This State of Knowledge Review is one in a series of papers that have informed the development of an analytical framework for the Adult Learning and Returns to Training Project. The project is a three-year multi-disciplinary and collaborative effort to further the knowledge base of conceptual, analytical and methodological issues concerning the scope and measurement of adult learning activities and their associated financial and non-financial returns to individuals, firms and society at large. The aim of this report is to provide an analysis of the best available empirical evidence on the outcomes associated with participation in adult learning. The review is not meant to be an exhaustive review of the field but rather to provide a conceptual map that helps consolidate knowledge and identify gaps and areas for further policy relevant research. Consistent with our conceptual framework (see Appendix A, or the What Matters and What Should Count report), our review considers the literature on a wide range of financial and non-financial outcomes for individuals, firms and society.
Our discussion is organized around three broad categories of adult learning: foundational learning; higher education; and workplace learning. In general, we aim to only include studies in this review if they meet the quality criteria outlined in the Practical Guide for generating causal estimates of a program’s impact. In the hierarchy of evidence shown in Figure 1, this generally corresponds to the first four types of studies. However, in cases where the literature is sparse, studies that do not meet the criteria are included if a case can be made that they enrich our knowledge base. Throughout the review, a distinction is made between studies that provide descriptive analysis and studies that aim to estimate causal impacts
Published: April 2014
Capability: Policy Research
Policy Area: Adult Learning - Adult Training
Population: General Population - Low-skilled Workers