Adult education research: exploring an increasingly fragmented map


  • Maren Elfert University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Kjell Rubenson University of British Columbia, Canada



Adult education research, adult education journals, bibliometric analysis


Against the background of internal developments of adult education as a field of study, and new external conditions for research, this article examines how the configuration of adult education research has been evolving, particularly over the last decade. Our analysis draws on a two-pronged approach: a reading of four seminal articles written by adult education scholars who have conducted bibliometric analyses of selected adult education journals; as well as our own review of 75 articles, covering a one-year period (2012–2013), in five adult education journals that were chosen to provide a greater variety of the field of adult education in terms of their thematic orientation and geographical scope than has been the case in previous reviews. Our findings suggest that the field is facing two main challenges. First, the fragmentation of the map of the territory that was noticed at the end of the 1990s, has continued and seems to have intensified. Second, not only practitioners, but also the policy community voice their disappointment with adult education research, and we note a disconnect between academic adult education research and policy-related research. We provide a couple of speculations as to the future map of adult education as a field of study and point to the danger of shifting the research agenda away from classical adult education concerns about democracy and social rights.


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How to Cite

Elfert, M., & Rubenson, K. (2015). Adult education research: exploring an increasingly fragmented map. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 6(2), 125–138.