The Adult Education Research Conference (AERC) is an annual North American conference that provides a forum for adult education researchers to share their experiences and the results of their studies with students, other researchers, and practitioners from around the world.
In a sense, the AERC is also a retreat for members of the adult education community; an informal, collegial gathering where all are encouraged to enter into lively debate over the future direction of research in adult education.
The idea of gathering adult education researchers together to meet in a collegial environment where discussion and debate are actively promoted took root in the late 1950s. At that time, the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE) saw a need to encourage a stronger orientation towards research in the field of adult education. Originally known as the National Seminar on Adult Education Research, this organization coordinated meetings of students, university professionals, and interested practitioners. An informal organization to say the least, it basically ran on the goodwill of its members and sponsoring institutions who provided what support and resources they could.
In the seven decades since its inception, this annual meeting of adult education researchers has matured and grown in prominence, albeit under a different name. Membership has expanded to include researchers from around the world who have brought fresh and varied theoretical and practical perspectives to the continued dialog taking place at the annual conference. At the 2015 AERC Business Meeting, the AERC community approved a proposal from Kansas State University’s College of Education and Department of Educational Leadership to act as a home institution for the AERC. This arrangement provides valuable support and stability for the future of the AERC community.
With its long tradition of advancing knowledge in adult education, the AERC has become one of the largest, most prestigious meetings of adult educators, both locally and internationally. This is not to say, however, that the AERC has evolved into the rigidly structured and formal conferences often seen in other environments. On the contrary, what is unique about the AERC and indeed reminiscent of the AERC's humble beginnings, is the lack of pretentiousness and the emphasis on fostering professional collaboration in a supportive, enlightened environment.