Nine recommendations for an applied science to support working learners
Supported with funds from the National Science Foundation, over 180 researchers and educators assembly virtually over four weeks in July 2021. Together we developed a framework for applied research program in the service of improving educational and mobility opportunities for the millions of employed Americans who do not have college degrees.
Our report synthesizes the work of that assembly in nine recommendations for government agencies, academic institutions, philanthropies and businesses.
- A well-educated citizenry is essential to a healthy democracy and a flourishing economy.
- The provision and improvement of lifelong learning deserve sustained public investment.
- We should revisit core concepts of learning and educational progress with attention to adults.
- We should design inquiries for longitudinal / lifelong observation
- Pathways is a popular but poorly specified concept.
- Researchers should develop a shared vocabulary and toolkit to observe and compare pathways as features of learners, organizations, and social ecologies.
- We should build it to serve education providers, policymakers, researchers – and learners themselves, who are seeking to make wise investments in their own futures.
- Hiring and promotion are crucial parts of opportunity pathways. The science must include systematic attention to these processes within firms.
- The business case for employer collaboration will be made by more diverse and productive workers, enhanced retention, and affirming workplace cultures.
- Conventional schools are hardly the only sites of adult education / lifelong learning. The science should be pursued by and within workforce development agencies and other civil-society organizations, business firms and for-profit providers, as well as traditional colleges and universities.
- Those most in need of new learning and employment opportunities are the least likely to be geographically mobile.
- Regional collaborations can leverage the impact of existing local institutions.
- Research universities can be strong anchors of regional collaborations.
- Frontloading formal education into the first 20 years of life will not provide people with the knowledge or skills they need to remain productive over ever longer working lives.
- We must create accessible, enjoyable, rewarding ways for workers to keep learning across multiple careers and life stages.
- Only a third of American adults have four-year college degrees and access to the job opportunities and social status that go with them.
- Creating new forms of opportunity for the other two-thirds should be a national priority.