Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Little Light Reading

There is so much to talk about right now in adult education.  As one of my last duties with the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center, I contributed content toward the GED-focused issue of their Progress newsletter. It's a great issue, if I do say so myself.

  • David Rosen tackles GED Testing Service's big transition. 
  • Integrating technology into instruction is given a fresh look.
  • Helping people finish up the 2002 series GED test compiles regional approaches (I wrote it!).
  • An extensive interview with GED Testing Service spokesperson, C.T. Turner

Get "a round TUIT"... get it?
Although the above newsletter is out of Virginia, most of the content is relevant to adult ed nationally.  I'd love to get some discussion going around the articles in this issue.
However, a document that's completely relevant to every adult ed program in the US and beyond is Improving Adult Literacy by the National Academies Press (free PDF here). Consider these first two paragraphs from the summery.

A high level of literacy in both print and digital media is required for negotiating most
aspects of 21st century life — supporting a family, education, health, civic participation, and competitiveness in the global economy. Yet a recent survey estimates that more than 90 million U.S adults lack adequate literacy. Furthermore, only 38 percent of U.S. twelfth graders are at or above proficient in reading.

Adults who need literacy instruction receive it in two main types of settings: adult
education programs, for which the largest source of federal funding is the Workforce Investment Act, Title II, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), and developmental education courses in colleges for academically under-prepared students. Adults in adult education programs (an estimated 2.6 million in federally funded programs in 2005) show variable progress in their literacy skills, and their skill gains are insufficient to achieve functional literacy.
If you're an adult educator, you can't be feeling good after reading that. What's the first thing that comes to mind as remedy for this lack of improvement among those receiving adult ed services? Can technology raise the bar for instruction?  What role should distance education play in improving literacy levels? The document is over 500 pages long, so there's obviously some subtlety to this analysis and its recommendations.

At the onset, the authors acknowledge that the definition of literacy is changing, with more skills, like digital literacy, falling into the domain of adult education.  I think this presents opportunities, but it might also compound the problem of adult ed's seemingly insurmountable task. Contribute your two cents here anytime.  I get the impression that the results of this study and the repercussions for the GED's transition will be relevant for a long time.      


  1. My current experience as an ABE/GED teacher has brought me to the following observations:
    1. Organizationally there are no Program Champions. Without PCs there is insufficient support for the Program, leading to underfunding.
    2. Without PCs there is no clearly defined ROI for the community resulting from ABE/GED activities.
    3. Student population. My students come to class as a result of Social Service and Judicial referrals. Result is some students with little interest in accomplishment.
    4. Students often have little control over their lives for numerous reasons, transportation problems; etc.
    5. Teacher MUST take the time to provide a thorough program orientation so as to overcome erroneous perceptions by students of goals. Orientation should include the cost (hourly) of not having GED certification.
    6. Teacher must find a way to maintain engagement in the face of a self-directed learning environment.
    7. Somewhere during K-12 it should be made clear the drawbacks of lack of high school education and that withdrawing to enter GED programs is not a good solution for students.
    8. Once a business case has been established as,cost-avoidance and dollar benefit to the community-at-largje, then the program should be staffed with more full-time personnel.
    9. Should be wary of K-12 teachers in the adult education environment - it is different. Pedagogy is not Andragogy.

  2. I like "6. Teacher must find a way to maintain engagement in the face of a self-directed learning environment."

    That fits into this blog pretty well. Part of your job, as adult education evolves, is figuring out what your job is. Computer-based instruction should clarify for teachers exactly what the learner needs. But, "maintaining engagement" is a little more specific. There are numerous tools for this detailed in that issue of the Progress newsletter. Anyone want to add something?


Your comment will help build a community of practice (and everybody will love you for it).