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CAEL Newsroom

CAEL Accepting Applications for Grant-Funded Adult Learning Study of Top-Performing Postsecondary Education Providers

Study Will Help Inform Development of Comprehensive Framework for Adult Learner Success, Refinement of Landmark Principles for Effectively Serving Adults

INDIANAPOLIS – The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is partnering with the Hewlett Foundation, the Education Quality Outcome Standards Board (EQOS), and Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy to design a new framework that will boost education providers’ ability to effectively serve adult learners. The partnership is seeking ten best-performing programs for participation in an intensive study that will inform the design of this framework. The study will include a questionnaire, focus groups, and networking events. The partnership will provide stipend support of $2,500 to each of the ten selected participating institutions.

Viable candidates include accredited higher education institutions as well as short-term, nontraditional education and training providers, for example, coding bootcamps, that prioritize adult degree completion and/or work-relevant training. Ideal applicants will have majority adult learner populations and marketing programs specialized to them, established processes for continuously measuring learning outcomes and post-completion job placement and earnings, and an equity-driven commitment to dismantling socioeconomic and racial injustice. Institutions interested in participating in the study should visit cael.org or contact framework@cael.org by June 11.

“Within the challenges of enrollment trends, wide-scale industry disruption, and economic inequity, there are opportunities to amplify the impact of adult learning excellence,” said Earl Buford, CAEL president. “Study participants will not only be able to refine their own adult learner strategies through insight gained during the study but also to directly inform our foundational work and associated publications as thought leaders in adult education.”

The framework will update CAEL’s Principles for Effectively Serving Adults, which, since their introduction in 1998, have guided postsecondary institutions and state systems committed to an inclusive model of education that meets the diverse needs of post-traditional learners amid ever-shifting education and employment landscapes. Although CAEL has periodically adjusted the Principles, which were primarily designed to help institutions support adult learners through diverse but traditional postsecondary education pathways, it is today undertaking a comprehensive review occasioned by the massive disruption and acceleration in change created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Success in the future of work will be marked by upskilling and reskilling, but our educational systems do not excel in the learning modalities and competency-oriented assessment methods that support work-relevant, lifelong learning,” said Buford. “The new framework will help institutions ensure their support of adult learners includes career transitions, regardless of whether their students pursue a degree or another credential.”

In addition to offering colleges and universities top-level standards for assessing institutional practices, the Principles inform much of CAEL’s program support services. Although the Principles have always been grounded in research, including qualitative and quantitative analysis, the new framework process involves a rigorous, multiphased review made possible by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Strada Education Network. The framework will prioritize methodologies that ensure that the Principles and their related practices remain future oriented and offer enhanced relevance in quality assurance among education and training providers, policy makers, investors, and philanthropic organizations.

Work will begin with a review of research findings from academic and other analyses of both proprietary and public data. These findings will help define parameters for selecting and analyzing a cohort of high-performing postsecondary institutions and their performance in identified impact strategies. Subject matter advisory groups and adult learner focus groups and surveys will also inform the new Principles, which CAEL expects to announce by the end of the year.

About CAEL
Recognizing that adult learners are the backbone of the U.S. economy, CAEL helps forge a clear, viable connection between education and career success, providing solutions that promote sustainable and equitable economic growth. CAEL opens doors to opportunity in collaboration with workforce and economic developers; postsecondary educators; employers and industry groups; and foundations and other mission-aligned organizations. By engaging with these stakeholders, we foster a culture of innovative, lifelong learning that helps individuals and their communities thrive. Established in 1974, CAEL, a Strada Education Network affiliate, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization. Visit cael.org to learn more.

About the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy (CFHETS)
CFHETS is an applied research center that builds on Northeastern University’s heritage of more than a century of leadership in experiential learning and its network of more than 3,000 employer partners. Drawing on the expertise of Northeastern faculty and affiliated industry-based scholars, the center studies the intersection of the world of work and postsecondary education – impacting the marketplace through the development of new models that better integrate and eliminate the gap between work and learning.

About the Education Quality Outcome Standards Board (EQOS)
EQOS is an independent, 501(c)(3) that establishes consistent definitions and corresponding metrics to measure student outcomes across postsecondary education and training programs. The EQOS Quality Assurance Framework helps providers collect, report, and validate their student outcomes data. EQOS also helps systems (states, curated program recommendation platforms, lenders, etc.) develop processes for using outcomes data to drive decisions.