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PIAAC - Let's do something about those results!

The PIAAC Literacy Circle has completed its objectives but remains open for anyone wishing to review the discussions and add to them.

The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) released data in October 2013 from its worldwide literacy survey. Among other findings, it is  disturbing to say the least that (1) a larger percentage of U.S. adults scored in the very lowest levels for reading literacy, compared to the international cohort and (2) U.S. adults with less than a high school diploma scored lower than their peers internationally.

When are things going to change and who will change them? If not now, when? If not we, who? 

The purpose of the Literacy Circle was to discuss practices related The Amy Trawick’s Using the PIAAC Literacy Framework to Guide Instruction (2017) and their usefulness in developing literacy instruction among adult learners in ABE, HSE, Family Literacy, and, possibly, ESOL programs in the United States. Trawick's Guide is in our Resource Collection, along with Sabatini's Understanding the Basic Reading Skills of U.S. Adults: Reading Components in the PIAAC Literacy Survey. You may also access some of the other resources shared in the past four weeks at

Trawick's template for developing unit outlines for literacy instruction provides a good start for all of us to begin to apply research-based best practices in instructing our adults by (1) contextualizing content to engage adults,(2) targeting essential skills, (3) selecting a large variety of texts and text types to support their literacy development, and (4) planning instruction to meet student levels. 

Are you willing to drop in with a simple comment on any aspect of Trawick's Unit Outline? What do you think about the areas addressed and how they are approached? Let's talk more. If not we, who?



Kathy_Tracey's picture

Context, Content, and Cognitive Strategies.

Thanks for leading this Leecy. I find the combination of context, content, and cognitive strategies to be increadibly useful. What is the context of the instruction? As we have all experienced, adults need relevance in their instruction. What they learn needs to be applicable to their daily lived experiences. Then, we need to select appropriate content. There needs to be an array of content, from digital to print, and include the shift from top down / left -to - right reading to the interactive and nonlinear text available in our tech driven society. Finally, students must be able to access information, integrate and interprete the information, and evaluate and reflect. 

In a multi-level classroom, achieving all of these steps can feel overwhelming. Students entering a classroom at different levels and all have different needs (making the relavency) extremely complex. Technology access - even in adult education classes - is not always available, leaving many students vulnerable. 

With all of this, I wonder if educators feel overwhelmed with attempting to pull all the pieces together. Certainly, the model and feedback provided in the PIAAC Literacy Circle was a phenominal starting point. The first time integrating a new framework in the planning of instruction can take a great deal of time. And in my experience, when something new takes a lot of time, and time is a very limited resource, I tend to go back to 'the way I did things before." My prior methods were "good enough".  Yet, with practice, and resolve, new strategies take less and less time to implement as my comfort level and experience increases. 

I'd like to know how many of our CoP members struggle with the limited time resources available to fully integrate new, research-based practices? And, if this is a concern, what resources or tools assist with not only implementing a new practice, but staying with it? What are your challenges? 

Kathy Tracey


S Jones's picture

(Repllying mainly to "bump" the topic so others might notice it...) 

I know time is a huge problem for us in adult ed --    I'm not really up on it because I'm college staff and the adult ed folks who once would have time to talk things over with me ... don't this year.   THey're going nuts.    

Leecy's picture

 Yes. And yet, Kathy and Susan, and yet...If not we... Can we just take a few baby steps in new directions? One baby step? One thought shared here about one small practice that promises to start from seed? Hmmmmm...

Leecy's picture

Kathy brings up two issues related to planning instruction following the PIAAC Literacy framework:

1. In a multi-level classroom, achieving all of these steps can feel overwhelming.
2. And in my experience, when something new takes a lot of time, and time is a very limited resource, I tend to go back to 'the way I did things before."

Regarding time issues, which instructors and administrators constantly use as a reason for not changing how things are done, I invite this community to comment on two questions:

1. What if instructors selected only one fraction (baby steps) of the framework to address during a week or a month. For example, what if, as an instructor, I decided that for the next month, I would target one context with one individual or small group? Or what if for one month, I decided to find five different types of texts that met the reading level of difficulty for one or more students? Next month, I could target something different in the framework. And what if I collaborated with one or more other instructors to accomplish the fraction that I selected? Would that provide a reasonable start that didn't represent the age-old reasons for not changing: more time and more money?
2. What if time were not an issue? What if instructors were allowed 40% of their paid time to trying new approaches? What would you, as an instructor do with that paid time? Would the PIAAC framework and the Unit Outline that Amy Trawick proposed serve you at all? What other innovative practices would you try?