Wednesday, July 2, 2014

5 Predictions for Adult Education Instruction

So far this year, I'm seeing adult education programs implementing a variety of approaches as they tackle the 2014 high school equivalency exams.  The range of hypotheses that teachers and publishers are employing is pretty impressive, though sometimes disconcerting. Nonetheless, a diversity of tactics is good.  Hypotheses, if evaluated critically, will be proven right or wrong, and adult education practice will move forward all the better for having conducted experiments during this big transition.  I've got some hypotheses that I don't mind sharing.  Some directly oppose other publishers' products and even some of my own clients' preferred teaching methods.  That's the thing about the future. It's not personal.     

Increased Experimentation and Creative Lesson Design
Most adult ed programs have begun the year trying to maintain their systems of assessment, instruction and credentialing and ensure continuity by continuing with drill and practice material, teaching narrowly to a small set of procedural knowledge skills that are typically deficits.  To stay in that comfort zone, adult ed programs purchase from publishers that are recycling instructional models or repackaging conveniently available material with 2014 testing jargon that are familiar and friendly to adult educators who are struggling with the prospect of change (very common and understandable).  However, as the demands of the new high school equivalency tests and the College and Career Readiness standards become clearer and professional development efforts start to sink in with instructors and coordinators, the field will start taking more risks.  They'll start thinking outside the box with their lesson planning and where they source their content. 
Activities will need to draw learners' life experiences out and build relevance for the broad concepts and skills being taught, which will present opportunities for deeper more complex and perhaps more time-consuming instruction. In short, we can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Surface level and short-term learning through repetition will lose ground to creative thinking and exploration by both teachers and learners.

Brand Agnostic Prep Material
Because high school equivalency now varies from one state to another and even within a single state where all three tests are promoted, publisher material needs to speak to each test distinctly while also speaking to all tests broadly.  Although all three tests feature some unique characteristics, they're all reaching for College and Career Readiness by 2017.  So why not start teaching for the fences now?  The overviews of each section of each test will be relegated to each test's website where tutorials and other resources will also be found. Leave the prep material to focus on skills and instruction (actual learning of long-term skills!).

Quick question/curiosity:  Finding the GED rack at the bookstore used to be easy. What will it look like now?

Substance Over Style
Most of us pick up new workbooks and start flipping through like it we're a speed reader or we're expecting to see a cartoon movie unfold. Everyone does it. What are we looking for?  Please don't say pretty pictures (they cost more than they're worth). Prep questions no longer have to look like the test questions, not if we're building Depth of Knowledge levels 2&3.  Next time you pick up a book, look at the table of contents (is everything covered? are there any unique approaches? do the topics inspire learning and/or teaching)  Zero in on one lesson and look at the structure. How is the content introduced to the adult audience? (if at all). How much effort is given to instruction and skill development as opposed to practice in the style of the test? (or is the effort put into graphic design, color, and densely composed pages?)

Computer Skills for All
We don't need to teach digital literacy strictly because the GED/HiSET/TASC tests are offered on computers (soon to be exclusively offered via computer). Computer skills are life skills, critical thinking skills, and  they contribute to the higher functioning of your clients on a daily basis.  At the higher end of the spectrum, these are College and Career Readiness skills that will open doors and allow our clients to retain employment and/or bypass developmental education classes. The basic lesson here is that we must teach these skills because they've become basic skills and it's the right thing to do.

Distance Education Methods will Change
Currently, state-funded adult education programs can only claim hours worked outside of class if the time is gathered using one of three methods (clock time, learner mastery, and teacher verification). If the work doesn't fall into one of those categories, most educators are discouraged from going that direction with learners.  Most states further limit the report-ability by approving a list of products and assigning one of the three data-gathering methods to that product.  That might have been sufficient in a DoK level one adult education world. However, both online and offline collaboration and exploration will be big parts of the creative lesson design referenced in the first post.  Web 2.0 will finally start impacting adult ed learning in a major way.   All or some portion of that time and effort needs to be reportable.  Hopefully, state and local administrators will learn to adapt their policies to go with the flow that instruction needs to go to be effective and engaging.

Got a prediction of your own? Care to disagree with one of these? Drop a comment of your own. As with all hypotheses, time will tell...


  1. I really hope your predictions are right!!!! For your last idea about changing reporting do K-12 virtual academies track "attendance"? If media companies can figure out how to measure and capitalize on online, asynchronous content usage, education should be figuring it out, too.

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    2. Glad to have your comment here, Meagan. I look forward to picking your brain further. We'll need to come up with very specific strategies for instruction as well as these kinds of broad changes. Maybe that will be another blog post.


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