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“Doing It All”: Successes and Challenges in Teaching Adult Education

Dear PD and Program Management Colleagues:

I'm happy to share that we are hosting a guest discussion, "Doing It All: Successes and Challenges in Teaching Adult Education," beginning this Tuesday, September 29th. Please see below and share this announcement with all who you think would be interested in participating.

Jackie Taylor


“Doing It All”: Successes and Challenges in Teaching Adult Education

September 29 – October 2, 2015

The landscape for adult learners in the 21st century has changed, and with it the roles and expectations of adult educators. Adult educators prepare adult learners to pass rigorous high school equivalency exams, be digital age learners with the reading, writing, numeracy, and critical thinking skills needed to be competitive in today’s economy, and successfully transition to college and careers. They design engaging lessons aligned with new college and career readiness standards. Many also teach in a linguistically diverse classroom while helping immigrants integrate into society and participate in civic life. The vast majority do this part-time while often juggling multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

Join us for a guest discussion with adult educator Anurag Sagar to explore the evolving demands on 21st century adult educators and what we can do to help them be as successful as possible in their roles.

Dr. Anurag Sagar is a veteran adult literacy educator.  She has worked in the field since 1991 in a variety of capacities and is currently an ESL coach for the Pennsylvania Implementation Support Services.

To Participate:

Join either the Evidence-based Professional Development or Program Management LINCS CoPs. We would like this to be a grassroots discussion from the field. So please invite all who you think have something to contribute! Directions on how to join and participate are below.

Many thanks,

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development


How to Join the LINCS Community and Groups

The guest discussion takes place in the Evidence-based Practice and Program Management Groups within the LINCS Communities of Practice (COP). To join:

  1. If you are not a member of the LINCS CoP, visit: https://community.lincs.ed.gov/ to create an account.
  2. Once logged in, click the “Groups” tab in the horizontal navigation.
  3. You will be directed to a list of groups you can join. Select either “Evidence-based Professional Development” or “Program Management”.
  4. You will be redirected to that group’s home page. On the right you have the option to set your Email Subscription.
  5. Select “Immediate” from the drop down menu (you can always change this to another setting after the guest discussion.).
  6. Click “Submit”.

You will then receive an email notice when someone posts. To comment or reply, just log in to the LINCS CoP. Then click the link in your email to be directed to the post itself and to a comment box where you can contribute your thinking on the issue.

 

Comments

I Ramos's picture
First

Hello! My name is Irene E. Ramos and I hail from the small South Texas town of Poteet which is the Strawberry Capital of Texas! I have been in Adult Education and Workforce training since 1990. I started in Atascosa,  County where I ran the first computer-based instructional setting with 10 Apple IIE computers (wow). I am certified to teach (Lifetime, generalist ALL SUBJECTS) by the great state of Texas but have only worked as a volunteer in public, private and Montessori PK-12 schools as I realized that my passion is in Adult Education. I have been a facilitator of Steps to Excellence and Personal Success, The Choice is Yours and Survival Skills for Women since 1992 and a staff development trainer in Adult Ed since 1998. I have worked as an AEL instructor, supervisor, Coordinator, Workforce Center Manager, and more. I care very much about the quality and efficacy of Professional Learning for Adult Educators. I am interested in sharing some ideas and hoping to raise the bar for PD all over the nation. I believe that all valid Continuous Improvement Plans are built from a foundation of well planned quality Professional Learning. My hope is that decision makers will meet the challenge by increasing funding and that programs will begin to establish policy and structure that brings greater professionalism to Adult Education as a career requiring Pedagogy and Andragogy of all their educators, that we truly become vested with going beyond content and mere grant compliance into a place of refined adult instruction that leads to College, Career and Life Long Learning. 

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Welcome to the discussion, Irene! And thank you for posting about what you hope to see discussed and accomplished by having this important conversation.

I think it's important that we create a vision for what we want the future of our profession to be, and set goals and objectives to achieving that future. Otherwise, circumstances will (continue to?) shape it for us.

Other readers/community members, what do you look forward to discussing during our conversation this week? What would you ultimately like to see accomplished?

Thanks ~

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hello Irene,

I am awed by the many hats you have worn over your career in Adult Ed.  I, too, share your passion about the field of adult ed and we share many of the same hopes for greater professionalism in this field which.  Undoubtedly this is tied to enhanced funding among other issues.

I would very much hope that you will take some time from your busy schedule to share your ideas as to what the challenges are that we face in the field and your thoughts on solutions for steps forward.

Anurag

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Hello Everyone,

I’m pleased to announce that the first day of our guest discussion begins now! Please welcome our guest facilitator, Anurag Sagar, teacher and ESL PD coach with the Pennsylvania Implementation Support Services. Her bio is below.

This week we’ll explore some of the issues adult educators face in teaching in the 21st century. We will ask ourselves some hard questions. I ask that you dedicate some time this week not only to reflect on these issues, but also to post your thoughts. Our goal is to see some concrete recommendations come from this grassroots conversation for improving adult educator career opportunities, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes.

  • What aspects of the landscape have changed significantly in adult education?
  • What issues do adult educators face today?
  • What * is not* changing but should be?
  • What supports do teachers need in order to be successful in helping their students succeed?
  • What are some promising models and best practices in professional development and program management that provide teachers adequate support?
  • What’s needed to improve teaching and learning in adult education?
  • What can be done, and whose responsibility is it?
  • What are next steps?

Last Thursday (9/24), OCTAE published a blog written by Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin and National Council for Adult Learning President Gail Spangenberg, Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development. Anurag will guide us in a discussion using our own experiences pertaining to many of the issues raised in this article.

Teachers are some of the most amazing, passionate, caring, and thoughtful people on the planet (!) who, above all, want to see their students succeed. Thus it is our nature to put our students first. And by having this conversation we are doing just that.

Looking forward,

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP


Bio:

Anurag Sagar has been involved in adult literacy for more than 20 years, in a variety of capacities: as an ESL instructor, program manager, and peer coach. She is currently an ESL coach with the Pennsylvania Implementation Support Services.  A native of India, Anurag came to the US as a student 1979, and holds a PhD from The Rockefeller University. 

In 2000, Anurag became attracted to the relatively new field of adult ESL, and joined the Center for Literacy, in Philadelphia, where she worked for 15 years.  She received the ABLE Outstanding Teacher Award from the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2008, and has presented in numerous conferences and workshops, including annual meetings of the Pennsylvania Adult and Continuing Education (PAACE) and COABE.

 In 2010, Anurag was keynote speaker at an OVAE (now OCTAE) symposium on Teacher Quality and Adult Literacy – a conference that raised her awareness of career issues facing teachers of adult literacy and which has become her primary area of interest.


 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Anurag, Jackie and others,

I am very interested in this discussion. As a contributor to the NCAL PD blog article, as a long-time provider of professional development, and as the moderator of the LINCS Program Management and Technology and Learning Communities, I am eager to hear your perspectives on professional development, Anurag, as a teacher, program manager and peer coach. I also fervently hope that other adult education teachers, program managers and professional developers here will chime in with their own responses to the great questions Jackie has posed and with other comments stimulated by this discussion. I look forward to reading and posting this week!

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Dear Colleagues,

I am wondering about your experiences working in the field of adult education, as a teacher or program administrator. Much has changed over the last 15 years to help students succeed. Yet it seems that little has changed in providing teachers the support they need in order to help their students succeed. Let me explain.

At the recent COABE conference in Denver, I was impressed by the variety and quality of presentations focused on supporting instructors of adult literacy. I participated in workshops as varied as:

  • Using College and Career-readiness Standards for Adult Education in Adult ESL
  • Getting the Right Balance: Integrating Workforce Training and Adult Education
  • Building Career Pathways to Advance Immigrant Integration
  • Developing and Sustaining Effective Partnerships to Support Career Pathways

As I was participating and learning, I couldn’t help but wonder as to how on earth a teacher (ESL or GED) could singlehandedly:

  • help her/his students acquire language skills or pass the GED tests, using creative lesson plans correctly aligned to the recent college and career readiness standards;
  • ensure her/his students’ entry into post-secondary institutions, for which they must be taught critical thinking and higher order reading and writing skills (through rigorous instructional practice); and
  • support  her/his students’ aspiration to enter the workforce, (for which the instructor must not only have a clear understanding of the appropriate job sectors in the region, but then be able to teach the appropriate technical /vocational vocabulary!).

And then of course, there are ESL instructors, who may be working with low skilled language learners, enrolled in a civics program, who are also expected to teach aspects of American history and government. There appear to be an ever-increasing number of expectations for the adult literacy educator, without an adequate increase in support!

Moreover, these expectations are placed on the shoulders of educators who are working in a field that is in sore need of improvement (and has been for many years). It is well documented that most teachers in this field are part-time workers (78% of paid adult education teachers and nearly half of program administrators are part time) inadequately compensated for their labors. 

As a teacher I have struggled with many of these issues myself. As a coach I empathize with these over burdened teachers (who may be juggling multiple jobs) and frequently working under stressful conditions.  I often ask myself how fair is it to ask them to spend time participating in the many (unpaid, in general) hours in professional development that may lead to job satisfaction, but not necessarily to a better working environment or better wages? And yet, many of them continue to do their best year after year.

Have you experienced similar feelings of being overwhelmed by all that is being asked of you?

What is your view of the challenges you face as teachers in adult education?

What programmatic support(s) do you feel would be most helpful to you in your practice?

I hope all you dedicated adult instructors and administrators out there, who are working so hard every day, will share the successes as well as the challenges you face in the field.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Anurag Sagar

 

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

Hello everyone.

As I expect of many of you, I can hardly justify taking time out of my morning to post: just finished our weekly team meeting, lots of updates to do there; prepping for a 10:30  ABE reading class because my colleague left for Africa for a month on Friday; need to update my PPOR list for my meeting with our local school district at 2; I hold student orientation for 2.5 hours somewhere in between all of this today, and my desk is covered with papers from having covered for our front desk person who was out the last 3 days, and since I supervise her, I'm responsible for covering her duties. And you want to know what I need as the teacher I am on Thursday nights in Lang Arts and Social Studies? Still with me out there?

Our center, the Durango AEC in SW Colorado, was cited as a model re teacher support because we believe that the most critical element in any classroom is the quality and dedication of the teacher. Without those attributes, students lose, goals are not met as consistently or quickly, and our profession suffers. ALL of our teachers on the ABE/ASE/"GED" side are certified, and we pay them a living wage as well as health benefits and 1 hour of prep for every 3 hours of teaching. In addition, we have an hour of PD a week and the team meeting. Without the ability to communicate regularly with your teaching team, far too much is lost in the sauce.

Just consider how difficult it is to find good math teachers for public school and then consider NOT paying a decent wage with benefits and hoping against hope that you luck out with an adult ed  teacher who actually has a strong math background and wants to work with our diverse range and background of students. Same often goes for an excellent writing teacher--they can be just as challenging to find because many non-writing teachers are petrified of the writing process and focus on micro skills and dig deeper down that rabbit hole instead of focusing on the big needs our students need as writers. Teaching writing means juggling many balls seemingly all at once, and it ain't for the fainthearted.

Add the rigor of the new GED, and if you are under the outdated rubric of having a single teacher teach all four subjects, with truly rare exceptions, you are not looking at positive outcomes.

All I have time for now.

Stephanie

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for sharing.  It is so gratifying to hear of programs that ensure paying a living wage as well as providing health benefits.  I wonder how many programs are able to do that and it would be great if others could use these as models. In my experience working in a non-profit, I have found that teachers are not paid what they (or for that matter I) would consider a salary worthy of someone who is involved in the very important job of teaching.  As program manager, I found so often that we lost some of our more inspired and dedicated teachers to either the K-12 system or community colleges, that provide better incentives.

I couldn't agree more with your comment about teachers teaching all subjects, regardless of area of expertise.  That was always difficult, but is made more so by the more rigorous standards required under the new GED as well as the need to ensure that students move on to post-secondary institutions.  Later in the discussion, I will share a model that I feel could be very helpful for teachers. 

I thank you for taking the time today to share your struggles and hope you will continue to do so as we continue this discussion.

Anurag

 

deann.nixt's picture
First

At Hawkeye Community College, we have become fully aware that staff cannot be expected to teach all five subject areas.  We have redesigned our program so that students sign up for courses, much like a college setting.  Teachers have communicated their area of expertise and this is how we started creating classes.  During our morning classes we offer four different levels of math, two different writing, and two different reading in the content area courses.  Teachers feel more comfortable creating lessons that are aligned to the CCR standards and students are better served through this structure.  In addition, we have a homeroom class.  There is where an advisor is available to supervise the record keeping process for CASAS scores, practice test scores, and HiSET testing.  Homeroom is also a study hall that includes relationship building to increase retention through class discussion, family literacy courses, digital literacy courses, and transition assistance.

We just started this new structure in the July and finding much success.

 

DeAnn Nixt

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hello DeAnn,

This sounds like an amazing model!  Not only are teachers teaching to their strengths (makes sense!) thus reducing the usual stressors of being everything to everyone, but this probably serves the students' needs better too.  I particularly like the idea of creating a homeroom class where students can meet and build community.

Does each teacher teach a variety of different classes?  I mean, would a math teacher only teach math classes?  Is there a possibility for co-teaching? 

Are there other programs following a similar model?

 

 

deann.nixt's picture
First

At Hawkeye we have two math instructors.  One is comfortable with low and intermediate level math skills and the other addresses the higher level math skills.  Otherwise, we have one reading instructor and one writing instructors for the morning classes.  The math instructors do not co-teach, but they spend a significant amount of time working together to ensure the transition from one class to the next is smooth without skill gaps.  However, I am curious if co-teaching throughout a session would help the transition between math classes be more successful.

In preparation for this structure change and to check in on CCR alignment, last year I had staff members form into small groups to conduct a "Critical Friends Group".  This activity is from the Standards in Action training I received from Iowa's state trainer.  This allowed instructors to critique each other, but primarily it forced staff members to reflect on their own practices and to become better acquainted with the learning that is being accomplished in other classrooms.  I would recommend this activity for all classroom teachers.  It was a great way to building community within my teaching staff.

DeAnn Nixt

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

Good day Anurag and everyone. The stresses and challenges you outlined cover a good deal of the pressures educators and programs struggle with. I propose the following thoughts as one element that can help all the other pieces fall into place to reduce some of those stresses and challenges. I will post more on the other pieces later but I would like to start with proposing the following:

For those states and programs that have the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) in place or some equivalent, current state and federal laws that center on minimum seat time, especially for funding, impede potential innovations in education that can reduce the real stresses experienced in the field. 

In working with some Maine adult ed programs, we went from traditional education models (classes teaching to a norm) to learning labs in which teachers became mentors (of up to 20 students at a time) and were able to provide contextualized, individualized education. Using technology and many innovative, homegrown solutions, we created a system to really make an effective individualized CCRS system. All of our success was hampered by laws that state a student must be in a seat for x hours to get credits or for the program to receive funding. In some cases we would have students demonstrating high levels of success in all of their areas of need after only 10 weeks or so into a semester, yet the student still needed to show up for 5-6 more weeks to fulfill the seat time requirement. Altering these restrictive laws that have no statistical bearing in a standards based classroom can open the door to many innovations in the classroom that make success for the learner and the teacher much easier to achieve. It is ironic that almost every adult can acknowledge that we all learn at different rates and in different ways and yet our laws and funding formulas are still centered on a time based requirement. Without this barrier removed, true standards based programs will struggle, successes are stifled or impeded to the point of frustration, and our field of educators will continue to be wildly in flux. 

Does anyone view the removal of seat time requirements as a necessity to allow for innovations that may reduce the acknowledged stresses in the field today? Is there a disconnect between the seat time requirements that were set on statistics from traditional classrooms teaching to a average and product/service based evidence learners demonstrate that required standards have been met?

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Ed,

It sounds like the issue you are raising is seat time requirements vs. competency-based demonstration of knowledge or skills. Although you write about it in the context of students, do you also mean that this is an issue in teachers' professional development? Are you suggesting that professional developers and state policy makers consider removing seat time professional development requirements and replace them with competencies that teachers must demonstrate? Are you suggesting that this will allow for innovation and reduce stress for teachers as well as students? Would you also agree that this is a better way to measure teachers' knowledge and skills? If so, does Maine have a competency-based professional development system or is it moving toward that? If so tell us about it.

Others, if your state has removed seat time requirements for professional development and replaced them with requirements for demonstrating competencies, tell us about that or, if you have covered it earlier in a LINCS CoP post or there is a description on a web page please provide the link to that description.

Steve Schmidt, does North Carolina use a competency-based professional development approach with its adult PD certificates and credential system?

Although competency-based education, whether for students or teachers, has its own challenges, and takes time, knowledge, talent and commitment to design and implement well, it could be a promising direction for adult education professional development. I wonder what Anurag, other teachers and professional developers, and state education policy makers and administrators think of that approach. Competency-based approaches have been used in teacher education, medical education, and vocational education for some time, and competency-based education appears to be a new and growing trend in higher education, and perhaps K-12 education.

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

David and all, I try to address some of the questions below:

In adult educations there are benefits to competency based assessments for gauging student and teacher growth. States may find it easier to concentrate on one aspect or the other at any given time. In Maine, there is a concerted effort to implement College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) assessment for teachers by the implementation of digital badges. The formation of the actual badges and the system is currently in development, but the state adult ed team has a rough outline for target goals and potential forms of evidence that will be acceptable to verify a goal level is met. This badge  system is being designed strictly as a carrot or incentive for teachers to engage in the CCRS transitions our state feels are important to learner success. It may end up that directors look at these badges in different ways within their program, but from the state level, the badges concentrate on levels of implementation and performance that is supported with evidence. 

I am suggesting that state policy for seat team must be altered to allow for competency based progression for learners. It would be nice if discussions started up in states for teacher certification to take into account any state sanctioned badging or competency based credentials. I wonder which would be an easier venture. I suspect that state adult education teams probably have more latitude to alter certification requirements or allowances than they do to affect state learner policy for credits. It is simply horrible to watch as students buy into individualized, contextualized competency based work to find out they need to do seat time still. 

From a similar aspect, state and federal funding formulas must be altered to at least allow competency to replace seat time requirements when figuring out which students can be counted in funding determinations. I know of many adult ed programs that do their best to try to keep learners engaged for weeks after the student has already demonstrated completion simply so the program can count that student so they can get an extra sliver of that funding pie. Of course those formulas were derived from statics or data demonstrating positive connections between x number of hours and students academic success. I would counter that in every case where a student has demonstrated competency based growth to meet a program standard, there has been academic growth in the growth standards used in funding (CASAS for example). This is of course from my limited experience working with half a dozen adult ed programs. A full study would need to be run to convince a funding change as we all know that any time money is tampered with, people will be shaken up. 

In terms of the innovations making teacher's lives easier, the feedback I hear from teachers and program directors I have worked with has consistently indicated that competency based metrics help educators comply with so many other pressures and expectations. This shift to competency is not a simple one and is not just a plug and play implementation. It is a systemic change and the results often tie together many of the other mandates into a cohesive direction rather than trying to pigeon hole actions to fit in requirements. 

Finally, in reference to the efforts in Maine I can offer the following. The programs that I reference as moving to competency based focus are few and do not represent a state wide push for such. In Maine, local control rules and directors will often compare notes with each other to determine focal areas. I have found that after 1 program had some success with starting down the path of competency based tools, systems, professional development ... a couple other programs wanted to start up the next year. Then a few more jumped on board. Not all systems want to dive into the deep end of the pool either, but some programs are adopting one component or one part of a system to at least take a few baby steps and seeing how those changes affect learners and staff successes. As I cited above, the state team is working on a digital badge system to offer state wide competency based assessment in terms of progress in our state CCRS adoption plan. 

 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Good morning Edward,

Thank you for taking the time to share. It seems that Maine adult ed programs have devised some really innovative ways to create some excellent ways to provide contextualized and individualized instruction to your students. Although it is unfortunate that rigid state laws, that might make sense in some contexts, have to be applied across the board for all students.

In the programs that I am familiar with in Pennsylvania, there are no such minimum time requirements for the students.  If they happen to pass a particular GED test after only 6 weeks of classroom instruction, then that is considered great news.  How long it may take a student to reach their goals and move from point A to point B obviously would depend on the initial level at start.  We see that a lot particularly in ESL programs, where some students who enter the program have college degrees, whereas others may be almost illiterate in their native languages.  Fortunately, we are able to provide them all the time and space needed to move at their pace.

My feeling (as always) is that many of these issues (such as rigid state laws you point out, appropriate PD) could be solved by greater input and involvement of instructors who are on the ground and see the problems and issues on a daily basis.

I would love to hear more from instructors at other community based adult ed programs.  Do other states have a seat time requirement too? 

Edward: I would love to hear more about the learning lab models you are using in your programs.

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

I offered a bit more details of how the whole system is designed below in response to another post:

https://community.lincs.ed.gov/comment/12726#comment-12726

As a consultant have helped about half a dozen programs in the state at least begin adoption of parts of this process and there is no state wide push for such adoption. 

If the post linked here (and posted below) leaves you with questions, please share specifics you would like clarification on. 

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

Students may pass the GED at 17 without any required instruction and with instruction, they may take the test at any point. I seem to recall that Delaware used to have the highest pass rates on the GED perhaps because the state required six months of study before allowing a person to test. We find at our center that most students need quite a lot of seat time to pass the Social Studies and Math due to the depth and breadth of content and the typical issues that many students bring regarding math. The prompt for Reasoning through Language Arts seems considerably easier than the SS prompt due to that deeper content.

Stephanie

I Ramos's picture
First

I love reading everyone's comments and experiences. While I am reading I am resisting the urge to keep saying "Yes" out loud so as not to appear too wacky but it can be quite a relief to read that the programs and teachers I help are not dissimilar from others nationally and that our challenges are mostly all the same. And yet I wonder what can be done to truly affect the change we need to see.

I want to first address the questions posed by my colleague: 

Have you experienced similar feelings of being overwhelmed by all that is being asked of you?

All the time! There is always a sense of urgency with the staff and ultimately the challenge is to do everything in the right order at the right time to help the student get a good start and to aid persistence. Now that programs are starting to incorporate the Career Navigator into the process we are beginning to really refine this process but the real work id far from over. Overwhelmed can sometimes feel like an understatement. 

What is your view of the challenges you face as teachers in adult education?

I can only speak from my perspective as a trainer since I only teach on occasion when modeling best practices for teachers that request assistance of that nature and I understand that no matter how much programs try to "level" classes, there is still a multi-level aspect to each class. Even if one teaches a class of all level one ELA there will be students that have education in their country of origin, some holding advanced degrees, and those that have no literacy at all in their first language with every level in between and in a variety of languages too. This puts the ELA teacher in a tight spot especially if they are new to Adult Education. There is a lot to learn initially when a new teacher is hired; Principles of Adult Learning, Differentiated instruction techniques, lesson planning, not to mention program standard operating procedures, policy, and more.  

In surveying teachers they all mention the same challenge; TIME! As budgets are stretched to the max and on the heels of major budget cuts after the economic downturn programs cut already limited class times even more. Good instruction requires not only relevance but also rigor. It can be difficult to truly determine if a class is sufficiently rigorous as some professionals in education can't even define the term or tell you if their class is rigorous. In adult education (and in my own crude fashion of stating things) rigor requires a combination of good instructional curriculum that challenges students thinking and problem solving, pushes them to grow and become resilient which prepares them for life, career and higher education demands with sufficient class time to keep a momentum of learning. Considering all the policy, procedure, grant required compliance, testing , assessment, academic advising, goal setting and so much more it can be a challenge for teachers to find the time to "get it all in". 

I started writing a lot more here but have decided to spare you all and submit it as a post on my linked in account. 

What programmatic support(s) do you feel would be most helpful to you in your practice?

Programs are beginning to truly define and incorporate the role of the Career Navigator which I believe will be a great improvement to Adult Education. The Career Navigator role will relieve the instructor from assessment, intake, registration, academic advising and case management of students because the Career Navigators main purpose is to provide the "wrap around support" needed to ensure student success. Again, funding and time can be issues but we are on the way to really refining this at Alamo Colleges through braided funded options and managed enrollment. 

I feel we need to work to create a common vision for what it is we seek to achieve nationally and locally and not just in broad terms but in a very specific statement. The vision on WIOA says: " To achieve and maintain an integrated, job-driven workforce system that links our diverse, talented workforce to our nation’s businesses and improves the quality of life for our citizens."  I think we can all agree when we can create a common vision for what it is we seek to achieve then perhaps we can more easily flow with WIOA and with what the economy and society demands of a literate, educated and participatory populous. 

 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Thanks again for taking the time to share. As a teacher, I also feel very strongly that good instruction (incorporating rigorous as well as relevant classroom teaching) are really important.  As a coach and program manager the question I feel is most important to ask my team members when reviewing their lesson plans, is why are you using this material or what do you want your students to learn.  But I also feel, that oftentimes, teachers are being asked to take on ever more responsibilities and this may come at the cost of quality instruction.

I was intrigued to hear about the Career Navigator, since I have no experience with it.  It does sound like it will help teachers by reducing some responsibilities. Are there other programs that have experience with it?

Anurag

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

We had great success with this in the SUN (Success Unlimited) program from a few years back; so many GED graduates cannot persist in college because they need much more help with wraparound services than their (generally) middle class/upper class counterparts. Our current program called BOOST Boosting Opportunities and Occupations for Self-Sufficient Transitions takes the best of the career navigator piece and combines it with other services a person needs to persist in college. We don't necessarily help someone who is homeless and has no transportation and and and...we want someone who is somewhat stable and perhaps already working as a CNA and wants to enter school for the RN degree that will  truly provide a sustainable wage/career. We want to be in this for the person over the long-term--work with fewer adults to attain longer-range, successful outcomes.

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

Jackie has laid out the challenges very well, and unfortunately, they are the same challenges that existed since I switched over to adult ed 15 years ago: funding, lack of full support for AE as its own entity not as a stepchild or invisible/ignorable component of K-12 or Higher Ed etc.;and consequently,  an unreliable, inconsistent stable of quality teachers. AE too often depends on teachers who have the DNA of a dedicated educator regardless of pay and benefits, and that isn't a workable model for sustained growth or success.

We recognized that point long ago--if you want not just true dedication but quality teaching, you have to pay for it. We have very little turnover at our center because teachers know that they'll have a decent salary and benefits and that we do internal PD based on the team's needs rather than what the new-new old-old canned program says we need or latest trend calls for. Case in point: we are gearing up for our second intensive seven week focus on science and social studies, and my colleague is concerned about how we'll organize 300+ years of American "enduring issues" as well as the other pieces of the SS test, so that's where we'll be spending our PD hour for the next month.

The last time we had turnover was with the new test when several of our greyheads (as I call myself) said that they didn't want to take on new duties or do homework prepping for 2014 and thereafter, and while  I miss their expertise, the truth is that GED 2014 does require more of our teachers, so thank goodness that we DO pay a decent wage and offer benefits. I recommend that centers  look really closely at their bottom line and see whether the difference between paying a bunch of PT vs. paying for a few veteran teachers would break their respective banks.

Furthermore, we have no glamorous mascot in AE, so we have to be our own advocates at statehouses--another add-on of time, that most diabolical of taskmasters.

Joyce Hinkson's picture
First

California's story may be a little different than other states. Until 2008, California had a history of over 150 years of commitment to adult education. In 2009, fiscal woes spurred by a deep recession and budget shortfalls resulted in the Legislature enacting the biggest change to California's school system in decades. New legislation set in motion a plan for 'flexible' funding - the ability for school district administrators and School Board members to relax spending restrictions on more than 40 categorical programs (which included adult education) and spend the money for any educational purpose. Flexibility was extended to 2014-15.

Adult schools in California's K-12 districts were especially impacted by flexible funding as districts directed resources away from adult education programs to protect the K-12 core population. In 2012, a review of adult education programs found that as a direct result of the new funding model, 23 of the state's 30 largest school districts made major cuts to adult programs, and one district completely eliminated the program they had implemented for 73 years (http://edsource.org/wp-content/publications/pub12-MetroAdultSchoolFinal.pdf). Although the fiscal landscape has finally improved, adult education continues to struggle in the aftermath of the devastating cuts. Where there was once a strong, experienced full-time adult education workforce, now many adult educators are working part-time at more than one agency.

In 2013-14, California appropriated funds for two-year planning and implementation grants to be provided to 70 regional consortia to develop plans for adult education. The California Community College Chancellor's Office and the California Department of Education are working in partnership to oversee the regional plans. Will this signify a resurgence in adult education? The March 2015 Adult Education Regional Planning Process Report (http://ab86.cccco.edu/Portals/7/docs/2015_AB86_AdultEducation%20Legislative%20Report.pdf) offers some encouragement.

I would be interested in learning how other states support their adult education workforce.

Joyce Hinkson

deann.nixt's picture
First

In Iowa, there has never been a line in the state budget for Adult Basic Education programs.  All ABE programs are connected with one of the 15 community colleges, which has been the source of supplemental funding once federal dollars were spent.  In 2013, Iowa ABE programs we were granted state dollars.  As with anything else, the funding comes with guidelines that are not always in align with our specific program needs - but we are very happy to have it.  To ensure our state funding continues, my director works with the college to invite state legislators to our building.  These visits include tours of classrooms and time arranged for legislators to visit with students.  At Hawkeye we try to make ourselves present in the eyes of the college and the state government.  Without their support our program would not exist.  It takes intention and hard work to be noticed, but that is part of the game when seeking government funding.

I Ramos's picture
First

Thank you for sharing about the structure in Iowa. I got to meet Alex Harris at COABE in Denver and you are very fortunate to have a progressive thinker at the top. He seemed to be someone that is continually trying to stay ahead of the curve and paradigmatic shift. You bring up a great dynamic about engaging decision makers and informing them about the challenges we face in Adult Education. Too often educational funding is in the hands those that have never worked in education much less even know and understand the critical role Adult Education plays in our economic future. Thanks for sharing about Iowa.

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Joyce,

It is sad (and counterproductive) that resources are being directed away from adult ed in California.  As I mentioned in my post this morning –nearly half the U.S. workforce today, approximately 52 million adults, has only a high school education or less, while 25 million workers aged 18 to 64 lack even a high school diploma or GED, which should really lead to an increase in funding!   Over the years I had developed a deep admiration for adult education in CA, it seemed to be in the forefront of a lot of innovative programs!

I can't speak for other states and how they fund adult education, but in Pennsylvania "Adult basic education programs are funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Adult Education, to provide a full range of instructional services that prepare Pennsylvanians looking to develop the basic skills necessary to participate fully in the education of their children, find and keep family-sustaining employment, or obtain a secondary school credential. The Division of Adult Education also monitors GED® testing in Pennsylvania, provides professional development for adult education and family literacy program administrators and teachers, and provides training for volunteer tutors of adult education." 

What this means is that community-based programs providing GED/ABE/ESL and Family Literacy services as well as volunteer run tutoring programs are all funded through the Division of Adult Education.  Many programs such as EL/Civics are funded through federal government grants (administered through PDE) that are competitive.

How do other states support adult education?

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues,

What is the broader landscape impacting teaching as Anurag describes?  Here are a few things I’ve pulled together, with contributions from David Rosen. Please let me know what I’ve missed! 

The landscape has changed significantly in recent years, including:

2013 — The release of the U.S. results of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Survey of Adult Skills assessment on literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PST-RE) finds that in the U.S.:

  • Adults in the U.S. are stagnating in literacy and doing worse in numeracy, and also doing poorly in PST-RE skills.
  • Adults here have much lower overall scores than the international average in all three domains.
  • We have a very large share of low skilled adults, those who perform below level 2.
  • The achievement gap we see in our children persists as our children grow up to be adults.
  • Adults who come from poorly-educated families are 10 times more likely to have low skills.
  • Our younger generations, 18-24 year olds, are only slightly outpacing, or are doing worse than older adults, unlike in many industrialized countries.

2014 — From GED to HSEs

In 2014, the GED Testing Service revamped their exam for the first time since 2002. Not only was the new test more expensive and some say twice as difficult. Students who did not pass it by December 31, 2013 had their slates wiped clean and would need to start all over again.

This brought an era of a competitive landscape, with some states using the Educational Testing Service HiSET test or Data Recognition Corporation’s TASC exam, or a combination of exam offerings. Students taking the GED in 2014 and after would have to take a computerized test, which in-and-of-itself requires computer skills. The test itself shifted from measuring high school proficiency to also include college and career readiness, and is aligned with standards for succeeding in college or careers. (USA Today) (Updated Aug 2015, which state uses which test)

2014 — WIA Becomes WIOA

The legislation that provides for federally-funded adult education programs is reauthorized, changing the Workforce Investment Act to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. This is leading to:

  • increased demands to meet the new College and Career Readiness Standards
  • integrating basic skills instruction and English language acquisition with workforce preparation
  • increased accountability through standardized tests that measure basic skills levels

Some highlights in the new WIOA include:

  • WIOA’s focus on transitions:
  • Preparing learners for HSE and transitioning to college and careers;
  • Integrating basic skills instruction with workforce preparation;
  • Providing Integrated Education and Training (IET); and
  • Providing Integrated English Literacy (IEL) and Civics Education (providing EL/Civics in combination with IET).
  • Creating State Unified or Combined Plans that will impact reporting requirements for teachers and program administrators
  • Teacher Quality & Effectiveness: Requiring all states to have quality professional development programs and provide technical assistance (and assistance with integrating technology)

2013-2015 Labor Market

2015 — Incarceration and Recidivism

Increasing interest at the federal level in:

Lack of federal and/or state interest in supporting:

  • The needs of those who are not in, and/or who do not want to be in, the workforce: the elderly, and people with disabilities that prevent them from working
  • Accountability that is based on learners’ goals
  • Adult basic education research — we still don’t have answers to the most basic questions about our field and about what works

There are some trends that are not necessarily supported by policy, for example

  • Growth of online and blended learning
  • Growth in new credentialing models, for example micro-credentials/digital badges (See the July 2015 guest discussion of Online Learning Portfolios and Microcredentials)
  • In most states, and at the federal level, reduction or level funding of adult basic education
  • Continued high rates of employing part-time versus full-time teachers.
  • Low investment in adult education professional development. The average investment in adult education professional development is far lower than $1,000 per paid and unpaid volunteer staff member, adding all state leadership and national activities dollars, and even after adjusting for program investments (Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development). This is in sharp contrast with the $18,000 school districts spend per teacher annually on professional development (New Teacher Project report).

Ongoing Need and Demand for Adult Education

While this may seem a bit overwhelming, perhaps it underscores the fact that the adult education teaching workforce is indeed very busy! The question this raises for me, is how productive is all of this "busy-ness" making us? What needs to change so that we may work smarter, not necessarily harder?

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

Jackie and all, I have had some successes in working with a few adult ed programs in transitioning from traditional classroom models to more of a learning lab model that is individualized and contextualized. Teachers share that they feel much more effective and are often dealing with less negative stresses in these environments. 

For such a transition away from traditional classes driven by text resources, there are some required parts that need to be in place. Primarily, technology has to be in place and staff need a consistent professional development plan that frequently offers concrete integration practice in context to the adoption of the tools and systems that are being rolled out. In Maine, we have had the benefit of a grant funded technology integration support for 5 years. This support has helped many staff become more comfortable with technology and increase flexibility within the ever changing technologies available. Although this grant ended this last year, we continue to offer online training to new teachers or those teachers feeling they need more support. Additionally, program directors have started funding local technology support pd into their staff time during the year because they have seen the systemic changes that having a technology comfortable staff can provide. 

We also needed to come up with a practical, easy to implement way to do the following:

Create an intake process that immediately gets relevant information shared with instructors. When an instructor sees they have Ed Latham come into class today, the instructor can simply type in Ed's name and poof, all intake information that can help guide instruction is right there for the teacher to quickly review. 

Soon after intake, the instructors work with each individual to explore college and career goals. This again uses technology to flow from reflection to exploration to planning in such a way that teachers can, at a glance, see three college/career goals the learner could viably be working towards. This paves the way for contextualization. 

All of the credit bearing curriculum has been replaced with product based learning guides with suggested timelines. Each product is offered in a way that learners can still contextualize while demonstrating the standards the learner still needs to demonstrate. These curriculum guides offer the instructor the skeletal goals of the course while having the flexibility of how the learning happens and what products may be produced. 

When looking at how the learning happens, instructors collaborate daily through digital communications and face to face sharing resources, ideas, suggestions and problems. Utilizing social networks, staff have been able to come up with many solutions in very timely ways. Very often, learners are pulled into this process in that the learner is often connected to professionals in the careers indicated by the college and career intake information. The learner initiates discussions with these professionals and often gains insights on areas to study (EX: mixing hair dye color for beauticians helped one student easily demonstrate many standards centered on ratios in math). Often these explorations by instructor and learner indicate products that easily demonstrate conceptual, procedural and application components during the process. 

We have goal setting and tracking systems we created as well to keep track of so many individuals. Without this kind of tracking, it would be so much more difficult for instructors to really keep up.

As learners complete products, we have the student create a collection of their evidence. From there, many develop a portfolio with reflections on each selected piece from their collection. 

This whole process may seem so daunting for those that have not experienced it, but please keep in mind that this is established within 3-5 years. Once it is established, we have found that new teachers coming in often experience a few weeks of shell shock before the peer support and mentoring kicks in like a morphine IV drip :) There are many innovation and parts that needed specialists to set up these systems and the directors had to invest in consistent and frequent professional development, but in each case, learners are finding more success, retention is higher and many other positives are reported each semester. Unfortunately, I don't have hard data to share as I have not often been privy to enough of the data that could be used to draw concrete findings of these shifts. Having helped support three programs extensively and almost a dozen with pieces of this process I have personally seen many of those stresses we normally associate with adult education shift away from issues of learner retention, teacher support, teacher stresses, teacher isolation, community involvement. The stresses in these individualized programs now seem to center on standards like, supporting part time staff, real wages for professionals doing this work and systemic barriers (see my seat time post from earlier). Additionally there is an increasing stress that diagnostics, instructional materials, and mandatory standardized assessments are WAY OUT OF LINE from each other and more importantly have little to no alignment with College and Career Readiness Standards. This last stress has become the focal point for many local energies being put into sifting through Internet resources or creating home grown solutions to create the resources needed. 

I do not propose any one system will help all work smarter and not harder, but I have shared above how a few programs have experienced this shift. In each program, directors and instructors feel more empowered and in control of successes and learners share a perception of increased opportunities in learning, expressing and applying their learning experiences. 

How do others perceive ways we can work smarter rather than just working harder?

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Colleagues,

Ed Latham has observed:

"there is an increasing stress that diagnostics, instructional materials, and mandatory standardized assessments are WAY OUT OF LINE from each other and more importantly have little to no alignment with College and Career Readiness Standards."

Although a discussion about this problem may be well beyond the current topic, if Ed is correct, and if this is a problem in many or all states, it needs attention by state and federal policy makers. I know that in my state several years ago, when a study was done of the alignment of existing NRS approved standardized tests with the state curriculum frameworks, the alignment was so poor that state policy makers invested a sizable chunk -- I believe over $1 million  -- to develop a new standardized test that from the beginning was aligned with state standards. Again, this is a problem for another discussion, and for perhaps state directors of adult basic education to discuss, but it is refreshing, Ed to see the problem named, especially as it may be creating such problems for students and teachers.

Do other teachers and program administrators here see it as a problem?

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

A Sagar's picture
Ten

I can speak to this from the perspective of someone who has been involved in teaching the EL/Civics curriculum.  This is a curriculum that is focused on helping ESL students gain the citizenship skills (including English language) necessary for integrating into society.  Hence we need to focus on American History and Civics. But the CASAS or other similar tests students are assessed on are based on a series of life skills competencies.

Anurag

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

Sadly, it seems our mandatory tests are slow to update. Our CASAS Life Skills tests here were last revised in 1978! Think about how much our world has changed even in the last 5 years, never mind 25 years. Is it any wonder that many learners look at these tests and just laugh? Sadly state funding formula are based on showing academic growth on "life skills" that were derived a generation ago. 

deann.nixt's picture
First

CASAS is a disappointment and seems like a hindrance more than anything else.  I think what is most disappointing is that almost everyone in the Adult Education profession would agree that CASAS is out of date, yet it is still used.  How can our voices not be heard for so long!

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

Ed, 

I am with you! Our "new" ED (she's in year 3) saw the need for enhanced technology at every level, and we finally have an electronic database that every teacher can access from her class computer and pull up a student's file with all pertinent info in a moment--no more cumbersome walking back and forth for paper files. We can all make notes and relay them, and it is transforming our ability to share info. Our ED bought Chrome books for every classroom and the students now use EdReady, a state-offered math program that many students love working on--individualized plans, of course. The LA/SS students learn how to compose on the computer before they ever walk into the actual GED test.

EDs need to recognize that tech is here to stay and bring along teaching and staff teams and help funders to support tech in the classroom. We learned years ago that you don't take students to the computer lab; you bring the lab into the classroom, and I can honestly say that we are now fully there. Complaining about CBT is a waste of time IMO, and I look forward to bringing more adult educators on board who use tech comfortably and can help our diverse AE population into that world as well.

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Hi, Evidence-Based PD Colleagues -

Jackie's comment on WIOA and its increased demands for meeting CCRS, standardized testing accountability, and integration of basic skills and AELL instruction with workforce preparation is something that will take more time to unpack as states and their partners begin implementation.  The Moving Pathways Forward initiative has produced a series of four podcasts to support better understanding of how adult education and career pathways partners can work together. 

The first podcast, A Tale of Two CTEs: Secondary and Postsecondary Impacts on Career Pathways Advancement, begins this conversation.  I encourage you to check this out, and share your comments and questions here, or in the Career Pathways community.

Best,

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

 

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

On the one hand, we are now told to focus on credentials--GED/HSE and hop into college or the workplace and stay there for 12 months so that we can count you. On the other hand, the feds still appear to be saying to help "the most in need"--often students who for whatever varied reasons are highly unlikely to reach the goal of a GED. AEC's simply don't have the staff to handle both ends of this spectrum, and our teachers want and need to focus on the students who are most likely to reach outcomes that state and federal grants require. Has anyone wondered what is to happen/will happen to the population at the lower end of the adult ed spectrum?

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Hi, Stephanie -

My sense is that some of the needs of these more involved learners will have to be addressed in partnerships with other agencies, such as state vocational rehabilitation.  WIOA supports innovative ways to improve services to these shared clients, by leveraging resources from multiple stakeholders. If you're interested in learning more about WIOA's plans for delivering high quality and effective services for all, check out the resources available through WorkforceOne's Innovation and Opportunity Network.

Mike

Career Pathways Moderator

michaelcruse74@gmail.com

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Good morning Mike,

Partnerships are a great way to leverage resources in order to help students either move on to college,  find well paying jobs or if they are immigrants, to integrate into society.  And programs need to look at a variety of ways to achieve these outcomes.

One of these ways could be, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, for teachers to co-teach, each focusing on area of expertise.  So for example, the language arts teacher would focus on content and vocabulary, while the math teacher could focus on specific algebra problems. An example being the I-Best (see How I-Best Works: Findings from a Field Study of Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program, CCRC Sept 2010).  Also, one could conceivably broaden this model by bringing in "experts" from the job industries to be in the classroom working with the lead teacher.

Any further thoughts on this model?

-Anurag

 

schmidtsj's picture
Ten

It is clear that one of the keys to helping students succeed in this era of more rigorous HSE tests and WIOA career infused instruction expectations is high quality teaching from well prepared instructors.  We recently did a research study in North Carolina that showed that credentialed adult ed instructors performed better in the classroom than those instructors who were not credentialed.  The results of the study are available here: http://www.nccommunitycolleges.edu/sites/default/files/basic-page-file-uploads/ccr/research_focus_report2015.pdf   While I am sure no one is shocked to discover this, the challenges of getting a mostly part time teaching force to attend professional development (PD) are numerous.  In recent years, programs have faced:

- Fewer students as the economy has begun to improve

- Funding cut backs as a result of smaller enrollments

- Instructors being given less hours due to the dictates of the Affordable Care Act 

While I cannot solve any of the problems mentioned above, we have developed a solution in North Carolina that has seen professional development touch more part time instructors than ever before.  Instructors can earn a variety of credentials by taking prescribed six hour face to face workshops that are offered at locations across the state.  Instructors can earn a Core Credential, and ESOL credential (Using LINCS courses as an online pre-requisite), a Reading Specialty Credential (based on the six day STAR reading training) and three different Adult Secondary Education credentials.  The credentials are described in more detail here: http://www.nccommunitycolleges.edu/college-and-career-readiness/training-calendar

Some programs have offered a pay boost to those instructors who complete credentials.  Other programs have mandated that an instructor complete a credential in order to maintain their employment.  Anecdotal evidence from instructors who attend these workshops tells us that they feel more equipped to teach well, see more students making post test gains, have better student retention, and feel more professional.  

It was my joy last week to conduct a professional development on our state adult ed content standards.  One of our attendees had been teaching for 67 years!  That an 87 year old still feels the need for professional development motivates me to no end!  smiley

What are you doing in your state to encourage part timers to attend PD?

deann.nixt's picture
First

I wish I could say Iowa was as progressive as North Carolina.  At the state level, all instructors without an Iowa Teaching License are required to receive at least 12 clock hours of professional development annually.  When you think about all of the initiatives that are in place, 12 hours is in no way enough.  Having exceptions for instructors with a teaching license has caused some grumbling, but it is a reality within our program.

At Hawkeye Community College, unlike other colleges in the state, we are able to pay part-time staff for planning and for professional development.  In addition, my director is very supportive of staff that desire to attend conferences, webinars, trainings, and other learning opportunities.  This is encouraging to the staff that are motivated to grow within their profession, but it is not enough motivation for all staff members.

The barrier that I run into is the paid time allotted to a part-time staff member each week.  Staff want guaranteed hours causing them to sign up for many courses to teach, but leave no room for professional development.

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Steve,

The North Carolina PD certificates seem to me to be adult education micro-credentials that can stack up to a credential, with some programs offering pay incentives for the certificates, and perhaps others only for the whole credential. Did I understand the model correctly? If so, this seems to be at least part of an an adult educator career pathway. Would you agree?

This seems like a sensible PD model. I especially like that there is a return on a teacher's investment, at least for some teachers, for the time they spend earning the certificates. Does the state pay for the face-to-face PD workshops? Are teachers also asked to pay for the workshops? Is there online instruction as part of the model?

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

schmidtsj's picture
Ten

David,

Your characterization of the credentialing process is valid.  

The state does provide the funding for the workshops.  An online component (LINCS online PD) is a pre-requisite for the ESOL classes.  

Steve

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi Steve,

There is no doubt that well planned and well thought out professional development is an excellent way to support teachers in moving forward with the new expectations. I am glad that some good models are being implemented in North Carolina and it is great to see data to support them.  Am I correct in my understanding that the teachers are paid for this PD?  Also, is there some other form of ongoing PD in addition to the credentialing?  And finally, are these models valid for all the adult literacy programs in NC?  Or do they apply more specifically to the community college system?

Look forward to hearing more from you,

-Anurag

Stephanie Moran's picture
Ten

Right now, all AE instructors, PT or otherwise, are required to start coursework within six months or portfolio work toward the Adult Basic Education Authorization (ABEA) and have it in hand within 36 months, and this is a costly endeavor for almost all instructors, certainly those only teaching 6 or 8 hours per week. Centers must either use precious funding to support a teacher's coursework or it must come out of one's own pocket. Teachers may also "portfolio out" of a class, and this is another tedious workload. And no, that PD work is not supported financially by the state nor is extra prep time given by any center I know. MANY experienced, credentialed instructors opt out and we lose their decades of expertise due to this state requirement. Furthermore, few teachers find the courses fully valuable, especially our credentialed teachers who bring much knowledge to our tables. 

I would like to see PD that is much more content-based and less esoteric/theoretical and far less academic/college course oriented. GED teachers need content support more than anything else.

In an ideal world, the corporate test companies would create a PRAXIS-type test that an adult educator can take and be done with, frankly, but apparently there are not enough of us to warrant the R & D to create an appropriate test.

Late in the day, so I'm somewhat hardboiled here, I expect.

Stephanie

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi Stephanie,

I couldn't agree more with you about making PD useful.  What would be most helpful for teachers would be instructional techniques that work well, lesson planning ideas (especially to help align with the CCRS) and sufficient resources.  But there are too many times when what PD should look like doesn't really take the views and needs of teachers into consideration.  Perhaps agencies should have a team of teachers (ABE/GED/ESL) work with the program administrators to provide guidance with this.

I'm sure we would all agree that PD is necessary for all teachers, whether they teach 6 hours/ week or 20 hours/ week.  We all need and want to keep learning.  But needless to say, if we really want teachers (and administrators) to be really serious about PD, then there needs to be a dedicated source of funding to pay for the time spent  on it.

Anurag

schmidtsj's picture
Ten

Anurag,

Many instructors are paid for professional development but a significant number are not.  This puts instructors in the position of losing income if they attend PD since they lose their normal teaching time by leaving class to attend PD.  

The credentialing is the main form of PD in NC.  Most of the other PD that goes on in local programs concerns filling out paperwork correctly.  

The community college system oversees most adult education in NC.  There are also Community Based Literacy organizations, most of which also receive state/federal funding.  

Thanks,

Steve

I Ramos's picture
First

What are you doing in your state to encourage part timers to attend PD?

I have been providing Professional Development in the San Antonio Texas region for decades (yikes) and through out the state of Texas for years (phew).

Programs faced a change in the way PD was funded and how it is organized (it's complicated a discussion for another time and not from me). Many of the teachers that regularly attend my training and maintain email and phone contact with me indicated that they were not seeing any available PD events. With the help and cooperation of a local AEL provider in San Antonio I organized a PD series that I called "Friday Night  Sessions". Based on the PD surveys from the area I had determined that part time teachers do not like to "give up" their whole Saturday for PD, they can't during a weeknight as they may have full-time day job with AEL as their part-time evening job. So, in the Friday Night sessions I offered themed PD (Casino Night, Disco Night, Fiesta and Career Night) I served refreshments, played themed music and had learning activities that worked with the theme of the night. I provided resources (little stuff teachers usually buy themselves like post-it, pencils, etc). Don't get me wrong, the themes were not the "topic" nor were they the title of the PD; the career fair was "Contextualized Teaching and Learning", Fiesta was the "ELA Best Practices and Strategies", Casino Night was Building Student Persistence, Motivation and Resilience with the Disco Night being the "Teaching with Communication Scenarios". I averaged about 35 teachers each night. These were teachers that came on their own without being "volun-told" to be there. 

From this I learned so much, that for PD to be meaningful we need to make sure that someone is watching what the instructors are doing in class. How is the PD impacting the practice. They treasure what you measure and if the supervisor is checking mere;y for grant compliance items and not for instructional strength in a classroom then the instructors gets the message that  the practices they adopt from PD are not important. 

PD should have some mentoring involved. During the Course of the series the instructors would email me and call me on my cell phone to ask questions they may have. This is only possible when the trainer shares their contact and is okay with being called. I truly believe that PD without follow-up of some kind is malpractice. 

Professional Learning Circles are helpful. Some of the teachers formed their own little learning circles. They collaborated and shared ideas and resources. Programs need help forming these Professional Learning Communities not just in the classroom but among the instructional staff. If they can master it for their own practice they can begin to build that dynamic in the classroom.

I learned more but I fear I am over posting. Will save the rest for my Linked in post. 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Irene,

I am impressed with what you do. I never would have guessed that teachers would show up and benefit from Friday night PD, but it is clear that you have done amazing things to make it succeed! Although I don't know how replicable a Friday night model is, I hope professional developers here who share your concern for reaching part-time teachers might consider trying Friday night PD sessions, perhaps as the face-to-face part of a blended learning model.

You mention mentoring. Anurag has mentioned coaching. Last year I worked with a PD center that was trying out coaching, and it wasn't as successful as we had hoped. Could you, Anurag, and others who have experience with successful mentoring and coaching models describe them for us, please? What do these models do? What are the features that make them successful?

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

 

 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi David,

I do have some experience with the peer coaching model at two levels.  In the agency that I worked for in Philadelphia, we adopted a model of peer coaching last year.  I was peer coach for the ESL teachers (we had a rather large ESL program).  My responsibilities included reviewing lesson plans as well as going into classes on a regular basis to observe classroom instruction and then follow up with a reflection as to what was working and what wasn't working as well.  In general, this worked pretty well.  The teachers and I had a good relationship from having worked closely for many years previous to implementation of this model.  We had respectful and mutually beneficial discussions. I always went into a class as someone who had as much to learn as to teach and I think that served me well.  But another key element here was the fact that I was also teaching some classes, and I strongly suspect that really helped the "buy-in" from the coachees.  Which teacher amongst us wants to hear someone telling them that their lesson would work better if they did such and such, from a person who is not a teacher?! 

Again I feel that peer coaching can work well, only if the teachers themselves are initially brought into the planning process.  If it is implemented as a top down idea, it may not be as successful.

I am currently working as ESL coach with the Pennsylvania PD system.  This is a more recent assignment, for which I have high hopes and am excited about.  Blended coaching via webinars as well as face to face is a potentially useful model (especially with budget constraints).  Although I must admit, I haven't had too many takers so far.  Perhaps, I need greater outreach as Irene suggested.

I Ramos's picture
First

Mr Rosen,

Thanks for the comment. Don't get me wrong there is always Coaching involved in good instructional settings. Coaching is so multifaceted but if key people can learn the strong foundation pieces then it can be used masterfully. I think the issue with good coaching is building capacity in the supervisory staff. You have to have good coaches with the necessary skills; that is knowledge about a variety of working pieces like the Principles of Adult Learning, SEL. Do the supervisors know what to look for in the classroom? Or are they mired down with compliance pieces that do not reach good instruction, proper use of SEL (social and emotional literacy), and effective practices. Coaching is very necessary but there has to be a good foundation and the habit has to be built within program structures.

I participated in mentoring in the past and it was all very "forced" with a designated number of meetings, phone calls, observations, etc in order for the mentor to receive a stipend. Thus it became a race to finish to receive payment for some, thus it was too contrived to be meaningful. The program did not continue the mentoring for long. However there is the possibility of creating mentoring by encouraging network building and relationship building among teachers and coaches. After training when teachers come up to me and ask me questions I offer them my contact number and ask them to stay in touch and let me know how the strategies and skills worked or not in their classroom.  When you make yourself available you increase the network of support. In this manner I become more of a mentor to them and I do it because I genuinely care not for any pay. I have made many friends with teachers in the San Antonio area and encourage a reflective practice for them to grow as a teacher. We need to step out of ourselves and create learning networks, admit we don't know everything and there are people out there that are willing to share their knowledge. If we can learn to say "I don't have the answer...but I can get it for you" or "I know a resource that can help" we then model a growth mindset. I guess my Friday Night Sessions were so successful because the PT teachers are my friends and I am a part of their support network.

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Irene, and others,

Thanks Irene for your insights on when coaching/mentoring does and doesn't work. It sounds like, from your experience, relationship and trust need to come first, and mentoring and coaching can grow from informal sharing of peer-to-peer professional discussion, or "shop talk".

Your comment about a "network of support" made me wonder if you -- or others here -- have suggestions about how the LINCS Communities of Practice, like this one, could become better networks of support for teachers. Do you, or do others, have suggestions about how these online communities -- or online micro-groups of these communities -- could take advantage of the good will and professional experience that many people here have, and the expertise they are willing to share in peer-to-peer discussions. That sharing does happen now, including in this very discussion; however, I would like to better understand -- especially from a teacher perspective -- how to improve and expand that dimension of the LINCS communities. Any suggestions?

David J. Rosen

Moderator, Technology and Learning and Program Management CoPs

djrosen123@gmail.com

 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi David,

I appreciate your thoughts about creating and expanding an online "network of support".  The basis already exists in this online forum. The challenge would be a building of trust.  That would require time and patience.  In my experience mentoring and coaching are most easily accomplished between a group of colleagues who see each other regularly and have developed a level of trust, camaraderie as well as a deep respect for each other.  Definitely could happen online, but would take more thought.

Anurag

I Ramos's picture
First

David,

It is amazing how ideas can pop in the head of one person to another, case in point; I was driving to a PD event with my "road dog", mentor  and Co-trainer Laura Barrera and was sharing with her the discussions that were occurring on the Lincs board. She asked me about helping her get over the learning curve of technology to be able to get onto the Lincs site and participate in the discussions. I know that teachers and other trainers would greatly benefit from this online platform however there are some barriers that can impact the usability of the platform. 

1) Getting the word out! How do we spread the word about such sites and forums in order to reach the "boots on the ground"? I myself found my way in by a series of twists and turns. I received the link to the "PD Gauntlet" article via the TCALL listserv maintained by Harriet Smith. I then contacted Jackie Taylor whom I had recently had the pleasure of meeting at the TexBEST summit in San Antonio. She then directed me to the Lincs discussion board and that is how I landed here. But that is not the end of my journey.... 

       Possible Solution: If there is a site that is for teachers I cannot think of it, but that can be Lincs if the marketing and branding creates that image. Currently teachers may stumble upon Lincs as a resource for instructional lesson ideas, plans and materials but as far as it being seen as a platform for connecting, sharing and discussing that would take a user promotion type approach similar to social media. Include an option on Lincs to "share with or invite a friend"  . In that manner Lincs can grow their user base. 

2) Bridging the tech gap. Far too many of our teachers are immigrants to technology that may not see an online discussion board as something in their comfort zone. It is unfortunate that we still suffer from a serious technology gap when it comes to our instructional staff in education. I know that Texas Workforce Commission (funding source for AEL in Texas) has prioritized incorporation of technology into the classroom and yet this is still and area where adult education struggles. The funding is not there for all programs to have technology in each classroom and in situations where the technology is there the equipment remains under utilized. With that said, in order to build the habit of participating in forum discussions one would have to build this into  the habit and practice of teaching. 

      Possible Solution: Make the it easier to get on the site, sign up and navigate in the way a social media site is easy to navigate. There are several reasons why Facebook is so popular and one of them is the user-friendly nature of the site and another is the fact that it has become an information source of varied topics based on user preference. It was a challenge to finally get to a place where I was on a discussion in Lincs that beckoned me to respond and even then my temptation was to lurk. I finally introduced myself and then the discussions started but initially I was unsure. Again we need to assure teachers that they are in a safe easy to use forum that will support them and assist them if they have questions. 

3) Navigating the site.- As I stated before when I got on the Lincs Community site it was not really apparent at first blush where I should go and what I should do. I worked my way through by trial and error and now I am learning from others. However, so many sites have gotten us used to the technology leading us where to go next to sign up and how to get from here to there that some people may lose interest if they have trouble signing up. 

       Possible Solution- This may be a simple fix and as easy as adding on dialogue boxes that respond to FAQ easily accessed from the home page.

4) Motivation to participate. Why did I brave the tech jungle to get to your discussion page? I was very motivated by the possibility of sharing ideas to improve PD in Adult Education as it is a passion of mine. I wanted to get ideas and share what I know and my experiences. I wanted to make sure that the discussion includes big ideas like SEL, Brain Based Concepts and multiple modes of learning (VAK). 

       Possible Solution: Tap in to what teachers really care about! They want to know how to best teach in a multi-level class, how to cut down on planning time, where to get resources and lesson plans, and how they can best help students. If the word gets out that teachers can easily sign up for Lincs and can easily access such information then you may begin to get more teacher input on how to "expand those dimensions' of Lincs. 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi Irene,

You make two great points and I am in total agreement with both.  Firstly, having good leadership at the agency or state level is key to having a quality program in which everyone feels invested.  In my view, a good adult education leader would know and acknowledge that we all stand on the shoulders of the teachers!  And if we include teachers in the decision making processes on teacher quality, good PD, what curriculum works, what doesn't, whether assessments align with what the funding agencies require or how much time should be necessary for a student to be in a program before they can be counted, then I think all our programs would benefit.

Secondly, I applaud the way you have chosen to conduct PD.  Not only are you making it a valuable support and tool for teachers, you are making it enjoyable at the same time.  Thank you for sharing your approach to PD.

I would love to hear more about other innovative ways of doing PD. And, teachers please share some PD experiences you have enjoyed and value and/or mandated PD that doesn't work well.

Anurag

 

I Ramos's picture
First

Hi Anurag,

Thanks for the comments and questions. One of the commitments I made when I became a leader and trainer in Adult Education was that I would strive to make the most of every PD event I facilitate. That means I want to create professional learning environments that includes all the elements we should expect to see in the classroom. Use of themes,  music, props, costumes and more are sometimes labeled as being too K-12. We have to remove the barrier of "That is K-12, we teach Adult Education!" mentality and incorporate what works according to brain research. Since we are in Adult Education and our teachers are adults then training is the best time to model those good instructional practices, providing sample activities and best practices by demonstrating the proper use of those instructional models and how to take what works in K-12 and make it "adult education friendly". I know there are many presenters out there that do not agree with this method and may think it is not professional or distinguished for trainers of their caliber to  present in that manner. However to them I would ask what is their evidence that what they are doing is working?

Sharon Tate and her book "Sit and Git Doesn't Build Dendrites" has lots of great practices that are just fun and engaging. If PD trainers can utilize her checklist to plan their PD then our participants will benefit from sound brain friendly training. Eric Jensen also has published so many wonderful resources that help trainers make their training a more meaningful and productive time. However far too many trainers are still doing the "stand and deliver" spewing out all their knowledge as they present like "the sage on the stage." But that doesn't work and yet unfortunately a lot of PD is still like that; especially at conferences. I have always viewed conference presentations as an opportunity to go all out with the use of posters, dynamic visuals, props, music, themes, and amazing wealth of resources to make the most of that short time. In this way the conference becomes a series of "micro-learning" moments that can be followed up with more intensive and sustained professional learning.

Which brings me to sustained PD and what Mr Rosen has referred to as blended learning. Some of the most meaningful PD I have attended has been those times when I was involved in a long term project where I was called upon to use the resources and strategies in the classroom and then report back. I know in this time of reduced budgets trying to do more long term PD can be costly but the solution can be as easy as offering a stipend to those that successfully complete the long-term training institute as well as only taking volunteers. The reward can be that the person receives a stipend but there can also be the opportunity to be the resident Subject matter expert and be utilized for future training (which then offers more opportunity for a PT teacher to earn more $). Also, and more important is the improvement of the individual practice as well as the intrinsic reward of learning something new and becoming fluent in it rather that just attending a one time event and only building familiarity in a subject rather than expertise. 

 

 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Hi Irene,

 

Thanks for all your great ideas.  I will be keeping them in mind when I am mentoring/coaching folks!  One very important point you have also raised when talking about sustained PD is the reward of a stipend at the end.  I personally feel that is an important aspect of PD that is often forgotten.  I think all teachers are interested in good PD, but would be more inclined to commit to longer term projects if they were compensated for their time and effort too.

I have really enjoyed your feedback and ideas.

Anurag

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Irene,

I do not think you (or anyone is over-posting). Thank you so much for your rich contributions! I have been quietly reading, re-reading, soaking in every word. I very much appreciate it when others make time to share.

I look forward to reading your LinkedIn post! Will you please share the link with us here?

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

 

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues,

Steve raises a key point – “Instructors (are) being given less hours due to the dictates of the Affordable Care Act”. The ACA mandates that medium and large-sized companies must provide health insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours/week.

Ben Casselman, economics writer for FiveThirtyEight, predicted that “…companies appear to be cutting hours for part-time workers in order to evade the ACA’s mandate that mid-sized and large employers must give health insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours.” (Forbes)

Part-time employees in low-wage sectors like retail, restaurants, and education — that historically didn’t get health insurance through their employers —would now have to be covered, Forbes writer Dan Diamond points out.

Question: If a PT adult education teacher’s hours are cut or capped at 29 hours, then how does this impact the # of paid PD hours a teacher can attend?

I have heard this is the case in Georgia (would someone from GA please confirm or correct that?).

How are other states handling the issue of PT hours and paid PD hours for adult educators under the ACA?

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development

schmidtsj's picture
Ten

Jackie,

Some programs have interpreted the law far more severely than the example you give.  In some cases, an instructor's hours have been cut back to 12 per week.  This has forced them to seek other employment instead of adult education or to try and string together several part time jobs.  

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Wow Steve! That's a significant cut to evade the requirement to pay for PT teachers' health insurance. Do you or others know why some programs interpret the ACA requirement to mean such a drastic cut back in hours? If a program or state were to evade paying health insurance, why not just cap it at 29 hours/week?

Thanks for your thoughts,

Jackie

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for sharing your ideas, successes and challenges.  I appreciate the time you all have taken and as we move forward in this field, I hope that these thoughts will help shape new policies.

Today, I would like to start a conversation on an innovative model that I have read about and admire and I hope that you will generously share your perspectives on it .

We all acknowledge that there are many outstanding teachers at effective programs throughout the country who are successful in helping students fulfill their aims.  Moreover, no educator would deny we all want our students to move on and up in life, to be as successful as possible in their career and life goals, to be engaged and active participants in society.  That’s why we do what we do. There is also no disagreement that the role of an adult educator is critical.   According to the NCSDAE website:

–nearly half the U.S. workforce today, approximately 52 million adults, has only a high school education or less, while 25 million workers aged 18 to 64 lack even a high school diploma or GED (http://www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org/).

But, if we are truly serious about helping adult students achieve their goals, then the conversation that we need to have at the same time is, how we can more adequately support the teachers who are responsible for helping these students with their myriad needs?

To its credit, OCTAE has done much to focus on supporting professional development of teachers in a variety of ways (articulated in the recent OCTAE document Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States).  There are some excellent ideas mentioned here, but we should and could do more to provide support to these dedicated, but overburdened adult educators. 

An innovative model, I have long admired, is Washington’s I-Best: Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training model, that has been shown to be effective (see How I-Best Works: Findings from a Field Study of Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program, CCRC Sept 2010) in quickly improving students’ literacy and work skills. 

As an instructor what I find so attractive about this model is the pairing of two instructors, one to teach basic language/math skills and the other to focus on technical content.  This practice helps instructors focus on different skills and content areas, thus reducing overall load while simultaneously getting better outcomes.  I understand that this is an expensive model and has seen limited implementation due to financial challenges, despite its acknowledged success.

In my capacity as peer coach the appeal of this model is striking.  I see teachers struggling to handle all that is being asked of them (classroom management skills, instructional expertise, contextualized lesson planning, awareness of college- and career-readiness standards, ensuring student outcomes for the program).  The possibility of co-teaching with another teacher who may be more experienced in classroom management or contextualized instruction would be very helpful for the less experienced teacher. It would lead not only to better student outcomes, but also better teacher retention and improvement in program quality.  The challenge, of course, is more funding that would be necessary for widespread implementation of co-teaching and peer coaching models.

What are your perspectives on this model? Do you think it would be helpful in your classes?  

Are there others in this discussion with co-teaching experience? If so, please tell us about it.

Finally, please share your ideas on what you would find most helpful as a teacher.

I look forward to hearing from you,

-Anurag

 

 

Chris Bourret's picture
First

Dr. Sagar makes a great point in noting that Adult Educator responsibilities are growing, in a system where most practitioners and administrative staff are part-time. Maybe states and adult Ed. agencies will realize that to accomplish the outcomes WIOA will require means it’s better to have full-time professionalized staff. However, an obvious reality is that huge streams of money aren’t coming our way, yet we still have to make sure teachers are qualified and the best they can be in helping Adult learners succeed.

It’s interesting reading about other states with regards to credentials and PD requirements. In Rhode Island, about 10 years ago we created a committee to explore creating a credential or licensure program for Adult Ed.  With the part-time/low wage situation we had, we thought a licensure program was cruel and unusual punishment for Adult Ed. teachers to pay for and then continue to suffer through low-wage part-time employment. Credential models were more intriguing to us, but in the end, our committee recommended creating a credential only if it was tied in to more money for full-time, well paid positions in the state. We also thought states that had a variety of PD options, not just courses, would work better in building teacher collaboration. In the end, we never started a Credential.

What interestingly came out from this exploration is that many agencies started requiring staff to make PD plans, and our informal PD “system”, aided by a wonderful Professional Development Center, has been moving along well. The State Department of Education has also started requiring certain commitments from adult education professionals, for example requiring everyone be Northstar certified. It means all Adult Ed. staff need to have the requisite technology skill set to help students achieve their goals. I think this is forward thinking, in that the training is free, so no cost to professionals, and it is getting us ready for a key component of helping learners better access and use technology, thanks to more tech-savvy teachers.

With no established PD system, agencies like mine have been moving along, making PD a priority. At the organization I’m part of, we enjoy PD that comes from “the ground up”, where teachers choose an “area” (we have no formal competencies established state wide-but would welcome that approach as a menu for things to choose from) they want to focus on, and choose from a variety of options to do this PD (teacher collaboration, action research, classes, webinars, etc.). The teacher must make a goal which directly or indirectly has a bearing on student outcomes. Throughout the year we share what we’ve learned at staff meetings and on a shared staff Facebook page. We find this process more rewarding than being required to do PD in a “Top-Down” approach, where the topics and competencies are maybe not what we need to work on, or have worked on already.

Something I should mention in this approach is that our organization has been committed to full-time staff as much as possible, as funding allows, for over 10 years. It’s made it possible for staff to commit to PD well, and full time teachers serve as “lead teachers” to guide and mentor part-time or new employees. It makes a huge difference in serving our learners, and creates an engaging environment where teachers love to share ideas with one another. It’s not exactly the I-Best model, but it did influence our collaboration among teachers. For example, We are paid to observe each other, with the goal of finding an aspect of “good practice” we can gain from each other. In fact we have PD hours built into our pay, which obviously is so worthwhile!

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Chris,

In talking about the issues in adult ed programs in RI you have touched on the myriad issues facing adult education teachers.  You make an excellent point that it is unfair to ask low wage, part-time teachers to invest in getting credentials, unless they have a way up a career ladder.  I also think that the "ground up" approach to PD is the best way forward.  But the bottom line as you put it, is that additional resources would be very beneficial to moving the field towards greater professionalization.

One way to support teachers focus on their strengths and weaknesses is through peer coaching within the agency (similar to what you are doing at your agency).  We found this model to be helpful at the organization I worked at in Philadelphia.  It provided a way to support new and inexperienced instructors in a classroom setting and helped them focus on areas that needed improvement in a safe environment.  As you say, it does require agency support and funding.

Are there other organizations that are using some form of peer-coaching?

 

I Ramos's picture
First

Hi,

I like your comment about the teachers driving the agenda for PD and I am wondering if you are familiar with the  Ed Camp Model of Professional Learning. 

It will soon be used in certain conference settings to create the agenda there as well. I love the concept and am eager to try it. Below is a link to an article about it:

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may14/vol71/num08/Edcamp@-Teachers-Take-Back-Professional-Development.aspx

 

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Wow Irene, what an interesting idea!

"Edcamps are free, participatory events organized by educators for educators. Attendees collaboratively determine the schedule of sessions on the morning of the event."

The article goes on to describe what a typical EdCamp looks like, including ways to keep the content engaging like "The Law of Two Feet" and ending the day with a "Smackdown". Has anyone else organized and run an EdCamp in adult education? If so, please tell us about it.

I can see how funders of PD would be reluctant to pay for such an event, since it takes away all of their control over the agenda. I wonder then, who bears the cost since the events are free?

I welcome others' thoughts on EdCamps, your experience with them, and whether this is something you'd like to see happen or try in adult education.

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Dear colleagues

During the last few days we have heard from practitioners from many different states across the country.  Some are working at community colleges, others at smaller, community based, adult education organizations. We may all have different perspectives on how best to support quality instruction in our programs, but we all share the same strong desire to achieve excellent outcomes for our students. 

We all acknowledge the importance of building a skilled workforce for the demands of the 21st century and we all understand that to train the under-educated adults who enter our programs, we need to create and sustain an effective and high quality workforce of adult educators, for which the basic requirement is a need for adequate levels of funding.  Despite this, the unfortunate fact remains that “Adult education and training programs traditionally receive less than ten percent of the amount of federal, state, and local funding that goes to K-12, and less than five percent of what is spent to support higher education” (http://www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org/).  

So perhaps, together with all the innovative ideas outlined in our conversation, which we hope will help to guide future policy decisions, what may best serve the field of adult education would be our ability to, more effectively, advocate for our programs and our profession.  For better working conditions, better support for professional development, a look at more creative models of teaching with appropriate levels of funding to illustrate the true value of this important profession.

I thank you all for sharing, so generously, the different models that you are implementing in your workplace as well as all the challenges you face.  But, we need to continue this discussion in order to bring about meaningful change.  I sincerely hope that this is just the beginning of an important dialogue; so lets keep the conversation going in the coming days.

Please continue to share your ideas on what you feel should be the priorities to help move our field forward.  

Anurag

 

 

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues:

I am cross posting a message originally posted this week to the Program Management Group that is very pertinent to this discussion. Please read on and thank you, Don Block, for sharing!

Jackie Taylor


From Don Bock:

Building a full-time teaching corps in adult education

Good morning, friends.  My agency (Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council) was cited in a U.S. Department of Education report as a good example of an agency that has built a full-time teaching corps.  I've been asked to comment on what it takes to do this and what the benefits are.  I think other writers, like our colleague Stephanie from Durango, CO, has spoken eloquently about what the benefits are.  There is a direct benefit to students from having a full-time teaching staff.  Those staff members have time to do lesson planning on paid time, to attend professional development, and to meet with students outside of class time.  They simply have greater commitment to the field than the part-timers.

When I first joined this field in the 1980's I observed the rapid turnover of teachers due to their part-time status.  Many of the part-timers were seeking full-time employment, and they left adult education programs quickly.  This rapid churn created a lot of time in interviewing and hiring for administrators, and I could see it was not building a field of employees with expertise.  Do we want people who make adult education their career, and so get a high level of training and expertise?  If so, we need full-time teachers.  The average length of employment of our staff at Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, at the last time we calculated it, was nine years.  That means we have a number of staff, including teachers, who have been with us for fifteen years, and a few less than five years.  This would not be possible if we were staffed completely with part-timers.

Fortunately, in a nonprofit organization, we control the employment practices of the organization.  We are not under a school board or community college.  So, as a leader, I was able to shape the full-time teaching corps according to my beliefs.  I wanted people who, as I said, plan to make adult education their career.  I want to send them to training on learning differences, refugee issues, college and career readiness, use of technology in the classroom, and many other topics.  I don't want them to leave quickly and take all their expertise somewhere else.  I want it to be used to benefit our students.  And so I have built our hiring practices on having full-time teachers (with full benefits) only.  There is a lot of financial pressure that comes with this policy, since government funds have been cut.  Fortunately, we have a development department that raises over $1 million annually in private donations to supplement the government funds that we receive.  Again, I feel blessed to be located in a nonprofit organization that can set its own policies. 

I believe our field will continue to be a stepchild of the educational system until we have more full-time staff and teachers with solid credentials and expertise.

Reply from David Rosen:

Hello Don,

I have long been inspired by what the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council (GPLC) does, and the talented teachers and administrators you have hired. Many people view community-based not-for-profit organizations as (what one Massachusetts state senator once referred to as) "educational soup kitchens," or programs who in their service to marginalized people are themselves marginalized. GPLC is an outstanding example that not all community-based organizations must live hand-to-mouth (although sadly many do), that some are strong and successful.

I would like to hear from you and program administrators of other community-based, not-for-profit adult basic education programs that have strong, stable models, that hire full-time teachers, and do not have rapid teacher turnover. In particular, I would like to know both from you Don, and from other program administrators, how have you been able to build private, not-for-profit, community-based programs that are strong and successful?

Thanks.

David J. Rosen

Moderator, Program Management CoP

djrosen123@gmail.com

From Don Block:

David:  Thanks for your comment and questions.  How have we been able to build a nonprofit adult education agency that is strong and successful?

Here are some thoughts about this:

1.  Pennsylvania is a state which makes its adult education funds available to nonprofits on an equal basis with community colleges and school districts.  We compete for state and federal funds (WIOA Title II and state adult literacy monies) based on our expertise and our outcomes with students, and not based on being an LEA (local education agency in the public sector).

This policy has been in place for over twenty years and has served to unify the field in our state.  Many states don't have this policy, and in those places nonprofits are not eligible for government grants, or they have a special government funding stream just for nonprofits.

2.  We are experts in nonprofit management, and not just adult education.  As an administrator, I spend a great deal of time building a very strong board of directors, which is made up largely of business executives.  They become advocates for adult education in the community, and they help to raise funds. 

3.  From the beginning in the 1980's the organization has had a culture of continuous quality improvement.  This means we use our student data in more ways that most programs use theirs.  We don't just use it for reporting to funding sources.  We examine trends in the data and use it to test ideas that can improve our services.  If you don't have full-time staff and teachers, it's very hard to do this type of data analysis and sharing among staff.  One of our staff used to teach a class called "Using Data for Decision-making" that was offered throughout the state.

4.  We spend a lot of time doing marketing and public relations for our agency and for the issue of adult education.  I estimate that we generate more media articles about the topic than any other adult education agency in Pennsylvania.  This leads to community support and better understanding of adult education issues.  We have a full-time public relations director who is on a first-name basis with education reporters in the media.

5.  We have run AmeriCorps programs in our agency since 1994.  Many AmeriCorps members get exposure to the field of adult education through their year(s) of service, and we get to know them.  A number of them move on to become full-time teachers in the field, since they became "hooked" during their AmeriCorps year.   Instead of coming into our field from elementary or secondary education, they come from a year or more of adult education experience, and they are more likely to stay because of that.

I'm sure there are many other reasons for our success, David, but these are the ones on the top of mind at the moment.  Let's continue the discussion.

 

From David Rosen:

These are great insights, Don. It would be great to hear reactions from other non-profit education managers, for example about:

  • What has helped their program to grow strong, and possibly to hire (more) full-time teachers
  • What was the most important insight from Don's thoughts about what has enabled GPLC to become a strong program

and, of course, to see other questions for Don.

David J. Rosen

Moderator, Program Management CoP

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Thanks for sharing insights from GPLC.  It was terrific to hear from Don Block as to how a community based organization In Pittsburgh has found a way to not only provide excellent education to its students, but at the same time create a vibrant community of adult education teachers and managers.

For me the most striking insight from Don's note is his vision that takes teachers into account as equal partners.  Undoubtedly, this is good for the community as well as the professionals in the organization.

Anurag

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for the energizing discussions this week and to Dr. Anurag Sagar for facilitating! So far we’ve heard from practitioners in California, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Texas.

We are extending the discussion through Monday so that those who need time have it to read and reflect on the thoughtful postings and to consider next steps.

  • In the meantime, what has stood out to you from our conversation this week?
  • What surprised you?
  • What understandings or beliefs were reinforced, or changed, or broadened as a result of our conversations so far?
  • What seems important that we haven’t yet talked about?

Thanks again and have a great weekend,

Jackie

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

jackie@jataylor.net

@jataylor10

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues,

With the flurry of activity during our guest discussion last week, you’d suspect it was a robust discussion. Well, after writing this summary I can indeed tell you it was robust! laughyes

Here’s a toe-in to the conversations. I’ve divided it into sections for ease-of-scrolling:

  • Kicking off the Conversation
  • Challenges
    • Challenges for Teachers
    • Challenges for Programs
    • Challenges for States
    • Challenges for Professional Development
  • Successes and Promising Practices
    • Program Models
    • Professional Development Models 
  • Next Steps

Summary

Kicking Off the Conversation

The Evidence-based Professional Development (EBPD) and Program Management Groups hosted a guest discussion of Doing It All: Successes and Challenges in Teaching Adult Education with guest facilitator Dr. Anurag Sagar. Participants explored some issues adult educators face in teaching in the 21st century, and promising practices to help them be as successful as possible in their work.

The goal was to come away with some concrete recommendations for improving adult educator career opportunities, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes. This is one of what is hoped to be many conversations at the local, state, and national levels aimed at moving our profession forward.

 EBPD Moderator Jackie Taylor framed the discussion with the following questions:

  • What aspects of the landscape have changed significantly in adult education?
  • What issues do adult educators face today?
  • What * is not* changing but should be?
  • What supports do teachers need in order to be successful in helping their students succeed?
  • What are some promising models and best practices in professional development and program management that provide teachers adequate support?
  • What’s needed to improve teaching and learning in adult education?
  • What can be done, and whose responsibility is it?
  • What are next steps?

Anurag Sagar led by sharing her experiences from the 2015 COABE Conference held in Denver, Colorado. Much has changed over the last 15 years to help students succeed, she wrote. Yet it seems that little has changed in providing teachers the support they need in order to help their students succeed.

The Broader Landscape

Jackie Taylor described a broader landscape within which adult education operates, including the results of the 2013 PIAAC report illustrating the largely poor results for the U.S.; the change to the 2014 GED and resulting competitive landscape;  WIOA reauthorization and its focus on transitions; labor market demands on workers; reducing incarceration and recidivism; and other trends both supported by and not supported by policy.

The Affordable Care Act’s Impact on the Adult Education Workforce

As part of the “broader landscape” Steve writes: Instructors (are) being given less hours due to the dictates of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA mandates that medium and large-sized companies must provide health insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours/week. Thus, adult education programs are capping teacher hours at 29 hours/week, which is generous in some locations. Others are capping it at 12 hours/week, causing many high quality professionals to leave the field.

Challenges

Challenges for Teachers

Stresses of “being everything to everyone”.  Teachers:

  • Help her/his students acquire language skills or pass the GED tests, using creative lesson plans correctly aligned to the recent college and career readiness standards
  • Ensure her/his students’ entry into post-secondary institutions, for which they must be taught critical thinking and higher order reading and writing skills (through rigorous instructional practice)
  • Support  her/his students’ aspiration to enter the workforce, (for which the instructor must not only have a clear understanding of the appropriate job sectors in the region, but then be able to teach the appropriate technical /vocational vocabulary!)
  • Who may be working with low skilled language learners, enrolled in a civics program, who are also expected to teach aspects of American history and government. (Anurag)

PT nature of the teaching workforce:  Educators who are working in a field that is in sore need of improvement (and has been for many years). It is well documented that most teachers in this field are part-time workers (78% of paid adult education teachers and nearly half of program administrators are part time) inadequately compensated for their labors. (Anurag)

Lack of full support for AE as its own entity:  Not as a stepchild or invisible/ignorable component of K-12 or Higher Ed etc. (Stephanie)

An unreliable, inconsistent stable of quality teachers:  AE too often depends on teachers who have the DNA of a dedicated educator regardless of pay and benefits, and that isn't a workable model for sustained growth or success. (Stephanie)

Time:  As budgets are stretched to the max – and on the heels of major budget cuts after the economic downturn -- programs cut are especially limited on time. (Irene)

Stressors of rigid policies:  Unilateral policies applied across the state inhibit successful local innovations. (Edward)

Integrating technology into instruction: EDs need to recognize that tech is here to stay, so to bring along teaching and staff teams and help funders to support tech in the classroom. (Stephanie)

WIOA and conflicting messaging about outcomes: On the one hand, we are now told to focus on credentials – GED/HSE transition to college or careers – and keep the learners for 12 months so that we can count them. On the other hand, the feds still appear to be saying to help "the most in need"– often students who, for whatever reason, are highly unlikely to reach the goal of a GED. (Stephanie)

Lack of system alignment leading to learner and teacher stress:  Edward Latham described a lack of system alignment as causing learner and teacher stress. He writes:

…there is an increasing stress that diagnostics, instructional materials, and mandatory standardized assessments are WAY OUT OF LINE from each other and more importantly have little to no alignment with College and Career Readiness Standards.

Others agreed and noted in particular CASAS, which is used to assess learning in EL/Civics programs. Teachers who are preparing ESL adults to acquire English and gain the skills needed to integrate into American society need to focus on teaching American history and civics. Yet the CASAS is based on a series of life skills competencies. It also hasn’t been revised since 1978.

Challenges for Programs:

  • How difficult it is to find good teachers in areas like math and writing in K-12, and then not offer them a living wage with benefits in adult education. Programs can’t realistically expect to attract these expert teachers and retain them for any length of time. (Stephanie)
  • Add to that the rigor of the new GED and the need to ensure transition to postsecondary education or careers. And if you are under the outdated rubric of having a single teacher teach all four subjects, with truly rare exceptions, you are not looking at positive outcomes. (Stephanie and Anurag)
  • Losing more inspired and dedicated teachers to either the K-12 system or community colleges, that provide better incentives. (Anurag)
  • Having less control over hiring practices with a district or state funded program. (Don)

Challenges for States: 

  • California’s “Flexible funding relaxed restrictions on over 40 categorical programs (which included adult education) in order to spend the money for any educational purpose. Where there was once a strong, experienced full-time adult education workforce, now many adult educators are working part-time at more than one agency. (Joyce)

Challenges for Professional Development:

  • The amount of time required to participate in professional development is not enough (DeAnn)
  • Staff want guaranteed hours which causes them to sign up for more classes to teach but leave no room for PD. (DeAnn)
  • Not all teachers are paid to participate in PD: A significant number are not. (Steve)
  • More content-based PD:  The need for more content-based and less esoteric/theoretical and academic/college course oriented PD. GED teachers need content support more than anything else. (Stephanie)
  • Lack of consideration of teacher views when designing PD. (Anurag)
  • Some “PD” is spent on filling out paperwork or using data systems. (Steve)

Successes

Program Models

Durango Adult Education Center, Durango, Colorado: Pays a living wage plus benefits; all teachers are certified; 25% of time is teacher prep time; teachers participate in one hour of PD / week and a weekly team meeting; reduced teacher turnover.

From Stephanie Moran:  Our center, the Durango AEC in SW Colorado, was cited as a model re teacher support because we believe that the most critical element in any classroom is the quality and dedication of the teacher. Without those attributes, students lose, goals are not met as consistently or quickly, and our profession suffers.

Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo, Iowa: Restructured their program so that students sign up for courses, much like in a college setting; teachers only teach in their  area of expertise, reducing the stress of being everything to everyone, and create lessons aligned to the CCR standards; started a homeroom class to help boost student retention. Used a “Critical Friends Group” model from Standards in Action.

From DeAnn Nixt:  [A homeroom class] is where an advisor is available to supervise the record keeping process for CASAS scores, practice test scores, and HiSET testing.  Homeroom is also a study hall that includes relationship building to increase retention through class discussion, family literacy courses, digital literacy courses, and transition assistance.

Also from Hawkeye: Educating Decision Makers through Program Visits

From DeAnn Nixt…my director works with the college to invite state legislators to our building.  These visits include tours of classrooms and time arranged for legislators to visit with students.  At Hawkeye we try to make ourselves present in the eyes of the college and the state government.  Without their support our program would not exist.

Maine: Some programs are moving to a learning lab model, better allowing for an individualized, contextualized, CCRS system while reducing stresses on teachers; developing statewide College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) assessment for teachers by implementing digital badges.

From Edward:  This badge system is being designed strictly as a carrot or incentive for teachers to engage in the CCRS transitions our state feels are important to learner success. It may end up that directors look at these badges in different ways within their program, but from the state level, the badges concentrate on levels of implementation and performance that is supported with evidence.

Texas: Career Navigator model

From IreneThe Career Navigator role will relieve the instructor from assessment, intake, registration, academic advising and case management of students because the Career Navigators main purpose is to provide the "wrap around support" needed to ensure student success. Again, funding and time can be issues but we are on the way to really refining this at Alamo Colleges through braided funded options and managed enrollment.

Colorado: Career Navigators ––> “BOOST”

From StephanieOur current program called BOOST Boosting Opportunities and Occupations for Self-Sufficient Transitions takes the best of the career navigator piece and combines it with other services a person needs to persist in college. 

Greater Pittsburg Literacy Council (GPLC): Building a FT Teaching Corps in Adult Education:  Under the leadership of Don Block, GPLC built their hiring practices on having full-time teachers (with full benefits) only.

From DonThere is a direct benefit to students from having a full-time teaching staff.  Those staff members have time to do lesson planning on paid time, to attend professional development, and to meet with students outside of class time.  They simply have greater commitment to the field than the part-timers.

… Do we want people who make adult education their career, and so get a high level of training and expertise?  If so, we need full-time teachers.  The average length of employment of our staff at Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, at the last time we calculated it, was nine years.  That means we have a number of staff, including teachers, who have been with us for fifteen years, and a few less than five years.  This would not be possible if we were staffed completely with part-timers.

Read more to see how GPLC has been able to build a strong, successful nonprofit adult education agency.

Professional Development Models

North Carolina’s Teacher Credentialing Model:  Steve Schmidt writes that this model is reaching more PT teachers than ever before in NC. These credentials could be stackable micro-credentials leading to a credential as part of a career pathways system for adult educators, David Rosen notes.

From SteveInstructors can earn a variety of credentials by taking prescribed six hour face to face workshops that are offered at locations across the state.  Instructors can earn a Core Credential, and ESOL credential (Using LINCS courses as an online pre-requisite), a Reading Specialty Credential (based on the six day STAR reading training) and three different Adult Secondary Education credentials.

Making PD Meaningful:  Building relationships; Friday Night Sessions; themed PD; mentoring and follow up; Professional Learning Circles

From IreneBased on the PD surveys from the area I had determined that part time teachers do not like to "give up" their whole Saturday for PD, they can't during a weeknight as they may have full-time day job with AEL as their part-time evening job. So, in the Friday Night sessions I offered themed PD … I averaged about 35 teachers each night. These were teachers that came on their own without being "volun-told" to be there. 

Additional strategies for making learning meaningful, based on brain research can be found here (thanks Irene!).

Peer Mentoring and Coaching:  Bringing teachers initially into the planning process; teachers coach teachers, not a top-down model; blended coaching models being used to fit within budget constraints.

From AnuragAnother key element here was the fact that I was also teaching some classes, and I strongly suspect that really helped the "buy-in" from the coachees.  Which teacher amongst us wants to hear someone telling them that their lesson would work better if they did such and such, from a person who is not a teacher?!

From IreneAfter training when teachers come up to me and ask me questions I offer them my contact number and ask them to stay in touch and let me know how the strategies and skills worked or not in their classroom.  When you make yourself available you increase the network of support. In this manner I become more of a mentor to them and I do it because I genuinely care, not for any pay ... We need to step out of ourselves and create learning networks…

LINCS as an online support network for teachers:

David Rosen asked, how (can) the LINCS Communities of Practice, like this one, become better networks of support for teachers?  Recommendations include:

  • Getting the word out
  • Bridging the technology gap
  • Improving site navigation
  • Motivation to participate

See recommendations from Irene and others here, and add your own.

Co-Teaching:  Co-teaching is the pairing of two instructors in a career pathways setting in order to maximize teacher expertise, increase student outcomes, and improve program quality. IBEST is one model proven to be successful.

From AnuragI see teachers struggling to handle all that is being asked of them (classroom management skills, instructional expertise, contextualized lesson planning, awareness of college- and career-readiness standards, ensuring student outcomes for the program).  The possibility of co-teaching with another teacher who may be more experienced in classroom management or contextualized instruction would be very helpful for the less experienced teacher.

PD from “the Ground Up” in Rhode Island:  RI researched credentialing models 10 years ago and decided against implementing it due to the PT nature of the workforce without any increase in pay. Instead, RI’s Professional Development Center offers informal PD based on teacher PD plans. Teachers choose an area for improvement and select from a menu of options for pursuing it, based on the goal of improving student outcomes.

Chris writes:  … our organization has been committed to full-time staff as much as possible, as funding allows, for over 10 years. It’s made it possible for staff to commit to PD well, and full time teachers serve as “lead teachers” to guide and mentor part-time or new employees. It makes a huge difference in serving our learners, and creates an engaging environment where teachers love to share ideas with one another … it did influence our collaboration among teachers … We are paid to observe each other, with the goal of finding an aspect of “good practice” we can gain from each other. In fact we have PD hours built into our pay, which obviously is so worthwhile!

Next Steps

Moderator Jackie Taylor invited participants to share their vision for the adult education profession and some next steps for policy and practice.

David Rosen offered his vision for the profession, including a shift from a mostly PT to a mostly FT teacher workforce with living wages and benefits, genuine career pathways for adult educators with opportunities for advancement, and stackable microcredentials that could lead to full certification and licensing. Please see David’s post for his full set of recommendations and next steps.

Anurag Sagar, Cynthia Campbell, and Chris Bourret agreed and added that teachers, as the front lines of the field, should be at the decision-making table for their programs and professional development.

From Anurag: My experience as program administrator and coach proved to me (if I had any doubts) how invaluable their ideas were and how much stronger and better our team became by including their vision, thus benefiting everyone in the process.  We saw this in enhanced levels of professional satisfaction and equally importantly, in programmatic outcomes.

Chris emphasized a bottom-up collaborative approach to teacher professional development; for state administrators to tie funding to more FT positions in adult education; and for all of us to better educate decision makers about how successful adult education is and a critical partner in helping more learners succeed in their educational and work goals.

Cynthia added that professional development should be seen and practiced as much more than “workshops.” She reminded us that professional development should be more diverse, to allow for the affective domain of teacher learning as well as to address the diverse needs of teachers.

From Cynthia: Other components of teacher development should be part of a holistic professional development plan including mentoring, action research, and study circles…We will not changes teachers' practice by lecturing to them about progressive methods.

Edward Latham emphasized structural changes needed to the adult education system that can help teachers and students become more successful. Edward describes his recommendations for system changes, including meaningful intake processes and tracking success, student evaluation system(s) that rely on student produced evidence of learning, and evidence-based practices authored by teachers and less so by for-profit publishers.

From Edward: …our current system is still locked into a group processing and progression system that is based almost entirely on behavioral compliance and seat time. For adult education teachers and programs to really be able to help adult learners find and maximize the passions every individual has, our structure of education needs to shift.

Jackie Taylor suggested a “no excuses” approach -- that we not wait until we get significant increases in funding to support these changes. She encouraged us to turn roadblocks into road maps to success. This could include a detailed study of model programs, the steps they took, when they took them, and the results along the way.

Please let me know what I've missed or what needs revision. Feel free to email me direct.

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

jackie@jataylor.net

@jataylor10

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you to Dr. Anurag Sagar, our guest facilitator, for facilitating our robust discussions last week of Doing It All: Successes and Challenges in Teaching Adult Education! Thank you to Program Management COP Moderator David Rosen and to all who participated. We would like to conclude this conversation with two very important questions.

Oftentimes when online discussions take place, some individuals jot down one or more ideas that they’d like to implement. But in general, clear action steps for the collective whole are not always articulated, leaving it difficult – at best – to move the issue forward on a broad scale. We’d like for your help to (re)ignite the conversation about policy and practice recommendations that advance adult educator career opportunities, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes.

Please take a few minutes to reply:

1.  What is your vision for the profession of adult education?

2.  What are your recommendations for policy and practice for any one (or more) of the following roles? For:

  • Teachers
  • Local Program Administrators
  • State Administrators and Staff
  • Professional Development Staff
  • Federal Administrators
  • Policy Makers
  • State and/or National Associations

Thank you again for your thoughts and your time. This has been a terrific discussion and we look forward to hearing from you.

Jackie

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Thank you so much Jackie, for summarizing this discussion, which we started last week, so well.  Your summary is incredibly helpful. 

And an enormous thank you to all members of the community, who shared your thoughts on this important issue, giving so generously of your time and ideas.

One of the most important recommendations for administrators and policy makers, from my perspective as an adult literacy teacher, manager and coach, would be to ensure a place for teachers at the decision making table.  As I mentioned previously, but reiterate because I feel this so strongly.  Teachers are at the front lines of this field.  From this vantage point they are best positioned to understand what new idea/policy will be effective and which initiative is just a pie-in-the sky and doomed to failure!  They are an asset which is highly undervalued and under-appreciated; their skills, talents and knowledge are not fully utilized while new concepts are being discussed and implemented.  My experience as program administrator and coach proved to me (if I had any doubts) how invaluable their ideas were and how much stronger and better our team became by including their vision, thus benefiting everyone in the process.  We saw this in enhanced levels of professional satisfaction and equally importantly, in programmatic outcomes.

So very briefly, my recommendation: Ensure that teachers are treated as equal partners to other stakeholders in the decision making process.

Anurag

 

CMCampbell's picture
First

Hi Dr. Sagar,

I agreethat teachers need to be at the table to keep us all real.

Some thoughts for Adult Education as a field:

1. If the field is to thrive in its work and accomplish all we are being asked, we need to be able to support the teachers in compensation, supplies (too often lacking!), and professional development.

2. We need to be serious about the idea that professional development is not just workshops. Some years ago, I enjoyed a study circle, where I did receive a small stipend at the end for my work, action research, and presentation. Unfortunately, such experience is all too rare.  Other components of teacher development should be part of a holistic professional development plan including mentoring, action research, and study circles.

3. Earlier, someone noted that PD should be more content-based with useful things people can apply to their settings. I appreciate that sentiment, but I caution that we also need to account for the affective side of teacher development. Strategies are useful, but a commitment to progressive methods involves affective changes including a new understanding of teaching and a willingness to take risks in instruction. Just as we encourage our adult learners that making mistakes are a part of learning, we need to give our teachers emotional room to try new strategies with the knowledge that it will not go perfectly as first. We will not changes teachers' practice by lecturing to them about progressive methods. Also, the emphasis on testing will continue to deter more progressive methods unless you coach instructors on how to integrate both concerns into their practice. Finally, in professional development, we need to honor that fact that teachers with more experience have different needs that new teachers and plan accordingly.

Just my two cents to this.

Cynthia

Chris Bourret's picture
First

Thanks to Jackie for summarizing this discussion so well, and to Dr Sagar, for suggesting that teachers be included as equal stakeholders in decision making. I would say this is especially true when it comes to building professional development. I hope that a PD system can be brought to bear in every state which encourages teacher collaboration, and a bottom-up approach at the program level, building the skills necessary for adult educators to help students succeed,  and of course, compensating teachers and program staff appropriately. A recommendation for state administrations is to somehow tie funding to more full time positions in Adult Ed. programs, and another is for all of us in the field to continue to get the word out to local and federal lawmakers how much Adult Education is successful and needed to help more learners succeed in their educational and work goals. 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Jackie, Anurag and others,

My vision for the profession of adult basic education would include:

  • A significant number of full-time teachers at every program who are able to commit to a career in adult basic education knowing that they can earn family-sustaining salaries, that their work is valued by our society, and that professional growth is part of that work
  • Genuine career paths in adult basic skills that lead to greater responsibility, and increased compensation, for teaching the most difficult students, for curriculum development and program design leadership, and for mentoring other teachers; a teaching career path that that might begin with teaching apprenticeships, or volunteer or internship positions, lead to full-time teaching positions, and, for some, to master teacher and  leadership positions at the program level, as well as to administrative positions at the state level.
  • Professional development expected as part of the work, with compensated professional development time
  • A series of well-designed, stackable micro-credentials (i.e. that can add up to full certification or licensing), built on adult basic education “industry standards”
  • A desirable field of work for talented, creative, committed teachers who continually acquire new knowledge and skills from their work experience, professional development, and systematic reflection and assessment
  • As a result, excellent teaching in all programs provided by knowledgeable, experienced, caring teachers,
  • Programs that have the resources to provide excellent learning
  • Opportunities for teachers at every level to be involved in shaping, evaluating and re-designing the professional development system
  • Classes, tutoring, and other learning opportunities available for students without their having to wait weeks, months or years.

My recommendations for policy and practice

  • Teachers and local program administrators:

    • Every adult basic education teacher and program administrator needs to see as a regular part of her or his job participation in public awareness activities and advocacy for the resources to achieve a vision like the one above.
  • State Administrators and Staff
    • State administrators need to provide incentives that make it attractive – and possible – for adult basic education programs to achieve a vision like the one above. They have the power to craft requests for proposals that reward programs that are moving toward this vision. They may have the power to persuade their state agency administrators of the importance of making adult basic education a full member of their agency, not just an education stepchild.
    • State administrators in many states need to support the development of  a new professional development system model (See Professional Developers role below)
    • In addition to including professional developers in the design of a professional development system, teachers and administrators at all levels need, if they wish, to be able to participate in the system design, to have a say in what's required, how it is required, how teachers are expected to participate, and what the rewards are for attaining certificates and credentials.
  • Professional Developers at the state level
    • Although we see our role now primarily as delivering professional development/training, our role must be enlarged to have responsibility, together with state agency leaders in adult basic education, for creating a professional development system at the state level that has a clear and desirable career path for adult basic education teachers, and one for adult basic skills administrators. For each career, there should be stackable certificates or competency-based micro-credentials that lead to adult basic education certification or licensing, and also to significantly increased compensation for attainment of these credentials.

This vision, however, cannot be achieved, and the most significant of these recommendations cannot be acted on, without significantly increased state level resources for adult basic education.

What can be achieved now at the state level? Program and state leaders, working with professional development leaders, can craft a clear and persuasive vision for improving the quality of adult basic education; with this in hand they can then secure the public (state agencies such as Education, and/or Workforce Development, and/or Community College or Higher Education, and state legislators) and private (leading charitable and corporate foundations in the state, and possibly regional foundations supporting several state efforts like these) support for achieving that vision in their state.

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

 

 

A Sagar's picture
Ten

David,

Thank you for articulating your recommendations in such a clear and forthright manner.  I agree with everything you mention here.

 As we all acknowledge, the elephant in the room here is the critical need for higher levels of funding to support adult literacy programs.  I am really glad that this issue is being brought up in our discussions here and sincerely hope will help lead to future progress.

Anurag

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

I love the suggestions, David, and think I would add one more aspect to this list. Log ago, the system of education established a group-herding model that was very efficient in pushing people through a fixed program to get them prepared to process widgets of all types. Although some practices may have changed a bit since then, our current system is still locked into a group processing and progression system that is based almost entirely on behavioral compliance and seat time. For adult education teachers and programs to really be able to help adult learners find and maximize the passions every individual has, our structure of education needs to shift. This includes the following aspects:

  1. Meaningful intake processes that allow instructors to really design learning experiences that matter to the individual or group and build each experience into real life work skills and preparations. Teachers shift from dissemination of knowledge to educational mentors that help with goals, resources, experiences, and assessments. This should include establishing connections in each program to local experts in the field to facilitate connecting learners with people really doing the work that the individual aspires to do. 
  2. Appropriate and efficient tools that help facilitate the support, nurturing and tracking of successes adult learners experience as they work towards their goals that will often shift based on experiences. This removes much of the dependencies on text-based curriculum to dictate sequence and options in learning. 
  3. A student evaluation system(s) that rely on student produced evidence of learning to determine levels of success attained. This would replace outdated and inefficient practices of subjective grading, and time-based models of progression. As skills or content are demonstrated, the learner can check off progress until an identified list of standards are demonstrated and the learner is off starting their careers.
  4. Most importantly, we need an efficient system to allow real educators, acting upon existing research data, so be the main authors of our curriculum and learning resources instead of a dependency on for-profit organizations that often have profits at a much higher focus than creating educational experiences that are supported by how diverse individuals learn. Pull in just 25% of current text book funding and direct that into supporting our teaching experts in the creation and maintenance of learning resources and we would not have a shortage of funding for this shift! The main challenge is that it would take a few years to establish enough options that blanket all needs well. In medicine, doctors are often controlled by pharmaceutical companies, that model cripples many doctors from doing what needs to be done. This problem is identical to the current curriculum support system available in adult education as evidenced by the complete lack of alignment of diagnostics, learning resources, or assessments to the many research backed standards and practices that have been established for years. We have professionals in the field (and on LINCS here) capable of more efficacy and efficiency, we just need to divert some of those millions of dollars going to for-profit agencies back into our professional field. 

Many of the above options could be slipped into your suggestions (first 6 bullets) about Adult Educators need to be treated, respected and compensated as the talented professionals that they are. 

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Hi David, All,

David, thank you for your very articulate description of your vision for the adult education profession and some next steps for policy and practice. I do wonder about what you wrote here:

This vision, however, cannot be achieved, and the most significant of these recommendations cannot be acted on, without significantly increased state level resources for adult basic education.

You then describe that what can be done now is some cross-sector visioning for the adult education profession.

To me, the statement that change cannot happen without significantly more funding feels like a roadblock so overwhelming that it could become a barrier to even trying.

Maybe our field should put a lens up to the model programs, carefully examine the steps they took, when they took them, and what the results were at each point along the way to improving their programs' ABE workforce. Without that level of detail, a road map to achieving the vision, whose to say that some (or many) local program and state administrators won't just throw their hands up. They might say nothing can be done without significantly increased state level resources for ABE and leave it at that. Perhaps that is what has already been happening. I encourage us to overcome roadblocks and create road maps leading to positive change for the profession, and ultimately, for our students.

Thanks again to everyone for such a thoughtful, rich, and enthusiastic discussion.

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

A Sagar's picture
Ten

Dear colleagues,

This discussion has been incredibly rewarding and a valuable learning experience for me.  Many thanks to you all for this rich and stimulating sharing of ideas.

As Jackie mentioned, we should not let insufficient funding be a "roadblock" to progress in the field of adult education.  There were so many great ideas that were shared during the course of this discussion.  Some that struck a chord were the importance of PD in which teachers feel invested, as mentioned by Irene and Chris.  The value of encouraging teachers to teach to their area of expertise, a practice shared by DeAnn, which is getting good results at Hawkeye Community College, the importance of improved assessments and use of teaching labs that are working well in Maine, mentioned by Ed.  Another innovative model that is worth another look is the co-teaching model known as I-Best, successfully practiced in Washington State, and last, but not least we can learn from outstanding non-profits such as GPLC in Pittsburgh.  We should continue to emulate these (and other) innovative ideas in order to continue to move our field forward.

It is also equally important, as David pointed out, to make adult education a “desirable field of work with genuine career paths as well as opportunities for teachers at every level to be involved in shaping, evaluating and redesigning PD”.   It is imperative that we do this if we are truly serious about creating and maintaining a dedicated and quality workforce. This should be a call to administrators (local as well as at the state level) to create a long-term vision for the field.  Our goal must be to enhance the standing of our profession by ensuring excellent programs, a quality workforce and hand in hand with this, appropriate support for the dedicated staff of this workforce.

I hope you will continue to share your insights.

Anurag

adsagar1@yahoo.com

JackieTaylor's picture
One hundred

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your time, enthusiasm, and rich contributions to last week's guest discussion of "Doing It All": Successes and Challenges in Teaching Adult Education. I'd like to give a special thanks to Dr. Anurag Sagar, our guest discussant, for facilitating and for sharing her passion, expertise, and experiences in adult education.

I have updated the summary to include our "visioning and next steps"  conversation held earlier this week:

Summary of "Doing It All" Guest Discussion

Please reply (by Tuesday, 10/13) by posting a comment or by emailing me direct to one or more of the following questions
(Jackie@jataylor.net). I'll use your feedback to improve future guest discussions:

1. What did you like most about this guest discussion and/or the discussion format?

2. What would you like to see changed about future guest discussions?

3. What was one (or more) of your key take-aways?

4. What would you like to see happen in follow up to this discussion?

5. What are your next steps, if any, to move the issue (of improving the adult education profession) forward?

I always enjoy learning online with you! Please keep the conversations coming so that we can continue to benefit from one another's experiences.

Sincerely,

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

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