Call for papers: Community-based Adult Learning for and with Refugees (Journal of Research in Continuing Education)


Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung

Journal of Research in Continuing Education

Special issue

Community-based Adult Learning for and with Refugees 

Guest editors

Rick Flowers, Keith Heggart, Henrik Nordvall, Elaine Swan and Josef Schrader

Migration between the socio-economic and political North-South divide is not new. However, in recent years, especially following wars in the Middle East and Africa; countries of the North have increasingly exercised the privilege of acting as hosts to, and settling, large number of refugees. These humanitarian settlement policies and programmes are, however, the subject of fierce political debates inside the respective host countries. This contention severely tests theories and practices of citizenship. We are interested in the role and impact of community-based adult learning in such host countries, both for creating the conditions in which citizens learn to show solidarity with and support for refugees who settle in their countries and creating opportunities for these refugees to improve their livelihood and exercise social and political rights in the new country they now reside in. In other words, our interest is how one can influence the attitudes and behaviours of host country citizens towards refugees in the face of highly-charged racist and anti-racist politics. This, of course, includes efforts to influence government policies for asylum seekers and refugees. This process of influencing public opinions and policies is, on one hand, an act of advocacy and educating for refugees. On the other hand, it is also an act of solidarity and educating with refugees. Whether it is for or with also depends on whether the adult learning initiatives are driven and controlled by refugees themselves. For this special journal issue we are less interested in citizenship education defined legalistically as ‘preparing newcomers to become citizens in the host country’ (Shugerensky 2011) and more interested in adult learning that strengthens the capacity of longstanding and newly arrived residents alike, to be active citizens.

Community-based adult learning has, however, in recent years been sidelined as governments have invested more heavily in vocationally-oriented adult education (Mayo and Annett 2010). In the case of adult education to address the substantial intake of refugees, host countries typically fund language tuition and vocational training programs in order to help refugees obtain language skills, employment and income. But when it comes to supporting the efforts of civil society organisations to facilitate intercultural adult learning through awareness-raising, advocacy, community development and social action with and for refugees, there is notably less funding forthcoming (Merrifield 2010). This type of adult education is, nonetheless, important to promote active citizenship, strengthen multiculturalism and democracy. And for this reason we invite papers that focus on community-based adult learning which we define in an expansive manner. This includes different types of (a) adult learning organisations – eg. local government, political parties, social movements, community development groups, ethnic associations, social enterprises; (b) goals – eg. influence public opinion, awareness-raising or do direct advocacy work; (c) forms and strategies – eg. direct action, formal courses, social and mass media, community arts, sports-development, intercultural community initiatives, consumer activism, learning circles and other self-study activities. With this expansive definition it is evident that we welcome papers that describe and discuss either formal or informal adult learning.

Having made this sweeping generalization about the sidelining of community-based adult learning, we speculate however, that there are significant differences in the funding and policy regimes between English-speaking, German-speaking and Scandinavian countries. This is based on the observation that public funding for local government and non-government adult education providers has declined on a much more dramatic scale in English-speaking countries than in German-speaking and Scandinavian countries. In the latter there is still substantial public funding to support a wide range of religious/faith-based, and non-government, community development and social action organisations; plus various political parties, to deliver community-based adult learning. Therefore, we encourage prospective authors for this special issue, to describe and discuss the level and nature of government, corporate and organized religious support to community-based adult learning for and with refugees. With this special journal issue we hope to bring accounts of theorizing and practice in German-speaking and Scandinavian countries to an English-speaking readership. 


We also welcome papers that extend critical theorizing about the notion of intercultural adult learning in the context of working for and with refugees. Recent scholarship has made the observation not only is there a paucity of empirical research about adult education for and with migrants and refugees, there is also little theorizing about relevant key concepts (von Eschenbach 2016, Öztürk 2014, Kukovetz and Sprung 2014). For instance, one can problematize what and who constitutes the ‘host’ community and who exactly are refugees, and at what point are they no longer refugees. Such problematization leads to wider theorizing about the role of race, ethnicity, language, religion, and values when it comes to defining desirable traits of citizenship for a particular host country. And then, of course, one should not take for granted what counts as intercultural adult learning and active citizenship. How one conceives of desirable ‘citizenship’ education for newly arrived refugees can inform how one conceives desirable roles for established citizens. For example, drawing on Gerd Biesta’s (2012) typology of public pedagogies - a pedagogy for the public, a pedagogy of the public, and a pedagogy of publicness – Danny Wildemeersch (2017) theorises how citizenship education for newcomers is conceived, is shaped by ideas about what constitutes desirable citizenship for newly arrived refugees .

Biesta, G. (2012). Becoming public: public pedagogy, citizenship and the public sphere. Social & Cultural Geography13(7), 683-697.

Guo, S. (Ed.). (2013). Transnational migration and lifelong learning: Global issues and perspectives. Routledge.

Kukovetz, B., & Sprung, A. (2014). Is adult education a ‘white’ business? Professionals with migrant backgrounds in Austrian adult education. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults5(2), 161-175.

Mayo, M. C., & Annette, J. (2010). (Eds.) Taking Part: Active Learning for Active Citizenship and Beyond. Leicester: NIACE.

Merriwether, J. (2010) Putting the Learning in Citizenship, in Mayo, M. C., & Annette, J. (2010). (Eds.) Taking Part: Active Learning for Active Citizenship and Beyond. Leicester: NIACE.

Öztürk, H. (2014). Migration und Erwachsenenbildung. Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann.

Schugurensky, D. (2011). Citizenship and immigrant education. in K. Rubenson (ed.) Adult learning and education, Oxford: Elsevier

von Eschenbach, M. E. (2016). „Was ist Migration?“Risiken eines essentialistischen Migrationsbegriffs in der Erwachsenenbildung. Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung-Report39(1), 43-59.

Wildemeersch, D. (2017). Opening spaces of conversation: citizen education for newcomers as a democratic practice. International Journal of Lifelong Education36(1-2), 112-127.

Please submit an expression of interest to :

(a)  by December 10th 2017 initially sending a few sentences indicating possible interest

(b)  by December 23rd sending an abstract of about 500 words.

We will negotiate timeline for the full papers but we are definitely scheduled to publish this issue in 2018.

The journal will be published in English-language but we also welcome submissions written in German and Scandinavian (Swedish, Norwegian and Danish) language. Authors will be invited to present their papers at an international conference in Sydney jointly hosted by Linkoping University and the University of Technology Sydney.