Study Regarding Open Entry Instruction

Hello Daryl,

I am working on providing information to some teachers around open entry/exit program models in comparison to managed enrollment program models. I believe that you conducted a study through the Division of Adult Studies, University of Kansas' Center for Research on Learning in Kansas several years ago in which classroom instruction in open entry programs was videotaped and one of the findings was about the "butterfly effect" with students receiving a limited amount of direct instruction--something like less than 10 minutes in a 60 minute class period. Were the research findings published and available to the public?  If so, could you please share?

Thanks, Daryl!






Sorry for my delay in responding. I had missed your post!

We did conduct a study in KS adult ed programs about the value of one approach of enrollment over another.

While I can't get back to those data readily, my recollection is that for all of the programs in which we could contrast the two approaches (using historical data), the managed enrollment was more (over-whelmingly) effective about retaining students at 3 week and 6 week intervals.

Your other question was about the amount of direct instruction we observed. We have two publications about that study. As you expect, the more explicit instruction such as through grouping of students or providing a content focus, we saw more time of direct teaching and evidence of student engagement. The findings are presented in these publications.

Mellard, D. F. & Scanlon, D. (2006). Feasibility of explicit instruction in adult basic education: Instructor-learner interaction patterns. Adult Basic Education, 16(1), 21-38.

Mellard, D. F., Scanlon, D., Kissam, B., & Woods, K. (2005). Adult education instructional environments and interaction patterns between teachers and students: An ecobehavioral assessment. Literacy and Numeracy Studies, 14(1), 49 -68

These papers were part of a USDE, Office of Special Education Programs funded research effort about increasing participation of dropouts with learning disabilities and severe emotional disabilities in adult education.

Hope this is helpful.


Thank you, Daryl!  This is terrific information and just what I was looking for.  I will review and share with the teachers who are interested in this information.  One last question, were these studies the basis for the development of the seven components of the Comprehensive Adult Education Planner, Proficiency Attainment Model (PAM)?  The only link I could find was on the University of Tennessee-Knoxville website.  Is it still available through the University of Kansas?  Are there other models you would recommend reviewing as well?






Yes, these studies were part of the foundation work in developing the Comprehensive Adult Education Planner, which became affectionately known as the PAM model. 

The materials are available from our KU, Center for Research on Learning (CRL) website in the work we completed in the Division of Adult Studies (DAS). The Comprehensive Adult Education Planner is available on the Materials page at  as a free resource. I suppose you should also know that we have not had the opportunity to conduct a follow-up evaluation for several years. I can imagine that some of the materials may be dated with changes (e.g., in state regulations, composition of the GED, and the practice tests).

I assume you are asking about other program models similar to PAM. I am not aware of other models examining the full range of components that we did in this project. The other project that was funded under the same initiative was through the Washington Research Institute but they had a very different framework since their students continued their high school enrollment as they worked on their GED prep.

Surely, other programs or projects have looked at specific components (e.g., transition of students who completed their GED to employment and post-secondary settings). Around 2008 OVAE funded several transition projects (Ready for College: Transition for Adult Education Participants) to help students with community and technical college transition. As I recall, Kansas, Colorado, North Carolina, and New Jersey (?) were recipients. I can send you our report from our evaluation of the Kansas project if that is of interest.



Please go to

and review our noncredit ESL pilot study and then full implementation of Managed Enrollment.  Since we implemented a Managed Enrollment System in 1999, we have been able to report increased FTES (ADA), 80% persistence and more than 40% promotion to the next level of instruction.  We graduate 100 - 150 students from our transition level each year.  Anecdotally, we found out that students felt that our instruction was more serious - more academic, and teachers felt that they were more able to systematically teach agreed upon student learning outcomes.  We still have about 25% of our program that is open-entry - afternoon classes, open lab courses and Saturday classes.  

You definitely need to have options for just the reasons you mention.  In our program, it is quite common that students will have a life problem and request moving from intensive managed enrollment courses to more open entry courses.  There is no problem doing that.  Conversely, we have students who at first feel they can't commit to the requirements for managed enrollment attendance, but then they find out they can and enter the following term.    One interesting side fact we discovered is that 10 - 14% of students have perfect attendance - even in our night program.  I think this supports the often cited fact that our students have limited periods when they can study for longer hours.  Some of our students attend school from 8 - 4 or 12 - 9 (3 courses consecutively)


We recognize that students do encounter life issues with their participation in adult education programs. Such events are unavoidable for us all.

The general counsel was to indicate to students as part of a pre-enrollment or orientation component that they have options and that the managed enrollment will always be an option. They should though assess what else is happening in their lives and determine whether enrollment fits at this time. This enrollment period may not be the best opportunity and that recognition can be beneficial. For example, if transportation, childcare, or employment challenges might limit their opportunities for the coming enrollment period, they should wait. The general approach was that they didn't need another failure. They needed more success experiences.

We want everyone to be successful and that success requires their engagement in the learning opportunities that are provided (e.g., regularly scheduled classes, assessments, and advising). 

This  approach also helped the prospective students weigh whether the program was a good fit on several levels including the academic requirements for classwork and independent work.

As I recall, some staff had a significant adjustment to make as well as the students. Staff attitudes, expectations, and norms of behavior needed to be reshaped as programs shifted to a managed enrollment approach.

Good discussion! Thank you all for contributing your thoughtful comments. 

Mira Costa CC that's been a long time since my last visit to that campus. I always thought good things were happening for students attending there.



The big adjustment was having the concepts vs. content discussion.  We shortened our "never ending curriculum" into 8-week chunks based on agreed upon student learning outcomes.    Faculty needed to look at what they taught and be sure it could be mapped to the agreed upon outcomes.  It was a healthy and lively discussion, but it was a very important one.  Some programs that have tried to replicate what we did approached it from strictly an administrative strategy - arbitrarily reducing term length but not engaging faculty in what to teach in that intensive format.  The curriculum is as important, maybe more important, than how you manage the enrollment.  

Daryl return any time.  We are so lucky to learn from all of our adult education colleagues.    

In one of our research activities associated with an OSEP funded grant, we engaged the adult education faculty in discussions about curricular organization. The program was largely GED attainment oriented, but included a wide range of student skills and thus was not having as much success with lower level students.

One of the outcomes of the curriculum discussion was that "courses" were organized into both small group and  large group instruction. The small group instruction focused on: (1) learning strategies, (2) very specific skills e.g., developing reading vocabulary, or (3) topical interest (e.g., child care). 

The courses had a specific structure with learner outcomes, meeting times, and duration. The approach helped increase learner engagement with the content. 

The approach was contentious as we began, but develolped strong support with the teachers and students as we progressed.