Role of the Adult Educator – What does an adult educator do anyways?

Role of the Adult Educator – What does an adult educator do anyways?

The development of a description of the evolving roles of the adult educator would be like

trying to count the stars in the sky. Would the number vary if you were counting from the

North Pole as opposed to the South Pole? What about from Pluto or the sun? The roles are

as varied as the people who try to define them. Before beginning my journey into

educating myself to become an adult educator, my perspective on the role was very

limited. I had only barely thought of what the role meant and that maybe I was already

doing the job in several different areas of my life.

The more you read, the more you learn that the evolving role of the adult educator cannot

be pinned down to a simple definition. Who is an adult? What constitutes ‘educating’

someone? Can the description of the educational setting where education occurs vary from

a university campus, to sitting outside on a park bench? These are some of the questions I

have begun asking myself and must ask myself in order to understand the role as an adult


Having been a learning & educating adult for many years I have developed the perspective

that adult educators must be willing to learn continuously, be adaptable, creative, good

listeners, have people skills, be willing to admit when they don’t know something, be

skilled facilitators; the list is endless. I believe that anyone with knowledge can educate

another person at anytime and anywhere. The adult educator must be experienced, have

up to date knowledge that is research based to ensure accuracy. I believe that all adult

educators have obtained some level of theoretical knowledge on the subject that they

teach. The depth of theoretical knowledge required for adult educators varies depending

on the subject they are teaching and the goals that they are striving to obtain.

As technology advances at an exciting pace, the adult educator must learn, adapt and

incorporate these new resources and embrace them into their classroom, wherever that

might be. The digital environment offers global connections that reach out to many

cultures with varying ethical, cultural, moral & religious backgrounds. What is acceptable

in one area of the world is not acceptable in another. How can one person be aware of all

of these differences & incorporate them into their practice? This is a newer aspect of the

role of the adult educator.

I believe that being ‘connected’ to the world of educators in a variety of ways is essential to

understand what an adult educator is as well as develop and maintain the skills required to

educate. Connections with academic institutions, faculty & professional newsletters,

connections with lifelong learners in the workplace, professional practice groups, blogs &

other social media, listening to the news, watching TV are but a few resources available to

the adult educator. Every life experience is an opportunity to refine the educator’s skills.

I believe that the adult educator must continuously strive to improve as an educator, be

willing to start somewhere and to strive to keep growing in knowledge & experience.

Defining the role of an adult educator in one paper would be an insult to the profession

itself. I believe that anyone from the friend teaching another friend to be compassionate,

how to plant a garden or design a simple beaded bracelet is just as much an adult educator

as the professor with the PhD teaching in the ancient academic hallways of established

universities. Not all education required by adults is appropriate to be taught in a formal

setting. The role of the adult educator in each situation is similar and yet different at the

same time. It is the responsibility of the educator to understand what learning is and how

it is best achieved in each situation.

Adult educators are an amazing group of people that are actively learning evolving,

adapting and improving in their respective fields. Their roles are not stagnant and will

continue to change. It is their responsibility to be the best that they can be at whatever it is

that they do.

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