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.
“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.
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.
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:
- If you are not a member of the LINCS CoP, visit: https://community.lincs.ed.gov/ to create an account.
- Once logged in, click the “Groups” tab in the horizontal navigation.
- You will be directed to a list of groups you can join. Select either “Evidence-based Professional Development” or “Program Management”.
- You will be redirected to that group’s home page. On the right you have the option to set your Email Subscription.
- Select “Immediate” from the drop down menu (you can always change this to another setting after the guest discussion.).
- 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.
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.
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?
Jackie Taylor, Moderator
Evidence-based Professional Development COP
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.
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.
Jackie Taylor, Moderator
Evidence-based Professional Development COP
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
I offered a bit more details of how the whole system is designed below in response to another post:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
- Economists predict that by 2020, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some postsecondary education and training beyond high school. (Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020)
- 78% of middle skill jobs (those that require more than a high school education but less than a bachelor’s degree) require digital skills. (Digital Skills in Today’s Economy)
- Proficiency in problem solving using ICT is related to greater participation in the labor force, lower unemployment, and higher wages. By contrast, a lack of computer experience has a substantial negative impact on labor market outcomes, even after controlling for other factors. (Adults, Computers and Problem Solving: What’s the Problem?)
2015 — Incarceration and Recidivism
Increasing interest at the federal level in:
- Reducing prison recidivism (See OCTAE’s new award for Improved Juvenile Justice Reentry Education and OCTAE’s Education Technology in Corrections policy report)
- Helping the formerly incarcerated successfully transition into the community
- Making Internet access available for adult learners and for teachers (although nowhere near what is needed yet)
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
- Of the 36 million adults in need of adult basic education, fewer than 2 million can access publicly-funded adult education services. (Time for the U.S. to Reskill: What the Survey of Adult Skills Says)
- Continuing need and demand for services as indicated by long(er?) waiting lists (2009-2010 Adult Student Wait List Survey)
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Career Pathways Moderator
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?
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.
Career Pathways Moderator
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?
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!
What are you doing in your state to encourage part timers to attend PD?
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.