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.