Research Allies for Lifelong Learning

Adult Transitions to Learning in the USA

OECD released initial findings from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) in 2013. PIAAC assessed literacy, numeracy, and technology-related skills of adults age 16 to 65 in 24 countries. According to PIAAC assessment data, skill levels of U.S. adults are well below international averages and vary substantially by education background. In a world where advanced skills are requisite to workplace competitiveness, low skills are a danger sign – particularly for adults who face economic challenges. Another initial PIAAC finding was that half of U.S. adults do not complete a postsecondary degree (Kis & Field, 2013).
 Even so, adults do not necessarily stop learning (OECD, 2013). The first aim of this paper is to examine PIAAC data by asking:  do adults continue to learn purposefully – that is, either formally or non-formally – after leaving secondary settings, and how does purposeful learning relate to their education levels? Addressing this question will identify the circumstances in which adults do or do not learn – and insights into learning gaps with major economic implications.
 Another aim of the paper is to describe learning types that adults pursue, such as gaining basic skills, postsecondary work, or on-the-job training. The paper also investigates barriers to learning that adults face and their motivators for learning. Implications for adult educators are discussed.​

Spring 2016 paper for practitioners

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