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Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Adult Education and Community Development Program  

Major research areas

The Adult Education and Community Development (AECD) program emphasizes teaching, research and community engagement across four major research areas:

  • Work, organizations and lifelong learning for social change
  • Community engagement and sustainability
  • Learning and engagement in global contexts
  • Indigenous perspectives and other practices

Demonstrating the large range of related learning opportunities available to students in the program, these areas also serve as a guide for course selection.

Indigenous Perspectives and Other Practices

This area underscores the value and diversities of Indigenous knowledges that demonstrate the conception of educational experience as lifelong holistic processes. Education is understood to encompass a spectrum of experiences from the local cultural/spiritual and geographic to international relationships across the world.

Courses in this area place Aboriginal/Indigenous wisdom at the centre of education initiatives by drawing from Aboriginal/Indigenous Elders, traditional teachers, oral traditionalists, artists, craftspeople, and scholars whose bodies of work contribute to Aboriginal knowing and learning.

Aboriginal/Indigenous Education takes on de-colonizing methods of teaching, researching and service to the community while centering on the concept of self-determination in working with Aboriginal communities. The courses attract educators from a variety of backgrounds whose work (teaching, research, service) may benefit or have an impact on the lives of Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples.

Courses in this area contribute to the Collaborative Specialization in Aboriginal Health.

Community Engagement and Sustainability

Courses in the Community Engagement and Sustainability area focus on popular education, collective action, social justice, peace, sustainability and planetary survival. They frame community learning, development and activism as a complex, multifaceted social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual endeavour.

These courses bring varied perspectives including feminist, ecological, anti-racist, decolonizing, political economy, indigenous, transformative learning and community organizing (among others) to a rich dialogical learning experience informed by critical analysis and alternative visions.They create an environment where students of diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives and varying levels of expertise can challenge and support each other to broaden and deepen their approaches, as they undertake research and practice and contribute to knowledge.

Knowledge and learning/teaching outside of the academy are honoured, and an emphasis is placed on building strong, mutually beneficial connections with diverse individuals, groups and communities in Canada and internationally.

Many courses in this area are also part of Graduate Collaborative Programs in Community Development, Environmental Studies, Comparative, International and Development Education, and Women and Gender Studies.


Learning and Engagement in Global Contexts

The AECD program has a long and rich history of engagement in international adult education and international participatory action research and in the comparative study of adult literacy and community development around the world.

Courses in the Learning and Engagement in Global Context area will be of interest to students from Canada and abroad who wish to understand issues of adult learning, community development, social movement organizing, and participatory approaches to citizenship learning and participation in other countries and cultures and internationally. Courses in this area include applied courses in international program management, participatory citizenships, and on other dimensions of adult, organizational and community learning with a comparative or international focus.

Work, Organizations and Lifelong Learning for Social Change

Courses in the Work, Organizations and Lifelong Learning for Social Change area attract educators and other practitioners and researchers from private, public and not-for-profit sectors including labour unions and cooperatives. They engage students in two broad themes: a transformative analysis of the workplace and an examination of alternative approaches to workplace design.

The first theme situates the workplace within a broader social framework, including the impact of various forms of hierarchies (for example, class, gender, race and ethnicity) and related social policies upon the organization of work and the distribution of its resources. Some central issues include the changing meanings of work; the impact of hierarchical social relations upon such criteria as worker satisfaction, health and safety, creativity and productivity; the effects of globalization upon the workplace; and the impact of work upon the natural environment.

The second theme involves the study of models that seek to reduce workplace inequities. These alternative models attempt to achieve greater equality of power and remuneration; greater inclusivity; broader participation in decision-making; more reflective, responsive and respectful work environments; greater workplace and economic democracy; a better-informed workforce; a higher quality of working life; and more sustainable forms of production. This focus subsumes a broad interpretation of the workplace, including the home and community, and non-formal as well as formal workplace arrangements.