A look back at the "Imagining Adult Education: Theory into Practice" Webinar Series

20 Jan 2023
Since the rapid switch to online work and education, there has been an explosion of online learning opportunities. Every week, across all levels of the education sector, there are different online workshops and webinars. Towards this end of 2022, with this in mind, we asked our members in the community and adult education sector what type of webinars and which topics really motivate them to sign up and log on.

It was clear that AONTAS members wanted engaging, dialogical webinars, focusing on theories of adult learning and addressing some of the big questions such as the role of adult educators in supporting democracy, the differences in learning at different life stages, and whether adult educators can or should teach for “transformation”.

In response to this, we put together the “Imagining Adult Education: Theory into Practice” series, and explored some of the big questions in adult education.

Adult learners talking together at a recent AONTAS event
Over 150 colleagues from Ireland, Europe, and even as far as Uzbekistan, joined us for three webinars across three consecutive weeks in November 2022, which were funded by the New European Agenda for Adult Learning.

The webinars were led by inspiring educators, teacher trainers, and experts. Each session was recorded, and was accompanied by a set of resources for further exploration. Check out the webinar recordings and resources below!

Webinar 1: Learning Across the Lifespan with Dr Leo Casey

This webinar was delivered by Dr Leo Casey of National College of Ireland. Adult and community educators often work with people from a broad range of age groups. Understanding how motivation works, and how the purpose of learning can change across the lifespan, can be useful for practitioners working in the sector.

Leo is the Director of the Centre for Lifelong Learning at National College of Ireland and is a committed educator and advocate for lifelong learning. He believes that education is a core human value as it enables full participation in the world around us, and gives meaning to our lives.

Check out the recording of the webinar here: Learning across the Lifespan with Dr Leo Casey - AONTAS Imagining Adult Education Series

 If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at our Learning Across the Lifespan Padlet page.

Webinar 2: Adult Education for Democracy with Lisa Kilbride & Dr Fergal Finnegan

With democracy in danger throughout Europe and beyond, what can adult education practitioners do?

In our second webinar in the series, Dr Fergal Finnegan (Maynooth University) and Lisa Kilbride (Dublin Adult Learning Centre) hosted this interactive webinar which explored the role of adult educators in a healthy and progressive democracy. As Fergal wrote in the 2016 Adult Learner Journal (p.46), “democracy – based on full participation and meaningful deliberation – has to be learnt and relearnt, practiced and questioned.”

Lisa Kilbride connected theory and practice, demonstrating how to bring democracy into the adult education classroom.

Lisa is an innovative and experienced teacher and doctoral student at Maynooth University, who also works at the Dublin Adult Learning Centre (DALC). Lisa facilitates a Community Action class, and designs the curriculum according to the issues that matter most to the learners, using a Freirian approach.

Fergal and Lisa’s combined knowledge and expertise made for a fascinating and engaging discussion about what practitioners can do in adult education to encourage active citizenship and political engagement, and lots more.

Check out the recording of the webinar here: Adult Education for Democracy with Lisa Kilbride and Dr Fergal Finnegan- AONTAS Webinar Series

Want to learn more about adult education and democracy? Have a look at the resources on our Adult Education for Democracy Padlet page.

Webinar 3: Debating Transformative Learning with Dr Francesca Lorenzi

This webinar was combined with the AONTAS Community Education Network (CEN) Meeting, and was open to everyone.

In our final webinar of the series, we invited Dr. Francesca Lorenzi of Dublin City University to explore whether transformative learning can, and should, be purposefully facilitated by adult educators, and how this can be done. Learners and practitioners in adult and community education often talk about transformation, or learning experiences that have changed their lives and the lives of those around them. But, what is transformative learning?

Francesca is a lecturer and researcher at Dublin City University, where she teaches trainee educators about transformative learning. This interactive session explored the work of American sociologist Jack Mezirow, who says that transformative learning has two basic focuses—instrumental learning and communicative learning. Instrumental learning is about task-oriented problem-solving. Communicative learning is about how people communicate their feelings, needs, and desires. The aim of the webinar was to better understand what transformation looks like in education, how it can happen and whether educators are right to teach for transformation at all.

Check out the recording of the webinar here: Debating Transformative Learning with Dr Francesca Lorenzi

Take a look at the resources on our Debating Transformative Learning Padlet page to learn more.

For more information on this series, contact our Project Officer Conor Thompson at