One participant noted that society has a compelling interest in whether individuals perceive that they have careers, and whether they are progressing along some sort of track. Defining what constitutes a “career,” he continued, may be challenging, but sequence is the key word.

Data Collection

While there was little disagreement about the importance of any of the indicators suggested, one participant was struck by the daunting challenge of collecting data and developing indicators. The United States has a number of valuable data sources already, another noted, but different agencies ask the questions, and each one has to do it a little differently, so you cannot actually compare a lot of the data over time. Others lamented that the United States is often missing from international comparisons related to adult learning because data are not available that will work for these purposes. Nevertheless, several stressed that the United States has underused resources, such as the American Time Use Survey that was included in the Current Population Survey. That survey includes such information as participation in educational activities; work-related activities; and organizational, civic, and religious activities.

Participants noted the simplicity of the European Lifetime Learning Indicators, a composite index covering European countries, which covers: learning to know (the formal education system); learning to do (vocational training); learning to live together (learning for social cohesion); and learning to be (learning as personal growth). More important, Chris Hoenig concluded, is that “there is a huge movement worldwide to share best practices on how to define progress in an amazing variety of areas.” There is much to be learned from international examples, several agreed.

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