The ability to teach - Recognition of professional activities in adult education

Teachers and trainers in adult and continuing education contribute greatly to the quality and success of continuing education programmes. At present, universal standards for the ability to teach in the field of adult education do not exist. In addition, professional teaching activities receive little recognition. The research and development project GRETA aims at creating a basis for cross-institutional recognition processes for the competences of teachers and trainers in adult and continuing education, which is a big step towards professionalization in this educational field.

Which issues does GRETA cover?

  • Which competences are relevant for teaching activities and how can they be operationalised for recognition?
  • Which validation procedures are suitable for the recognition of non-formally and informally acquired educators' competences?
  • How can train-the-trainer programmes for educators be directed at the competence model and consequential development opportunities be pointed out to providers?
  • Which are the challenges connected to such a professionalization strategy?

Which approach was chosen?

To develop a widely accepted system of recognition, the project closely cooperates with eight Federal and umbrella associations from all essential fields of adult and continuing education. The cross-provider approach is new to this field and intended to support the project's success significantly. The research and development project elaborates tools and procedures for the recognition of educators' competences on an academic basis and in cooperation with teachers in adult and continuing education, providers and project partners. It pursued a multi-methodological approach consisting of material and literature analyses, group discussions, expert and subject interviews. The findings were evaluated and presented to practitioners.


The findings lead to a validation procedure for educators' competences, which take an analysis of chances and risks into account.

What is GRETA's intention? What achievements were already made?

The project is aimed at the professionalization and recognition of competences of teachers in adult and continuing education. It is based on a competence model, which includes all competences required for teaching activities. The GRETA competence model is divided into competence aspects, competence fields as well as competence facets. It depicts all competences necessary for conducting good adult educational programmes.

The competence model is presented in the following article (only available in German)

The competence model can be used as the basis for different methods for validating and strengthening educators' professional activities. The project describes two methods:

# 1: A portfolio to assess and validate adult educators' informally and non-formally acquired competences. The results are outlined in a competence balance.

# 2: Train-the-trainer programmes are related to the GRETA competence model and the contents are transparent. As a result, they are easier to locate for adult educators. In addition, general information is provided on methods to develop programmes based on competence orientation.

# 1: How can adult educators account for their competences?

In many cases, teachers in adult and continuing education gain competences in non-formal and informal ways. They are often not aware of these not-certified and formally acquired competences. Based on the validation tool Portfolio Plus, which was developed within the project, opportunities for documenting and assessing teachers' competences were created.

By dealing with individual skills and strengths in a portfolio, adult educators are able to document their own competences in comparison to the standard provided by the GRETA competence model. Completed portfolios may be analysed by trained consultants. The results are collected in a balance of competences and reported back through consultation. The entire process is directed at enhancing further professionalization.

Following an intense development phase, PortfolioPlus was tested with 19 adult educators and four counsellors in 2017.

The following table (only available in German) depicts the assessment process from the perspective of teachers in adult and continuing education as tested in the project.

A sample balance can be viewed here (only available in German):

# 2: How can train-the-trainer programmes be related to the competence model ?

In addition to assessing adult educators' competences, project GRETA focuses on relating continuing and adult educational programmes to the GRETA competence model (mapping of continuing education programmes). The project analyses the models' competences covered by the curriculum. The results are presented to interested providers and possibly collected in a data base for adult educators.

At present, the entire mapping process is evaluated in selected train-the-trainer programmes.

The following table illustrates the process workflow (only available in German).

Who is targeted by the project findings?

  • Instructors, trainers, educators, teamers and lecturers of adult and continuing education, who are interested in assessing and developing their competences.
  • Providers of continuing education and training, who want to advance their interdisciplinary programmes for educators and compare them to the competence model.
  • Managing and planning staff, who can apply the competence model or balance for recruiting educators.


What is the current situation?

Regarding to the need of further development of the validation instrument PortfolioPlus and the mapping procedure, an application to extend the project until November 2018 has been made, which was confirmed in December 2017.

Project partners

Association of German Educational Organisation (AdB)

National Committee Work and Life (AuL)

National Association of Providers of Vocational Education and Training (BBB)

German Protestant Consortium for Adult Education (DEAE)

German Association for University Continuing and Distance Education (DGWF)  

German Adult Education Association (DVV)

Association of Continuing Education Organisations (DVWO)

Association of German Private Schools (VDP)

Further information is available here


Dr. Anne Strauch






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last changed: 4/23/2019