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this is an article from newswise.com
Newswise — A National Center for Family Literacy study found that adult literacy results can improve as much as one grade level gain for an average of every 10 hours to 13 hours of instruction.
Personalized instruction, additional teacher training and diagnostic assessments of the adult participants are the key components to producing strong results.
“This is great news for the 34 million U.S. adults who are hindered by low literacy,” said Sharon Darling, NCFL’s president & founder. “It’s great news for the economy, which needs well-educated workers; and it’s great news for our children, who need financial stability and education role models.
“These rapid gains are extraordinary for adult education programs. They show what is possible with strategic instruction based on research. When instructors are trained to analyze the exact literacy skills that are missing in each individual and then helped to deliver instructional strategies that are laser focused, the results are extremely impressive.”
The pilot project involved five counties in Kentucky in year one and 19 Kentucky counties in year two for a total of 278 adults from 2005 to 2007. Funded by Kentucky Adult Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education, the program trained educators using the book “Applying Research in Reading Instruction for Adults,” which NCFL developed.
In year one, there was a one grade-level gain for every 10 hours of reading instruction. In year two, there was the same gain for every 12.5 hours. Similar gains were shown in several other states with small volunteer-based adult education programs. The project took a new approach to training the adult education instructors, said Darling, who started Kentucky’s adult literacy program in the early 1980s, which then became a model for 38 states. However, she said it never achieved the results recorded in this study because the research simply wasn’t there.
The program achieved remarkable results for two reasons, according to Darling:
• Instructors, who are often part time and don’t have training in teaching reading, are given more in-depth training and the assistance of a coach; and
• The adults were given diagnostic tests beforehand, so teachers had more information about their specific reading strengths and needs than adult education teachers typically have.
“We trained the teachers to teach skills and strategies using direct, explicit reading instruction, which is different from what often happens in adult education classrooms,” Darling said. “Because adult learners typically have extremely varied skills, teachers often just provide them with materials to work on and then go from one to another helping them with their workbook activities. This kind of group instruction is standard and typical but unfortunately doesn’t allow for much planned, structured teaching of reading.
“In addition, the diagnostic assessment for adults is an important direction for us and for the field—having more detailed information on each student helps educators tailor their instruction to the needs of each student.”
Darling said the project also was different because it was able to take a stronger approach to professional development, which included four full days of initial training on research-based reading instruction and another full day of follow-up training. Typically, adult education teachers don’t get that much training devoted only to reading. And, because many only teach adult education part time and have extremely varied educational backgrounds, these instructors may not know as much about teaching reading as K-12 teachers.
“The tools and insights into adult learners’ struggles were eye-opening,” said Debbie Mitchell, a Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools adult education teacher who participated in the program. “The support and materials breakdown scientific language into how we can use research to help students. I’ve seen these strategies take effect. They enable students to grasp the material, understand how to use it and see how they can succeed.”
NCFL also has worked with community-based literacy organizations in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania on similar training. In addition, it currently is working with adult educators in New York.
The National Center for Family Literacy, the worldwide leader in family literacy, has raised more than $115 million for literacy efforts since its founding in 1989. More than 1 million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL’s work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. For more information, contact 1-877-FAMLIT-1 or visit www.famlit.org.