Redesigning Service Delivery to Increase Persistence and Improve Learning Outcomes for Adults with Special Learning Needs - Full Transcript - Discussion Lists - Learning Disabilities

Redesigning Service Delivery to Increase Persistence and Improve Learning Outcomes for Adults with Special Learning Needs
Full Transcript

Discussion Dates: September 7-9, 2011
Moderator: Rochelle Kenyon, Ed.D.

Description | Agenda | Resources | Guest Speaker

[LD 6609] Welcome to Day 1 of the Discussion with Dr. Laura Weisel
Rochelle Kenyon
Wed Sep 7 09:20:48 EDT 2011

Good morning all,

I am pleased to welcome you to our guest discussion with Dr. Laura Weisel. The 3 days will go very quickly so jump in and participate whenever possible.

Welcome too - to our 130 new subscribers. If anyone has questions about how the discussion is set up, please email me at my personal email address for instructions.

Let the discussion begin...

Happy reading!!

Rochelle Kenyon

[LD 6611] Day 1: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 09:48:09 EDT 2011


Good morning LD discussion list community! It is an honor and pleasure to have been asked to host this conversation on redesigning service to best serve adults with special learning needs. I am proud to have worked in over 40 states with thousands of incredible educators, human service professionals, disability and rehabilitation services, behavioral healthcare providers, ESOL/CLD educators, and correction educators! I am looking forward to your sharing your work and your wisdom on 'redesigning'! For those of you who have participated with me in researching and rethinking service delivery over the past 40 years, we have made some substantial gains. We have come a long way.....

  • From the '70s when we began to notice that students coming into our adult education programs looked like the newly defined and diagnosed youth called 'learning disabled',
  • Through the 80's when we worked at bringing a unified voice to adult education and literacy with the highly energized PLUS campaign targeting Workforce 2000,
  • To the birth of Bridges to Practice as an awareness movement and training that formally opened the discussion of learning disabilities across the country in adult education and workforce development,
  • To the rebirth of NAASLN and many great conferences, pre-conferences, and webinars that have built a cadre of passionate professionals addressing the array of special learning needs in adult education, and finally,
  • The great opportunity for a discussion list devoted to adults with learning disabilities supporting the field's hunger to share diverse thoughts, ideas, and offer wisdom.

And, it is now time to reflect and re-up our capacity to rethink and redesign! There is not an educational website, forum, or conversation that doesn’t include topics related to transformation or innovation. Researchers in brain-based learning, learning disabilities and dyslexia, persistence, postsecondary, career pathways and workforce development cite a multitude of studies that have identified key programmatic, service delivery components, and practices that help students stay the course to achieve education and employment goals.

In reviewing the majority of this research with an eye toward the array of learning challenges that connect most adult basic and literacy learners, I find one conclusion surfacing repeatedly:

The program components that lead to greater persistence and improved outcomes clearly support all learners but especially individuals with special learning needs.

So, if transformation and innovation are so good and so needed…why has it been so hard to transform/innovate the service delivery systems for adult basic, literacy, career, at-risk youth, transition, and developmental education to meet the needs of all learners and specifically all learners with special learning needs? Are the ways our adult education services are delivered part of the problem or part of the solution?

This week’s LD Listserv will focus on:

‘How can adult education services be redesigned to best serve adults with special learning needs?’ We’ve known some of the components for designing services that have been available recently and over past decade, but there have been some illuminating and personally validating surprises. I'm referring to the research on:


  1. Nash and Kallenbach,
  2. Comings,   Career – Directed Learning
  3. Chrisman for the Council for Advancement for Adult Literacy, New Horizons: Incidence of Special Learning Needs
  4. KET Quarterly article - Learning Disabilities Study Shows Complex Issues Behind Learners’ Struggles - about my work with over 100 adult education programs in more than 13 states,

My Own Professional Learning Quest

To arrive at this point in my own professional development, I’ve gone through three major stages of growth: These stages have included my curiosity, studying, researching, and hosting courses on the following aspects:

  1. What is happening between a person’s two ears that could get in the way of mastering the basics of academics and knowing how to be a successful learner and worker, i.e., neuro-cognitive processing, psychologically and socially? ... to…….
  2. What is the most conducive learning environment for learners with special needs/all learners and what is the role of the instructor in supporting individuals to build needed academic/career skills, critical thinking skills, and social capital skills? ... to . . .
  3. How can learning or career-focused programs provide services to:
    1. Engage and support learners with special learning needs/all learners
    2. Encourage instructors to implement research-based innovative learning communities, sustain innovation, and thrive by evolving new practices and improved models. (Working with emerging futures, Sharmer’s Theory U - )

Clearly, my type of professional growth has never been linear; hence new information at every level has led to a new awareness that reopens my thinking about the brain and learning, the role of instructor, delivery of curriculum, engaging learners, and innovative interventions leading to improved models for service delivery. I am still curious!

Here’s a general outline for this three-day dialogue:

Content for Day 1, Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Values and research-based findings that are the critical cornerstones for transforming adult education services that lead to increased persistence and better educational outcomes.

Content for Day 2, Thursday, September 8, 2011

Experiences with transforming service delivery: the good, the bad, and the wisdom of what works.

Content for Day 3: Friday, September 9, 2011

What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation) in service delivery?

Throughout each day, I will offer questions to generate a meaningful dialogue between listserv readers and other listserv readers and between listserv readers and myself.

To begin today’s dialogue, I’m curious about the set of values and principles you use as the guide-posts for your work with individuals with special learning needs and the services delivered by your organization. This may sound ‘basic’ – but, that is the point! We cannot review research, look at improved models for service delivery, design and implement innovative components if we don’t have a set of core values about people, services, and service delivery on which to build and grow. So, get basic and tell us the values you hold near and dear; the values that define your professional world!

Let us hear from you!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6612] Adults with Learning Disabilities Russell Woodward
Wed Sep 7 10:58:26 EDT 2011

Good morning, Dr. Weisel,

In your discussions, could you address your prescriptions for inmate populations in which there are no classes?

Thank you,
Russell Woodward

[LD 6613] Day 1 - Post 2: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 12:28:32 EDT 2011
Discussion Day 1 – Question # 2

Learner persistence is a highly complex issue. There has been a variety of takes on ‘persistence,’ which typically is defined as the length of time a participant attends or the number of contact hours.

Coming, (1999), was one of the first authors/researchers to describe ‘persistence’. In addition to length of stay or contact hours, this early work added: “staying in programs as long as they (the student) can, engaging in self-directed study when they must drop out of their programs, and returning to programs as the demands in their lives allow.”

Over the past years, many research articles and documents have been written that address research-based best-practices for increasing persistence. Much of the persistence research links persistence and increased learner outcomes.

Has that been your experience – i.e., if a participant attends more often and has more contact hours, has there also been an increase in learning gains?

Which of the research-based best practices for increasing persistence…

  • have you identified as important to support adults with special learning needs to persist in your program?
  • should be thought of as the cornerstones in creating an improved model or prototype for service delivery?

What has been your experience with elements that you’ve added to your services, research-based or not, that have helped more participants stay longer in your program and make greater gains?

As I have been working with programs/states the last few years, we have begun to look at three core program components that can help us think about where to place research-based best practices.

Can you categorize your responses on best-practices into these three areas?

  1. Engagement
  2. Identifying Learning Challenges / Special Learning Needs, and
  3. Innovative Interventions/Instruction

I look forward to hearing from you!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6614] Re: Adults with Learning Disabilities
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 12:47:38 EDT 2011

Hello Russell!

Great question about ‘how can adults <<with special learning needs>> in correction settings be helped when there are no classes?’

I know that in correction facilities there are often circumstances in which residents that cannot get out to classes (for reasons other than there are no education classes available) and that there are also facilities where fiscal resources are limited and there is no funding for education classes.

Which of these situations are you talking about? Or, are you talking about another set of circumstances?

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6615] Re: Day 1: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Deb Hurd
Wed Sep 7 12:52:08 EDT 2011

Basic to my guideposts and values is the belief that every person has dignity and worth as a human being, they have an ability to learn, and they have much to contribute in class in terms of life experiences and knowledge. I believe that the shear diversity of students offers a rich background from which to initiate learning. I believe education is a process, a lifelong pursuit. It can take place both in and out of school and that those experiences need to intertwine to make learning meaningful for students. I also believe that teaching is a lifelong process, one that continually challenges me to learn more, to study more, and to try to share a love and excitement of learning with my students.

Deb Hurd

[LD 6616] Re: Delay
Deb Hurd
Wed Sep 7 13:02:19 EDT 2011

Hi Rochelle,

I’m new to the discussion lists. Do I just reply to the questions as they appear on the discussion forum? I notice that answers and additional conversation come to me by new emails, do I hop in and reply to those discussions too? Any help is appreciated.


Deb Hurd

[LD 6617] Instructions for following along in the discussion
Rochelle Kenyon
Wed Sep 7 13:33:01 EDT 2011

Hi Deb and other new subscribers,

I will answer your question on - rather than off-list so it will benefit everyone. You can respond to both the guest speaker’s messages or to other subscribers’ messages. That is done by clicking on “Forward,” adding your message, and sending that email message directly to Make sure before you send your messages that your “Subject Line” is up to date. Make subject lines clear and specific so it actually ‘announces’ what you are going to talk about.

So, to answer your question, you can ‘hop’ in at any time to:

  1. respond to a question
  2. ask a question
  3. make a comment (agree, disagree, ask for more information, etc.)

Remember that all messages are archived in chronological order so you can always go there to read messages that have already been posted. You can't respond through the archives however. They are just where all messages are saved. Go to  where you will see that the top 9 messages are from the beginning of this discussion.

I hope this answers your message, Deb. If anyone has additional messages about how the guest discussion format works, please contact me at my personal email address,

Thanks very much.

Rochelle Kenyon, Moderator

[LD 6618] Re: Post #1: The values that are core to redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 14:16:15 EDT 2011

Hi Deb and thank you for your response on the values you hold as the cornerstones for the work you do. I too hold personal human dignity and mutual respect as the basis for my work with all people. I would add that I value partnerships too. I find that partnerships between participants and partnerships with educators begin what I call “co-creating learning.” Partnerships are collaborations and knowing how to be collaborator, or co-creator, is set of social skills that are highly valued as ‘social capital.’

When I worked in behavioral healthcare, we held a core value that was ‘all people can learn, grow and change.’ This is so important for all people and especially persons with special learning needs to believe about themselves.

I have NEVER worked with anyone who hasn't been able to demonstrate growth.

The way our brain operates and processes information is based on the survival need to ‘figuring things out’ - reduction of entropy - reducing chaos/disorder.... making order, finding meaning -> learning!

Deb, don’t you find that intentions play a big role in using this natural process...i.e., learning? There is some fascinating work by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., on setting intentions and building mindsets. A great little YouTube with Dr. Dweck can be found at: 

Also, check out her work on Brainology, a program to helps learners shift mindsets. Several colleagues in West Virginia brought Dr. Dweck’s work to my attention. Their sharing of this work made a great difference in my knowing how to help all participants begin to feel like they can learn (of which we have no doubt!).

The diversity of adult learners is a blessing in the learning environment. Different worldviews, different life and education experiences make for a rich environment to meaningful conversations. As you stated, learning is a lifelong experience and it is through dialogue with peers that make our experiences broader and hold more value (or less, depending on the conversation!).

As humans, educators also need to think about their growth and development as lifelong learners. I have begun to shift my thinking about the words we use to describe who ‘we’ are and what ‘we’ do. Many of the adults we serve with special learning needs have a set of connotations about the word ‘teacher’ and they aren’t always kind. The word itself carries a lot of baggage for adult learners and can trigger a series of old scary memories about school and learning.

To get back to the roots of adult education, I value being a facilitator of learning - or, as I more often use these days, “host learning.” This begins to move educators from being the ‘knowledge holder’ to setting up the most conducive learning environment for the individuals they are serving. When I move out of being the knowledge holder that opens up the field and helps participants become the knowledge holders. Much of the recent brain research on cognition talks about the role of the learner in learning. Social learning reigns over ‘teacher-driven/teacher as the knowledge holder’ learning. As a facilitator of learning, I host participants to learn with and from one another.

This holds so very true for me in my role as an adult educator. I host learning through a series of courses I lead throughout the county. When I get out of the way and set-up situations where adult educators can work together with other adult educators to ‘figure things out,’ their learning sky rockets along with their buy-in and commitment to the content being learned.

Your passion for learning must be contagious! I can feel your energy in your writing and description of your core values!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6619] FW: Day 1 - Post 2: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Arlene Nelson
Wed Sep 7 14:50:14 EDT 2011

In response to learner persistence, and better meeting the needs of students, we have found that development and implementation of an orientation prior to admittance to a program is one key factor. Once a program has implemented this process and made it a permanent part of their intake procedure they have found students develop a more permanent buy in to the program. Once this has been established, it has proven that progress is made quicker and students have already developed a core group attachment in that they have bonded with other students who have participated in the orientation with them. Often time some or all of these students end up in a small group before the start one on one tutoring, or they stay in the small groups. The groups also prove to keep students involved and coming back on a more regular basis. The sense of community and feeling of being connected creates a desire to continue and to succeed.

Arlene Nelson

[LD 6620] Reply re: inmates without
Russell Woodward
Wed Sep 7 15:11:12 EDT 2011

Dr. Weisel,

Thank you for this reply. Inmates here cannot access classes because they cannot come to a class setting. The solution is what is called “podwalking,” visiting individual students in their housing pods.

Russell Woodward

[LD 6621] Special leaning needs and service delivery
Susan Rathjen Wed Sep 7 15:31:12 EDT 2011


Don’t all students have special learning needs? Whether the need is for a student to have a scribe while taking the official GED writing test, learning communication skills in order to participate in a class discussion, or overcoming second language barriers, we at SFCC ABE/ASE feel strongly that we need to address the full range of learning styles, differences and disabilities in any given classroom. In order to know what kinds of needs our students have, we have to ask the questions, so that they have a chance to tell us their stories/goals. We have to ensure that they have that opportunity by including one on one advising as part of the intake process.

Susan Rathjen

[LD 6622] Re: FW: Day 1 - Post 2: Implementing Best-Practice Research
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 16:08:40 EDT 2011

Hi Arlene!

Thank you for sharing what you and your Oklahoma Literacy Programs have been doing with rethinking the front-end of your service delivery. I am glad that bringing participants together at the beginning, creating a cohort group, and helping the participants build a learning community prior to entering instruction, has helped increase persistence.

Creating a new ‘front-end’ has been part of my work with adult education programs over the past several years. There is lots of support for this in all of the persistence research, including:


  • "Make first interaction one that welcomes students and builds community.”
  • “Offer clear and accessible information”
  • “Involve students in orienting peers.”

I too found, in a very early piece of research (1978) that I did in Ohio, that a student’s first week in the program was critical. The research looked at which program characteristics kept lower level learners the longest and moved higher-level learners through the program more quickly. The key characteristic was that the student had someone to spend time up front, someone to talk about with about their goals, a discussion about previous education and employment experiences, help with identifying learning challenges, and, most importantly, meeting and talking with current students.

In the work I’m doing with in KY, MI, RI, OH, and OK, programs are creating a Student Success Course. We gleaned additional ideas to trial test in the Success Course by looking into additional best-practice research targeting persistence for both adult basic education and for developmental education/community college.

These minimum 12 hour courses are usually ‘certificate’ courses that not only build a cohort group/learning community, but include screening for learning challenges, identifying through discussion and demonstration new adaptations and strategies to manage specific learning challenges, hosting mini-course on the brain and learning, doing some serious discussion and peer-goal setting, completing FASA forms, offering current students the opportunity to be peer-coaches, having guest speakers from local businesses, doing team-building activities, training participant on the steps for successful metacogntive thinking and how to co-create their own learning, and creating individual plans to manage the greatest obstacles that could thwart attendance.

Some programs call this course ‘Power-Up’ or ‘Think Success!’ We’ve mostly stayed away from the word ‘orientation’ since it has old connotations…and we are talking about a new beginning.

Arlene – I am glad to hear that the Oklahoma Literacy programs are moving forward with their new front-end and that it has been successful!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6623] Re: Post #1: The values that are core to redesigning services
Susan Jones
Wed Sep 7 16:12:40 EDT 2011

The essence of “brainology” is in an article online at
(I bought her book on it and it’s essentially the article with a whole bunch of anecdotes added). I try to incorporate this into my interactions with students, especially when they’re tackling math because of the pervasive “I just can't do math” infection.

How can we transform adult ed for students with special needs?

We can examine our delivery and materials and figure out how to adapt them to give people with diverse *anything* better access to the information, as well as to the learning process... and sometimes we can re-invent the learning process.

I'm working on some math videos (still :)) and my theme is “I'll break it down, I'll slow it down... no need to dumb it down.” ( is where the links are...)

Susan Jones

[LD 6624] Re: Reply re: inmates not in classes with Special Learning Needs
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 17:54:53 EDT 2011

Hi Russell, thanks for the clarification.

I am not familiar with ‘podwalking’ but it sounds like an option when residents cannot participate in classes. Is your role is like being the ‘visiting nurse’ where you can spend some time with each resident/student in the pod – or are you just the ‘pizza delivery’ man where all you can do is hand-out education materials and then leave?

In either case, we know that a very large portion of the offenders have special learning needs. Several years ago we (Robin Schwarz, Alan Toops, and myself) did a study on the incidence of special learning needs in the prison population with recommendations for redesigning educational programming. We wrote up the study and published it in a special corrections edition of Focus on Basics. Understanding the Complexities of Offenders’ Special Learning Needs can be found at

Clearly, there are offenders that do not have special learning needs, but most of those individuals are not in GED, Pre-GED, Basic Skills or literacy programs. In several states, there are ‘reception’ centers at which offenders are academically tested. When there is such a center, offenders are targeted as to whether they need attend educational programming. Those who need education programming are often screened to identify special learning needs prior to being sent to their next institution setting.

The screening information can be passed along to the final institution and hopefully be made available to instructors/peer tutors. Of course, instructors must know what the special learning needs are how to support the resident in learning how to manage these challenges.

From conversations that were held in NM with MNDC several years ago, this was one idea that was being bounced around. But, since then and with resource being so tight, I don’t know if any plan ever got put into place. There was staff within NMDC that had been trained to screen for special learning needs. You might want to ask if any of these individuals still are in the system.

Without going through a screening process, we can look at existing data and make some assumptions about the residents you are serving. Most likely, based upon our research, over half of your offenders in your education programs (if they went to US schools) were already identified as having learning challenges or were placed in a special education or reading programs.

Also, based upon our data, I suspect that a large number of your education participants have Visual Stress Syndrome*. This is perhaps one of the easiest of the challenges to quickly respond to and can be done with individuals who are not in classes.

Here is what you could do:

  1. Take any of the resident’s workbook pages and copy the page on a full range of colored papers (both pastels and deeper colors).
  2. Begin with the resident reading aloud the workbook page on the original paper.
  3. Then, hand the colored copied workbook papers to the resident, one page at a time, and ask him/her to read aloud the colored workbook page. Ask the question, “Which is most comfortable to read, reading on the regular colored (white/newsprint) or reading on the _____ colored paper?”
  4. Listen to the resident as s/he reads aloud. Can you tell a difference?
  5. Listen to the resident as he/she goes through all of the colored paper selections.

Do a process of elimination until you can find out which color is most comfortable. You should also be able to hear the resident’s fluency improve, and you should be able to see that their actual distance (face from reading page) with the ‘comfortable’ colored paper should be greater.

It is not a perfect screening, but VSS will be the most common special learning need that you’ll find. I believe that there were some colored filters available in your education system. These can work like the colored paper, but you only need to place these over the resident’s reading or math pages.

I’d also recommend having the resident complete a vision and hearing screening by medical services. You may not be able to do much for their vision or hearing (unless you can get glasses if needed), but just knowing that there are challenges should be helpful. Simple things like a magnifier can be useful for near vision issues. And, just having the correction officers in the pod know that the resident has a hearing loss (if one is identified) could save a lot of grief for the offender who may not very good hearing.

Let me know if these are helpful.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6625] Re: Don’t all students have special learning needs?
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 18:04:03 EDT 2011

Hello Susan, your question of “don’t all students have special learning needs?” is a great question.

In my preview of this hosted conversation, I mentioned that if students didn’t have special learning needs they’d go to the library, get a GED book to study, find some friends to study with, and take the GED test.

As you know, our research on the incidence of special learning needs in the adult basic and literacy education programs, with TANF clients, in transition courses, and in developmental education found that, as an indicator of having learning challenges, it didn’t matter whether a student was a strong or not-so-strong reader.

Our database of over 10,000 participants in the above programs showed that on average, 5 out of 10 of these participants had vision function challenges…mostly in binocular vision. Binocular vision is about using the two eyes together to track, focus, align and sustain reading. Most eye doctors will NOT check for binocular vision in adults (or children) unless specifically asked to do a complete binocular vision assessment.

We also found that 4 out of 10 of these participants had a hearing loss and most often never knew it. Why? Loud music, working with heavy machinery, and having little or no access to healthcare for childhood illnesses like ear infections.

It was surprising to find that 8 out of 10 of the participants had some levels of attention issues. The research states that the biggest issue with attention is not hyperactivity but the ability to focus! When we screen adult educators for attention challenges, the adult educators ALSO have major attention challenges. So, maybe it isn’t whether these exist or not, but whether you know how to manage these challenges.

Finally--and Susan I know you have found this to be true--9 out of 10 of the participants have Visual Stress Syndrome (VSS). Bright fluorescent lights, white walls, white paper with black letters….these wreak havoc in the brains of participants. Just take a look at the number of participants that walk around with sun glasses on their heads; when asked why, they state that they choose to read without any overhead lights, etc. VSS impacts sustained reading. We have found a higher rate of VSS in individuals who culturally come from high sun cultures. A simple colored filter, colored papers, selecting seating near windows or away from being directly under a light fixtures…all of these make a huge difference.

The greatest issue that I find that challenges most of the participants we serve is knowing how to learn. Strange as it may sound, the brain processing needed for knowing how to learn – the frontal lobes/executive functions -- is one of the last parts of the brain to mature.

Knowing how to learn – we call these skills ‘metacognitive’ skills. The big thinking skills required to see/plan the small steps needed to accomplish the larger task. Most of the participants we serve are late developers of these skills and need to learn them and practice them – but only in the context of real learning. I’ve found that in other life situations like making a meal, going shopping, taking apart a car engine, etc., some participants manage these big tasks just fine. It seems like it is in the learning setting that these tasks become overwhelming.

I believe the underlying issue for participants is that they were just in other parts of their brains during the times they could have been learning/practicing metacognitive skills. As participants have told me, they were barely able to survive in class, had great fears and anxieties, had a mindset that they were not able to learn, and lacked the skills to ask questions or know how to break down tasks into simple steps. They were overwhelmed with the process of learning and lacked confidence as learners.

Susan, these are the challenges that interfere with participants’ persistence. If these challenges are not identified, explained, and managed, the participants we serve continue to blame themselves for their lack of ability. I love the part where you say that you have to ask a lot of questions and hear the student’s story. It does take a lot of questions to find out what might be interfering with a learner’s success.

Having participants tell their story is very powerful! I have been working with a group of international change facilitators. They use ‘story’ as a tool to be able to help individuals overcome the challenges in their lives. As an individual tells his or her story – life story – those listening need to focus on positive characteristics such as ‘never giving up,’ being a caring person, showing kindness, helping others, overcoming negative situations, etc. The feedback of peers has made some individuals begin to shift from seeing themselves as a failure to feeling positive about being a survivor!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6626] Fwd: Re: Post #1: The values that are core to redesigning services
Deb Hurd
Wed Sep 7 18:46:32 EDT 2011

Thank you Dr. Weisel,

I am passionate about my work with adult learners. Most have experienced life in a way I have not (I teach in an after incarceration support program). Constantly I’m reminded that if I do not see learning as a partnership, and I loved your words, “host learning,” that my students fall by the wayside. I believe they are equal partners in learning. I love a particular quote from Paulo Freire, which reminds me of that. He said, “Reading the world precedes reading the word, and the subsequent reading of the word cannot dispense with continually reading the world.” Adult learners have read the world for a long time and have much to discuss from the perspective of their particular experiences and point of view.

Thank you also for the link to Carol Dweck. Certainly I will explore her work more.

Deb Hurd

[LD 6627] Day 1 - Question 3: What redesign efforts are in the works?
Laura Weisel
Wed Sep 7 19:13:27 EDT 2011

Discussion Day 1 – Question #3

We are focusing our discussion on redesigning service delivery to improve persistence and learning gains for participants with special learning needs.

For my many years in the field of adult education, there have been theories about how to provide adult education services:



There have been research studies on what builds persistence:

Building Blocks for Persistence

And, there have been studies what is needed for learners to make academic gains:

Critical Aspects of Achieving Learning Gains

Many programs are undergoing fiscal cutbacks, are making the shift from open-enrollment to managed enrollment, going from an open learning center to content-based classes, focusing more on curriculum standards then on what individual students deciding want to learn, and beginning to shift from basic academics to academic development within the context of careers.


Are you feeling pressure from outside of your organization to transform the way you are providing services to participants with special learning needs/all participants?

If yes, what is driving this pressure? How have these shifts been working for participants with special learning needs?

Have you been part of discussions leading up to these major redesign efforts?

Have participants been part of the conversations on how to best redesign programs to support greater persistence/learning gains?

What is being added in your program redesign to ensure that students with special learning needs are not being left behind?

Is there a paradigm shift that is taking place? If yes, what is it?

Is new research on learning being used to increase your effectiveness, build persistence, and ensure greater learning gains?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6628] Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Davis Graham
Wed Sep 7 16:59:57 EDT 2011

Dear Advocates and Dr. Weisel:

Today, I am free of the hurdles or mountainous barriers which used to surround me with text to speech (e.g. Read:OutLoud provided by, ReadPlease, and Balabolka) and for note taking I use Xmind. There is nothing in my path from my “disability” to keep me from learning, except my wanting to learn; just a point I did not say “wanting to read.”

In my recent blog post titled “Dyslexia the Mysterious Gift of Intelligence.” I state “The key to unlocking the Gift of Dyslexia is to create an environment which enables me or the person with dyslexia to read.”

Why are the tools that are readily available such as the ones mention above NOT a part of the education system? Why are we sitting on the digital edge and yet our “Education” system asks those who want to learn to “power down” before they come into the classroom?

Let us take a peek into my world and where the Educational world could be if it ever jumps over the intellectual hurdles persons with disabilities have to go thru to gain access to tools that are waiting for all to use.

Have any of us ever thought of bringing the technologies that we use on a day to day basis and bringing it to the class room?

Think of opening your textbook on your laptop and coming to this very significant figure in all of biology or medicine his name is “Antonie van Leeuwenhoe.” How would you find out who he is, well Read:OutLoud and Bookshare have created such a platform. A couple of days ago I was reading Darwin's Black Box and ran across Antonie van Leeuwenhoe and after highlighting the name then clicking on the dictionary icon in the upper right hand corner, then going to Wikipedia I found out he was a Dutch tradesman and scientist from Delft, the Netherlands and the first person to ever see a cell or a living organism. He was also the first to record microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries (small blood vessels).

Wow is this combination a way to learn. Let us just take it a bit further, now our professor is teaching about the United Nations and a new Nation has been added to its membership, well the textbook publisher has a link and the section on the United Nations is updated and now the student is up to date.

Why are we so behind on updating education to become a leader in the world for learning?

We as a nation need to bring education to the 21st century. It is not because of one institution or another but now it is our obligation to our children to bring it up to date.

We need to look at the savings and most of the educational vantages our children will have in understanding and contributing to our hurting nation. The new administration is talking about “green,” we would not have to have the textbooks printed and there is a savings which could be computed in to the request for purchase.

Green education, what a new idea, except it isn't, it has been brought to the system by the persons who are “Learning Disabled,” and enabled through technology which is provided by and others.

Summary of my questions:

Why are the tools that are readily available such as the ones mention above NOT a part of the education system?

Have any of us ever thought of bringing the technologies that we use on a day to day basis and bringing it to the class room?

Why are we so behind on updating education to become a leader in the world for learning?

Davis W. Graham

[LD 6629] Welcome to day 2 of the guest discussion with Dr. Laura Weisel
Rochelle Kenyon
Thu Sep 8 09:19:58 EDT 2011

Good morning all,

Despite some Internet problems on both Dr. Weisel's end and mine as well, we prevailed yesterday with some interesting discussion. Thank you to Russell Woodward, Deb Hurd, Arlene Nelson, Susan Rathjen, Susan Jones, and Davis Graham for their contributions to the discussion.

For subscribers who sent in messages on the previous discussion strand before this guest discussion began, your messages will be posted on Saturday.

Now, the discussion with Dr. Laura Weisel will continue..........



[LD 6630] Re: Day 2 #1 What is your experience with recent transformations in service delivery?
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 09:36:22 EDT 2011

Day 2, Post #1

Content for Day 2, Thursday, September 8, 2011

Today's Topic: Experiences with transforming service delivery: the good, the bad, and the wisdom of what works.

Yesterday, I ended the day with a set of questions that will lead us into today’s dialogue on transforming service delivery.

I will repeat those questions (along with some additions) this morning in hopes we can begin to hear about transformations that you are experiencing in the field.

Many programs are undergoing fiscal cutbacks, are making the shift from open-enrollment to managed enrollment, going from an open learning center to content-based classes, focusing more on curriculum standards then on what individual students want to learn at the moment, and beginning to shift from academics to academic development within the context of careers.


Are you feeling pressure from outside of your organization to transform the way you are providing services to participants with special learning needs/all participants?

If yes, what is driving this pressure?

Have you been part of discussions leading up to these major redesign efforts? Have participants been part of the conversations on how to best redesign programs to support greater persistence/learning gains?

Have you/your program reviewed the research on the program elements that lead to improved persistence? Which of these research-based components are you working to implement?

How have these shifts been working for participants with special learning needs?

What is being added in your program redesign to ensure that students with special learning needs are not being left behind?

Is there a paradigm shift that is taking place? Is the new research on learning being used to increase your effectiveness?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6631] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 10:23:00 EDT 2011

Susan - great hearing from you (being on this side). I’ve always enjoyed your posts.

Thank you for the link for Carol Dweck’s work. I looked up the article and it is rather complete!

I think our delivery system is overdue for an overhaul. Based upon a variety of multi-discipline research (cognitive psychology, rehabilitation and transformational counseling, strengths-based learning, appreciative inquiry, the new science of learning, etc.), there is a lot of good research-based practices that can lead to rethinking our role about how to help struggling learners not be struggling anymore! I think that is a concern of yours too as I have read your previous posts.

As I have begun the shift from the ‘knowledge holder’ to a facilitator, host, and co-creator of learning, I find that I spend more time on my ‘learning design’ rather than my ‘learning/lesson planning.’ I want to do MORE than help participants learn an academic skill. I want to do MORE to help struggling learners become successful learners, parents and workers.

As I was chatting with adult educators is southwestern Kentucky last week, we were talking about the reality that participants in our programs need more than just academic skills to be successful.

For these adults, participating in our programs may be the last time anyone is going to give them the opportunity to understand how to manage learning challenges, learn how to manage their own learning of anything, and offer participants an opportunity to practice the social skills they need to be a success in any situation.

(The definition of success is rather relevant. I believe that success is subjective for each person. So, a conversation with participants about defining their own success is rather important.... what a great conversation that could be and one that is often repeated!)

You stated: “We can examine our delivery and materials and figure out how to adapt them to give people with diverse *anything* better access to the information, as well as to the learning process... and sometimes we can re-invent the learning process.”

I'm getting clearer that the ‘we’ isn’t ‘us professionals’ but a collaborative process with participants to co-create learning focusing on the participant’s strengths, adapting what we can so that all participants have full access to all any way they can access it. It is in the co-creation that participants learn the steps in the process of learning and managing our own unique way of gathering and using knowledge/information.

The issue isn’t the content or curriculum, it issue is about the process of learning.

Why when I screen instructors, do they have the same learning challenges as the participants we serve - in more, less, or equal degrees?

How have successful learners managed to deal with their areas of challenge? Why have some individuals figured it out and others haven’t? And, if successful individuals (by their own standards) use accommodations, adaptations, and strategies (calculators, spell check, use only natural or low lighting, take copious notes,, etc.) to manage getting, receiving, interacting, and outputting in their daily lives, why aren’t we making it possible for all individuals to be successful learners using whatever they need - without needing a diagnosis?

It isn’t ‘cheating’ to use a calculator. You need to know the process and if your memory isn’t terrific with numbers, why waste precious time and chance faulty outcomes? This is the technology age where every phone has a calculator.

We don’t have time to waste. The participants we serve don’t have time to waste. There are real workplace knowledge and skills to learn and perform; these are not tests in the details, but clearly about being responsible and accountable for outcomes.

McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” the process is the product; all focus on the ‘how of learning’. It is in the ‘how’ that comes the excitement, the positive endorphins that make you feel good.... and successful!

So, the reframing we need to do is to shift our own paradigm - get out from the old notion of I am the ‘teacher.’ When the new research on the brain and learning talks about learning happens best with peers who can comfortably debate and show other ways of figuring things out, our role is pretty can we set up a safe environment where participants can do this? (In the ‘90s I was doing a lot of high level leadership and executive training in the behavioral healthcare, legal, publishing, and related fields. A great article in Harvard Business Review came out about that time on ‘How do you teach smart people to learn?’ The article gave this exact recipe: set up a safe environment where executives could, with peers, trial test ideas, debate, collaborate, and practice different ideas/ways of working. Hummmmm? I guess being human is the great common denominator for all of us and how we learn! PS - many of these high-level executives had a great many learning challenges, but only viewed their managing these challenges as part of their most impressive strengths!)

Educators usually laugh when I say, “Get over yourself. This isn't about you. It is about how to help all participants become successful members of our society...and we cannot do this if we are not including the participant in designing and actively participating in the learning process.” This often leads to questions on how much time the ‘planning’ takes.  Yep, co-creating learning with participants and participants co- creating together takes time. Co-creating is training metacognitive skills. These are the building block for being a critical thinker and the capacity to manage your own learning. I say that co-creating should roughly take 1/3 of the time when participants are together - including the important last steps in metacognitive thinking: self-evaluation and reflection - along with reviewing what was learned (both in content and process) that can be transferred to the next learning situation. That’s not bad for hardwiring the core critical process needed for learning. It is about repetition.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t ‘personal practice’ that is needed. Participants can do that during ‘classroom time’ but that kind of solo/workbook practice might be best done back home or on a computer program after class.

I see class time for setting intentions (key for learning), learning questioning, participating in active engagement, dialogue, and debate, learning how to listen and speaking your ideas, working through the variety of ways to learn to see which one works for you, solving, writing, developing leadership skills, practicing social relationships and getting feedback on the social skills needed for being a member of any community. I’m referring to these skills as 'social capital' skills. Participants with special learning needs benefit greatly when the sharing/using/practicing these skills are done transparently. Do you know what I mean by transparent?

When this is put into the context career pathways it isn’t any different, just the application of the academics is through the lens of the career with application of the academics in real performance of career-based tasks. It is the ‘how’ again that is important.

What do you think, Susan? How does this play with your sense of what needs to be ‘redesigned’ in how we deliver our adult education services?

Thanks for the link to the Resource Room - very impressive! A great resource for all of us.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6632] Re: Fwd: Re: Post #1: The values that are core to redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 11:17:10 EDT 2011

Hi Deb,

Great quote from Paulo Freire. I’ve not read that one before.

I agree with you, your released offenders/adult learners do have a lot to add to meaningful conversations - on life, living, and being/feeling successful (or not).

Life appears to be a roll of the dice. You didn't ask for the genes you got nor did you ask your the environment you grew up in. These two - genetics and life experiences - make us who we are today but do not make us who we could be tomorrow!

Of course, there is a reality clause.

Example 1: I will never be a great figure skater. I have weak ankles. I go skating with a partner who will hold me up when I feel weak or have traverse a large space of ice.

Example 2: My senior year high school English teacher told me that I’d never pass Freshman English because I couldn’t write sentences the way she wanted me to write sentences. I could have given up but instead I decided that she would not define my life nor set my limits. I still have PTSD about writing based upon her cruel nature and ridicule (hence, not too many publications from me!) but it was probably, in part, her negativity that drove me from one degree to another to another to another. I would just show her! I did. More importantly, I showed myself!

Some research done by the Oregon State University on the variables that predict which students would most likely complete their degrees was answering questions on an Insight Resume. All of the questions on the resume were great questions and indicators of the core strength of the applicant.

But, the one I valued the most for the participants we serve is: “Dealing with adversity: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to address this challenge. Include whether you turned to anyone in facing that challenge, the role that person played, and what you learned about yourself.” (Oregon State University, Insight Resume)

This would be a great discussion in your class and a meaningful way to have your participants build on their ‘worldly’ past to find their strengths and move forward into the future.

Let me know how hosting that conversation goes! The participants in your program are lucky to have a facilitator with your strengths and passion.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6633] Response to Dr. Weisel
Russell Woodward
Thu Sep 8 11:56:42 EDT 2011

Thank you for the very appropriate suggestions, Dr. Weisel.

As instructors, we tread a line between “pizza –delivery” and “visiting nurse.” I have sought the reference you made to your study of inmates’ special learning needs, and I thank you for the simple diagnostic of VSS.

As well, I thank you for the responses to others that also are helpful. I look forward to the next two days of this discussion, and I will let you know of results when we try your VSS diagnostic.

Russell Woodward

[LD 6634] Re: Day 2 #1 What is your experience with recent transformations in service delivery?
Alan Toops
Thu Sep 8 12:24:08 EDT 2011

Hello Everyone!

I'd like to respond to Dr. Weisel’s questions on transforming service delivery. As the Executive Director of The Ohio Literacy Network our statewide organization has been engaged in helping community based non-profits think differently about their clients. Currently we are working with 16 organizations in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio on how to transform their service delivery.

These organizations as well as our own do feel external pressure to change the way they serve special learning needs/all participants.

With the ever-shrinking number of state/federal funded programs, they see the need to step up and develop their own wrap around literacy services.

The Ohio Literacy Network as taken a lead role with these organizations on transforming how they develop, deliver and serve their clients. Using a “success course” model and introducing inexpensive etesting, combined with hosting learning and on-line resources we’ve begun re-imagining literacy!

Our initial work as engaged the organization and its clients in building services that are relevant to their needs as well as incorporating research on persistence and intensity. We emphasize screenings and accommodations for every client as well as focusing on metacognitive and cognitive development.

Using hosted learning is a challenging but rewarding and necessary shift away from the traditional role of teacher and student .. it empowers clients to be the “expert” on their learning needs.

Alan Toops

[LD 6635] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 11:50:09 EDT 2011

Day 2 - Response to post from Day 1

Hello Davis!

What a great post! The questions you pose are about ‘redesigning our service delivery.’

Your comments are not just technology for learning but also technology for managing special learning needs. I would like to see all learners with special learning needs be as capable as you at describing what works for them and expedites their getting information, interacting with others, and using their knowledge.

You are a strong personal advocate for YOURSELF! I want to see that all the participants we serve having that same self-knowledge and confidence. Being able to self-advocate and put into place what you need to succeed is critical to managing your own life, being a successful worker and community resident, and being the creator of your own future.

How did you figure all of this out - the tools/technologies you needed to get on with your life?

Your questions were:

Why are the tools that are readily available such as the ones mention above NOT a part of the education system?

Have any of us ever thought of bringing the technologies that we use on a day to day basis and bringing it to the class room?

Why are we so behind on updating education to become a leader in the world for learning?

First, I agree the participants we serve need to have all of the technology they need to be able to overcome their learning challenges - just like we all do. I don’t know if these program that you mentioned in your posting (see below) are available in adult education programs. We need to have other discussion list participants respond.

Second, I am sure these technologies are coming into the classroom - computers, smart phones, scanners, Dragon-speak type software programs. But, I am not sure what else. We need to have other discussion list participants respond.

Third, I don’t know why we are so far behind and why moving from the Industrial Age model of education is so difficult!

The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve with the same level of thinking which created them. -- Albert Einstein

That is why we are having this conversation. We do need new ways of thinking. Margaret Wheatly states that when we need new ways of thinking that usually means we need to include different people in the conversation! I’m glad you are in this conversation! Programs should not be redesigning services without including the voices, ideas, and passion of the participants we serve!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6636] Re: Special leaning needs and service delivery
Lucille Cuttler
Wed Sep 7 22:13:40 EDT 2011

Thanks for an insightful comment, Susan.

The investigations into learning disabilities - dyslexia - have known since the beginning of the 20th C. that explicit, structured, kinesthetic instruction works. Educational specialists trained in such methodology facilitate learners’ success by following that principle. The method integrates all the senses.

Lucille Cuttler

[LD 6637] Re: Response to Dr. Weisel
Mary S Kelly
Thu Sep 8 12:40:21 EDT 2011

Dr. Weisel: Thanks for the interesting conversation.

I know that it’s not an emphasis in your discussion, but I was interested in your statement that Visual Stress Syndrome is the most common learning disability that will be encountered. Is there literature on this and could you point me to it?

Many thanks,
Mary S. Kelly, Ph.D.

[LD 6638] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Susan Jones
Thu Sep 8 12:42:51 EDT 2011

Are you still in the classroom?

If you were in classrooms here, then your questions would be moot -- sort of.

We have the technology. It’s in the classrooms.

The students aren’t using it.

They resist for assorted reasons (sometimes even for the reasons they tell us). Yesterday it was a Professionally Helpless student who was accustomed to 1:1 help and handholding and ... reading things with her, discussing things, and never leaving him alone with a task for more than 30 seconds. That voice was stupid and it went too fast and s/he was there for *help,* thank you.

Other students honestly don’t have the listening skills.

Others have serious issues doing anything they don’t perceive as “what everybody else does.”

Still others would use it, but frankly, they’re already feeling overwhelmed with the academics and one more learning curve to figure out how to use it seems like it will put them even deeper in a hole.

We have some teachers who bring their whole classes down and use the software, on the grounds that it’s just a good idea for everybody to know how it works -- and to actually *use* it. I think this is one really important way to get more people on board, and I also think that it's only in very recent history that the software has gotten easy enough to use for that to be justifiable.

Susan Jones

[LD 6639] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Jan McIntire
Thu Sep 8 12:53:07 EDT 2011

Dr. Weisel,

I am a volunteer literacy tutor for a 37-year old woman who has great motivation but who clearly struggles with “learning” to read. She received the “special ed” label many years ago, and I have come to believe that the label is her biggest impediment. She literally sweats from trying so hard to read. The tutor trainers with my organization have encouraged me to use books without pictures to engage my student in the process of thinking and expressing rather than reading. That aligns with the idea of becoming a co-creator with her and I look forward to a new kind of interaction - one that takes me out of the role of teacher and allows me to be who I am - a willing, caring volunteer.

I greatly appreciate the discussion that is taking place!

Jan McIntire

[LD 6640] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Lisa Beade
Thu Sep 8 13:15:45 EDT 2011

Hello Dr. Weisel & participants!

This is my first time posting, but I must say that I am tremendously impressed by the conversation and heartened by the level of discourse!

I have taught adults & children in classrooms and tutoring sessions and am currently a tutor for Vocation Rehab in RI.

I want to thank Dr. Weisel for her well articulated description of what she has learned by her own thinking and synthesis of best research practices and her valiant effort at trying to get these innovative, effective, and truly respectful models actually put into practice in a field where trying to change paradigms is like moving a mountain using a plastic teaspoon!

Davis, you are a wonderful role model/mentor for the many students I see who have never been given permission, (shown how), to advocate for themselves or what is out there to help them. Often it is because their parents, teachers and case workers haven't a clue either! (Indeed I didn't know about ReadOutLoud ). So maybe, just maybe, there is one bright side to all this economic disaster we are all living through, and that is that it will force systems to move away from the 19th century factory model of education by fiat from the front of the room, because technology and group learning will wind up being far more effective & far less costly!

And Susan, thank you for the link to Dr. Dweck!

Let’s hope that all programs make these innovations open to their clients by educating the people who serve them!

Thanks again,
Lisa Beade

[LD 6641] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Susan Jones
Thu Sep 8 13:15:44 EDT 2011

It’s not cheating to use a calculator -- sometimes.

Right now, a handful of my students (I don’t teach courses, but tutor, but they’re mine anyway ;)) are cheating themselves with calculators. They’re supposed to be learning to add positive and negative integers. It's not failure to know the facts (sometimes that’s included, and sometimes it isn’t); it’s failure to understand positive and negative integers. When they use the calculator, then they’re not thinking about how to do the problem.

Many of them rather honestly have done there very, very best to avoid thinking about math problems. It never worked before; why should it now? They “know” they can't really understand it... but have to get through (or around) this stupid course.

This is one of the “non-academic” issues that are bigger and uglier with students with special needs. They’ve framed themselves as “different” and “special” -- as in, lowered their own expectations. I can tutor like a *champ* but if your goal is to survive the day instead of learn the material, and my biggest clue is when 90% of what you say is about why this isn't the right thing to be doing or what's wrong with the way the teacher delivers it or when the pizza place closes, as opposed to something about the numbers. I know I’ve made an inroad when you start noticing stuff about those numbers :)

On the flip side, yesterday one guy reviewing for that chapter test on the integers said that he still just didn’t get when to add and when to subtract... and when I told him I had these little movies, he was all over “I want to start with the very first one,” and he pored over them until he had to go, and said he was coming back today. He’d spent some time talking about whether he was “slow” or not... but the idea that well, he was here to learn this stuff slow fast or sideways because if you know something, nobody can take that from you... so *somewhere* along the line he’s picked up knowing something and *owning* it.

Susan Jones

[LD 6642] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Lisa Beade
Thu Sep 8 13:26:41 EDT 2011

Thanks Susan,

2 points I would like to make are, firstly, you are very fortunate to be in an institution that provides the latest technology. Adult Ed programs and professional career training courses in RI to my knowledge don’t have any such technology. They don’t even provide books on tape!

And secondly I know what you mean about having student resist change. However, within the intake process, to your institution and to your help centers that gets students to work together on how the technology works and a discussion of how it would or would not benefit them, (facilitated rather than taught by staff) you would probably get a better buy in. What would be best is having a student who had previously struggled, demonstrate and lead the discussion.

[LD 6643] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Lisa Beade
Thu Sep 8 13:33:33 EDT 2011

I don’t want to monopolize the airways, Susan, but how about putting out a problem with the answer and giving the students some manipulatives as well as their textbook and telling them to form a group and figure out how you got the answer. When you let people teach each other, it’s amazing what they can learn!

[LD 6644] Re: Addressing emotional issues - part of our ‘redesign’?
Laura Weisel

Thu Sep 8 13:37:08 EDT 2011

Russell - Make my day! I am so pleased that my comments have been helpful.

This is a challenge - having owned my own PTSD re: writing. Speaking of PTSD, we did a study that never was published although I have made a great many conference and webinar presentation on the research. It was a study in which I hypothesized that our most struggling literacy students had PTSD about reading, learning, and school.

Spending half of my career in behavioral healthcare (mental heath and substance abuse), I was exposed to a non-intrusive therapy when if was first being trained. The treatment - EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) made sense to me as a way to rewire the brain around traumatic experiences.

In the early '90s I share my hypothesis with several staff at the Ohio Department of Education ABLE office. They were gracious enough and curious enough to provide a grant to trial test the idea to see if we could help students overcome their reading and school issues using EMDR in thee 90-minute sessions. It was a small study. The EMDR folks supported the project by having a psychologist and myself trained in EMDR.

Findings: With our small numbers in the research project we couldn't draw a lot of conclusions. But, seeing that the control group left the program and the treatment group stayed (i.e., increased persistence). Mostly, it was amazing to hear the stories of the participants who went through EMDR and the reflections of the therapist.

What the first research project told me about struggling learners is that a lot of it is really in their head. OK - what do I mean? Without giving a course on how our brains work to learn and learn to work.....the struggling learners - all assessed to have severe learning challenges - we very anxious about being in a learning environment. Their sense of ‘fight or flight’ was extremely high based upon their natural survival instincts of having been harmed (physically, emotionally) in previous education settings.

The psychologist trained in EMDR took these participants (in the treatment group) through a series of memories and connecting pathways. This process allowed the participant to look back on his/her negative learning experiences and ‘reframe’ them. So, one male participant talked about being called up to the board in 3rd grade by his teacher. The teacher gave him a math problem to write on the board. When the boy wrote the number ‘3’ backwards. The teacher laughed, all of the other students laughed, and the teacher said something like, “What are you dumb? Only kindergartners make that kind of stupid mistake! Should we put you back in kindergarten?”

The young boy could not do math after that. He developed a math phobia. AND - no amount of math instruction ever helped him. He would come into the literacy program, get his books, sit with his tutor, and put up an emotional wall. This was the brain’s natural ability to keep this person safe. He had continual flashbacks and heard the teacher and his classmates laughing at him every time he started to copy numbers or write numbers. His brain was stopping him - and this is a very natural response. His anxiety was off the edge in thinking about coming to the center and thinking about math. His TABE scores showed year after progress.

In EMDR the participant was supported in looking back over that negative incident and reframe it. As an adult he could see that it was very sad that a 34-year old teacher had to make fun of a little boy and that the teacher set a model of bullying for the whole class to follow. The participant realized that the issue really wasn’t about him.... but about his teacher.

In EMDR the client is trained on how to go to a ‘safe place.’ This is any place where the client can mentally go to - stay and be comforted - and then returns to reality when s/he is ready. This client knew that he could go to his safe place and rest and reframe at any time. He began using this technique and, together with his tutor was able to make progress for the first time.

Many of the participants we serve have huge anxiety issues around reading, writing, math, speaking up in a group, etc. When the brain is so busy with negative emotions (we can see this in brain scans) the right basal ganglia over working. Negative thinking, anxiety, perseveration is all rolled up in this brain structure. The right basal ganglia also is called the ‘brake’ to stop frontal lobe activity.... i.e., critical thinking, planning, organizing, setting priorities, tasking things out, managing time, etc.

So - with EMDR, the participants in the study were able to ‘chill out and relax’ by going to their safe place - thus allowing their basal ganglia to do the same. They came back the learning situation refreshed and open to learning.

We repeated this study a second year using another literacy program and a correction literacy program. Same results in the community - EMDR treatment group stayed in the program for at least 6 months (the period we were measuring). The three 90 minutes were long enough to set and secure new pathways around old memories of school, reading, etc. Their posttests were of course higher than those in the control group who ALL left the program prior to 6 months.

Concurrently with the community study, we did a similar study in a corrections facility. In the correction facility - three 90-minute sessions barely touched the surface of the PTSD of participants’ negative school experiences! It made no sense to do a persistence comparison of the control and treatment group - this was a prison!

But, the insight the offenders developed was astounding! NOW - all of the adaptations, strategies, and learning approaches began to work and the participants were actively involved in their learning and moving forward. More learning gains were clearly noted with the treatment group. To make the point...many participants we serve have emotional issues that surround learning that cannot be ignored. IF we really want these bright learners to be successful, we must be open to a psycho- social-education model using the best technologies we have. To do less is to do less...and continue to get less....and get less. These are holistic challenges that an education intervention can only slightly begin to touch.

I hope this gives you some more insight into the holistic nature of learning and how we need to think about what is included as we are on the cusp of redesigning service delivery!

PS - talk therapy has not shown the consistent results that EMDR has on long-term cognitive changes.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6645] Re: Day 2 #1 What is your experience with recent transformations in service delivery?
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 13:40:22 EDT 2011

Alan - Thanks for sharing your recent successes are redesigning literacy initiatives based upon researched-best practices!

This is critical information as we look to have better outcomes from both our state/federal funded and community funded services.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6646] Core aspects of redesigning services
Davis Graham
Thu Sep 8 13:58:02 EDT 2011

Dear Advocates and Dr. Weisel:

Thank you for your response; first of all let me answer your question:

? How did you figure all of this out - the tools/technologies you needed to get on with your life?

You asked how did I figure it all out, the answer is from “failure.” What you and others are battling are a lot more than the disability, you like my teachers and parents battled with my Pride, and I wanting to be acceptable with my peers.

While what I was battling was remarks from peers (students, teachers and society) say “boy is he dumb” or “Davis did you take your Davis pill today”.... Or, when I asked for a note taker and telling the class why I was looking for a note taker was because I have dyslexia, then hearing them say what level class is this, it was 2nd semester Junior College course.

As to figuring out for “YOURSELF,” my suggestion is do what the rest of the Physicist did once Einstein he figured out E=MC2 they used the formula until something replaced it. Use my and others what works for them, and call me.

It is my intention no one goes thru what I went thru to get my BA in Psychology.

Davis W. Graham

[LD 6647] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Catherine Frazer
Thu Sep 8 14:00:52 EDT 2011

What about using a number line posted at their work areas? Then, they could kinesthetically and visually see the question at hand.

Catherine Frazer, Ed. D.

[LD 6648] Co-Creating Learning
Susan Jones
Thu Sep 8 14:20:18 EDT 2011

I fervently agree that the students need to part of the picture -- but we as professionals... we need to be aware of the baggage they bring. Many of my students define success as much less than they could...

Susan Jones

[LD 6649] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 14:29:18 EDT 2011

Susan - thanks for your feedback and what is available at your college. Most of the classrooms I’m in do not have access to all of the technology. Many of the programs I work with are not in colleges, in schools, but in other structures and have some, but not much adaptive or expensive equipment/software.

I agree about the issue of use or lack of use for just the reasons you note.

As we talk about redesigning service delivery systems, rethinking how to expose and integrate technology is a big issue. The technology is expensive and, as you stated and as I have seen, underused.

What a great conversation to have with all students - not just those who appear to be most struggling - on how to better integrate technology and technology aid into everyone learning.

I think that our customers need to help us hear how to rethink utilization. Only a few people like to stand out from the crowd. Our participants with learning challenges don't understand how everyone has challenges. And, often, I have seen that this wonderful technology and equipment can only used by individuals who have been ‘diagnosed’ as disabled.

It does sound like some teachers (see your quote below) are beginning to figure it out by normalizing the utilization of technologies that could be used by everyone.

[LD 6650] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 14:49:15 EDT 2011

Catherine - great, simple, easy, low cost, low tech, whoever needs it will use it.

Thank you!
Laura Weisel

[LD 6651] Re: Core aspects of redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 15:00:06 EDT 2011

Davis - you hit the nail on the head! Ah....makes me think about Max Cleland's speech.. “we are stronger in the places that we have had broken..”

You are stronger because of what you have managed to work through and figure out. You have a lot to teach us and others on overcoming learning challenges.

Thank you for your words and your work. I do believe that ‘formulas’ are good place to start. We have had a lot of success helping participants become strong learners by just giving them a set of steps to follow - a framework.

Once they master the framework, I encourage them to add to it and make it better. AND...share their improvements. That’s how we all learn, grow, and change!

You have done just that!

Many thanks for your strong voice and attitude. I know it hasn’t been easy.

Laura Weisel

[LD 6652] Re: Response to Question on VSS
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 15:49:23 EDT 2011

Hello Mary,

I don’t think I made that statement. I may have said, “learning challenges” and “special learning needs,” but I would not have said, ‘learning disability.’

As much as possible I stay away from the term learning disability. It is a powerful, emotion-laden, legal term. I question it, I understand it, I suspect that my work is often considered ‘addressing learning disabilities,’ but I don't / won't go there.

Since I was the first nationally (1974) to write about LD in ABE, I know that I am linked to LD....maybe forever.

But, I think your point was, ‘where is the research?’ Please refer to research conducted by Dr. Arnold Wilkins and Dr. Bruce Evans; they might be linking VSS and LD. When I completed data collection in 2005 and saw the large incidence of VSS in our ABE, TANF, etc. population, there just wasn’t enough research for me to make any sense of my findings.

I did some Internet searching, follow-up references and their references, and found Wilkins and Evans. I contacted them, flew over to the UK, met with them, picked their wonderful brains, and came home pondering what to do and needing time to synthesize what I heard and what I knew. I know research. I know the participants we serve.

Our screenings for VSS don’t ‘test.’ They ask about a set of symptoms and the frequency of occurrence. After 2005, I spent more time in the field doing direct work with participants. Looking at the issues surrounding VSS and the ease of knowing how to manage it.

For some of the participants we serve it is that underlying issue that has kept them ‘learning challenged.’ For others, it is part a multiple issues.

I have continued my quest to understand more about VSS by working closely with The Ohio State University College of Optometry.

We are still studying the overlapping of VSS and other vision challenges. When we screen for vision we always co-screen for VSS and then use selected filters to re-assess near vision functions. I do not take this lightly nor do I make comments about VSS without stating my ongoing curiosity. Between Wilkins, Evans, and reviewing brain scans of individuals with VSS, I am getting more confident that if we - as service providers - do not check for VSS with every participant we could be setting up them up for continued years of failure.

It is simple. It is fast. Why not? As my Advisory Board agrees, take what is out there as evidence and go with my gut. I know as a seasoned and superior clinician that you understand ‘gut responses’ and how important they are clinically.

Since VSS has been found across the academic achievement levels (my step-daughter went to Harvard with her set of colored filters and wore tinted lenses in her brightly lit classes) - I don’t consider VSS as a ‘learning disability’ although it can be debilitating and be an underlying factor for of struggling learners.

In my work with clinical training programs, training psychologists to diagnose learning disabilities, I offer information on underlying vision issues (binocularity and Visual Stress Syndrome) and auditory function issues that need to be assessed and addressed/adapted for prior to diagnosing for learning disabilities or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders. Without this upfront screening-out of these complications, I am not sure about the validity of the diagnosis.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6653] Day 2 - Post #2 - Getting down to the nuts and bolts of system redesigning
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 16:04:53 EDT 2011

Day 2 - Post #2

Colleagues – We’ve had an additional 180+ LD discussion list new members! This is a topic that people are interested in reading about and hearing about.

Let’s talk about system redesigning. Yes, there are the consistent elements that are added or deleted from programs with your regular internal evaluation – sometimes continually, sometimes annually, sometimes from external reviews of changes made based on pressures from funders, sometimes because you wrote a grant and got funded to try something new.

I’ve used a lot of tried and true methodologies for facilitating system redesign efforts. I’ve used a standard three part strategic planning model (Mastrine: assess/implement/evaluate), Future Search (Weisbord), storyboarding (McNellis), surveys, focus groups, Open Space (Owens), World Café (Brown), key stakeholders, etc. All of these were great initiatives, all of them worked for a period of time.

I’ve read and studied with Wheatley (Leadership and the New Science, A Simpler Way, Walk Out Walk On, Perseverance, etc.), Edgar Schein (Helping, etc.), Senge (The Fifth Discipline, etc. and the Society of Organizational Learning), and Kahane (Solving Tough Problems, Power and Love)….all with an eye on what are the processes and questions I need to be using to improve redesigning initiatives/transforming adult basic and literacy education.

I’ve earned my stripes as the carrier of the message -- times are a’ changing. I’ve always believed that I'd rather be ahead of the impending and lead it than have to follow someone else’s lead. I like defining the future, and letting the future define what I need to be doing now! This is about better serving individuals with special learning needs - and all (OK - the majority) - do have special learning needs.

As Einstein stated, “The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve with the same level of thinking which created them.”

I have been seeking a different level of thinking. Have you?

I know you’ve noticed my words: participants, facilitators, hosts, participants we serve, service delivery. These are not words we’ve used consistently in adult education. I choose them because we do not have immediate reactions to these words nor do we have immediate connotations. We need new words to describe new ways of delivering services. I am not satisfied by how many participants walk out of our programs. I am not satisfied that when we state that the participants we serve have a lot of ‘baggage’ we don’t know how to build on that baggage in positive ways, create insight, and address the emotional side of learning and life. I know that research shows that most of these individuals will return at one adult education location or another (research shows that they do come back, test the waters again, and leave again) and hopefully they will see that we really mean that this isn’t ‘school as you remember it.’

I'm working with programs that are showing nearly 100% persistence in the first 20+ hours (that is as long as we have been tracking) by adding a new front end to their programs. I want that number to be sustained over a longer period of time.

There are other words and concepts that have come and gone over the history of adult education are due to come back again: learning communities, learner-driven, andragogy, participatory learning, learning how to learn, learning the basics via career technology or on- the-job, etc. And new words that adult education is adding: standards, curriculum, transitions, partnerships, collaboration, etc.

We all know the definition of insanity. So, what needs to happen to begin to address the challenges we face as service providers?

I hear a lot from program directors/coordinators in the field. Are you using a model for redesigning or are you adding/subtracting based upon funding and external or internal pressures?

What has happened with your statewide initiatives on ‘transforming?’
What did you learn? What worked, what didn’t? What about sustaining?
What does professional development have to do with redesigning service delivery?
What are you learning about service delivery? What are your questions?

Laura Weisel

[LD 6654] Re: Addressing emotional issues - part of our ‘redesign?’
Russell Woodward
Thu Sep 8 16:13:48 EDT 2011

Dr. Weisel,

More thanks for your intuition and empathy that you have identified a core issue of rejection, anxiety, resistance, induced helplessness that proliferates and culminates in the imprisonment of offenders.

Much of our effort is to settle these deep wounds of miseducation. Our greater deficit is in the time we can give to each student.

I will be sure to look through the materials at the link you've provided re: EMDR. Also, as my director has requested, I will make an attempt to lay out the potential remediations you have given.

A tribute to your research planning and teaching abilities.

Russell Woodward

[LD 6655] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Meryl Becker-Prezocki
Thu Sep 8 16:17:27 EDT 2011


What about the students forming the number line with their bodies? I have seen great success when they actually form a human grid and become the positive and negative integers.

Meryl Becker-Prezocki

[LD 6656] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 17:01:14 EDT 2011

Jan - thanks for the comments. Being a volunteer tutor has its rewards! I am pleased that you have tutor trainers to guide you.

Can you tell me a little more about how the student you tutor reads? Where does she struggle? Decoding - sounding out words? Comprehension - understanding and remembering what she is reading?

In what type of setting do you do your tutoring?

What materials are you using?

Does the student you tutor wear glasses? Any physical issues?

I know many adult learners that were identified for ‘special education.’ At least 40% of the individuals walking into adult basic education classes received special education services. My data on strictly literacy participants (385 total, 15 sites, 5 states) indicate that a little over half have vision function issues (all were screened with their glasses on and still over half still had vision function issues - mostly the issues were binocular vision challenges);

71% had a hearing loss; and 95% stated that they struggled with the symptoms of Visual Stress Syndrome.

Can the student you tutor be checked for any of these?

I’ve been in lots of discussions about the word ‘special.’ Although the intentions of special education are good and the professionals caring, the social ramifications and the emotional aspects of being ‘different’ are not easy.

Relationships are primary and essential in learning. Keep up the good work!

Thank you for joining in this discussion!

Laura Weisel

[LD 6657] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Thu Sep 8 17:05:05 EDT 2011

Meryl - another great idea for learning positive and negative number - both physical and spatial. A perfect combination for participants that need to ‘feel’ the concept!

Many thanks!
Laura Weisel

[LD 6658] Core aspects of redesigning services
Davis Graham
Thu Sep 8 17:07:47 EDT 2011

Dear Advocates and Dr. Weisel:

Recently I read that “Dyslexics are overrepresented in board rooms and prison cells.” if it were not for a loving wife, loving family foundation, loving/caring teachers and administrator I know I would be not in the Board Room but in prison or just not typing, as my Bio states.

To speak to the inmate population topic if text to speech were more universally used as a tool for proofreading by mainstream students then the tool of text to speech software would be accepted by the whole student population, hence it would not be seen as a crutch and then those of us with dyslexia would excel and become the “go to” student to teach others, because we have mastered the tools. It is said from literature this is who we are masters of skills, so instead of picking locks I would possibly be training other student peers and they would be picking my brain. :) And, if text-to-speech software where mainstreamed then I would bet the inmate population would go down.

Waves of failure in my mind would race over me while at conferences because the Keynote speaker suggested us to read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The voice inside me, would say you can’t read it at will. But, today that has all changed. Since becoming a member of in 2007, I can look the book up and read it or even better yet say I’ve read it. This is a great morale booster as to how God wants me to see myself. Recently it was exhilarating to be at a conference and one Keynote speaker suggested a book “Drive” by Daniel Pink and I sat up and said to myself I have read the Book! Even beyond reading the book, I implemented one of the suggestions into our company.

Defending myself becomes fainter with the more I read, not only have I become a better contributor to our company and community I have become a better receiver of suggestions, where I use to defend my way.

Just one last note Tuesday night I was at a soccer practice and one of the coaches came up and asked me to fill out my son’s goal. There was a blank space on the sheet asking to spell out what sport team my son was on. So at age 52, I had to ask “how do you spell soccer?” The point is the world of one who has been labeled as an “LD” is always present, but in this case only for a moment did I shuttered to the thought of failure.

It is my goal to be here to help anyway I can.

Davis W. Graham

[LD 6659] Welcome to day 3 of the discussion with Dr. Laura Weisel
Rochelle Kenyon
Fri Sep 9 09:21:56 EDT 2011

Good morning everyone,

Yesterday brought us interesting discussion and new thoughts to consider. Thank you to Russell Woodward, Alan Toops, Mary Kelly, Susan Jones, Jan McIntire, Lisa Beade, Davis Graham, Catherine Frazer, and Meryl Becker-Prezocki for participating in the discussion.

Dr. Weisel and I would like some additional subscribers to take the opportunity to ask questions and comment online since today is the last day of the discussion.

Waiting to hear from you~ ~


[LD 6660] Re: Day 2 - Post #2 - Getting down to the nuts and bolts of system redesigning
Robin Matusow
Fri Sep 9 09:26:10 EDT 2011

Hi all,

I have been following posts as much as possible (beginning of grant year services and working to grow new program!). I am curious as to the program you are working with that has 100% persistence so far. Can you tell us what type of front-end changes you have made? I have been looking at a variety of adult ed programs for a while now and see, more than ever, how an emotional connection to a program promise or individual can cause a significant positive effect in the area of persistence. Additionally, as most studies have shown, once students are persistent, their success (good teaching/student partnership/learning) becomes the accelerator of program success. So, what is working at the “front” end and at the “back” end for students with special needs? internal evaluation - sometimes continually, sometimes annually, sometimes from external reviews of changes made based on pressures from funders, sometimes because you wrote a grant and got funded to try something new.

Robin Matusow

[LD 6661] Re: Day 3: Recap and Welcome to day 3 of the discussion with Dr. Laura Weisel
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 09:38:39 EDT 2011

Good Morning!

Welcome to our last day of discussion on Redesigning Service Delivery to Increase Persistence and Improve Learning Outcomes for Adults with Special Learning Needs.

Today we are going to address:

What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation) in service delivery?

Recap of Day 1

On day one, we took a look at our values underlying providing services to persons with special learning needs. Responses from Discussion List readers included:

Deb Hurd stated, “Basic to my guideposts and values is the belief that every person has dignity and worth as a human being, they have an ability to learn, and they have much to contribute in class in terms of life experiences and knowledge. I believe that the shear diversity of students offers a rich background from which to initiate learning. I believe education is a process, a lifelong pursuit. It can take place both in and out of school and that those experiences need to intertwine to make learning meaningful for students. I also believe that teaching is a lifelong process, one that continually challenges me to learn more, to study more, and to try to share a love and excitement of learning with my students.”

Susan Rathjen offered her thoughts that all of the students appear to have some special learning needs. Data was shared that supported Susan’s assumptions and it was also mentioned that most people have learning challenges and learning strengths. The key issue is knowing how to personally manage the challenges you have, build on your strengths, and to be able to advocate for what you need to be a successful learner or worker in any situation by knowing you’re the adaptations and strategies that work for you.

Recap of Day 2

One day two we looked into experiences with transforming service delivery: the good, the bad, and the wisdom of what works.

A discussion focused on some of the underlying emotional challenges participants have based on past negative educational experiences. I brought up a set of research studies that used a clinical technique referred to as EMDR –Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Two studies found that in community literacy programs individuals severe learning challenges that received the EMDR treatment all stayed at least 6 months in the program and showed significant learning gains compared to a control group that also had severe learning challenges but did not receive EMDR. The treatment offered in the study was three 90-minute EMDR sessions with a trained, licensed psychologist.

A similar study took place in a male correction facilities’ literacy program. The results indicated that offenders had many more traumas from school and life than the community literacy participants and had minimal insight into how these traumatic situations impacted their lives. The psychologist determined that the offenders needed more than the study’s protocol of three 90-minute to address the myriad of issues underlying learning.

From the studies, several key strategies were designed for adult educators that could begin to address participants’ negative memories of school and learning, build insight, and offer ways to rethink past negative experiences.

Based upon Russell Woodward’s comments on providing education services to offenders with special learning needs in non-classroom setting (i.e., a visiting instructor going into ‘pop’ living situation). It was recommended that a simple and easy way to address one of the highest learning challenges in offender populations would be to offer offenders materials on a variety of colored papers and see which color is ‘most comfortable’. This simple process can address, in part, individuals with Visual Stress Syndrome (VSS).

Mary Kelly was interested in clarifying the connection of VSS and learning disabilities. I shared that I had been skeptical of VSS when I found such a high incidence in the adult literacy, basic education, and TANF populations and had searched out the researchers in England that were working on not just addressing the issues with VSS but had also conduct a wealth of studies to begin to better understand the underlying factors contributing to this neurological anomaly. Studies and collaborations were going on with The Ohio State University’s College of Optometry looking at the connection between VSS and vision function issues. More research is clearly needed, but the simplicity of managing VSS made it a learning challenge that can be addressed.

Arlene Nelson shared the successes that Oklahoma Literacy Programs were having by changing the ways in which students came into the program. By offering a different and expanded orientation, or Success Course, in which participants build a ‘cohort’ group, establishing new learning friends, assessing and sharing assessment results focusing on ‘what you know’, screening for special learning needs and sharing ideas on how to manage (adaptations and strategies) identified learning challenges, and learning a simple framework using steps and questions to co-creating learning (i.e., building metacogntive skills).

Susan Jones offered “We can examine our delivery and materials and figure out how to adapt them <participants> to give people with diverse *anything* better access to the information, as well as to the learning process... and sometimes we can re-invent the learning process. Susan also offered that she was completing designing a set of math videos that break down math into simpler and smaller components with “dumbing it down.”

Catherine Frazer and Meryl Becker-Prezocki offered ideas on how simple prompt (a number line on the wall) or the use of kinesthetic learning by having students form a human number line could be creative ways to help struggling math learners ‘see’ and ‘feel’ negative and positive numbers.

Dr. Carol Dweck’s Mindset was mentioned as a great way for instructors and participant to shift from ‘not being smart enough’ to an ‘I can learn anything’ mode and her system, Brainology for helping to train way you think about your learning capacity.

Davis Graham spoke about his use of technology to aid managing his Dyslexia and wondered why technology wasn’t used more often to expedite learning anything (rather than try to improve/cure the specific learning challenge).

Susan Jones stated that in her learning center that all of the technology was available but not readily used by students ‘who didn’t want to be different’.

It was noted that a lot of adult learning programs did not have all of the technology that could be useful to overcome learning challenges.

We welcome anyone joining this conversation to reply to either today’s topic or add to the previous days’ dialogue!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D

[LD 6662] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Susan Jones
Fri Sep 9 09:57:00 EDT 2011

We’ve got a big ol’ number line taped across the table and yes, I often use “why *is* this the right answer?” – that’s another very telling attitude diagnostic. If I get abject resistance – “I don’t care! It’s the right answer!” then I assume you don’t know, and I’m going to try to build it anyway... and sometimes the answer discloses that “it looks like that one” was your “logic” so we'll talk about what to do when you can’t see “that one.” (That’s the advantage of being tutor, not teacher...)

My point is that we need to be thoughtful about when we use the technology, and when we back up and make sure the student is learning. I am not going to snatch the calculator from a student’s hands. I’m not even tempted to, because I very strongly believe in respecting students’ decisions... but I will be as forceful as to say “if you want to learn the math and pass the course, not just get this homework done, you should not be using the negative sign on the calculator for these problems.” I encourage them to look at the problem and think about what effect the signs have on what arithmetic they should be doing, and model it. We even have calculators that do the operations but don’t have negative signs (if you’re looking for them, go to “primary calculator” in a search engine), but that’s not what the students buy. Students *do* need to practice this stuff to learn it. (I wish this weren’t something that happens at the beginning of the year, before students realize that I don't take that kind of stand often!)

Now, we don’t have all the technology in all the classrooms -- but that wouldn’t make much sense, either.

It would be fun to design some true “Universal Design” lessons that would use the technology to enhance the learning for everybody.

Susan Jones

[LD 6663] Re: Additional re-cap from Days 1 and 2
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 09:59:52 EDT 2011

Welcome and in addition to those individual mentioned in the previous recap, I wanted to include important comments that were by an additional set of individuals from the Discussion List that supported previous comments:

Alan Toops supported the comments made by Arlene Nelson and discussed redesigning literacy initiatives using a Student Success course model to welcome and bring new participants together along with additional innovations in etesting and online learning.

Lisa Beade responded to several comments about postings from her perspective in working with vocational rehabilitation clients. Lisa supported a shift in the adult education paradigm supporting ways of engaging students to ‘figure it out’ peer groups based upon the skills needed to use curiosity and build the process of learning (including all types of multimodality materials).

Jan McIntyre discussed the student she was volunteer tutoring who was in special education programs and is working extremely hard to learn to read. Have good support from literacy tutor trainers have help a lot. Jan liked the notion of ‘co-creating’ learning with her student!

Many thanks to all who commented on Days 1 and 2. And again, welcome to Day 3!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6664] Re: Day 2 - Post #2 - Getting down to the nuts and bolts of system redesigning
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 11:06:29 EDT 2011

Day 3 - Posting #3

Good Morning Robin!

Your questions about what are some of the best practices that are happening up front in programs that appear to dramatically improve persistent is just where I wanted to begin today’s dialogue! So, thanks for jumping in a asking for clarification.

Today, I wanted to start with looking at a model of redesigning service delivery that has a 3-circle venn diagram.

In the top circle is Engagement, the lower right circle is Assessments and Screenings, and the lower left circle is Innovative Interventions and Instruction. In the Engagement circle - please add “Success Course." We will fill in the other circles as the conversation progresses today.

It seemed that these were not separate components but interlocking components of service delivery.

To answer you question, “What is this new front end?” I want to bring us back to our values about all people, individuals with special learning needs, and the role of the instructor as facilitator of learning and the notion of hosting learning.

I believe that if I am not clear about my values that I have nothing to judge whether something will align with what I believe. And, if there underlying values, the service component MUST demonstrate, live, walk the talk, of the values.

In the early 2000s, the current Director of the Salt Lake City Literacy Action Center attended several sessions I was conducting in Montana. Dr. Deborah Young shared a different way that learners enter their program. I can’t remember all of the details, but the essence was that there was a mandatory 6 or 12-hour course that students needed to complete before they could enter the program or be linked with a tutor.

Deborah talked about the ways she had students get to know one another in the group, how if they missed a session during this ‘orientation’ that a student could make-up that session only the next time around, and the current students were part of the orientation. She said that her completion rate was very high. I chewed on that for several years.

By 2005 I began sharing the idea of an upfront ‘course’ that was mandatory for all students to complete prior to entering classes with Ohio ABLE programs. We wanted to make sure that we sent the message: You are in charge of your learning and we’re going to help you learn how to be in charge.

What was so promising to me about this upfront ‘course’ was that if answered a question that I had had for years: How can we expect participants coming into our programs to do anything different, think differently about themselves as a learner, be more insightful then they did when they walked out of school?

I began looking working with community colleges and saw that they had Success Courses being offered. I review the guru’s – Skip Downing, Dave Ellis’ Master Student, and Bruce Tuckman’s Study Skills course. These were not mandatory courses, but the student outcomes from taking these courses were very impressive.

We studied their courses and through conversations were able to glean what could be included in a 12 to 20 hour course that would give new students more than an orientation to the program.

Holly Pletcher in Newark, OH and her staff jumped into trial testing the Success Course concept. Holly had testimonials from students and how much the course meant to them to better understand themselves and prepare them for coming back to school. Holly stated that she had an over 90% retention of students over the time of the course and that all students that came through the course made it into classes. I was impressed and took a microscope to what Holly and her staff were doing.

Lynn Jacobs also built a group ‘success course’ and began screening in groups for special learning needs. Lynn Alexander also created a model in my original program in London, OH. Each of these programs put together something unique and each stated that the process had excellent success in terms of retaining students.

In addition, a longer, more in-depth orientation was one of the research-based best practices from Making It Worth the Stay – the New England research on persistence by Nash and Kallenbach.

To make a long story shorter – I now include an assignment to develop a Student Success course for all programs included in my Transformational Learning Course. Over the years, we have gotten better by sharing what has and what hasn’t worked. Even our naysayers are turning around.

I recently received this e-mail from a Kentucky program that has been participating with me as part of a statewide initiative for better serving adults with special learning needs:

“Students are “engaged” immediately, form partnerships with other students, and are more “relaxed.” One student told me that it felt like she “already had a lot in her back pocket” even before starting <classes>! I love this... and to think this is just week #1 of our new year! ”

When I visited this program last week, the results on who completed the Think Success! Course included all but one student! Those completing the course enter into the program as active, empowered, participants.

I have a document that includes all of the elements in that have become the base of the Success Course. It is constantly evolving and growing.

Robin, if you or any other Discussion List reader, would like a copy of that outline, please contact me directly and I will send you a copy.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6665] Re: Post #1: Core aspects of redesigning services
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 11:12:16 EDT 2011


I love the idea that we open up Universal Design to all students. I get lots of questions on why only students with diagnosed LD can use the Universal Design technology & equipment when those individuals who have been screened and identified as have learning challenges can't use the equipment.

The way you respect student choice in which accommodations or adaptations they use is impressive!

Thank you for your comments.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6666] Re: Day 3: Recap / Technology and Universal Design
Maureen Carro
Fri Sep 9 12:26:38 EDT 2011

Dr. Weisel,

Thanks so much for all the great information so far! I have been reading, but haven’t had time to jump in until now. I have lots of thoughts on various topics, but I will start with this one. It has been a while since I was in an adult education setting, so I am not current on what is happening now ( and another reason I wasn’t initially jumping in). About 10 years ago, when I was director of a “learning center” based in an alternative education campus associated with a K-12 School district, my focus was to create an environment where students were free to learn at their own pace, with some individual tutoring provided by appointment, and occasional classroom activities. We were set up as a “computer lab” with the current (at that time) software chosen to practice whatever the student was working on. We had pre-GED/ GED software for learning, and practicing after concepts were taught in individual tutoring and classroom settings. We also subscribed to some Internet applications, word processing, and Rosetta Stone for English language learners, etc. Since we were an “open entry/ open exit” model for the most part, we were striving for some “Universal Design" where any student could come in during certain hours to take advantage of what was available. WE had several special programs on campus, some at the HS level (teen Moms, Juvenile offenders transitioning back to school, and time set aside for adult learners. We did not commingle HS and adult learners, but has particular hours for access to the lab. We had both daytime and evening hours set aside for adult learners. One staff member was always available to roam the computer bank and help students with technical or learning issues. The peripheral of the room was lined with carrels for individual tutoring and self-study for those who preferred pencil and paper study. Many “helps” were around the room...low tech stuff like number lines....maps....etc. Activities/assignments were individually designed according to a student need with a prompt to “see a teacher” at various points in the curriculum to check understanding of concepts. At that time, we initially introduced “how to access the various programs” on the computer and the programs we chose was pretty “user friendly” once there. The programs the students were using provided progress results. We eventually had students with access to a computer correspond with us through email when they encountered problems at home or had questions.

I think the Universal Design concept should be adopted from the start of K-12 schooling so that students *don't* feel “singled out” as being different because they are given accommodations. My thought is that while accommodations might help students with learning challenges, they sometimes “get in the way” of students who have fluent cognition and they would not choose to use them! Ten years fast forward and I am now in a private practice servicing students of all ages who have learning challenges. Some of my students (that I have been working with for years) reject some of the technology because they feel they “connect” more when doing things with pencil and paper. Others thrive on it. I think it all boils down to what the students feel competent and fluent with. When we encounter students with little skill, as in our adult education classes, we have a long row to hoe one way or another, and perhaps this is the moment when we introduce them to the technology tools that we all use anyway. When it comes to “standardized testing”/GED, etc., the tools are not allowed. This is the big disconnect for me!

I realize that the technology tools are not a panacea, and should not be used to merely “shortcut” the *memorization* of material/ content to “get past” the GED or a required course. Real conceptual learning needs to take place for our students to ultimately be successful in their jobs and in managing their personal lives. The technology comes in later, for practice, and ease of output, or compensate for deficits such as dyslexia. The conceptual knowledge has to be there for the tools to be effective. We really need to redesign the way we teach... and for some of us “oldsters,” it means getting up to par with technology ourselves. I have often presented some learning as shared learning..... let’s learn this together! This can be very valuable to a student as the teacher “thinks aloud” how they are learning themselves.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
— Albert Einstein
Maureen Carro, MS, ET

[LD 6667] Day 3 and questions about orientations
Deb Hurd
Fri Sep 9 13:14:51 EDT 2011

Hello Dr. Weisel,

Thank you for the wonderful discussions. I have a couple of questions, but first some background information. Our program is very small, less than a year old, and “in the making.” It developed as part of a multifaceted program of counseling, mentoring, career counseling, housing, etc. in order to help previously incarcerated folks reintegrate into the larger community. Recently, the Hampden County (MA) Court system has been offering some folks the choice between jail time or education and community service programs. This is beneficial from my point of view. Unfortunately, perhaps from a lack of understanding on the part of well-meaning judges, a condition of parole is to attain a GED. For some, this would be a very long-term goal and perhaps not possible for every individual. We are working to help the courts understand the amount of time necessary for some to accomplish this goal, but setting other educational goals with a student would be of great benefit.

Because of the emphasis on goal setting, I appreciated the articles, “Making it Worth the Stay” and “Persistence: Helping Adult Education Students Reach Their Goals” because they highlighted factors such as student goal-setting, decision-making, relevancy, and support systems, to name a few ideas. The orientation process was of particular importance to me. I can see our program needs to incorporate more ideas into our process and I would appreciate any suggestions. What would you incorporate into a good orientation process? What kind of goal-setting criteria could you suggest? I would also appreciate suggestions on programs that are working with “stopped out” students and how programs have increased student collaboration with the process. The VSS screening seemed straightforward, are there some other simple tests we could consider during orientation?

Thank you,

Debra Hurd, ABE instructor

[LD 6668] Re: Day 3: Recap / Technology and Universal Design
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 14:27:07 EDT 2011

Maureen - it is great to have you jump into this conversation!

I am so pleased to hear you begin to describe how using technology and adaptive tools should:

  1. be open to all learners
  2. be demonstrated and used from primary school on
  3. are not intended to replace the learning processes in reading or math but can be used to expedite accessing needed information without the frustrations of inaccessibility based upon real learning challenges (diagnosed or not)

In a very early study - back when calculators first came into classrooms, a mentor and colleague, Dr. Art White (Ohio State University) did research to determine if using calculators impeded students learning the concepts of math. Over numerous studies, Dr. White found that integrating calculators into the classroom and students’ use of calculators for learning math concepts had a positive impact on learning of concepts, practice these concepts, and students’ ability determine when and where calculators could improve their lives. So, let’s not look at calculators as ‘cheating’ but instead as an ‘extra brain.’ I use my calculator (internal and external...mostly external) all the time!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6669] Re: Day 3 - Post #2 - Elements for Redesign: Success Course to Assessments and Screening
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 14:05:57 EDT 2011

Day 2 Post #2

What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation) in service delivery?

In my first post of day 3, I wanted to start with looking at a model of redesigning service delivery that has a 3-circle venn diagram.

In the top circle is Engagement, the lower right circle is Assessments and Screenings, and the lower left circle is Innovative Interventions and Instruction.

It seemed that these were not separate components but interlocking components of service delivery.

In my first posting of the day (#1), I discussed adding into the Engagement Circle a Success Course. I discussed how I came to putting together a new front end – i.e., a Success Course to offer participants a ‘new beginning’. Now, let me get more specific about the Success Course elements.

This mandatory, certificate course would be 12 – 20 hours and would:


  • Build a peer/cohort group – learning community

Create a team building activity to begin the Success Course

  • Help participants shift their mindsets
  • Discuss new ways of working together (Participatory Learning that builds social capital skills)
  • Share information on how brains are so similar and how our brains work to learn
  • Assess participants to determine what they know and what will be next for them to learn to achieve their goals
  • >

  • Screen for most common learning challenges – attention challenges, Visual Stress Syndrome, vision and hearing functions;

Offer participants their own report explaining any learning challenges and identifying specific adaptations and strategies to manage learning challenges; participants trial test adaptations and strategies and make selection of which they want to trail test.

  • Have participants work in Café to develop their long-term goals and short-term goals. Have each participants develop their goals in a mind map/graphic organizer.
  • Offer participants an opportunity to review program policies and procedures, and to discuss those they’d like eliminated and identify those they’d like to add to the list.
  • Have participants read and sign an agreement to participate indicating expectations on participation/responsibilities in and out of class (homework).
  • Include a field trip to local community collage; do a Treasure Hunt to locate important places on campus. Have students complete the FASA form. Have speaker from admissions/financial aid office.
  • Have participants learn the steps to learning (metacognitive skills) and build their first plans on how they are going to get to class and an emergency plan on how to address potential obstacles to getting to classes.
  • Have participants plan (using metacognitive steps) their own Certification Celebration

I offered to any Discussion List member to send them my detailed listing of Success Course components by just e-mailing me and agreeing to share back with me their successes and modifications/additions to my evolving list of components!

NOW – let’s go on to the second circle – going clockwise: Assessments and Screenings.

Fill in that circle with the academic assessment you use (TABE, Gain, CASAS, etc.) and the screening you use to determine special leaning needs/learning challenges.

These two – Assessments and Screenings – will be given as part of the Success Course. But, since these are sometimes repeated and a core component to building success, we’ve felt they were part of the venn diagram.

Do Brain Gym activities prior to assessments and during section breaks!

Here are some best practices for using the assessment and screenings:


  1. For pre-assessment only use adaptations the participants ask for (extra time, taking assessment in a quiet location, a magnifier and/or card to hold under each line, etc.)
  2. Do break assessments into smaller parts – take sections but not the whole assessment at one time
  3. Make sure instructions are offered both verbally and visually. Ask participants to verbalize back any instructions that may be confusing.
  4. When assessments are over, ask participants to get together and reflect on the assessment experience (Café style) and develop a graphic organizer/mind map on what they learned about taking assessments
  5. Score assessments as needed, then give back to participants their results with a breakout of the items/areas they did correctly/knew! Have students work pairs to make a list of ALL of the academic/life skill areas they already know (again, this could be done using Cafes and building mind maps/graphic organizers for each subject area.
  6. Have participants use this list of known skills to determine the next set of skills they need to build. KEEP THESE LISTS/Mind Maps!

* The TABE and CASAS both have a standard set of accommodations and adaptations that can be used with their assessments. GAIN is currently working with NAASLN to develop their own set of accommodations and adaptations.


There is a variety of screenings for special learning needs. Select a screening or screenings based upon the information that will be available back to the participant. It is their screening, their life, and based upon our values – participants need to have a full understanding of their learning challenges, build some insight about how these challenges have affected their lives, and be the ones to trial-test and select from recommended adaptations and strategies those they’d like to trial test (just as you or I would want this for ourselves and our family members!).

Do Brain Gym activities prior to assessments and during section breaks!

If possible, since screenings, takes a tremendous time one-to-one, find screenings that can be used with groups.

  1. Offer screenings to all participants.
  2. Have a separate ‘agreement to participant’ that is signed once screenings are explained and/or demonstrated and it is explained that participants will get their own copy of results with recommendations for managing any noted area of challenge.
  3. Do break screenings into– take sections but not the whole assessment at one time.
  4. Make sure instructions are offered both verbally and visually. Ask participants to verbalize back any instructions that may be confusing.
  5. When screenings are complete, again have participants get together (Café) and discuss/reflect on what they learned about taking screenings. Make a mind map/graphic organizer of their learnings.
  6. Meet back with participants and give them their screening results. Discuss the results with small (3 – 8) groups of participants. Go through results, discussing and building insight about how the specific challenges have or haven’t interfered with learning success.
  7. Review recommended adaptations or strategies. Demonstrate these and discuss them – have a set of the adaptations ready for participants to try.
  8. In Café have participants brain storm how each of these adaptations could be used to become a more successful learner…have participants make a mind map/graphic organizer of all of the ways to use the recommended adaptations and strategies to manage learning challenges.
  9. Have participants make a list (Strategy Sheet) of the adaptations and strategies they would like to trial test in their first weeks of classes and report back to their group what worked, what was helpful, and what they’d never use again.

I hope you find this useful. If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to respond to this posting!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6670] Re: Day 3 and questions about community-based offender education
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 14:57:37 EDT 2011

Good to hear from you again, Debra!

I am familiar with one exceptional ex-offender parole program. It is in Portland, OR (Multnomah County) and headed by Carole Sholl with an excellent coordinator/lead instructor, Cheyenne Tuller. They may have wrestled with a variety of the issues you are beginning to address in your new program.

I am pleased to hear that the multiple components (counseling, mentoring, career counseling, housing, etc.) is part of the conception of the education program.

Many years ago I participated in a research project in Moorhead, KY, that used screenings for learning challenges to determine if a youth offender went to a detention center or was ‘Sentenced to Read.’ We used the screenings with the court system and the judge made the determination. Since so many of the youth offenders had real learning challenges, the Sentenced to Read program was packed.

We've also used screenings to support the case for a participant being sent (court ordered) for a diagnostic work-up for being ‘Learning Disabled.’ This diagnosis supported the participant NOT having to meet the judge’s outcomes of a GED or else.

Hope that is some food for thought and perhaps a contact for you to gather some wisdom from on providing education services to ex- offenders in a court-ordered, community-based program.

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6671] Re: Day 2 - Post #2 - Getting down to the nuts and bolts of system redesigning
Susan Jones
Fri Sep 9 16:01:42 EDT 2011

By 2005 I began sharing the idea of an upfront ‘course’ that was mandatory for all students to complete prior to entering classes with Ohio ABLE programs. We wanted to make sure that we sent the message: You are in charge of your learning and we’re going to help you learn how to be in charge.

It’s the nitty gritty of this that I think *really* has to be done carefully for some of our ‘more unique’ students. There are whole cohorts of students with common issues -- they came from X High School where the math teacher gave open note tests so everybody got A’s and B’s ... whatever... but if you've got the kind of issue that gets you that LD or ADD label, then it’s just one more chance to feel stoooopid. Technology is just wonderful, but it can be a real barrier if you are a person who struggles with text. Some teachers don’t understand that if you have to go online, log into the “dropbox” and have a ten-minute deadline to type in a response to the question there, he's not going to get something indicative of your understanding -- especially since he expects you also to figure out how to adjust the HTML settings in the drop box to double space and change the font size. By the way, there *was* no setting to make it double space and I had to find the “turn on HTML editing” at the bottom corner today...... but the upfront “course” can specifically address some of the often predictable stresses, especially if there’s focus on demystifying the stuff of labels and working on advocacy and ways for individual students to adapt and accommodate. This would be a place for a few of those Universal Design activities to happen -- toss out a Typical Psychology Test and explore ways to prepare... figure out which work for you and practice applying them... On the other hand, an “up front” course that tells me to Read Chapters 1-3 of the College Success Manual and Answer The Essay Questions by Friday....

Susan Jones

[LD 6672] Re: Day 3: Recap / Technology and Universal Design Lisa Beade
Fri Sep 9 15:58:12 EDT 2011

Hi Maureen and others who think about technology in a 20th c context!

The students in your programs are so fortunate to have a person like you who really gets it about learning! My daughter recently sent me a link to an interview with a Prof Cathy Davidson on the way she thinks about technology and uses it to really change the classroom/teacher paradigm! Of course, she's dyslexic as so many of our great innovators are! /

Hope this gives you food for thought! It's been great!

Thanks Laura & all,


[LD 6673] Day 3 - Post # 3 - Innovative Interventions and Instruction
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 16:28:47 EDT 2011

Day 3 Post #3

Discussion List members:

This is my last post on redesigning service delivery using research- based best practices and elements that will support participants with special learning needs.

My final post (#4) will look at what it takes to implement and sustain redesigning initiatives.

I look forward to your questions, input, and additional recommendations. What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation) in service delivery?

As we’ve been looking at elements that can support implementation of research-based best practices, we began today by creating a venn diagram. In the top circle is Engagement, the lower right circle is Assessments and Screenings, and the lower left circle is Innovative Interventions and Instruction.

I’d like to address Innovative Interventions and Instruction as elements for redesigning services to better meet the needs of participants with special learning needs/all participants.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts my desire for a paradigm shift in thinking about the role of the instructor – moving from the knowledge holder to the facilitator of learning and hosting learning. This shift isn’t a philosophical one. It is based on the best way for participants to move from the co-dependent role of ‘student’ to the co-creator role of partner in learning. It is by having a safe place to practice this new role that participants can grow confidence in their own capacities and be more comfortable taking responsibility for their actions and learn the steps for learning.

(I don’t take the co-dependency between students in adult education lightly! This is not healthy and only perpetuates co-depend relationships in the lives of program participants. How often do you see a participant come into your program and come up to the teacher and say, “What do you want me to do today?” Perhaps you’ve already addressed this in your program but it is a tough issue because a lot of participants have never been in the role of partner in learning or the co-creator of their own learning. So we need a game changer to shift the views of both participants and instructors, who have believed it is their job to plan and organize each student’s learning).

In order to do this shift we need to have something else for the instructor and participant to do.

Therefore, there are two elements I’d like you to write into the lower left circle:

  • Participatory Learning and SMARTER
  • Participatory Learning to Create a Learning Community and Build Social Capital Skills

Participatory Learning is composed of four ‘human technologies’ or facilitation techniques that are being used by high paid consultants in the field of organization development and process consulting. Here is how I got thinking about these for our learning settings. I spent a great deal of time at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) working with their implementation of my learning system and our co-collaboration on a set of learning challenge screenings in Spanish.

I had been speaking in my courses for several years about moving from learning centers to learning communities. Everyone always agreed with the concept, could separate characteristics of a learning center and a learning community. I thought that it was an easy shift, but it wasn’t. Everyone wanted to host learning and build learning communities, but the ‘how’ was just not happening for everyone.

Two incredible instructors at SFCC shared several classes (Susan Rathjen and Karen Lindquist). Since I was often at the college, I observed what was happening in their classroom. They had a learning center. In the learning center, students were working together at tables, at computers, and at the board. Everyone was busy, highly engaged, and deep in conversations about whatever they were learning. Susan and Karen were masters at not being the knowledge holders. Each of them had a few students that they were working with, but these students came and went, and went off either working together or going back to other groups.

It was amazing to watch. All of the participants had been trained to build their own learning plans (following consistent steps for learning metacognitive skills), understanding their own learning challenges and using their adaptations and strategies. All of the participants had participated in a Share the Power course on how their brains worked.

The Director of the SFCC Adult Basic Education program wanted to see if the training of Susan and Karen along with her support of redesigning part of her program to support Susan and Karen was making a difference. So, data was collected on Susan and Karen’s participants and the remaining participants in the program. At the end of the year, we reviewed the data. Susan and Karen’s group of participants who received the entire set of best practices showed 204% more contact hours, 67% more post-testing, and 50% higher gains on post-tests. Something magic was happening.

Other programs that I was working with did everything that Susan and Karen did…. except build a vital learning community and shift their roles to facilitators and hosting learning.

I talked about this everywhere but I could not replicate the vital component – building the learning community. I was angry, frustrated, and #&Y$Y*#JB!

That summer I was in Brussels working with a team who was working with the European Commission. They were training the EC to work differently with their constituencies. They were using a set of human technologies and referred to them as Participatory Leadership. I know these technologies and often used them as how I facilitated my courses. It took me walking through the streets of Brussels to figure out that these same technologies were what instructors needed to learn who were not ‘natural creators of learning communities.’ And so, Participatory Learning became a real innovative intervention for shifting classrooms from learning centers or traditional classrooms to learning centers.

Each of the technologies has steps and guidelines to follow. Each of the technologies trains Social Capital skills. Each of the technologies places the participants in the role of co-creating their own learning. Each of the technologies keeps the instructor in the role of the host or facilitator of learning.

Briefly, the four human technologies (each with their own author, following, and manuscripts) are:

  1. Circle (Christina Baldwin) – perfect for:
    • Learning how to set intentions
    • Learning how to speak in front of a group
    • Learning how to listen and take turns
    • Building community
  2. Café (Juanita Brown) – perfect for:
    • Learning the skills of collaboration
    • Learning the skills of offering help and asking for help
    • Social learning
    • Learning how to ‘figure’ things out
    • Making connections by learning to make mind maps/graphic organizers
    • Learning leadership skills and how to ‘host’ others
  3. Open Space (Harrison Owen) – perfect for:
    • Participants taking lead in sharing information
    • Participants learning how to ask questions and asking for help
    • Participants practicing skills of self-determination
  4. Appreciative Inquiry (David Cooperiderrsmith) – perfect for:
    • Learning to see the glass as always half-full
    • Turning negatives into positives
    • Looking for the possibilities
    • Shifting attitudes of self and others

I now transparently host all of my courses using these technologies and training the technologies to programs and instructors. The responses have been incredible. Paula Pulwicz in Michigan took the idea of Café back to her evening class on the day we began our course. She said her students didn’t want to leave, had incredible learning growth, and wanted to work in Café every evening. Paula has continued to use the technologies and has had increased persistence in all of her classes.

Look up these technologies – or come to the session on these technologies that I’ll be offering at the USCAL-ProLit conference in Houston in November!

SMARTER is an acronym for a set of steps that lead the participant through the steps needed to learn anything. SMARTER is a metacognitive training framework. It is repeated, in groups, with peer-learners, and individually.

If you want more information on SMARTER, you’ll need to contact me directly and I’d gladly share with you the work we are doing.

SMARTER puts the participant in the driver’s seat of their own learning and helps them step out the tasks needed to manage learning and become a successful, inter-dependent and independent learner and work!

I look forward to your comments!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6674] Service Delivery: Engagement, Assessment & Screening, and Interventions and Instruction
Susan Rathjen
Fri Sep 9 19:32:20 EDT 2011


About eight years ago I was introduced to this type of service delivery, and it rocked my teaching world! To engage the students immediately by fostering a dialogue/discussion where the students share their own stories not only builds a rapport with fellow students, but it allows students to participate and take the risk of answering questions in a subject where they are the experts. The students can feel safe because their instructors clearly want them to succeed, and are preparing them for learning. When students feel safe, they are much more likely to trust enough to become a member of a learning community. Participatory activities like world café based on topics like positive and negative factors that may influence attendance in class get a lot of input.

Test anxiety and test taking strategies are addressed before the students are assessed. Learning needs assessments can be administered during the success course, before the assessments are given, to allow for needed accommodations. Depending on the results of the learning needs assessment and the test scores, an instructor can determine which components of a screening tool may be needed per individual student. Hopefully, the screening tool offers a holistic overview. Once the assessment and/or screening is complete, and the student understands the results, he/she may opt for more in- depth screening or further diagnostics.

The intervention piece is where the rubber hits the road. This is where students learn to learn. Training the metacognitive skills can be done either as a group or individually. The group approach to introduce new lessons works well, and students can use the group model to create individual learning plans for school or work. The intervention piece is an integral part of the instruction.

Thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts,

Susan Rathjen

[LD 6675] Day 3 - Post #4 - What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation)?
Laura Weisel
em>Fri Sep 9 21:39:13 EDT 2011

Day 3 Post #4

What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation) in service delivery?

Playing with the elements of redesigning services is the exuberant and easy part.

Does redesigning need additional resources? Yes…and no.

Is it better to implement system redesign elements slowly over time or quickly? Warren Bennis said it best, “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Move rapidly. Then, be ready to change what doesn’t work. Don’t go backwards! Remember if you are not involved in the change process you probably won’t like it and will be passive aggressive about doing it.

Please view my friend Margaret Wheatley on this topic: 

I’ve been doing my work these past years with states, programs, colleges, and organizations using a very innovative process called Theory U – Leading from the Future as it Emerges, by Otto Scharmer, MIT.

This process is different than others that I have used in strategic planning, organizational development, etc. It has helped me not go through another planning process where I hope it works!

My whole course is now based on Theory U. What comes out of the course at the end is each program has created its own Prototype 1.0 for implementation of the redesigned elements: Engagement, Assessment and Screenings, Innovative Interventions and Instruction. Prototype 1.0 will be revised and revised……. Prototype 1.2, 1.3, 1.4.

We are all learning and learners in this process. Since EVERYTHING in the redesigned prototype has been gleaned from research (education and beyond), we are just adding to the research. We will always support ‘ahha’s’ and great gut Gestalt innovations.

Professional development on system redesign/transformation initiatives is for everyone. I no longer include instructors without their directors in my courses.

I only work with teams that can support one another in the learning, designing, and implementation phases. Every time I cave in and agree to accept only the staff, we loose. All that has been shared, skills trained, knowledge transferred, is lost. I have NO (zero, zilch, none!) exceptions to show that working with only staff works!

The biggest issue in this process is SUSTAINING. The research on change and innovation state that sustaining innovation cannot happen without leadership support.

We’ve all seen the ‘latest’ in education and it didn’t last. Things reverted. New leadership came in and said, “It is not my innovation so chuck it.”

I’d hate to think, “Such is life.” If you’ve ever been inside the Vatican you’ve seen the grand mosaic walls that took centuries (not decades) to complete. One vision. One master plan! It didn’t change in a forte night when a new manager for the project appeared.

So, my conversation with you will be left with – HOW TO SUSTAIN? If left to its own, all redesign efforts will be lost without attention, ongoing data collection, ongoing conversations and shared learning. So, HOW TO SUSTAIN?

It will take resources. But, if we don’t sustain these redesign initiatives, all of the resources that were expended will be lost, except between the two ears of those who were involved and those, who for the time, benefited.

There is much to learn together. We have a community. Let’s practice!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6676] Re: Day 2 - Post #2 - Success Course comments
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 21:48:27 EDT 2011

Hi Susan –

On Sep 9, 2011, at 4:01 PM, Susan Jones wrote: ... but the upfront “course” can specifically address some of the often predictable stresses, especially if there's focus on demystifying the stuff of labels and working on advocacy and ways for individual students to adapt and accommodate. This would be a place for a few of those Universal Design activities to happen -- toss out a Typical Psychology Test and explore ways to prepare... figure out which work for you and practice applying them...

None of the Success Courses (that use a variety of different names) resembles the Study Skill courses in community colleges. There are no ‘read chapter xx’ assignments. Right now, there are about 45 prototypes for Success Courses being delivered this fall - some in KY, MI, OK, RI, OH. They are a work in progress. That is the good news! I am hoping to visit with all of them in the next months.

I am proud of these programs and their leadership! There is real work going into these redesign initiatives. And great, no GREAT stories coming from these efforts (and lots of learning!!!).

I’d be happy to have tea & SKYPE with you any time you want to talk about building a Success Course.

I have been asked by NAASLN to do a webinar on Success Courses. It will probably be early in the new year.

Laura Weisel

[LD 6677] Re: Day 3 - Post #4 - What will it take to redesign, implement, and sustain new ways (transformation and innovation)?
Lisa Beade
Sat Sep 10 10:38:48 EDT 2011

Amen! Laura

Lisa Beade

[LD 6678] Re: Service Delivery: Engagement, Assessment & Screening, and Interventions and Instruction
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 21:56:34 EDT 2011


You’ve figured out the model and have the successes to show for it! Your persistence is tremendous! Your learners’ academic gains are great. Your GED grads go on to college and employment!

If I could clone you I would! Many thanks to your for showing the way and believing in your students!

Many thanks to your program’s leadership for their support of you and others in your Santa Fe program. You've continued to refine implementation of innovations and transformations to your service delivery!

Thank you for all that you, your students and colleagues have taught me. Your willingness to try new ideas, your love of learning, and the authentic way you care about and help the participants you serve achieve is not just your is your art!

Laura Weisel

[LD 6679] Day 3 - Final Post
Laura Weisel
Fri Sep 9 22:26:17 EDT 2011

Day 3 Final Post

Discussion List members:

Many thanks to those of you have been following this conversation. For those of you that shared your experiences, ideas, and challenges: “Thank you!”

I’d love to do tea with all of you, but I fear that you slow down about as much as I do, and that is not very often!

Rochelle, thank you for offering me this opportunity to be the guest moderator. It is truly an honor to have had this opportunity to share my work with my colleagues. You’ve been a terrific coach through my neophyte days. The work you do to manage this discussion list is awe inspiring!

This has been an incredible experience! As I stated in early posts, I have had a PTSD around writing. This experience has been the best possible ‘cure’ with responses and postings that needed to be created at lightning speed - often spontaneously (so unlike me)!

I could not have done these three days without a few people who’ve had ‘my back’ and for all the adult educators that have learned with me over these past 40 years. Your feedback, trial testing, and trust to try new, out-of-the-box ideas from fields outside of education, has proved to be life changing for all of us and those we serve.

And to the states, colleges, economic and workforce development departments, Goodwills, adult and vocational programs, and the organizations that have support this work. Your support for our partnership has changed the lives of so many individuals that, if they had been offered less, would have never demonstrated that they could really be all that they wanted to be.

We’ve got the stats and stories to help other states, organizations, and programs redesign their service delivery systems with confidence in the outcomes. Yes, we can get the academic outcomes WITH value- added social capital outcomes and WITH participants ready to manage postsecondary and employment. All of this can be readily adapted as we experiment with timely career-based learning.

I’ve been reviewing the books that I was raised on while I was in an honors undergraduate education program at The Ohio State University. It was a bold program, a program that enveloped all the hopes and discontent of the late 60’s. Goodman’s Compulsory Mis-education, Silberman’s Crisis in the Classroom, and Kozol’s Death at an Early Age were my primers. These authors saw the future. We are living with the products of education systems that did not learn, grow, change, nor leave the Industrial Revolution behind. Our country is paying the price.

These books remind me that we are dealing with adults who were frightened children in schools. Schools that had good intentions, but did not honor and respect all children, and stayed separate from their communities. Schools and professional who continued to believe that there is a right way to do things.

We know that unless we work holistically – mind, body, and spirit – we will not get the product we desire. The process is the product. We have seen the outcomes of teaching to the test. Let’s not be forced to be less than we are and doom the participants we serve to no life beyond the GED (statistics show that has already happened).

Participants with special learning needs are persons first! With so little between us – all of us being 98.8% alike as humans – as professionals are nothing more or less than the people we serve. Let’s not forget that we have found very few answers that work for everyone and that we need to become the coach and guide, partner, learner, and wonderer along side the participants we serve.

This amazing gifted teacher found out that the majority of his first and second graders that struggled with reading (and who the schools wanted to identify as LD and Dyslexic) read and wrote just fine – just fine – upside down!!!!!!! And that by the end of third grade, if supported to read upside down, naturally turned their books around! MIT is now doing research with Stephen! So, let’s not take ourselves too seriously!

I’ve lived my whole life with persons who have been diagnosed with life threatening disabilities. They were told that there was nothing more that science could do for them. But, that never stopped us for living life with great chutzpah! My son was told he would not live beyond 18. He is 37 and still is funny. My mother was told she would never walk and would not live beyond her 40th year. She has walked, is turning 88, is still humble, and likes to shop at Bloomingdales. We all know there are no limits…we are incredible humans.

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for.”

—The Elders Oraibi, Hopi Nation

I look forward to our future conversations!

Thank you Dr. J!

Laura Weisel, Ph.D.

[LD 6680] Re: Day 3 - Final Post
Robin Matusow
Sat Sep 10 15:02:33 EDT 2011

Thank you so much Dr. Weisel. I have often said that my participation in this and other listservs is my Ph.D. program. NEVER has that been more true than in this conversation. I have spent part of this day in search of the book you mentioned (will order it, not available locally) and will print the entire three days of posts! I am so glad that these days have help you with your PTSD. I am snobbish some times about reading people’s writing saying that I have experienced first hand some of the best, ( Rochelle, Diana Ross and others) so to add you to my list is important and exciting to me both personally and in my work with students and systems. I am glad I will be reading your past material and look forward to your writing and wisdom in the future!

Again, thank you!!

Robin Matusow

[LD 6681] Ideas for Orientation
Bobby Sin
Sat Sep 10 15:21:21 EDT 2011

This is response to Debra’s question regarding orientation ideas for a fairly new program. Here is an idea that has worked for our small community based tutoring program & it is also virtually no cost. Host a student focus group with your established students. You hand pick 4 or 5 learners to meet with you for approximately an hour, have some questions ready for discussion. This approach allows the learner to be in the driver’s seat. It also gives the student a voice and they are eager to share their ideas. You may get some program ideas that will not be able to be implemented however, you may also get great ideas you never thought of! We can tend to get caught up in the administration of programs and everything that goes with it and forget what the students real needs are. By hosting one or two focus groups with students of varying abilities you can really gather good insight into what the learner needs to be successful.

Another valuable tool to mention is the vision/hearing and VSS screenings. In the adult program where I work with approximately 200 students a year we have found that 50% of them have a vision deficiency, 40% have some sort of hearing deficiency, and 90% have some degree of Visual Stress Syndrome ranging from mild to severe. These are things that simply cannot be ignored when working with adult learners.

Bobbie Sin

[LD 6682] Thank you!!
Rochelle Kenyon
Sat Sep 10 19:55:08 EDT 2011


This has been a wonderful discussion. As always, I appreciate those of you who have posted messages, followed along during the discussion, and sent me comments off-line about how applicable the conversation has been for you.

Working with Dr. Laura Weisel has been a real pleasure for me. It takes an incredible amount of work and planning for the guest to make an online discussion appear seamless. I thank her so much for accepting my invitation and sharing her time and experience with us.

Lastly, what nuggets have you taken away from this discussion?? Rather than just sharing those thoughts with me personally, please post your thoughts online.

What was the most important thought/idea/suggestion that you learned from the discussion that just took place? I am anxious to hear what you have selected.

Thanks very much,


[LD 6685] Re: Thank you!!
Trish Rowland
Sun Sep 11 22:23:55 EDT 2011


Just want to thank you for this wonderful on-line discussion with Dr. Weisel. Though I did not participate actively due to internet problems on my end, I have been able to copy and paste the discussion’s emails into one document allowing me to create a follow-up lesson. All that I am reading is so informative and enlightening. It has been a wonderful learning experience and I look forward to another where I can actually take part in the discussion.

Thank you for all your hard work in making this happen.



[LD 6686] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Cheryl Parker
Mon Sep 12 10:00:53 EDT 2011

RE: Computer usage –

Sales rep for software preached, “High Tech - High Touch.” Truer words were never spoken, Our “high touch” concept has introduced students to “high tech” and when they are comfortable, they “get it” and use it (computer software), and greatly improve from it. We created and provided charts so students could track their progress on the computer. VERY needy students who had previously ALWAYS said, “You're confusing me.” “This is too slow.” “This is too fast.” Etc. Etc. Etc. are NOW saying, “I need more work on lesson 2 because I missed 4 questions,” and THEY crank up lesson 2... Yep, it took a LOT of “High Touch” but it has proven to be very successful in the wonderful world of independence.

Best to all –

Cheryl Parker

[LD 6687] Re: Thank you!
Lisa Beade
Mon Sep 12 10:23:39 EDT 2011

What I took away from Laura’s part of the discussion are her 3 most important points:

The enormous paradigm shift of role from teacher, (holder of knowledge & therefore, power), to facilitator (one who allows & guides the student toward an understanding of their own strengths, --they are all too well aware of their weaknesses). Facilitating is a far less glamorous role, no standing up and performing in front of an audience, which is so seductive --especially to me! But, facilitating is a far more respectful, useful & humanitarian one. Making the person you serve the expert on themselves. Exploring how the parts of their brain work, and don't work, modeling, constantly modeling different ways of processing information that they can then try, evaluate, redesign & try again for another re evaluation, may not be as sexy as performing, but it is surely more creative and success producing.

Group learning is huge! Students resist and resist, because they come from a factory model. But, if you give them a task and reasonable tools & promise to be the tool of last resort and get out of their way, miracles happen. Because people like to help each other and helping others understand something is the best way of learning it for yourself!

Success courses: upfront explorations of what real earning is all about, (metacognitive exploration), what gets in our way... group screenings & group conversations to get people out of their closet which goes far to take the shame away and let them understand that everyone struggles and that they are in for a different educational experience. Using student mentors to help create cohorts and give each student pride in their own strengths and abilities also facilitates the brain being open for learning. And, if they never go farther than the success course...which is highly unlikely, they still have come out of far ahead, because the understanding of their richness & competence in these small areas will infuse them for the rest of their lives in whatever else they choose to do!

And lastly,

the Hopi quote: "There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."

I think it should be writ large on the walls of all institutions in this time of chaos and change.

Thank you Laura and Robin and thank you all!



[LD 6688] LD Dr. Weisel discussion
Deb Hurd
Mon Sep 12 18:36:50 EDT 2011

Many thanks to Dr. Weisel and to the discussion group members who led to valuable insights for me. I especially appreciated the term, “co-creating learning.” It describes so beautifully the autonomy that each person needs to develop in her or his life. In addition, I appreciated the readings for the discussions. “Making it Worth the Stay” (Findings from the New England Adult Learner Persistence Project) and “Persistence: Helping Adult Education Students Reach Their Goals” by John P. Comings were particularly valuable for their research on persistence and the value of orientation for students entering adult education programs.

I appreciated the term, “stopping out” to describe the phenomena of adult learners being fluid concerning their entry, leaving, and reentering adult education programs. In particular, I found great hope in the fact that many who leave for life circumstances return repeatedly to try to finish their educational goals. Finding ways to reach these students, perhaps through independent studies or other means may turn out to be a valuable tool to help reentry.

Dr. Weisel’s efforts to address our questions and sharing her orientation outline were wonderful and I’m anxious to see what efforts can be implemented in our program. Thank you LINCS for providing this wealth and depth of knowledge—especially for a newer teacher like me.

[LD 6689] Transcript of Entire Discussion
Rochelle Kenyon
Mon Sep 12 20:47:50 EDT 2011

Thanks for your insight, Trish.

I will be developing a transcript of the entire discussion in chronological order. I will post an announcement on the List when that transcript is available. It will look similar to the last guest discussion transcript with Susan Jones that can be found at /.


[LD 6690] Re: Transcript of Entire Discussion
Jo Ann Fisburn
Mon Sep 12 22:20:14 EDT 2011

That would be great, Rochelle. I wasn’t able to participate either due to a full schedule, so I’d love to be able to read the transcript.


Jo Ann

[LD 6691] Re: Redesigning Services to Better Meet the Needs of Students with Special Learning Needs
Susan Jones
Tue Sep 13 10:06:00 EDT 2011

This makes a whole lot of sense -- and it's something the technology can be set up to do. Feedback, more feedback, and direct interaction, and charts and visible in-your-face evidence and proof of progress.

Susan Jones