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What top barriers are faced by instructors or their adult learners who are preparing to pass the GED or enter college?

This week, you are asked to complete a poll identifying three top writing barriers faced by instructors or adult learners in preparing to pass the GED or entering college.

After giving the issue some thought, register your vote for top choice by clicking on the Poll tab in this community. Please be aware that our polling tool only allows one question per poll, so after you make your top choice, scroll down to the "Add a New Comment" area. In the Comments area, add two more top choices in your comments, along with add a brief rationale for your selections. Also include any other ideas, references, or suggestions you may wish to add. As others post, you are invited to respond to them as well while this poll remains open for two weeks, or until Sunday night, June 7th.

Grammatical challenges
33% (1 vote)
Limited exposure to common academic topics
0% (0 votes)
Limited organizational skills
0% (0 votes)
Limited vocabulary
33% (1 vote)
Syntax challenges
0% (0 votes)
Writing anxiety
33% (1 vote)
Other _____________
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 3


Anne Dennis's picture

The item "limited vocabulary," so much the marker for language fluency, is a close second, if not a tie, to "grammatical challenges."  A strong grasp of grammar in any language can strengthen learning at all levels, in the way that a strong grasp of musicality links to mathematical ability in many learners (or vice versa).  

"Limited exposure to common academic topics" also adds to the problem of barriers learners and instructors face: when adult learners are working first to gain literacy in life-survival concerns first (health needs, family needs, and work/money concerns), exposure to topics of "academics" seems quite secondary.  

My sense in working with adult learners, and in my own instruction practices, is that the time and effort required to comprehend GED-level academic topics for reading, let alone writing, must make the entire process extremely overwhelming.  At times, I am overwhelmed as the instructor trying to figure out the "where to start, where to start" spot for any learner I meet.

Leecy's picture
One hundred

Anne, I love your conclusion, which is something we might want to address further in this group, "At times, I am overwhelmed as the instructor trying to figure out the "where to start, where to start" spot for any learner I meet."  You have gotten us started here, so thanks! Leecy

janekelly's picture



I would like to vote for TIME and TYPING as problems for adults trying to pass an HSE exam.

I mean 50 minutes is not enough time for my students to read the prompt essays, construct a response and neatly write or type it.

Then there is the issue of typing or word processing skills. 







Leecy's picture
One hundred

Points well taken, Jane. Should we provide students with more timed writing activities on the computer? What think? Leecy

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Jane, and others,

Jane, you've identified two important challenges for students preparing for HSE writing: working effectively within the given test time limit, and having good typing skills. Leecy has pointed to a solution for the time issue: lots of timed practice on computer extended response writing or essay writing.  Ideally if you do this with a group, you could hold a reflection discussion after each exercise. For example you might ask students:

1. What did this timed writing exercise feel like (this time compared with previous efforts)?

2. What, if anything, was easier to do this time?

3. What is still a challenge?

4. What ideas do you/we have for overcoming that challenge?

Regarding typing, I believe that students need  to be able to type a minimum of 40 WPM. 60 WPM would be better. The typing needs to be automatic, in the background, nearly free of typos, not something that gets in the way of thinking, planning, generating detailed and well reasoned written responses. 

It takes time -- a lot of disciplined practice -- to learn touch typing skills. It also takes having a keyboard, but not necessarily a computer. The adult education programs I am familiar with generally don't have enough computers -- or scheduled time on computers -- for students to learn touch typing to the levels I have suggested. Although some students have computers at home, not all do. What's the solution? There are several:

1. Libraries have computers with Internet access, and sometime with good touch typing programs loaded on their computers. Students need more than 25 or 30 minutes at a time for disciplined practice. They need 45 minutes to an hour. Students with a letter from their teacher that they could present to a librarian, explaining that the student could greatly benefit from typing practice (and also online learning) sessions that were an hour long, usually will  make possible more time on the library computer.

2. There are portable full-size keyboards with very small (one- or two-line) monitors that enable seeing what one has typed. While new ones may cost as much as $200 or more, used ones, available online, for example at ebay or, may cost as little as $10. An adult basic skills program could purchase these and let students use them at the program or lend them to take home. Some students may be able to purchase them.  If the student does not have access to the Internet to use a (free) typing tutoring software program, s/he will need an old-fashioned typing practice book. These are available online inexpensively and free for downloading and printing in hard copy.  (Try an Internet search using these terms: free download typing book .)

3. For online typing tutoring and practice, I have assembled a list of free software programs that I think are suitable for adult learners. You will find it at the Literacy List, specifically on this page: Free Keyboarding/Typing Skills and Practice for Computers and for iPad and Android Tablets .

I hope these suggestions are useful. I wonder what other suggestions colleagues here can offer to address time and typing challenges.

After all, Time and Typing wait for no Test Taker.

David J. Rosen

Leecy's picture
One hundred

David, thanks for responding to Jane's poll comments with several good typing-practice suggestions and online resources! I hope others will join us here with additional suggestions! Adult ed programs here in the Four Corners use Mavis Beacon a lot - not free but inexpensive. I haven't taught with it or used it, but others seem to really like it. Others?