Reflections on the 60th Annual AAACE Conference: A Kaleidoscope of the Field

Article excerpt

Introduction

A kaleidoscope of adult education is one metaphor that captures the essence of the 60th Annual American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) Conference. Picture, if you will, two floors of a large hotel, meeting rooms of all sizes around the perimeter of an open atrium filled with enthusiastic presenters and participants from around the world. During the conference, attendees were able to select from more than 225 concurrent, roundtable and poster sessions in the ever changing kaleidoscope of conference offerings; the patterns and configurations of the topics available to participants changed hourly, but all addressed the many facets of adult education. Exhibitors, books displays, and Connection Central, which promoted in-person and social media networking, were on the edges of this kaleidoscope of adult education. The kaleidoscope patterns became larger and more complex when you stepped outside the conference hotel into the busy city of Indianapolis and found world quality museums, such as the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art or the Indianapolis Museum of Art, that engage their visitors in the many formats of informal learning. Twist the kaleidoscope a new way, and from this perspective you may ask how a professional association with a small staff and unpaid Board of Directors creates an annual conference that addresses the policy, research, theory, and best practices that highlights the breadth and depth of the adult education field. The answer is that careful cooperation among many conference architects paying attention to the politics of planning produced a brilliant conference. Join us as we reflect on the annual AAACE conference, its relevance to the mission of AAACE and to the broader field of adult education.

60th Annual AAACE Conference

The 60th annual AAACE conference was held in early November in Indianapolis, Indiana. The conference theme of "Adult Learning in Our Complex World" was reflected in the many and varied activities throughout the conference. In addition, the 2011 Conference Program Committee developed three broad top areas of interest to address throughout the conference. These themes, which guided planning of much of the conference events and activities, were connecting international perspectives on adult education, examining informal learning in various contexts, and creating space for in-person and social networking to enrich conference participants' experiences. These topics were woven into the program through formal and informal events sponsored by AAACE and included the following:

* Special programs cosponsored by the Association for Indiana Museums (AIM) and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corporation;

* Preconferences focusing on international adult education (Commission on International Adult Education) and military education (Commission for Military Education and Training);

* Workshops focusing on training adult learners to participate in a green economy and workforce development;

* A post conference for the professors of adult education (Commission of Professors of Adult Education);

* Connection Central, a space which encouraged participants to network while using social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Ning to discuss their ideas while participating in the conference;

* More than 225 concurrent, roundtable, and poster sessions, which addressed the many facets of the field of adult education.

In short, the conference provided an opportunity for educators, trainers, and other professionals who work in the complex world of adult education to interact with others while learning about many different aspects of the field.

AAACE was pleased to feature three keynote speakers throughout the conference; each shared their unique experiences and insights from the complex world of adult education. Dr. Alan Tuckett, president of the International Council for adult Education, spoke from a global perspective at the opening session of the conference, highlighting several successful international programs. …