Author(s):Jana Wienberg (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 11 A, Motivation and Career Decisions in VET

Paper Session


Room:Vet-Theatre 116

Chair:Barbara E. Stalder


The Development Of Informal Educational Processes

Title: The development of informal educational processes – putting the findings into context where work is organised in flat hierarchies due to increasing democratisation and flexibility in the workplace

Research question

How do educational processes in informal learning environments develop at an adult age? What effects do these have on the development, or deployment, of strategies in fulfilling (everyday) requirements? And to what extent can informal educational processes shed light on the question of how autonomous, self-motivated learning and behaviour are developed? An increasing requirement for individual “self-organisation” is mirrored in the changing skills requirements in the workplace. In this context, the study aims to provide insight into whether an increasing flexibilisation of professional qualifications can be identified and, if possible, offer recommendations for the future organisation of professional qualifications that take into account flexible learning and working structures and non-linear careers.

The continuing change in the function of education throughout one’s lifetime continues to require self-adjustment appropriate to the function and situation of the learning procedures through the provision of appropriate training and advice. Thus, it is important to include learning arrangements other than conventional, standardised teaching-learning arrangements in subsequent studies.


The following study was conducted within the realms of the Marsilius Kolleg’s interdisciplinary research project “Perspectives of Ageing in the Process of Social and Cultural Change” – “Center for Advanced Study” (for further information, see the Marsilius Kolleg’s project homepage: The point of departure for the following contribution is a qualitative analysis based on data of the “Interdisciplinary Longitudinal Study of Adult Development” (ILSE) (Schmitt/Wahl/Kruse 2008). The ILSE study was conducted by the German Center for Research on Aging at the University of Heidelberg in co-operation with the University of Leipzig and the University of Rostock. The study was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as well as the Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg. The ILSE is characterised by its longitudinal and cohort approach, differentiation between eastern and western Germany, inclusion of middle and advanced ages, linking of biographical perspective and current life situation, as well as interdisciplinarity. The study was qualitatively analysed on the basis of a theoretical sampling of semi-standardised interviews with the ILSE participants in order to gain information about informal learning processes, e.g. in overcoming critical life events, or to empirically reassess the interaction between different learning processes over a lifetime. In doing so, learning in different contexts – taking into account different learning potentials and learning content – and against the backdrop of the relevant educational biography was qualitatively evaluated. The study took the form of a content analysis evaluation of the data material according to a category system – along the lines of the “Adult Education Survey” (European Commission EUROSTAT 2005; European Commission EUROSTAT 2007).
Further, a connection is made between the ILSE findings on educational behaviour and the results of a discourse analysis of flexibilisation and democratisation processes in the workplace, which illuminate the accompanying skills requirements: here the extent to which an increasing flexibilisation in the workplace can be identified was examined. This question is the point of departure for a secondary analysis of publications from eight renowned industry magazines in the area of Human Resources / Personal Development. Specialist discourses from 2000-2015 on the subject of flexibilisation and democratisation processes in the workplace were observed. The intention behind the study is to create transparency within the discourse – both regarding the terminology used and the thematic emphasis over time.

Expected Outcomes

It is possible to identify a change in the educational settings over a lifetime, which is characterised by an increase in learning in informal settings at (advanced) adult age.
In particular, such skills as the development of the ability to reflect, of critical distance and of dimensions of responsibility were primarily acquired in informal learning contexts. A higher significance can be ascribed to these skills due to increasing demands placed on the individual with regards to self-organisation.
Against the backdrop of increasing flexibilisation and democratisation in the workplace, a high degree of participation, self-organisation and responsibility as well as an increasing “learning competency” appear to be required as a prerequisite for employment. But for the so-called “unaccustomed learners” it is much more difficult to assume the role of one’s own “career planner”.
The study produces indicators regarding the development of informal educational activities beyond adult age and clarifies what learning opportunities (above and beyond direct crisis management), learning impulses as well as modes of learning, e.g. twists and turns or transitions in the career, can offer. The results regarding informal learning activities should, with regards to a needs-oriented approach, act as a bridge between institutional (further-) education offerings and low-threshold, scouting offerings and structures in an informal context.

In the context of changing work and business organisation, including the move away from standardised working conditions to non-standardised career paths, these changes increase the requirements of working people and companies. For individuals, this means that they are increasingly faced with the challenge of taking individual responsibility for tailoring their career paths to their own needs. The said requirement, namely taking responsibility for shaping one’s own life-long learning in order to retain employability in contexts where learning is organised by others, requires competencies that cannot be assumed to be present.


European Commission EUROSTAT (2005): Task force report on adult education survey. Working papers and studies. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
European Commission EUROSTAT (2007): Adult Education Survey (2005-2007). Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
Marsilius-Kolleg (2013): Perspectives of Ageing in the Process of Social and Cultural Change. Marsilius-Projekt. URL: [Abruf: 13.01.2016].
Schmitt, Marina/Wahl, Hans-Werner/Kruse, Andreas (2008) (Hrsg.): Interdisziplinäre Längsschnittstudie des Erwachsenenalters (ILSE). Abschlussbericht anlässlich der Fertigstellung des dritten Messzeitpunkts. Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend. URL:,property=pdf,bereich=bmfsfj,sprache=de,rwb=true.pdf [Abruf: 13.01.2016].

Author Information

Jana Wienberg (presenting)
University of Hamburg
Institute of Vocational Education & Lifelong Learning