Academic journal article Adult Learning

Role of Professional Development Associations in the Future of Our Field

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Role of Professional Development Associations in the Future of Our Field

Article excerpt

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to describe the interconnectedness of three professional development associations, the impact of various factors on collaboration and fragmentation, and suggestions for future directions. The three adult education professional associations being discussed in this article are the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), the Commission of Adult Basic Education (COABE), and the Kentucky Association of Adult and Continuing Education (KAACE). I provide some observations regarding the economy, fracturing among the associations, and their ability to advocate for our own interests. I suggest three recommendations for professional development organizations and the field.

Keywords: future, associations, professional development, organizations, history

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Professional associations play a variety of roles in the development of the field, including, but not limited to, providing informal or formal leadership for the field, creating and shaping professional development, advocating for the adult educator and their learners, and providing resources to the field (Merriam & Brockett, 2007). Professional associations can provide such services to a multitude of audiences in the field or focus on a particular audience. Trying to provide professional development to a broad range of audiences is not easy, and the field of adult education has found it difficult to sustain an umbrella organization. The purpose of this article is to describe the interconnectedness of three professional development associations, the impact of various factors on collaboration and fragmentation, and suggestions for future directions.

AAACE, COABE, and KAACE

The three adult education professional associations being discussed in this article are the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), the Commission of Adult Basic Education (COABE; a former commission of AAACE), and the Kentucky Association of Adult and Continuing Education (KAACE). AAACE was formed in 1982 (Merriam & Brockett, 2007) to continue the work of the Adult Education Association (AEA), which can be traced back to the mid-1920s (Stubblefield & Keane, 1994).

AAACE currently serves a variety of constituents including professors of adult education, instructional designers, military personnel, adult basic educators, administrators, and so on. Considering that AAACE had a membership as strong as 3,000 to 3,500 from the late 1950s until the late 1990s, the departure of COABE as a commission left AAACE with fewer members and struggling to regain its prominence in the field. Recent efforts by the board have improved membership services and recaiitment, and membership has grown in the late 2000s and early 2010s to more than 950 members worldwide. Currently, AAACE publishes Adult Learning, Adult Education Quarterly, the Journal of Transformative Education, and the Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education.

COABE initially served the field of adult basic education, but it is now becoming more of an umbrella organization as it attempts to serve those working in adult basic education, adult secondary education, adult literacy, corrections, General Educational Development (GED[R]), and English language learners (ELL). COABE was once a part of AAACE as one of their commissions until the late 1990s when a disagreement arose regarding finances and COABE departed. Currently, COABE has close to 12,000 members and is attracting increasing numbers of international members. COABE provides professional development, advocacy efforts, online resource repository, a job bank, and currently publishes the Journal of Research and Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary, and Basic Education.

KAACE, the professional development association for Kentucky established in 1968, serves adult educators working mainly with the state's Kentucky Adult Education (KYAE) providers. …

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