WIA Community Conversations Summary - Adult Literacy Professional Development

WIA Community Conversations Summary

Adult Literacy Professional Development

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Adult Literacy Professional Development Questions:

  • What are the successful ingredients needed to help teachers and programs prepare learners for college and / or work?
  • What do you see as some of the greatest challenges? What are some innovative solutions to those challenges?
  • What is needed in the next 5 years to improve professional development?

The issues participants discussed pertain to providing intensive, high quality, sustained professional development (PD) while strengthening and stabilizing the adult education workforce so that talented and experienced practitioners can access and benefit
from that professional development and stay in the field.

Participants noted that the salient points are also captured by the National Coalition for Literacy’s Professional Quality Policy Principles
and the Association of Adult Literacy Professional Developers (AALPD) Recommended Policies to Support Professional Development For Adult Basic Education Practitioners

Successful Ingredients


  • Well-trained practitioners through intensive, sustained professional development.
  • Commitment to quality is “a two-way street” – from both the practitioner and from the system to provide the conditions practitioners need to stay in the field.

Professional Development Coordinator

  • Have a highly skilled instructor be the program PD coordinator to coordinate professional development for program staff. The PD coordinator serves as a liaison between the program and regional or state professional development, responds to questions, guides
    action research, assists others with their online professional development, substitute teaches so that instructors may attend PD, and serves as a PD resource to staff. This is often a full time staff person who is a coach or mentor for other instructors. (4408)

PD Methods

  • Job-embedded professional development, with focus on college and work transition.
  • Integrating 21st century technology into teaching and learning.
  • Mentoring and coaching in adult education, with compensation to participate.

Program Structures and Services

  • Student intake and orientation on a college campus; including a focus on trends in the local job market.
  • Paid transition advisors who come from an adult education background.


  • Strong, qualified leadership at all levels to help set goals and priorities for adult education. Provide a structure that allows professionals to focus on fewer hats, draw upon educators’ strengths, allow innovative practices to emerge. (4371)

Learner Goals

  • Maintain flexibility to help all learners achieve their goals, even those goals that do not include transition to college or work. (4371)

Elevate the Profession: Increase Full-Time (FT) Employment Opportunities

  • FT instructors are more visible, active in the community; FT staff tend to raise the visibility of adult education, have more opportunities to access and benefit from PD, also garner respect for the profession.

Examples of Successful Models

  • Kentucky state professional development; includes job-embedded professional development, tuition reimbursement for college classes. Because of job-embedded professional development, one program reports increasing their GED obtainment rate by 153% the first
    year (4410).
  • Regional approach to professional development – see Louisiana as one example. Includes paid PD, travel allowances, and CEUs for participation. (4394)
  • TIMAC project in California, a train the trainer on technology training for instructors. (4400)
  • In Maryland, one program reports that GED graduates doubled when both the GED and External Diploma Program options were offered. They also provide career and employment counselors (4403); they find this to be successful.

PD Challenges


  • PD is often the first to be cut; historically, the field has been focused on serving more learners rather than serving fewer better.


  • Providing sustained professional development in tandem with the conditions needed so that practitioners can access the PD, have opportunities to discuss it with peers, implement it with on the job support, practice, peer observation and feedback. Sustained
    professional development needs systemic support so that all components of the adult education system are focused on increasing the quality of the adult education workforce.
  • Ensuring training is consistent in delivery and quality.
  • Being highly skilled in a broad array of subject areas. Instructors need a deeper understanding of the concepts and content, and to teach using a variety of instructional methods beyond the favored individual drill and practice.
  • Program directors need to be qualified to support instructor professional development, including identifying PD needs of local instructors, best practices to meet these needs, methods for assessing instructor learning, and knowledge of the research on successful
    instructional practices for specific content areas and learning environments.
  • While online professional development can be innovative and cost-efficient, one challenge is affording to provide both online and face-to-face PD.

Professionalizing the Workforce

  • The system most often does not provide incentives for teachers to pursue a higher level of professionalization. Low paid, part time teachers cannot afford to invest in college level courses in adult education.
  • Great need to recruit young, trained practitioners and to provide hands-on internships in adult education programs so they learn practical techniques.

Working Conditions

  • Historical reliance on a part-time workforce.
  • Reaching part time teachers who do not have paid release time to attend professional development and no funding to pay for substitutes.
  • Part-time workforce faces financial constraints to go to college and stay in the field.
  • Having more full-time, well paid staff in order to keep talented, experienced instructors in the adult education field.

PD Methods and PD Content

  • Instructors need forums to continue informal and nonformal educational development.
  • Need PD on a variety of pedagogical models that address the unique needs of learners with respect to the content.
  • Need to walk the walk – working with technology should be required of all of us; learn new tools as they become available.


  • The field lacks answers to fundamental questions that should be addressed through research.
  • How do we know when professional development is making a positive difference in student achievement?

In Five Years

Create a Paradigm Shift. Help shift the thinking that only more and better PD will solve training issues, to include providing the supports adult educators need in order to access and benefit from PD. Redefine adult literacy professional development.

Create a national entity focused on professional development. Partner with AALPD in planning for and implementing a national entity focused on professional development.

Fund a national research center or institute: Use a broad definition of research, including ethnographic studies, action research, and so forth; research the intersection of PD with teacher working conditions and professionalization; conduct research on instructional and PD practices, and on integrating
technology, including new 21st century technologies, in teaching/learning/PD. Explore the connection between professional development and improved student outcomes.

Strengthen interagency collaborations at local, state, and national levels.

Funding: More funding must be invested in adult education in order to both provide the sustained professional development needed and to create full time positions with benefits so instructors can earn a living wage and stay in adult education; increase state leadership funding; require a greater and more direct state dollar investment that goes well beyond what is in policy now; ask governors and state superintendents to make adult education and literacy a priority.

Improve the quality of professional development: Provide support in the legislation for the AALPD Quality Standards for Professional Development
fund ongoing, high quality, sustained professional development opportunities, including a range of methods and approaches, such as face-to-face, blended, online, and job-embedded professional development.

Improve practitioner working conditions: Paid professional development release time; paid planning time; increase access to colleagues for job-embedded professional development; increase access to more full time employment opportunities; require more full time instructors at the local level through the grant process and/or through incentives for hiring more full time staff; encourage providing benefits, full or pro-rated.

PD Resources and Technology: Support a free national library of authentic adult education classroom and tutoring videos that can be used for online professional development; support methods that integrate technology
in teaching, learning, and professional development; upskill our entire workforce for the digital age.

Professionalize the Workforce: Offer incentives to states that successfully encourage teachers and administrators to complete credentials and certificates and engage in sustained and intensive professional development; offer incentives
for programs to collaborate with local universities to recruit and train young instructors; establish minimum teaching standards and credentialing requirements.

PD Content for the 21st Century: Offer PD in: new technologies for obtaining and using knowledge; teaching in the context of work; integrating curricula and collaboration models for team teaching; learning disabilities training;
transitioning learners to postsecondary or career training options; formative assessment.

Encourage the use of incentives: Fund state level demonstration programs that develop incentives for substantial, ongoing, professional development for part-time and full-time teachers. Create equity: part time teachers want access
to professional development, too.

Social Services and Case Management: Increase social services and case management support and paraprofessional support (4372); hire career counselors or develop programs that collaborate with partners to inform learners about careers,
career planning, and occupational trends; provide incentives for collaborations among adult education programs, community colleges, and businesses.