GRETA – a competence model for teachers and trainers

From left to right:

Stefanie Lencer 
German Institute for Adult Education

Anne Strauch
German Institute for Adult Education

Abstract – Course leaders, lecturers, teachers and trainers are the cornerstone on which ­successful adult education is built. But precisely what it means to be “able to teach” is not yet covered by any generally-applicable standards. The GRETA project has developed a uniform competence model for teachers and trainers stretching across different adult education ­providers in adult education and further training reflecting the competences that are necessary in order to teach. This marks a major step ­towards achieving professionalisation of adult education. When developing the model, ­emphasis was placed on constant feedback ­between practitioners and researchers.

It is not hard to compile a list of things that make a good teacher. But how to make it comprehensible? And how to make it widely accepted? This is what the GRETA1 project is all about.

The project is coordinated by the German Institute for Adult Education – Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning (DIE) and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The project is currently in the second funding phase (running from December 2018 to November 2021), and will pilot and evaluate the tools that have been developed in different application variants in practice.

The special added value of the GRETA tools lies in cooperation across different adult education providers – unprecedented in adult and continuing education – in which indi­vidual interests take a back seat to professional development across the entire sector.

The science behind the model

Structures for validating the adult education competences of teachers and trainers were prepared on a scientific basis, and possibilities for promoting professional development were developed along two paths. On the one hand, teachers and trainers are to be enabled to document – and have validated – the competences that they have already acquired through nonformal and informal means. On the other hand, further training in relation to the competence model (mapping) is to be provided, and further opportunities for professionalisation are thus to be shown to teachers and trainers in a targeted manner. Both approaches are based on a uniform competence model stretching across different adult education providers for teachers and trainers in adult and continuing education.

“The model provides an overview of the knowledge and skills that a teacher needs, as well as of the attitudes, ­beliefs and (self-reflection) skills that constitute professional teaching.”

What is in the model?

The GRETA competence model maps the adult education competences that are relevant for teaching. The model was developed with considerable support from eight nationwide funding institutions and professional associations for adult education and further training in Germany. It is subdivided into competence aspects, competence domains and competence facets (see Figure 3).

The model provides an overview of the knowledge and skills that a teacher needs, as well as of the attitudes, beliefs and (self-reflection) skills that constitute professional teaching. It can help take stock of one’s own competences and provide orientation for individual competence development.

The model focuses equally on all groups of teachers and trainers in continuing education, regardless of employment status (full-time, part-time, as salaried employees, free­lancers, self-employed or volunteers), or of the institutional context in which teachers and trainers work (from publicly-recognised, non-profit and commercial, to in-company ­continuing education), which subject they specialise in or in which field they operate.

What all teachers and trainers in adult and continuing education have in common is that they support adult learning by planning, implementing and evaluating educational programmes. And this is exactly where the GRETA competence model systematises the relevant knowledge and skills in the competence domains and facets referred to.

Potential applications

The model addresses the adult education competences of teachers and trainers, and not, for instance, the technical skills of a teacher (e.g. computer, language or sports teachers). This in no way disregards subject-related and didactic competences; these are reflected in the model as areas to be “subject-specifically defined”. The model can be used as a reference for a variety of purposes: It offers the opportunity to obtain an overview of the competences that are relevant for one’s own teaching, and where there may still be gaps. From the perspective of further training institutions, the model can be helpful for taking stock of and refining the skills of teaching staff. Where competences are found missing, this can be systematically addressed through appropriate training. In addition, the model can serve as a reference in terms of competence requirements for teaching staff for a specific further training institution, or for a given field (e.g. family education, vocational training, etc.). The competence model can also be used to support the recruitment of personnel and as a basis for personnel selection and development interviews.

Developing GRETA 

The challenge which arose while developing the model was to show which competences of teachers and trainers should be considered, and which should be both practical as well as scientifically connectable. This, however, had to be done against the heterogeneous background of adult education and further training. Theoretical principles were analysed for the development of the model; existing competence models were integrated, the opinions of practitioners and experts were collected and evaluated, and a continuous feedback process was established between research and practice, and then put to use for analytical purposes. A methodical approach was chosen for this purpose, with a variety of sequential and circular survey steps. The perspectives of leading and planning personnel, of teachers and trainers from all fields of adult and continuing education, as well as the ­project partners from GRETA I, were systematically included and taken into account for the analysis.

“In order to do justice to the holistic ­understanding of competences, the GRETA model included and described not only knowledge and cognitive ­abilities and skills, but also aspects of motivational and social willingness.”

The competence model is based on a holistic understanding of competence where competences are the “cognitive abilities and skills that individuals either have or can learn in order to solve certain problems, as well as the associated motivational, volitional and social readiness and abilities in order to be able to use the problem solutions successfully and responsibly in variable situations” (Weinert 2001: 27). In order to do justice to the holistic understanding of competences, the GRETA model included and described not only knowledge and cognitive abilities and skills, but also aspects of motivational and social willingness (Figure 3).

The competence model is subdivided into different levels. ­At the top level are the “competence aspects” (outer ring). Following a uniform understanding of competences, pro­fes­sional knowledge and skills, subject and field-specific knowledge, professional self-management and professional values and beliefs belong among the aspects of competence. 

One level below this we find the “competence domains” (inner ring), which are further subdivided into competence facets (middle ring). Knowledge – such as technical knowledge – is listed in the model as theoretical-formal knowledge, whilst application-orientated and practically-applied knowledge is referred to as knowledge and skills (Schrader & Goeze, to be published).

Subject and field-specific knowledge is subdivided in the model into the competence domains of content and field reference. The thematically different subject content as subject-specific formal knowledge is not further operationalised or defined in adult education and further training due to the broad thematic breadth of the field. This area should be defined on a technical basis. The competence domain field reference includes all knowledge relating to curricular and institutional framework conditions, field-specific goals and principles, and (field-specific) target groups.

An essential component of professional competence is the professional knowledge and skills that are cited in the model. One level lower, professional knowledge and skills ­include the competence domains “didactics and methods”, “communication and interaction”, “guidance and counselling”, and “organisation”. Didactics and methodology, as well as communication and interaction, together constitute pedagogical-psychological knowledge and skills. Didactics and methodology encompass all knowledge and skills related to the planning and implementation of the teaching-learning process. The competence domain “communication and interaction” includes the knowledge and skills related to the leadership of groups and control in teaching-learning situations. Another competence domain in the aspect of professional knowledge and skills is “guidance and counselling”. It is divided into knowledge and skills related to guidance and support during the learning process, as well as concrete knowledge and skills related to counselling for learning processes in the sense of guidance that is related to the learning situation. The fourth competence domain in this aspect is that of organisation. This includes teamwork and networks, as well as cooperation with the client.

The competence aspect “professional values and beliefs” is subdivided into the competence domains “professional ethics” and “professional beliefs”. The competence facet of “professional ethics” includes moral concepts of pedagogically-relevant concepts of humankind and values. Concurring with a holistic understanding of competence, these facets constitute important components of competence that exert a major influence on morally-acceptable professional teaching. The beliefs of the teachers and trainers, such as their own pedagogical attitudes and identification with the profession, are bundled as professional beliefs.

The fourth competence aspect is “professional self-management”. This includes the competence domains “motivational orientation”, “self-regulation” and “professional ex­perience”. Motivational orientation includes elements of job-specific motivation and professional enthusiasm for the subject and teaching, as well as perceived self-efficacy. “Self-regulation” as an important further competence domain refers to an awareness of one’s own role as a teacher and trainer, as well as commitment to learners, taking into account one’s own resources and professional limits. The competence domain “professional experience” comprises a reflection of one’s own teaching and appropriate handling of feedback and criticism, as well as the resulting continuous professional development.

Using the GRETA tools

The GRETA tools can be used in many ways. Some of the products and instruments can be used freely, whereas others are conditional on authorisation by the central GRETA coor­dination office.

The GRETA competence model forms the basis for the other GRETA tools used in the validation of teachers’ and trainers’ competences in adult and continuing education. 

These include:

  • a reflection sheet for reflecting on one’s own pedago­gical competences,
  • the GRETA PortfolioPlus for documenting one’s own pedagogical competences, 
  • an expert manual for evaluating the competences ­documented in PortfolioPlus by authorised experts,
  • the GRETA competence balance as proof of documented and validated competences,
  • a mapping manual for the classification of further ­training offers in line with the Competence Model,
  • the GRETA mapping profile for identifying the com­petence domains and facets identified in the mapping process.

What can GRETA do?

The GRETA tools can be used for a variety of application contexts and in different manifestations. Examples include the consideration of individual aspects of the competence model, like in personnel selection interviews, or the use of tools for the validation of non-formally and informally-acquired competences.

Possible purposes are: 

  • individual career planning and competence development of teachers and trainers,
  • external presentation, self-marketing and order acquisition,
  • staff recruitment in institutions,
  • assessment and refinement of teachers’ and trainers’ competences in facilities; strategic personnel development and organisational development,
  • illustration of personnel quality in existing QM duties, 
  • description of competence requirements in specific fields (possibly as a voluntary commitment on the part of in­dividual subfields of further training or specialist areas),
  • personnel development interviews; coaching,
  • competence-oriented refinement of continuing education opportunities, 
  • external presentation of train-the-trainer further training courses,
  • a targeted search for suitable further training opportunities for teachers and trainers.

The instruments developed in GRETA are to be tested and piloted until November 2021. Interested institutions will be advised within the project period and will receive information and support on how to use the GRETA tools. Further information is available at


1 / The following were involved in the development: Arbeitskreis deutscher Bildungsstätten e.V. (AdB), Bundesarbeitskreis Arbeit und Leben DGB/VHS e.V. (AuL), Bundesverband der Träger beruflicher ­Bildung (Bildungsverband) e.V. (BBB), Deutsche Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Erwachsenenbildung e.V. (DEAE), Deutsche Gesell­schaft für wissenschaftliche Weiterbildung und Fernstudium e.V. (DGWF), Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband e.V. (DVV), Dachverband der ­Weiterbildungsorganisationen e.V. (DVWO), Verband deutscher Privat­schulverbände e.V. (VDP)


Lencer, S.; Strauch, A. (2016): Das GRETA-Kompetenzmodell für Lehrende in der Erwachsenen- und Weiterbildung. 

Lencer, S.; Strauch, A. (to be published): Herausforderungen und Vorgehen bei der Entwicklung eines Kompetenzmodells für Lehrende in der Erwachsenen- und Weiterbildung.

Schrader, J.; Goeze, A. (to be published): Professionelle Kompe­tenzen von Lehrkräften in der Erwachsenen- und Weiterbildung: Ein Rahmenmodell für Forschung, Rekrutierung und Fortbildung.

Weinert, F. E. (2001): Leistungsmessungen in Schulen. Weinheim: Beltz.

About the authors

Stefanie Lencer is a research assistant in the “Teaching, Learning, Counselling” programme at the German Institute for Adult Education – Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning (DIE).


Anne Strauch is a research assistant in the “Teaching, Learning, Counselling” programme at the German Institute for Adult Education – Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning (DIE).


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