- WBA – Weiterbildungsakademie Österreich (Austrian Academy of Continuing Education)
Qualification "Educating Adults"
1. Origin, Institution name
2. Institution website
Educating Adults (Erwachsenenbildung)
EQF level: not applicable
4. Short description of the validation process
The “Educating Adults” qualification functions in Austria as a qualification outside the formal education system that is not assigned a level in the Austrian Qualifications Framework.
Austria has different standards and expectations in the adult education sector, which is why certain standards needed to be harmonised and qualifications developed that would confirm the competences of those involved in adult education and lifelong learning in the broad sense. wba conducts and certifies qualifications at two levels in adult education:
1) wba certificate
2) wba diploma in one of four specialisations:
- teaching/leading groups/training,
- educational management,
It is worth noting that wba uses the term “validation of competences”. “Competences” (Kompetenzen) are understood as “the ability to use learning outcomes in practice”.
Validation stages for a wba certificate in the wba system
Validation stages for a wba certificate in the Integrated Qualifications System in Poland
1. Initial advice – is provided through a personal interview by the counsellor with the candidate or an information meeting open to anyone; the candidate is given advice on the conditions for undertaking an individually tailored validation.
1A. Providing information about the process
2. Online registration – the candidate registers in the wba system in order to proceed with the validation of the wba certificate; an individual account is established on the wba website.
3. Assessment of the candidate’s current level – its aim is to identify the learning outcomes acquired thus far by the candidate.
1B. Identification of learning outcomes
4. Developing an online portfolio – the candidate develops an online portfolio in his/her account, providing information and evidence on education (formal, non-formal and informal learning) and professional experience.
5. Portfolio analysis – is a diagnosis of the candidate's learning outcomes on the basis of submitted documents and an examination of the extent to which the requirements defined in the wba qualification description are fulfilled. If the candidate meets these requirements, he/she can participate in the certification workshops.
3A. Analysis of evidence and statements. Awarding ECTS wba points
6. Educational plan – if the portfolio analysis determines that the candidate has not fulfilled all the requirements of the qualification description, he/she may complete the validation (and receive a certificate) or implement an individual learning plan consisting of recommendations for participation in further training courses or work placements.
7. Certification workshops – three-day mandatory workshops for each candidate, comprehensively examining the his/her professional and social competences in adult education.
3B. Theoretical test, presentation and observation in simulated conditions
8. Awarding the wba certificate – after successfully completing all the assessment elements, candidates receive the wba certificate.
Individuals who have received the wba certificate and are interested in further specialisation in adult education can proceed to the validation of the wba diploma in one of the four specialisations.
5. Detailed description of the validation process
The wba does not impose any requirements for pre-qualification – anyone who has completed at least upper secondary education (from grade 9 onwards) and has a proven track record in adult education can undertake the validation of the learning outcomes for the wba certificate. An applicant may attend a certification workshop if he/she has completed at least one year's practical work experience consisting of at least 500 hours that is confirmed by the wba. Foreigners can also participate in the validation workshops provided that they have advanced knowledge of German, as the validation is performed only in German. Candidates can submit documents in both German and English. There are no time limits for the various stages of validation.
Providing information about the process
The validation of competences acquired through non-formal education or informal learning starts with the acceptance of the candidate by the counsellor and informing him/her of the possibilities of validation. The initial advice can take the form of an individually structured interview or an information meeting organised for all candidates (including a webinar).
It is also the counsellor’s responsibility to estimate the workload needed for validation in the case under consideration. A record is drawn up of the results of the initial advice that can be used by wba staff in further validation stages.
If a candidate decides to proceed with validation, the next step is online registration. The candidate fills in an application form available on the wba website (providing contact details and general information about oneself). Registration in the wba system ends with the creation of a candidate's personal account, which enables an online portfolio to be created. Once the fee payment for this validation phase has been confirmed, wba gives the candidate access to his/her account.
Identification of learning outcomes
The aim of this phase is to diagnose the competences acquired by the candidate in formal, non-formal and informal learning in relation to the requirements of the wba qualification description. This diagnosis is based on collected documentation. Identification is intended to help the counsellor identify which competences can be considered as confirmed in a given case (transfer of credits) and which should be assessed or supplemented with courses and traineeships.
The documentation stage uses the analysis of evidence and statements method based on the material collected in the portfolio. The candidate creates an online portfolio in his/her account, in which detailed information is provided about him/herself as well as evidence of formal and non-formal education (courses/programmes), informal learning and any professional experience.
Evidence considered at the documentation stage includes:
Candidates’ portfolios can have from 5 to even 100 documents. In each phase of developing the online portfolio, the candidate can submit questions to the assigned wba counsellor (in person, by phone or e-mail). In addition, wba has produced a video guide for candidates and detailed written instructions to help them prepare their portfolio from a technical point of view.
The candidate can supplement the portfolio with additional documents or change their classification until the portfolio is submitted to the wba Accreditation Board. Candidates are also required to send a copy of their certificates, curriculum vitae and a hand-signed statement on the truthfulness of the data provided to wba by post.
Assessment consists of two parts. In the first part, the assigned wba counsellor examines the candidate's portfolio in detail to determine whether his/her learning outcomes are in line with the requirements of the qualification description. This assessment takes between 2 hours to 2 days. Its results are then discussed in the wba counselling team. wba counsellors jointly determine whether the competences identified from the evidence in the portfolio, the documentation sent by post and the biographical information obtained during the initial advice meeting are equivalent to the requirements defined in the qualification description. The candidate is awarded points in the ECTS wba system. In the next step, the candidate's portfolio is submitted to the wba Accreditation Board, which makes the final decision on the candidate's ECTS wba points and the competences confirmed by assessing the portfolio. A document containing information on the results of this part of the assessment is sent to candidates by e-mail.
If the analysis of evidence and statements determines that an individual has not demonstrated possession of all the competences required in the qualification description, the candidate may finish the validation or complete the missing elements on the basis of an educational plan developed by the wba counsellor. The education plan covers competences that the candidate lacks. They can be attained through further training courses or work experience.
A person who has successfully concluded the wba Accreditation Board’s portfolio assessment process, completed a minimum of one year's practical work experience confirmed by the wba (covering a minimum of 500 hours of work) and is missing a maximum of 3 ECTS wba points to achieve the number of points required in the qualification description can attend the <strong>certification workshop</strong>. However, the missing points may not be among those that have been recommended in the education plan as those that should be acquired through further education courses
The certification workshop focuses on an in-depth practical testing of the candidate's professional and social competences in the field of adult education, based on the requirements of the qualification description and the observation of the candidate by the assessors during the workshop. The examiner (assessor) conducts the assessment in groups of up to six people, diverse in terms of specialisation and employed by different institutions. An evaluation sheet is used for the assessment, which contains specific tasks together with the expected outcome and a description of the candidate's performance in a given task.
The certification workshop consists of three parts: 1) a theoretical test (multiple-choice test) of knowledge about adult education based on a previously available reading list; 2) a presentation during which the candidate presents him/herself and his/her professional experience according to the guidelines formulated by wba; 3) observation in simulated conditions consisting of role-playing during the simulation. The sequence of practical tasks is intended to confirm transversal skills that cannot be proven with evidence in the portfolio. At the end of the certification workshop, candidates receive feedback from the examiners and group members. This is also entered in writing in the candidate's individual account on the wba website. If the certification workshop ends with a negative result, the candidate can repeat the entire assessment at a later date. At the end of the certification workshop, participants receive a questionnaire to complete.
In the case of a wba diploma, the candidate undergoes a validation procedure similar to that described for the wba certificate. The initial advice includes the selection of the specialisation by the candidate and an estimate of the workload required to obtain it. During the documentation phase, the candidate supplements the online portfolio established for the validation of the wba certificate with new evidence (certificates, attestations, etc.) that were not used in the previous validation. Only new evidence is assessed. The candidate can acquire the missing competences identified in the process by participating in the courses and work placements selected by the counsellor in the individual education plan. In the final phase of applying for the wba diploma, the candidate must provide evidence of having completed at least 400 hours of work experience in the chosen specialisation over the last four years. In the second part of the assessment, the candidate presents his/her diploma thesis, two reviews of scientific publications and also orally defends his/her thesis (the so-called colloquium).
Candidates receive 3 ECTS wba points for the successful completion of the certification workshop. After eventually acquiring the lacking competences, the candidate is informed about the final outcome of the validation. Within 6 weeks of attending the certification workshop, the candidate will receive by post a certificate entitling him/her to educate adults without indicating a specific area of specialisation. The candidate also receives the right to use the title “wba Certified Adult Educator”. The candidate’s data are entered into the electronic database of wba graduates. Individuals who have obtained a wba certificate may then undertake the validation process to attain the wba diploma. If the assessment is passed, they receive a wba diploma with the indicated specialisation and the right to use the title “wba Adult Educator”.
6. Validation methods
The methods used for wba certification are:
- structured interview – an interview with candidates at the initial advice stage to identify competences, primarily those acquired through informal and non-formal pathways. The counsellor interviewing the candidate is guided by the requirements of the wba qualification description.
- analysis of evidence and statements – in an account set up via the registration form on the wba website, it is possible to produce an online portfolio in order to gather evidence of the required competences in the wba qualification description. In the online portfolio, the competences are classified according to the sets corresponding to the wba qualification description and the subcategory “types of evidence”. The user can attach scanned documents (e.g. certificates) and short descriptions of competences.
- Validation methods used during the mandatory assessment:
- theoretical test – a multiple-choice test on educational theory. The test consists of 20 questions concerning three scientific publications in the field of andragogy. The test questions are regularly updated in line with the latest developments in the field. All persons continuing with validation must take the test. Test results are provided as soon as it is completed. The test is deemed to have been passed if the candidate has correctly answered at least 60% of the questions. If the candidate failed to reach this score, the test may be repeated on a chosen date for a maximum of two times;
- presentation – a 10-minute presentation of the candidate’s educational and professional path. Candidates are mailed by post instructions on how to prepare such a presentation six weeks before the scheduled date of the certification workshop;
- observation in simulated conditions – the candidate performs professional tasks (role playing) typical of his/her chosen specialisation (i.e. in counselling, teaching/leading groups/training, educational management or librarianship). At the beginning of the certification workshop, the candidate gives a written description of the simulation concept to the examiner and then presents its contents to the examiner and the group (the presentation lasts 10 minutes). The four-page description of the simulation concept and the simulation itself are developed by the candidate on the basis of previously received instructions. The next task is to perform a 20-minute simulation, e.g. to give practical advice, teach a lesson or perform tasks typical of educational management or librarianship. While observing the simulation, examiners pay attention to the candidate's work style, way of communicating, the visual techniques and didactic methods used, the ability to reflect, observance of the principles of cooperation with clients/students, and the ways he/she interacts with clients/students (e.g. paying attention to the client's needs).
For the validation of a wba diploma, the following validation methods are used:
- structured interview – an interview conducted by the counsellor with the candidate to identify additional competences (other than those for the wba certificate) described in the WBA qualification description, particularly those acquired through formal education and informal learning;
- analysis of evidence and statements – the candidate can supplement and expand his/her online portfolio developed for the wba certificate validation on the wba website;
- theoretical test:
- written thesis (diploma thesis) – verification of competence in scientific work on the basis of the diploma thesis submitted by the candidate. This is a required element for candidates wishing to receive a wba diploma. It should be approximately 25-35 pages long. The subject of the diploma thesis should reflect the candidate's activity in a given specialisation and take into account the current state of knowledge in adult education. wba has a catalogue of topics that can be the subject of a thesis. It also provides the support of a counsellor in finding the right topic for the thesis, and optional advice (for an additional fee) at the stage of writing the thesis;
- reviews – assessment of two reviews of scientific publications in the field of adult education that a candidate must write to confirm his/her competence in scientific work;
- oral exam (known as the colloquium) – assessment of the candidate's competence consisting of the oral defence of the thesis by the candidate in the form of a presentation and an interview. The colloquium takes place before a committee composed of members of adult education institutions and has the character of a discussion on the results of the thesis with reference to the current literature and the candidate's experiences gained during practical work experience.
7. Validation results
The outcome of the process may be the following:
- If after the portfolio analysis, a candidate decides to complete validation, wba may issue him/her a certificate of proven competence in relation to the qualification description for the wba certificate. The candidate is also informed about any competence gaps to be completed through courses or work placements (education plan);
- If the Accreditation Board positively assesses the portfolio, the candidate can participate in the certification workshop; if all the required competences are confirmed and the candidate obtains the necessary amount of ECTS wba points, the “wba Certified Adult Educator” certificate entitling him/her to educate adults is issued; in the case of a negative result, the candidate has the right to repeat the certification workshops twice;
- If a wba certificate graduate chooses to undergo validation to be awarded a wba diploma and successfully concludes the assessment stage for the chosen specialisation, he/she will receive a “wba Adult Educator” diploma in one of the following specialisations: teaching/leading groups/training, educational management, guidance/counselling, librarianship.
8. Human resources
The specialists involved in the validation process include:
- experts in the wba Accreditation Board,
The team responsible for validation at wba headquarters consists of 5 counsellors, 5 members of the Accreditation Board, 1 coordinator (administrator) and experienced examiners.
The counsellors employed by wba are people who have completed their studies in pedagogy, sociology, psychology, philosophy, English-American studies, German, Romance languages/culture and history with a Master's or PhD degree and completed continuing education courses in many fields. They have professional experience in career guidance, coaching, language course delivery and educational management. Counsellors must know the mechanisms that influence the functioning of the adult education system in Austria and adult education as a scientific field, and perform the administrative tasks to recognise qualifications and accredit educational offers. Communication and teamwork skills are also desirable.
Counsellors are responsible for supporting candidates planning to undergo the validation of the wba certificate or diploma. They have direct contact with candidates from the moment of their registration. The counsellor’s primary responsibilities include providing initial advice to candidates, conducting information meetings for candidates and providing feedback, ensuring that candidates have access to their wba website account set up at registration, supporting candidates in developing a portfolio and overseeing its final version, submitting completed portfolios to the Accreditation Board and supporting candidates in writing their theses during the wba diploma validation process.
8.2. Accreditation Board Experts
The staff involved in the validation process also includes the wba Accreditation Board consisting of five independent experts - lecturers from Austrian and foreign universities, staff from research institutes or the Private Institute for Systemic Organisational Development Consulting. The task of the Accreditation Board is to evaluate the portfolios submitted for validation and the educational offers of the institutions applying for accreditation, as well as to take measures relating to the quality assurance and monitoring of the whole process. Members of the Accreditation Board are to represent adult education from its scientific, practical and free market side. Long-term professional experience in one of these areas is required. Accreditation Board members are appointed for four-year terms by the wba Steering Committee (Lenkungsgremium), and the total term of office of a Board member cannot exceed eight years. The Board meets on average 5-6 times a year to examine applications and portfolios of candidates wanting to participate in validation leading to a wba certificate or diploma, and to discuss the accreditation of educational offers.
Examiners are responsible for the assessment of the candidates during the certification workshop as well as the assessment of the thesis and the interview with the candidate during the colloquium. A group of 3 examiners take part in such assessments. The examiners are expected to have experience in the adult education sector, management skills, group work knowledge and knowledge of each field of adult education for which validation is performed. The wba committee of examiners assessing the competences of candidates seeking the wba diploma are experts from KEBÖ member organisations. This cooperation is based on an agreement between wba and the home institutions of the examiners. Both the examiners participating in certification workshops and those in the wba committee are remunerated by wba for their work.
Administrative tasks at the headquarters of the wba are performed by one person working part-time.
9. Organizational and material conditions
9.1. Time Frame
The length of the entire validation process depends on the time available and the individual pace of the person undertaking validation, with the proviso that the WBA can delete an applicant’s account if no action has been taken to complete the portfolio within two years of its creation. Provided that the candidate does not have too many required competences to acquire and consistently strives to complete the process as quickly as possible, he/she should finish the validation process after about one year.
9.2. Technical and logistical requirements
The wba website is built in such a way that people interested in validation can easily access the information they need. The website provides short texts on specific aspects of validation, instructional videos on portfolio building and step-by-step written instructions on the validation process. The wba also issues a regular newsletter informing candidates of important dates, events and news.
wba counsellors are available to assist candidates throughout the validation process. An applicant can meet the counsellor in person, contact him/her by phone or e-mail. An appointment can be made to meet a counsellor by reserving a convenient date online. The wba has an office used to counsel candidates, ensuring an atmosphere of privacy and trust. In addition, wba offers a special telephone number for those preparing for assessment.
The three-day certification workshop is organised for all candidates at the Federal Institute for Adult Education in Strobl/St. Wolfgang in Upper Austria. The wba organises workshops up to 7 times a year and the candidate can participate in any of the scheduled ones.
The wba has its own database of continuing education courses at both the wba certificate and diploma levels. The courses can be selected according to candidate’s individual needs, depending on their educational plan. These courses are organised in accredited adult education institutions throughout Austria.
10. Quality assurance
The wba ensures the quality of the validation process by basing it on the descriptions of the awarded qualifications and the quality criteria developed by experts on the wba Accreditation Board. The guidelines developed by CEDEFOP serve as the reference point (European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning).
10.1. Internal Quality Assurance
wba has an internal quality assurance system. The wba Accreditation Board and the wba Steering Committee are responsible for maintaining adequate quality standards. The wba Accreditation Board is responsible, among other things, for monitoring validation and the quality of the educational offers applying for accreditation, while the wba Steering Committee (Lenkungsgremium) makes the final decisions on strategy and the quality of the products offered by wba, and also handles appeals on the validation decision that the Accreditation Board was unable to resolve. wba operates on the basis of a set of quality criteria developed in 2018 in cooperation with the Austrian Ministry of Education - the “Catalogue of criteria for promoting the quality of validation in vocational and adult education in Austria” (in German). The results of regular internal evaluations contribute to optimising the validation process and the institution's offer. In turn, the examiners conducting the certification workshops have developed a catalogue of criteria for observing and assessing candidates, which is made available on the wba website so that the assessment criteria are transparent.
10.2. External Quality Assurance
Independent evaluations of the wba offer were performed by the Austrian Institute for Higher Education and the Faculty of Adult and Vocational Education of Klagenfurt University. Currently, the validation performed by wba is being evaluated by the University of Graz and the Austrian Institute for Vocational Education Research. In 2016-2017 the wba underwent a Peer Review process within an Erasmus+ project.
In 2008, wba's compliance with the requirements of proper quality management was confirmed by the certification of qualityaustria for ISO 9001:2008 and renewed under ISO 9001:2015.
The individual states of Austria have special funds for the continuing education of adults. Candidates can use these funds to obtain partial reimbursement for the validation of a wba certificate or diploma. In some cases, employers cover the costs of validation. It is also possible to include part of the costs incurred in one’s tax return as “continuing education costs”. In justified cases, unemployed people can apply for financial aid from the Labour Office (this is individual support).
The cost of the entire validation process for the wba certificate is a minimum of 1000 euros in total and includes the following fees:
a) fixed costs:
- fee for identification, documentation and portfolio assessment – 130 euros (includes the cost of access to the candidate's personal account and online portfolio on the wba website, cost of initial advice and support for portfolio development, portfolio assessment by the wba Accreditation Board and feedback on the results of this part of the validation);
- fee for the assessment in the three-day certification workshop – 550 euros;
- fee for issuing the wba certificate – 100 euros (includes the cost of issuing the wba certificate, right to use the wba qualification logo, placing the graduate in the wba's alumni database – the scope of published information is decided by the graduate);
b) additional fees:
- continuing education courses, depending on the competence gaps identified by the counsellor and the Accreditation Board;
- travel and stay in Strobl during the certification workshop.
The validation costs for a wba diploma can amount to a total of around 820 euros and includes:
- flat fee for issuing the wba diploma – 320 euros (includes the initial advice, analysis of the documents collected in the portfolio by the counsellor and the wba Accreditation Board, participation in the colloquium, the right to use the “wba Diploma” logo and placing the graduate in the database of wba diploma graduates);
- fee for issuing the wba Diploma in English – 30 euros;
- fee for the additional assistance of a counsellor when writing the thesis – 250 euros;
- flat fee for a successive wba diploma – 220 euros.
12. Context of good practice
wba was established at the initiative of the Cooperative System of Austrian Adult Education, which also includes KEBÖ and the Federal Institute for Adult Education. It operates according to its own public interest objectives, which include the creation of uniform standards in the adult education sector and the promotion of development at the intersection of three areas: adult education, lifelong learning and higher education. Its activities are in line with the National Strategy on Validation adopted in Austria in 2017.
The wba aims to raise awareness of the qualifications or competences acquired informally and to help graduates use their qualifications in the labour market. Those wishing to work as counsellors or trainers of the courses organised by the Vienna Labour Office must have a wba certificate. This is also required by the Austrian Adult Education Initiative from candidates for adult education teacher/trainer wishing to complete their education at the basic level if they have not completed at least a licentiate degree in “Teacher of primary grades”. During the accreditation of adult education institutions, one of the areas investigated is the number of employees with a wba certificate.