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Ricerca per l'innovazione della scuola italiana

Research Structure 9 – Methodological and organizational innovation in Adult Education (AE)

The Structure deals with “Methodological Innovation in Adult Education” and has been operating under this name since 2017. The object of the research is to study what is happening in Adult Education (AE) in Italy and promote the improvement of the system, by enhancing isolated and local experimentations and proposing improvement solutions.

Adult Education, as a specific segment of the Italian education system, was born a few years ago and is therefore a culturally lively area. The young age of this education sector determines its scientific interest: by observing its development closely, one can grasp the factors that promote or inhibit its growth. This enables not only its accurate documentation, but also the understanding of its typical dynamics and future developments.

For the first time, Adult Education has been fully included in the Italian school system. However, it has been confined to formal learning. This means that its institutionalisation excluded the whole vast field of informal and non-formal learning.

General objectives

  1. Observation, description and modelling of AE in the perspective of its continuous improvement. The first level of analysis is that relating to the theoretical paradigm in which AE is inscribed, to clarify the nature of the object being analysed and the type of knowledge of which this object is the bearer. Being the learners adults, the epistemological reflection immediately becomes andragogic, in a context, unique of its kind, in which both teachers and learners are adults. At the crossroads between the epistemological, andragogic and sociocultural dimensions, research must therefore define the status of its object of analysis, on which to base the analyses placed at subsequent levels.
  2. Research on teaching models adopted in teaching adults. It involves analysing how languages, sciences, mathematics and social disciplines are taught and assessing whether the didactic models adopted are adequate for the purposes of the learners, possibly developing alternative or improving models. In particular, research must focus on the teaching of the Italian language as L2, both because it is a priority in the integration process and because it constitutes the communication channel through which all knowledge is conveyed.
  3. Study of learning environments. The physical ones such as the prison and the former Judicial Psychiatric Hospitals (now Residences for the Execution of Security Measures) and the virtual ones set up for e-learning, which for the provincial centres for adult education constitute an “ordinary” way of schooling since their establishment.
  4. Analysis of the use and effectiveness of the functions and tools developed by the regulation for the management of the various operational phases of the work of the Provincial Centres for Adult Education, with reference to the certification of skills and the articulation of didactic actions in Learning Units.


Research questions


  • How are the single subjects taught to adults attending Provincial Centres for Adult Education?
  • To what extent are the teaching methods effective?
  • What are the specificities of learning environments such as prisons and residencies for the execution of security measures? What are the characteristics of online learning?
  • How do the Provincial Centres for Adult Education use the tools and functions made available by the regulation, such as the certification of skills and Learning Units planning?
  • What is the position of the Italian AE system in the context of European Adult Education? What is the relationship between lifelong learning and AE? In particular, how are transversal skills, promoted by the EU, taught?


Context – Target population


With nearly 4 out of 10 adults without an upper secondary qualification, Italy has one of the largest populations of low-skilled adults in Europe. Individuals with low qualifications and skills tend not to be employed and are more at risk of being marginalized in modern societies and economies, where knowledge and the ability to access and process information is increasingly crucial, not just to be successful in the labour market, but also to participate in the life of society in general.

Currently, there are about 130 Provincial Centres for Adult Education operating throughout the country, targeting people aged 18 and over, with a generally low level of education and regardless of their nationality. Together with a number of other key actors involved in adult education, the Provincial Centres for Adult Education are organized into Territorial Service Networks and offer courses aimed at increasing education levels and strengthening basic competences in the adult population.

In particular, the Provincial Centres for Adult Education offer three types of courses: first level courses (leading to the achievement of the final qualification of the first cycle of education and/or certification of the acquisition of basic skills relating to compulsory education); second level courses (leading to the achievement of the technical, professional and artistic high school diploma); literacy and Italian language courses (which lead to a qualification that certifies the achievement of a level of knowledge of the Italian language at least at level A2 of the CEFR).


Institutional collaborations and research collaborations


  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Rome 4
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Rome 3
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Grosseto
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Lecco
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Treviglio
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Cosenza
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – BAT (Bari, Andria, Trani)
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Rovigo
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Enna-Caltanissetta
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Oristano
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Aquila
  • Provincial Centre for Adult Education – Campobasso
  • RIDAP (National network of Italian Provincial Centres for Adult Education)
  • La Sapienza University of Rome – Dept. of Developmental and Socialization Psychology
  • EPALE unit
  • Eurydice unit
  • OECD Italy