Adult Literacy Educational Program Design Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

" (Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson, 1998)

Activities in the classroom that use generative themes derived from the adult learner's lives "have been seen to facilitate their acquisition of literacy." (Friere, 1992; as cited in: Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson, 1998) According to Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson (1998) the use of "life-context-specific materials and activities in adult literacy programs is supported by research that documents the powerful role of context in learning." Stated as an example is "...workplace literacy programs teach literacy skills as they are needed within specific work contexts. Compared to programs that concentrated more on 'genera' literacy, adult programs that incorporated job-related materials were associated with larger increases in both job-related and general literacy." (Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson, 1998) However, it is noted that other studies state findings that "much of the growth made by participants in general literacy programs is likely to be lost if recently learned skills are not applied to real-life situations." (Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson, 1998)

Furthermore, it is noted in the work of Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson that the transfer of skills "between extremely difficult and rarely accomplished by learners to the degree often assumed by educators." (NCAL, 1994; as cited in: Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson, 1998) Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson (1998) state that 'Dialogic educational practice is that which includes the students as a participant and partner in the goals, activities, and procedures of the class and program." This is stated to be "in contrast to the more typical practice wherein students cede authority and power to the teacher (or underlying program structure) for decisions regarding their learning." (Purcell-Gates, Degener, and Jacobson, 1998)

The work of Sharon McKay and Kirsten Schaetzel (2008) entitled: "Facilitating Adult Learner Interactions to Build Listening and Speaking Skills" states that adult education programs "serve both native English speakers and learners whose first, or native, language is not English." Adult basic education (ABE) classes are attended by those whose native language is English in order to "learn basic skills needed to improve their literacy levels" and adult secondary education (ASE) classes are attended to earn "high school equivalency certificates." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) Both ABE and ASE instruction is stated to assist learner "achieve goals relate to job, family, or further education." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008)

Those whose second language is English attend English as a second language (ESL), ABE, or workforce preparation classes "to improve their oral and literacy skills in English and to achieve goals similar to those of native English speakers." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) it is important that those teaching literacy "raise the issue of cultural differences in communication styles and preferences. Different cultural groups have different ways of interacting." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008)

The example provided is as follows: "Jin and Cortazzi (1998, 2006) describe cultural differences in classroom interactions. They examine interaction styles of Chinese learners and British teachers in mainland China and the United Kingdom. Chinese learners are accustomed to teacher-directed lectures and do not see classroom discussion or dialogue as part of language learning. When British teachers use dialogue, discussion, and small-group work for language learning, Chinese learners think that the teachers are being lazy and that the activities are a waste of time." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) This makes it important that those teaching literacy classes "...explain the rationale for the different types of activities they assign and the ways that these activities can build language skills." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) Also indicated as vital for discussion are the following points:

Discuss how learners should address their teachers, employers, colleagues, and classmates, because terms of address are culturally specific and learners will feel more comfortable with interaction if they know the culturally appropriate ways to address people

Create guidelines for classroom communication that facilitate comfortable personal space, speech volume and intonation, and body language

Be cautious about introducing personal ideas and opinions, because students accustomed to a teacher-controlled classroom may feel ill at ease disagreeing with a teacher (Christensen, 1991; Schaetzel, 2004; as cited in McKay and Schaetzel, 2008)

Activities suggested for the purpose of increasing peer interaction and feedback are those as listed in the following table and specifically regarding 'lesson stages' and 'types of activities' for each of these.

Activities for Increasing Peer Interaction and Feedback



Activate prior knowledge

Discussion questions

Conversation grids

Peer interviews


Introduce new content

Jigsaw reading/writing

WebQuests (directed online research with associated tasks)

Focused listening tasks and dictogloss


Use new content and skills

Problem-based learning

Task-based learning

Structured discussion


Determine effectiveness of learning and determine next steps

Note cards and forms for formative evaluation

Reflection activities

Source: McKay and Schaetzel, 2008

During the preview stage of the lesson teachers work on preparing learners for the "new content and skills to be learned" which will be accomplished through:

discussion questions;

Conversation grids; and Peer interviews. (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008)

Presentation of new content or skills is stated to be done "interactively through jigsaw readings, WebQuests and other kinds of focused listening tasks." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) the students have the opportunity to "work together on content comprehension and to teach content to other students." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008)

Focused Listening Tasks are stated to be particularly helpful "in presenting new content to a multilevel class." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) McKay and Schaetzel state that 'practice' is "...a critical factor in second language acquisition, and interactive practice of new content and skills can help learners incorporate skills and knowledge from their first language into their learning of English. Practice can include focused learning tasks such as problem-based learning, task-based learning, and structured discussions." (2008)

It is additionally noted that 'Problem-Based Learning allows learners to interact in a pair or small group to solve a problem. First they are introduced to the problem. Then they explore what they do and do not know about the problem, generate possible solutions, consider the consequences of each solution, and together choose the most viable. For example, in an intermediate class, learners might work in groups to figure out the cheapest transportation to use to come to class, considering an impending increase in bus fare." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008)

According to McKay and Schaetzel "Task-Based Learning' "has the teacher assign a specific task and learners work together in pairs or small groups to find the information they need and present it to other groups. These activities include such as: "...comparing two pictures or texts to find the differences, finding out how to lease a car, learning what houses cost or rent for in a specific area of their city." (2008)

Finally, the 'Evaluation and Feedback Activities" include interaction activities for the purpose of evaluation of the progress of learners. Suggested by McKay and Schaetzel are note cards which can be used to facilitate the learner's reflection on their own interactions and to know when they were and were not successful in communicating the message. It is critical that clear criteria are set in all evaluation and feedback activities in order that the learners understand that the teacher will be seeking and "what they themselves should examine when they reflect on their interactions." (2008)

The use of note cards additionally allows the teacher to provide feedback to the learners in real-time. Also suggested as a form of evaluation and feedback is videotaping of the sessions so that the students can view themselves and one another and "analyze their strengths and weaknesses." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) McKay and Schaetzel report that individuals who are beginning and literacy-level learners: "...will benefit from opportunities to interact orally. When literacy-level learners begin to develop their literacy skills, the activities described below, which focus on oral interaction rather than use of print materials, can be used to scaffold their interactions." (2008)

Conversation grids are stated to include space for "peer interaction and previously learned vocabulary." (McKay and Schaetzel, 2008) McKay and Schaetzel conclude by stating: "Interaction activities can be incorporated into classrooms at any language level and at any point in a lesson. With careful planning and support, opportunities for interaction can make classroom learning more meaningful. Seeing the benefits that learners reap from interaction activities -- in increased proficiency and confidence and ability to move to higher levels of classes -- teachers may want to examine their current classroom practice and incorporate more opportunities for interaction." (2008)




Identified needs in relation to 'Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes (KAS) required to fulfill these needs are those as follows:

Interaction with peers;

Conversation in daily life (business, professional and personal)

Listening tasks

Problem-based learning;

Task-based learning

Structured discussion and interaction that is diverse culturally informed.

Literacy skills generally.

Interaction with peers is important and successful interaction with peers promotes the quality of the individual in terms of employment as well as social interactions and interactions with business and professional contacts not to mention better interaction between individuals and institutions of education. Functional…

Sources Used in Document:


Basic Reading Skills - Adult Literacy Supplemental Assessment (2009) National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL). National Center for Education Statistics. Online available at

Ways to Get Involved (2009) ProLiteracy. Online available at

Issues in Literacy (2009) SIL International. Online available at

Britt, Robert Roy (2009) 14% of U.S. Adults Can't Read. Live Science. 10 Jan 2009. Online available at

Cite This Thesis:

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