The development of the field of adult education both as a set of social practices and as a body of research about these practices is relatively recent. As a field of practice, it is quite common to agree that adult education begins where the initial training stops, that is to say, after the realization of a continuous course on school benches, high school or even college/university. This means that adult education essentially concerns people who have at least an initial social or professional experience and recognize it. As a research field, adult education has evolved rather naturally from the questions that are asked of practitioners of structured training and at least two research traditions: first, research in understanding, e.g. on the unique characteristics of adult learners (the difference with children / adolescents in the school system, etc.) and on the other hand, action research accompanying the definition of specific intervention methods with adults (does adult pedagogy exist?).
In recent decades, new international (OECD), European (Bologna, 2000) and national (2004 laws and 2009 in particular) directions have put more emphasis on the "necessary" contribution of training to better economic efficiency and encouraged development of different training modalities: towards "tailor-made" courses, towards greater articulation between work situations and training situations, towards individualization and management of courses, towards modularization of the training offer, towards remote training, etc. In connection with these intentions and new practices arising therefrom, research in adult education tends to rely on new objects: alongside the first work on, for example, adult learners and intervention methods, we see a growing interest, at the same time and probably in a complementary manner, in the understanding of the relationship between evolution of work, evolution of organizations and evolution of forms of training, in the move from a training logic to a logic of professionalization, in relationships between activity and experience, between knowledge and skills, and so on.
This special issue is specifically intended to seize these new research themes, which have appeared in adult education, but which span adult education and initial training, by pitting them against one another to address them in their multiple facets.