Introducing Pathways: Expanding Our Reach in Adult Learning and Working – Digital Promise

Introducing Pathways: Expanding Our Reach in Adult Learning and Working

May 28, 2024 | By

As part of the broader Digital Promise Pathways and Credentials team, the Adult Learning and Learning and Employment Innovations initiatives have supported Digital Promise’s ongoing mission to bridge research, practice, and technology. With specific attention toward the pursuits and unique journeys of adult learners and workers, our focus has not changed. Our approach, however, is advancing.

What’s Happening and Why

Historically, Digital Promise’s adult learning research efforts allowed us to elevate innovations in adult education while amplifying the voices and lived experiences of learners and workers in the field. In recent years, our research took the form of co-design efforts focused on informing and improving learning and employment technologies. The Learning and Employment Innovations initiative supported our learning and working community partners with resources to improve technological innovations, such as learning and employment records (LERs) and to inform the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) in academic and workforce development spaces. Leaning into our organization’s Impact Goals with intentionality, ensuring that we not only elevate the voices of learners and workers, but help to create access to equitable pathways for their well-being, agency, and economic security, a decision was made to merge these efforts for consistency—and the unified Pathways Research and Design initiative was born.

What Has Changed and What Hasn’t

Our name has changed, but our mission and intentions have not. Since 2014, four major theoretical perspectives have influenced the way we think about how adults learn:

  1. Andragogy – proposes that adults bring a wealth of experience to their learning.
  2. Experiential learning – stresses the importance of providing adult learners time and space for reflection to make sense of the experience.
  3. Self-directed learning – proposes that adults can and should be active participants in their own learning.
  4. Transformational learning – proposes that transformative moments or experiences can lead to a shift in consciousness and improve learners’ motivation and confidence.

Our Adult Learner Model, a research-based whole learner framework to support adult learning, is representative of this approach. In addition, the we way develop and facilitate design sessions usher learners, workers, and industry leaders toward a better understanding of the practices, innovations, and, ultimately, the people who are centered in our work.

The Pathways initiative continues and expands on these practices by employing research and design efforts to ensure that historically and systematically excluded adults have equitable access to pathways and tools that will advance their skills and help them achieve well-being, agency, and economic security. Our commitment to this mission is unwavering.

The Future and You

People and partnerships are vital components of our work. You are how and why we exist. This understanding has led us to revisit our Beacon Project, established and launched in 2014 to bring together a network of programs using technology in powerful ways to support adult education and workforce development. Our current aim is to revitalize this network to a broader audience, including academic institutions, workforce development organizations, and industry leaders, and learners themselves.

Want to know more? Keep up with our progress by subscribing to the Pathways bi-monthly ConnectED Pathways Newsletter! Interested in partnering with us? You can reach out to the Digital Promise Pathways team at to get involved with our work.

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