Academic journal article Adult Learning

10 Years of Adult Learning: Content Analysis of an Academic Journal

Academic journal article Adult Learning

10 Years of Adult Learning: Content Analysis of an Academic Journal

Article excerpt

Abstract: Academic publications provide insights into a discipline's history, knowledge base, and research norms, and thus analyzing publication activity provides learning about the field of study. To learn more about the field of adult and continuing education, this study used content analysis to examine 10 years of Adult Learning from 2006 through 2015, providing insights into the field, major findings related to journal issues; article authorship, keywords, purpose, frameworks, and research design; and five prevalent themes and trends.

Keywords: adult learning, content analysis, journal, AAACE

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Academic journals define the broad parameters of disciplines and subdisciplines with publishing outlets (Wellington & Nixon, 2005) and provide insights into a discipline's history, knowledge base, and research norms (Taylor, 2001). Cope and Kalantzis (2009) emphasized the importance of the community of practice in which knowledge making takes place, joining the existing body of public knowledge using the citation process to discuss, review, and verify. Within the community, authors, collaborators, reviewers, and editors write, review, evaluate, revise, edit, and publish. Furthermore, academic journal editors play critical roles, as Lowe (2012) described, '"gatekeepers of knowledge,' arbiters of academic taste and fashion who ultimately decide which approaches to particular historical problems thrive within the academy and which are squeezed out" (p. 105). Analyzing an academic journal's publication activity provides learning about the field of study (Taylor, 2001).

In 1982, the National Association for Public and Continuing Adult Education (NAPCAE) and the Adult Education Association (AEA) merged to form today's American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE; n.d.). AAACE's mission includes "fostering the development and dissemination of theory, research, information, and best practices; promoting identity and standards for the profession; and advocating relevant public policy and social change initiatives" (mission statement). As one mission fulfillment effort, AAACE sponsors Adult Learning (n.d.), a practitioner-oriented journal publishing "empirical research and conceptual papers for researchers and practitioners that approach practice issues with a problem-solving emphasis" (para. 1). Readers include a broad range of adult educators who design, manage, teach, train, and evaluate adult and continuing education programs. Published by SAGE, the journal's circulation reaches 8,148 organizations, members, and individuals with 18,995 full-text downloads (Shrayer & Migdali, 2016).

Academic publications provide insights into a discipline's history, knowledge base, and research norms, and thus analyzing publication activity provides learning about the field of study. On Adult Learning's 25th anniversary in 2014, Alfred and Cherrstrom, editor-in-chief and managing editor, briefly identified prevalent article themes. However, the field's practitioner-based journal merits a deeper, systematic analysis to learn more about the field of adult and continuing education's history, knowledge base, and research norms. The purpose of this study was to examine the most recent 10 years of Adult Learning from 2006 through 2015. Four research questions guided the study:

Research Question 1: How do regular and special issues compare?

Research Question 2: Who authors articles?

Research Question 3: What are the frequently used keywords, article purposes, frameworks, and research designs?

Research Question 4: What are the prevalent themes and trends?

The findings provide insights into the field of adult and continuing education through the lens of one major publication, offering findings related to the journal and articles and informing adult educators including readers, authors, reviewers, editors, and AAACE. This article discusses the research design, findings, and implications and future research. …

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