Adult Research

Research

The National Institute for Literacy invested significant resources in research activities intended to improve reading instruction for adults. Seeking to identify a body of research findings on adult reading (and relevant children’s reading) that could inform teaching and tutoring In addition to strengthening reading instruction through direct outreach to practitioners, the Institute shared the results of its adult reading research projects with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), which is responsible for administering the nation’s publicly funded adult education services. The Institute offered information about findings from the reading research through two webcasts.

The Institute also looked to findings from rigorous research to form the basis of training for practitioners who work with adults with learning disabilities (LD). During the 1990s, the Institute supported research -- the first of its kind -- conducted by the University of Kansas Institute for Research in Learning Disabilities. The results were used to develop a five-volume adult LD reference guide and other materials for the Institute’s program known then as Bridges to Practice. Informed today by new rigorous research, the Institute launched Learning to Achieve LD in summer 2009 and developed new training materials to support practitioners.

Adult Literacy Research Highlights

  • In September 2008, the Institute commissioned the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a three-year comprehensive review and synthesis in the area of adult literacy to situate the themes identified in the framework in the research literature. The study is designed to examine instructional contexts and settings, including the development and evaluation of instructional interventions, student and teacher characteristics, adult and adolescent student learner and teacher quantitative and qualitative outcomes, instructional approaches and related student outcomes for English language learners. The study is also expected to examine the motivational and engagement factors that may directly or indirectly affect enrollment, involvement and retention in adult education programs. A final element of the synthesis is a review of theory and practice to provide insights into the nature of adolescent and adult learning broadly speaking, incorporating relevant work in cognitive science, education sciences, neuroscience, genetics, aging and other related disciplines.
  • The Literacy Research Initiative is a comprehensive online collection that highlights the most recent research and most rigorous research studies on adult and adolescent literacy -- specifically reading, writing, and math. The LRI was designed to bring together information on federally and non-federally funded research, including evaluation research on literacy and basic skills to create a comprehensive picture of the knowledge base on literacy.
  • Seeking to identify a body of research findings on adult reading (and relevant children’s reading) that could inform teaching and tutoring, the Institute worked with the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) to convene a nationally recognized group of adult reading and literacy researchers to guide a review of the literature. The Institute was the first federal agency to conduct such a systematic, rigorous review of the literature on adult acquisition of reading skills, culminating in the report Research-Based Principles for Adult Basic Education Reading Instruction. Research-Based Principles, which was reviewed by staff from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and its Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), as well as external expert reviewers, has been distributed in print to more than 37,000 practitioners and downloaded more than 175,000 times since its release in 2002. A printed summary of the report was distributed to more than 40,000 practitioners.
  • An effort to bring reading research to current practice began in 2001 with the Institute’s support for the Adult Reading Components Study (ARCS), an online diagnostic reading tool informed by the findings conducted at NCSALL. The tool is accompanied by comprehensive information about reading assessments and information that introduces practitioners to scientifically based research findings on reading. The Institute revised and enhanced the tool and related information on the basis of recommendations from an external evaluation and re-launched the site as the Assessment and Reading Profiles (ASRP).
  • The Institute shared the results of its adult reading research projects with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), which is responsible for administering the nation’s publicly funded adult education services. Both Research-Based Principles and the ARCS-based diagnostic tool have been integrated into a reading toolkit developed by OVAE for its Student Achievement in Reading (STAR) project, a national technical assistance project to reform adult reading instruction at the state and local levels.
  • The Institute developed three foundational publications on adult reading and disseminated 100,000 printed copies. Additional copies were downloaded more than 200,000 times.