Adult Learning at the Nexus of Life Course, Work & Transitions

Sep 27th to 29th, 2023, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany


More info


More info


More info


More info

Towards a deeper understanding of adult learning

Adults learn not only in dedicated educational institutions, but also in other contexts – such as work, community and volunteer associations, within families or via the World Wide Web. In the Lifelong Learning discourse, this phenomenon is often discussed by distinguishing between formal, non-formal and informal learning.

However, it would be incorrect to interpret this analytical distinction as though only formal learning processes were to take place in continuing education institutions and only informal learning processes in voluntary work. Instead, we need to bear in mind that it is individuals who learn. And this learning assumes different shapes and occurs in specific configurations and opportunity spaces. This leads us to view learning as a relation between the social and the individual; between reflection, engaging with experiences and the arrangements that shape this engagement.

Whereas the study of teaching and learning within institutions of further education – as tends to be the focus in German adult education research – is valuable, there are very interesting international contributions dealing with adult learning outside these traditional contexts. For this reason, it seems urgent to us to broaden our understanding and to explore adult learning from international and complementary perspectives.

This symposium brings together international established and emerging researchers to discuss adult learning outside educational institutions. Of particular interest are the nexus and interrelations of life course, work, and transitions.  We want to better understand adult learning by focusing on the influence of the life course – including life course transitions and biographical experience – and the demands, changing nature and evolving role of work in people’s lives. To this end, the discussions will feature theoretical contributions and empirical findings on the relationship between the social and individual in adult learning processes.

Questions that will guide our discussion

Conceptualizing Adult Learning

How can adult learning beyond institutions of further and continuing education be conceptualized, building on empirically founded theorizing?

Social Context

How can the social context, framing, and embeddedness of learning be conceptualized?

Analytical Value

What analytical value is there in studying adult learning at the nexus of life course, work, and transitions?

Forms of Knowledge

What is the significance of different forms of knowledge for understanding learning at the nexus of life course, work, and transitions?

Changing Work

How can the changing demands and nature of work be systematized, conceptualized and put in relation to learning?


What are methods to investigate learning in the context of work, life course, and transitions?


We are very much looking forward to engaged discussions among an international group of established and emerging researchers in the field of adult education.

Presentation & Program Details
Stephen Billett
Griffith University, Australia
Session Details
Bettina Dausien
University of Vienna, Austria
Session Details
Christian Harteis
Paderborn University Germany
Session Details
Katrin Kraus
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Session Details
Jean Lave
University of California Berkely, USA
Session Details
Victoria Marsick
Columbia University, USA
Session Details
Beatrix Niemeyer-Jensen
Europa-Universität Flensburg, Germany
Session Details
Flora Petrik
University of Tübingen, Germany
Session Details
Henning Salling Olesen
Roskilde University, Denmark
Session Details
Peter Sawchuk
University of Toronto, Canada
Session Details
Elisa Thevenot
University of Tübingen, Germany
Session Details


Christiane Hof & Michael Bernhard
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
More Info


Goethe University Frankfurt was founded in 1914 as a unique “citizens’ university.” It has a strong focus on research (19 current or former members of the university are Nobel laureates) and on third mission (being one of the first in Germany to establish a dedicated academic pathway programme for refugees).

Follow the link below for information on getting there & around, lodging, as well as things to do before or after the symposium.
More info
Westend Campus

…with its park-like ambiance and beautiful travertine-faced buildings is one of Germany’s most attractive, even featuring a beer garden.

Frankfurt am Main

…situated along the Main River has for centuries been at the crossroads of major European trade routes and maintains a strong international flair.