share the way we measure outcomes with communities and other partners? 

How can we innovate more, worry less and let go so that we can create a space for new ways of working? Perhaps, all we may need is a desire and some confidence to invest into purposeful reflection, innovation and relationships, whilst we are slowly heading towards a Co-produced New World.


Words 'obstacle' and 'opportunity' on cogs


What obstacles could be in the way of the adult learning workforce in your context? Let us know in the comments box below. 


DRAGANA J. RAMSDEN is Head of Quality and Tutor Development at City Lit in London. She has extensive experience of leading and managing adult learning programmes, which are delivered through multiple stakeholder partnerships and are aimed at adults with barriers to engagement. Her passion for the social purpose of education and inclusion drives her research interests. Dragana’s research has explored the role of education in the integration of European migrants in the UK. Most recently her research focused on the role of adult community learning leadership in improving mental health and wellbeing through collaboration.



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