Chapter 5 Transcript - Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research Study Circle Discussions - Discussion Lists - Professional Development

Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research Study Circle Discussions

Chapter 5: Motivation, Engagement, and Persistence



Full Transcripts

Discussion Description | Preparation | Guest Biographies

Welcome Message

Subject: [PD 6165] Discussion of Motivation, Engagement, & Persistence begins today!
From: Jackie Taylor
Date: Mon Dec 5 09:09:22 EST 2011

Dear PD List,


I'm excited to announce that part II our Study Circle Discussions of Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research begins today! This week, guest facilitator Andy Nash will lead us in a discussion of Chapter 5: Motivation, Engagement, and Persistence (pgs. 5-1 to 5-33).

Each morning Andy will post a brief summary of a section, along with questions or comments about what struck her, in order to get the conversation started. She's borrowed from the section titles to arrive at these daily topics:

  • Self-Efficacy and Goals
  • Adaptive Explanations for Success and Failure
  • Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards
  • Social, Contextual, and Systemic Mediators of Persistence
  • Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers

Daily discussions should continue as long as you like, but she will introduce a new topic each day. If you haven't read chapter 4 yet, you can obtain it here: http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/professionaldevelopment/11circle#prep

I hope you enjoy this chapter; a message about Topic 1 is on its way.

See the ALE Wiki page here (http://bit.ly/trPiol) to catch up on last week's posts or read the discussion summary.

Managing Email Volume:

Email traffic may get high. If it's too much, consider changing your subscription to "digest format" before unsubscribing. Digest format bundles all posts into a one (or a few) email(s) each day. Digests are sent to you by the server when a message size threshold is met. To learn how to set your subscription to digest, visit:
http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/list_help.html#digest.

Below are a few important tips for a successful discussion.

Discussion tips:

Thanks, and looking forward. Jackie

Jackie Taylor

Professional Development List Facilitator | Jackie@jataylor.net


Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence

Subject: [PD 6166] Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Andy Nash
Date: Mon Dec 5 09:57:05 EST 2011

Hello everyone,

I volunteered to facilitate this chapter on "Motivation, Engagement, and Persistence" because I appreciate how it attends to both the individual psychology of motivation as well as the social and educational responsibility to create environments that support students' competence, interest in learning, and desire to work together toward common goals. Today's topic is "Self-Efficacy and Goals." For those who don't like long messages,

this is longest I'll send this week!

Self-Efficacy and Goals

Chapter 5 examines the features of learning environments that support persistence, using a framework that looks at the individual, the learning context, and the broader systems and structures that affect persistence. The authors first consider self-efficacy (beliefs about one's abilities in a specific area - writing poetry, cooking, etc.) because it is a strong predictor of learning outcomes and persistence. "When learners expect to succeed, they are more likely to put forth the effort and persistence needed to perform well."

They report that one way that teachers can support self-efficacy is to help learners set "appropriate goals." This includes:

  • Assisting learners in breaking long-term goals down into short-term goals so they experience success
  • Building students' awareness of weekly progress
  • Providing learning tasks that are well-matched to skill level

(challenging but not frustrating)

The authors go on to discuss "goal orientations," which include three types of goals: mastery goals (to genuinely master the task), performance-approach goals (to show that you're more competent than others), and performance-avoidance goals (to avoid appearing incompetent). Mastery goal orientation is predictive of greater persistence at tasks and more effective use of cognitive strategies. If instructors emphasize mastery, effort, and improvement (rather than test scores, grades and relative ability), then students will be more likely to adopt mastery goals.

Beliefs about Intelligence

Self-efficacy will also be affected by one's beliefs about intelligence. According to Dweck (2007), "Some students believe that their intellectual ability is a fixed trait. . . . Others believe that their intellectual ability is something they can develop through effort and education. In the fixed mind-set, students care first and foremost about how they'll be judged - smart or not smart. Repeatedly, students with this mind-set reject opportunities to learn if they might make mistakes. . . . By contrast, in the face of failure, students with a growth mind-set escalate their efforts and look for new learning strategies."

Teachers impact these beliefs through their use of praise. Dweck (2007) finds that 'teachers that praise for intelligence tended to put students in a fixed mind-set (intelligence is fixed, and you have it), whereas praise for effort tended to put them in a growth mind-set (you're developing these skills because you're working hard)." Teachers should focus learners' attention on the processes of learning, including the use of strategies, effort, practice, and the value of mistakes for learning, in order to support a growth mind-set.

I am struck by how social stereotypes (discussed later in the chapter) set the stage for and reinforce these beliefs about fixed intelligence (and lack of motivation). There's a context in which our beliefs about ourselves form. In addition to refocusing student attention, I'd like to see us talking explicitly with students about how cultural messages affect our beliefs so that we can resist those barriers that get in the way of creating self-affirming mind-sets.

What strikes you?

Andy Nash, Guest Facilitator


Subject: [PD 6167] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Isserlis, Janet
Date: Mon Dec 5 11:48:20 EST 2011

Andy

Thanks for this very helpful summary of the chapter. Many of the pieces strike me, but I'm choosing this:

  • If instructors emphasize mastery, effort, and improvement (rather than test scores, grades and relative ability), then students will be more likely to adopt mastery goals.*

for discussion.
I've LONG believed that if we help learners develop mastery as articulated above, and if we give them the meta skills (read: test-taking strategies) to deal with standardized assessment instruments, they *should* be able to do well on those tests. IF not, either the tests aren't effective or the tests are testing skills that aren't really valuable to adult learners. or aren't the skills and knowledge we've discovered that learners want to gain.

I've no doubt that there are many who will try to once again explain validity and reliability and all of that. My real question here goes to the tension of who the testing process can drive instruction and how, even with the research you're helping us examine this week, we can never fully just "teach" and "learn" as long as we rely on outside funding.

I DON'T want this to become a screed about funding and outcomes, as such, but am very interested in how we help translate actual learning into test outcomes.

Janet Isserlis


Subject: [PD 6168] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Andy Nash
Date: Mon Dec 5 12:42:49 EST 2011

Janet,

Well, perhaps funders will learn from the research, because it's all pointing to the idea that building intrinsic motivation to reach meaningful (to students) goals is what promotes learning and persistence. I can understand funders' interest in wanting to measure this learning better, but I don't understand funders deciding on the goal priorities, because it's genuine, self-chosen goals that motivate learning.

Andy


Subject: [PD 6169] Re : Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Roger Downey
Date: Mon Dec 5 14:03:27 EST 2011

Hey All,

Thanks, Andy! In our setting, which is mainly high school completion, what we try to do is to set the appropriate goals at the beginning, ones that can be reached short-term, and provide the proper feedback and progress monitoring so the participant knows where they stand within the class. Of course, we provide levels of instruction, more than 9-12, but the main goal is to pass classes, for credit, to reach that long-term goal of graduation. We try to return their work as soon as possible and allow those who did not pass the work to have a 'do over' just as in life. Their papers are returned with comments, corrections, hints, as we try to read every word that is written and allow the participants a wide scope as to what they need to answer the questions, the first time around. When redoing the work the participants have to redo all of the assignment not only the questions that were answered incorrectly. I assume that this is part of the 'mastery' approach and provides the participant the chance to do as well as they can, satisfying the need to succeed, and make them feel better about themselves within the classroom setting, which they might not have been in for 5, 10, 20 years.

We emphasize a good work ethic; finishing what is assigned every day, attending on a regular basis, and writing so others can read material. But, and this is a big but, we find that peer pressure, and encouragement, is as greatly needed, and useful, as anything the instructor can bring to the table. The staff can talk, act, demonstrate, sing, or dance, and the participant will only take in what they deem is necessary, but with their peers showing them the way even the trouble that might show up, such as a poorly structured text, can be overcome with a little help from their friends. We have found the AGS series of high school completion texts a very good series, limited drawbacks, but with ABE we are still groping for good material to put the participants on a good starting level of involvement.

Roger Downey, Instructor

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6172] Re: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Andy Nash
Date: Mon Dec 5 16:57:48 EST 2011

Roger,

Your program sounds like a rigorous, fair, and supportive learning environment. There's an entire section upcoming in Chapter 5 that's about the power of peer interaction to build motivation and persistence, but I'll just mention here that peer mentoring of various sorts played a significant role in improving persistence in many of the New England Learner Persistence (NELP) Project programs. This included peer mentors in an accelerated math class (at SCALE), students who presented to peers about how their learning helped them achieve life goals (such as buying a house) step by step (at Boston HERC), and student "ambassadors" who welcomed incoming students and answered questions in their native languages (at QCAP). We saw this peer support as a powerful contributor to students' sense of belonging and community, and to their self-efficacy.

Thanks for your example,

Andy


Subject: [PD 6170] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Tom Sticht
Date: Mon Dec 5 14:38:58 EST 2011

Janet and Andy: Your posts brought to mind some principles about adult education and learning. Here they are along with your thoughts related to them.

Tom Sticht

Regarding the enhancement of self-efficacy through learning: Relation to discussion: Janet said she is: "very interested in how we help translate actual learning into test outcomes."

  • Principle: People are more likely to learn what they are taught than what they are not taught.
  • Principle: People are more likely to show gains on tests of what they are taught than on what they are not taught.
  • Principle: People are more likely to feel better about their success than their failure.
  • Regarding Motivation to Persist at Learning: Relation to discussion: Andy said: "It's genuine, self-chosen goals that motivate learning."
  • Principle: People are more likely to learn what they want to learn than what they don't want to learn.
  • Principle: People who spend more time learning are likely to learn more.

Regarding intelligence: Andy says, "I'd like to see us talking explicitly with students about how cultural messages affect our beliefs so that we can resist those barriers that get in the way of creating self-affirming mind-sets."

  • Principle: Given the opportunity, people are likely to show that they are smarter than we think.
  • (Example1: In the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of young adults whose measured aptitude on the Armed Forces Qualification Test was below the 30th percentile were rejected from military service and called "morons" in some quarters. Yet when policy was changed and they were allowed in the military services over 85 percent were successful in job training and completed their term of service in a satisfactory or outstanding manner.
  • (Example 2: The national adult literacy surveys of 1993 and 2003 declared almost half of adults to be so poorly literate that they could not meet the literacy demands of contemporary workplaces and societal needs and were a threat to the nations global competitiveness. Yet some 95 percent of adults said their literacy skills were good enough to meet their job and daily needs, over 90 percent of working age adults were employed in both time periods, and the United States was and still is rated as among the top 2 or 3 nations in global competitiveness.)

Tom Sticht


Subject: [PD 6171] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Gaye Horne
Date: Mon Dec 5 15:15:55 EST 2011

Tom,

I agree with the principals but then are we teaching to the test or are we testing what students want to learn? Ah, here is the age old compliant—we don't have a system that really captures data about adult education or education.

Sugata Mitra | Profile on TED.com

Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they're motivated by curiosity and ... http://www.ted.com/speakers/sugata_mitra.html

I imagine this experiment is true for adults and it does support the principals you have outlined.

Gaye Horne

Denver, CO


Subject: [PD 6173] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Tom Sticht
Date: Mon Dec 5 17:00:35 EST 2011

Gaye: I think the sequence is (1) first find out what the learner wants to learn, (2) teach that, (3) test to see if it was learned. This way we are testing to the teaching rather than teaching to the test.

It is strange to me that if we teach what is tested on, say, the CASAS, TABE, ABLE, etc. we are accused of cheating by teaching to the test. But it is not clear to me how it is that we are supposed to see improvements on tests on what we have not taught. We often then fail to take credit for having test data that shows that what we teach is what is actually being learned!

Failure to take credit for what has been learned of what we have taught has led some researchers who use standardized tests, the contents of which we are not supposed to teach, to conclude that our programs do not make much, if any, improvements in people's literacy proficiency.

I find all this sort of quixotic!

Tom Sticht


Subject: [PD 6175] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Gaye Horne
Date: Mon Dec 5 17:35:42 EST 2011

I cannot agree more!

Thank you!

Gaye Horne

Denver, CO


Subject: [PD 6176] Re: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Roger Downey
Date: Mon Dec 5 17:53:39 EST 2011

Gaye,

I liked your question as to 'what we are teaching to'? I do not think that teaching to the test will help anyone but the brightest student, who has been out of the loop for some time. Our program, of high school completion, starts the participant out at the level they can accomplish tasks at and increases as they progress and show success. How well they do on the test, I think, is more of a reflection of how well they can pull context out of what the test is asking them to do than the problem itself. I realize the need to show improvement on each part of the test, but I feel the understanding of the question, what the words say and mean, is far more important whether the participant is reading a test, a job application, a technical manual, or a story about a boy and his dog. I believe that structuring the literacy part of the educational process, at the beginning of the program; will bring a better outcome as the participant continues their education. It also starts the process sooner of the intergenerational aspect of being able to communicate with their children in meaningful ways if they can read on the page what exactly their child needs to do, as in the case of helping with homework, or just reading a good night story before bed.

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6174] Self-Efficacy Goals and intelligence
From: Robben Wainer
Date: Mon Dec 5 22:58:04 EST 2011

Hello Professional Development,

In my own adult literacy class, that was set up as a workshop. We employed distinctions and differentiation to classifying ourselves with the term uniqueness. With the help of two modules. www.tolerance.org and www.scholastic.org we found that by understanding how our tolerance of others and ourselves, provides us with prior knowledge, and we were not alone in our need for an education. We came close to the realization that our choices and decisions had also created certain fears, and that our questioning of moral values that were not helpful to our development, showed that we do have characteristics that are uniquely ours. Since, the redeemable joy of learning by choice ought not be made expendable. We viewed both our successes, and failures as a matter of cause and effect, and previewed all of our discussions by connotating that nobody really approves of their leaving a job requirement or a learning experience with a failing status.

While these concepts were never new, it did provide insight as to my student's own individual need to enhance their practice of developing cognitive skills. While some may feel that their social contracts with society must wait for them to assess their prior knowledge and critical thinking, others were waiting for their opportunity to apply their reasoning to a method of problem solving to achieve results.

In all cases, my student's believed that their social understanding of expectancy and status quo helped prove that they were only limited by the degree of their own effort, and their ability or inability to establish individual motivation in order to succeed.

Thank You,

Robben Wainer


Subject: [PD 6177] Re: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Susan Jones
Date: Tue Dec 6 10:15:44 EST 2011

I think we do need to be careful when we project our goal for the teaching.

When I take placement tests, I perceive it as a chance to demonstrate my knowledge. I am well-versed in both the underlying skills and thought processes the test is trying to assess and I'm pretty good at discerning what a given test is emphasizing and looking for the questions that are the slightly wrong answer that looks okay on the surface, etc... However, generally, I'm confident that I do, in fact, know the stuff.

How many of my students think that "learning to the test" is something they have to do because (hey, just between you and me and we would never say it out loud because we only say positive things, but ...) they're really not bright enough or they're in some other way damaged goods playing a con game to game a system that they really can't fathom?

I don't know the answer to that, but I think I have to be aware of the scenario.

Susan Jones

Academic Development Specialist

Center for Academic Success

Parkland College

Champaign, IL


Subject: [PD 6182] Re: Topic 1: Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Schwarz, Robin
Date: Tue Dec 6 14:56:48 EST 2011

Tom and all-I am fascinated by the little part of a TED biography at the bottom of Gaye's message indicating that if children are allowed to, they will teach themselves what they want or need (from their perspective) to learn. I find that it is the same with adults, and I would then change Tom's list to 1) find out what the learner wants/needs to learn, 2) help the learner find ways to learn that, 3) help the learner find ways to test him or herself to see if it was learned.

It is somewhat idealistic to frame effective motivation as intrinsic or personal. Interesting scholarship on the notions of adult learning done in the last decade (especially Merriam, 2001, 2008, and also Ahl, 2006) indicate that external motivation-the need to learn something or complete a course of learning-is at least as important to adult learners as personally motivated, intrinsic motivation. Therefore, we may not be able to directly teach what an adult learner is in need of. Instead, we can find ways to help the learner figure out how to learn and master what he or she needs or wants without our own filter of those goals getting in the way. Real self-efficacy in figuring out that one can self-direct such necessary learning is highly motivating in itself.

Robin H. Lovrien, Ph.D.

Consultant in Adult ESOL/Learning Difficulties

Steuben, ME


Subject:[PD 6186] Re: Topic 1 - Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Roger Downey
Date: Wed Dec 7 12:07:48 EST 2011

Hey Robin,

I concur with you especially the last sentence. A student's self-motivated learning is what we are striving for. I remember a poster, not too long ago, about the teacher teaches the student to get along without the teacher. It is not the exact wordage but this is basically what we are doing. We can only hold their hand while they are in the classroom, after that they are on their own. Part of our work-ethic approach is to teach them to get along without us. Do what they need to do, we are there incase questions arise, and see how far they get. The internal rewards that come to each one when a goal, even one they did not know they had, is reached is shown on their faces and warms the heart of the teacher. The external rewards are that other students see the improvement and want to be a part of that.

We have added a 'Careers' class to our program. The class is being offered to our 'seniors'. The text is quite comprehensive, and has a workbook to go along with the text, but one thing that really caught my interest was that along with the text work, the students have to work on a portfolio in each chapter. The portfolio lets the students see that they can set short- and long-term goals, what these goals consist of, and what to do once you reach those goals. We had bought the 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook and have the students look through that during the course of the school year. This gives them an insight into what types of jobs/careers are out there, opens their eyes. And shows them what they need to do to get those jobs. We keep the students pointed in the right direction.

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6188] Re: Re ; Topic 1 - Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Horton, Coral
Date: Wed Dec 7 14:08:29 EST 2011

May I ask which career text you are using? We are incorporating career pathways concepts in our Adult Education programs, so I would be interested in seeing this curriculum.

Thanks.

Coral Horton, Ed.D.

Program Manager, Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6191] Re: Topic 1 - Self-Efficacy, Goals, and Intelligence
From: Roger Downey
Date: Wed Dec 7 15:15:20 EST 2011

Hey Coral,

We are using "Career Planning" from the AGS Publishing series and its' student workbook. There are only 10 chapters, but we broke Ch. 4 into '3' parts.

The text is ISBN 0-7854-4032-1 and student workbook is ISBN 0-7854-4034-8. You can call AGS @ 800-328-2560. We order through Wieser @ 800-880-4433.

Good Luck,

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Topic 2: Adaptive explanations for success and failure

Subject: [PD 6178] Topic 2: Adaptive explanations for success and failure
From: Andy Nash
Date: Tue Dec 6 09:51:03 EST 2011

Adaptive Explanations for Success and Failure

We foster resiliency (the capacity to overcome risks and reach positive outcomes) by helping students set goals and believe they can achieve them, and by providing clear, targeted feedback that helps students focus on improvement. Roger Downey gave an example of this yesterday when he described the way, in his program, student papers are returned with specific comments that guide the students to do another, improved draft.

This brings us to attribution theory-a theory about the beliefs we form to explain our successes and failures. According to the theory, a learner who is experiencing failure or difficulty comprehending a text, for example, will be more likely to persist if he or she attributes the difficulty to something external (e.g., a boring text), something uncontrollable (e.g., being ill), or something unstable (e.g., feeling depressed that day). A learner who experiences success at a task will be more likely to persist if progress is attributed to something internal (e.g., personal enjoyment of reading), controllable (e.g., practice, spending a lot of time working on the text), and stable (e.g., a belief in one's ability as a reader). (p. 5-9)

Educators can help students redirect their attributions toward things they can control, such as effort or strategy use, by teaching them that errors are a natural part of learning and by focusing their attention on the process of learning (the importance of using strategies, monitoring one’s understanding, and engaging in sustained effort, even in the face of challenge). Having students observe others carrying out effective learning behaviors is another way to help students reframe their attitudes and increase self-efficacy.

Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards

The contrast of the internal and external appears again in the authors' discussion of intrinsic motivation. "Intrinsic motivation refers to undertaking a behavior for its own sake, enjoyment and interest and with a high degree of perceived autonomy or willingness, volition, and control." It is associated with many positive outcomes and is enhanced when students are rewarded on the basis of their improvement.

The effects of extrinsic rewards on the development of intrinsic motivation are debated. Nonexperimental studies (such as a Tennessee experiment providing cash incentives for attendance in adult education classes that saw an increase in the GED pass rate) suggest a positive effect. Other research suggests that extrinsic rewards (job referrals, public assistance benefits, etc.) undermine a person's sense of autonomy and control, and therefore the intrinsic motivation to continue once the reward is received. However, when costs such as childcare, tuition, or lost wages are covered up front to minimize barriers to participation, this may not have a negative impact.

Re: attribution, I find it interesting that the explanations that most instructors would consider excuses - "this is boring" or "I don’t feel well" are linked to persistence because these indicate stronger self-efficacy than would, for example, an explanation that locates the problem inside the student - "I'm too dumb." What do teachers think of this?

I'm also wondering if any professional developers are helping teachers reflect on the messages they send students about intelligence (fixed mind-set vs. growth mind-set), attributions (what they can control about their learning), or motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic).

There's a lot in here about the how motivation is linked to having a sense of autonomy. I hope we pick up on this in coming days...

Andy Nash, Guest Facilitator


Subject: [PD 6179] Re: Topic 2: Adaptive explanations for success and failure
From: Susan Jones
Date: Tue Dec 6 13:01:56 EST 2011

Per the text below, I would grant that students may be more likely to "persist" if they attribute failure to something external/uncontrollable/unstable, but that's not the same as succeeding. If we can figure out the actual reason for the "failure," that might be even more useful, 'cause then we can address the reason (or not), even if it actually is "I'm too stupid" if we've also read our Dweck and have developed a healthy "I can change my abilities" mindset. Or, we might be able to make a reasonable decision about the value of persisting.

(snipped post)
This brings us to attribution theory-a theory about the beliefs we form to explain our successes and failures. According to the theory, a learner who is experiencing failure or difficulty comprehending a text, for example, will be more likely to persist if he or she attributes the difficulty to something external (e.g., a boring text), something uncontrollable (e.g., being ill), or something unstable (e.g., feeling depressed that day). A learner who experiences success at a task will be more likely to persist if progress is attributed to something internal (e.g., personal enjoyment of reading), controllable (e.g., practice, spending a lot of time working on the text), and stable (e.g., a belief in one's ability as a reader). (p. 5-9)

Susan Jones

Academic Development Specialist

Center for Academic Success

Parkland College

Champaign, IL


Subject: [PD 6180] Re: Topic 2: Adaptive explanations for success and failure
From: Andy Nash
Date: Tue Dec 6 13:58:41 EST 2011

Susan,

Yes, and the report highlights the need for students to experience success (which requires guidance based on solid assessment) in order to really sustain persistence. All of these factors work in combination, as you say. The report really pulls apart many lines of inquiry, and it's for us to figure out how to put them together.

Andy


Topic 2a: Motivation, Post-testing, & Publicizing Scores

Subject: [PD 6181] Motivation and posttesting and publicizing scores
From: Stephanie Moran
Date: Tue Dec 6 14:20:31 EST 2011

Another issue that the report raises in this chapter is how to approach assessments and sharing scores-I am leery of sharing post-test scores publicly, but our team as a whole has decided that public sharing of improved scores is more a good than an evil. My experience differs-the only people who like to verbalize their score are those who made gains-everyone else is mum. Some on our team think that sharing scores is a motivator for those who perhaps didn't give the post their best effort-but what about those who did?


Subject: [PD 6183] Re: Motivation and posttesting and publicizing scores
From: Andy Nash
Date: Tue Dec 6 21:37:24 EST 2011

Stephanie,

The report seems to firmly agree with you. It says quite directly, "results of assessments should be presented privately" (p. 5-11) because student comparisons are counter-productive. Someone is going to be the "loser," and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that this is educationally motivating. I wonder if your team would consider posting the degrees of improvement for students rather than their scores-still a bit competitive but at least based on students' own relative growth and effort.

Andy Nash


Subject: [PD 6187] Re: Motivation and posttesting and publicizing scores
From: Stephanie Moran
Date: Wed Dec 7 11:30:48 EST 2011

I'll bring this aspect of Ch. 5 up to the team at our next meeting for discussion. Thanks for your suggestion, Andy.

I wonder what other programs do in regard to sharing assessment scores. How do you use them for goal setting / motivational purposes, both at the intake and the posttest stages?

Stephanie Moran


Subject: [PD 6189] Re: Motivation and Posttesting and Publicizing scores
From: Roger Downey
Date: Wed Dec 7 14:28:45 EST 2011

Hey Stephanie,

Our program does not make the state testing scores public to anyone. They are told right up front that they will be tested multiple times, the tests results go to the state under a student number, not a name, and that they need to show improvement with each test they take. I am not sure how they take the information but very few will ask about how well they did on the test, and they do seem to try harder on the test as the year goes on. The idea that there is a 'loser' in giving the test scores out weighs heavily on the decision of not releasing the scores. The students know as they progress through the tests that they can identify the problems easier, or come up with the answers sooner, or just feel better about the test because they aren't as worried about taking it. Either way, the student knows they are improving without having to drag scores into the mix.

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6190] Re: Motivation and Posttesting and Publicizing scores
From: Horton, Coral
Date: Wed Dec 7 15:02:18 EST 2011

We also do not provide scores. As they are registered based on the scores and without teacher recommendation they are not moved, it is counterproductive to provide scores. Students who learn their scores argue with staff because "it's only X points". Instead we emphasize that it is not a pass/fail situation, but rather placement based on their skills. If they try to go to a level with their friends and their skills are not adequate, they will get more frustrated and have more chance of dropping the program.

Coral Horton, Ed.D.

Program Manager, Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6196] Re: Motivation and Posttesting and Publicizing scores
From: Schwarz, Robin
Date: Thu Dec 8 12:05:17 EST 2011

I would like to pose a question here in regards to this question about providing grades (and a few other aspects of adult education): Why is adult education qualitatively different from say, community college classes? Would those of you who teach in community colleges even be ALLOWED to think about NOT providing grades of an assessment of any kind? No one in that setting even considers that providing grades might be counter-productive or upsetting. Grades are grades and they are what the system is based on. Even in adult literacy, the score on the placement is the one to which subsequent scores are compared to see if there is progress and therefore movement. Everyone knows this. Why would the students not get their grades/scores on an assessment? How are they to know if they are making progress, or what they are supposed to be aiming their efforts at?

I understand about students arguing about points on the assessment, but that seems to be the original teachable moment-- to help them understand the purpose and nature of the test as well as to go over it with them to find out WHY items were incorrect, etc. This should be part of empowering the adult students, shouldn't it?

Robin H. Lovrien, Ph.D.

Consultant in Adult ESOL/Learning Difficulties

Steuben, ME


Subject: [PD 6198] Re: Motivation and Posttesting and Publicizing scores
From: Andy Nash
Date: Thu Dec 8 13:38:00 EST 2011

Yes, I notice that the discussion shifted from not posting grades publicly to not sharing grades with students. I think the research (from NCSALL and from this report's discussion of self-efficacy) indicates that seeing progress helps students stay committed to their studies. In addition to helping them understand the meaning of whatever tests they are taking, it's important that we help them identify life-based signs of progress so that they can continue to monitor their growth independently, when they've moved on from us.

Andy


Subject: [PD 6197] Re: Motivation and Posttesting and Publicizing scores
From: Deborah McCormick
Date: Thu Dec 8 13:42:40 EST 2011

Not only are our students given their scores, in our advising sessions, the specific categories are explained (i.e., quantitative literacy, reading comprehension, etc.) and their proficiency level in each category. The students are then able to track their own progress and are aware of the areas in which they need to improve. Thus, the students become responsible partners in the pursuit of their educational goals.

Deb McCormick, PhD

ESL & Citizenship Coordinator

Dona Ana Community College

Las Cruces, NM


Subject: [PD 6201] Re: Disclosing and Explaining Scale Score Results on Tests
From: Anderson, Philip
Date: Thu Dec 8 14:56:57 EST 2011

Andy, Robin, and others,

I am all for providing students with all test results and explaining what their scores mean.

However, there was one aspect of telling students their scores that (from my experience) seemed to discourage them. This was when I tried to explain the way the scale score points relate to the six levels of the US Department of Education National Reporting System (NRS).

Some students gained more scale score points but did not move a level, while students who gained less points sometimes moved to a higher level. A student who starts at a lower place on the NRS level range can actually make a gain of more scale score points on a test but not move from one NRS level to the next. Another student who starts at a place nearer the top of the NRS range can move from one level to the next by making a gain of 2-3 points. If the range is, say, from 211-220, and the student starts at 212, he or she would need more points than a student who started at 219.

While I could explain it all and students seemed to understand the explanation, it still seemed to leave some students feeling disappointed that they had worked hard but still not moved up a level.

In my opinion, sometimes it seems it may not be all that important to try to explain the levels of the NRS to students. This seems especially so in a programs that has few students. If a small program were to offer classes at each of the 6 NRS levels, they might have only 3-4 students in each classroom. They often combine levels to make up 2 or 3 classrooms, and they use in-house terminology such as Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced, or even A, B and C.

I'm not trying to say that it is a good idea to never talk about NRS levels. This is simply to point out another aspect of telling students their scores and how we present it to them. It is not easy to make sure we don't end up with the unintended result of students feeling discouraged instead of encouraged.

Phil Anderson

Adult ESOL Program Specialist

Florida Department of Education


Topic 3: Interest and Value

Subject: [PD 6184] Topic 3: Interest and Value
From: Andy Nash
Date: Wed Dec 7 09:31:28 EST 2011

Robin,

I wonder if what you're talking about (external motivation) is addressed by the report's discussion of "value" (below).

Interest and Value

In the sections on interest and value, the authors review research related to engagement. "Adults are likely to put forth more effort and stay engaged in tasks they find interesting." (p. 5-13) They first distinguish personal interests (long-standing preferences) from situational interests (the type of interest that is prompted by a particular aspect of the topic or situation, by another's interest, etc.). As we might suspect, a student's (situational) interest in a skill or topic may be stimulated if the content is presented in a compelling way. And personal interests can be built upon to expand and extend learners' engagement into new areas.

A 2001 review identified six research-based strategies that literacy instructors can use to enhance situational interest among students, including (p. 5-16):

  • offering meaningful choices to students (e.g., allowing them to choose texts),
  • using well-organized texts,
  • using texts that include vivid imagery,
  • using texts about which students have some prior knowledge,
  • encouraging students to actively and creatively think about the material they are reading, and
  • providing relevant cues for students

A person may persist with a task that is not initially intrinsically interesting if it is valued. Value refers to learners' beliefs about whether the material or task is

  • enjoyable
  • useful,
  • important to identity or sense of self, and
  • worth investing time in.

Valuing coursework is particularly important in adult education, where learners have a clear sense of what's useful and their available time for learning competes with other important priorities. As the authors note later in the chapter, "Lack of persistence in adult literacy instruction, while appearing to be a poor choice, actually may be a self-regulated, adaptive response to the constraints of competing pressures, demands, and trade-offs."

A few quick thoughts:

  • I would add that there is a social component to defining one's interests and values (and goals). Without opportunities to discuss what matters to us, with peers, we don't have the chance to consider all the many possibilities out there or understand how our interests and values intersect with others. What is often a conversation between teachers/counselors and individual students should, I believe, be a discussion among adult students.
  • The value of (and interest in) what adults are learning is enhanced when teachers are transparent about what they are teaching and why. Instructors often assume that students see the relevance of instruction (to their goals, interests, etc.) because they (the instructors) see it. They frequently don't.
  • Re: raising student interest in texts, I'd like to highlight #5 above. In a time where direct instruction is putting most of our attention on decoding text, this item reminds us that the other half of the equation is the reader and what the reader brings to a text - their knowledge of the topic (maybe you know that the boss can make personal phone calls, even though the policy manual says no), of how that text is used in the world (will you regret that posting on Facebook?), and of their relationship to the author ("Jose, can you work late tonight?" is not always a question). Erik Jacobson has an interesting article called "Examining Reading Comprehension in Adult Literacy" in the current issue of the ABEL Journal that addresses some of this.

Finally, are these summaries useful? Should I assume that list members have already read the chapter?

Andy Nash, Guest Facilitator


Subject: [PD 6195] Re: Topic 3: Interest and Value
From: Schwarz, Robin
Date: Thu Dec 8 11:45:37 EST 2011

Andy-yes, I think that is what I was referring to.. And yes, the summaries are very useful-reading doesn't imply taking away the most salient parts for this discussion.

I liked the comments about students having discussions about what is meaningful and why and what meaning they see in a text. This practice can be/is very helpful to those who have struggled with education, for whom this may act as a think-aloud process in evaluating text. It is also valuable to ESL students who need the experience talking about texts in English and who also may have very little experience with caring or trying to find out how they can connect to a text.

Robin H. Lovrien, Ph.D.

Consultant in Adult ESOL/Learning Difficulties

Steuben, ME


Topic 4: Control and Autonomy

Subject: [PD 6192] Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Andy Nash
Date: Thu Dec 8 09:36:10 EST 2011

Control and Autonomy

When students (children and adolescents) believe that they have some control over their learning, they are more likely to take on challenges and to persist with difficult tasks, compared with students who perceive that they have little control . . . . (p. 5-17)

The amount of autonomy any learner desires, however, appears to depend on how competent and self-efficacious he or she feels. If the task is new or especially challenging, an individual may appreciate having little autonomy. Therefore, supporting self-efficacy in the many ways that have been discussed (supporting a growth mind-set, creating experiences of success, offering peer community support and mentoring, reframing the role of mistakes in learning, etc.) will also nurture the confidence it takes to act with autonomy and agency.

To support a sense of autonomy, the research suggests that instructors can:

  • Involve students in instructional decisions, such as how they want to group themselves, the sequence of activities, or their reading texts.
  • Provide a rationale for activities and assignments(acknowledging that participants might not want to do the activity while highlighting the benefits.)

Exercising control over learning turned out to be a key driver of persistence in the New England Learner Persistence Project (reported at http://www.nelrc.org/persist/pdfs/Making%20it%20worth%20the%20stay.pdf). We refer to it as "agency," and it often surfaced when the program provided more information from which adults could make informed choices.

Several programs made the information they provide at orientation more accessible. At Vernon (CT) Adult Education, for example, the student orientation was revised to include a more in-depth explanation of the program's 3 high school completion options (GED, HS credit diploma, and EDP), resulting in greater numbers choosing options that fit their needs (rather than automatically registering for the GED class).

Programs that invited more student decision-making in the classroom or provided more learning options (web-based tools, take-home reading packets, computer lab) from which students could choose, saw significant increases in attendance.

At Dover (NH) Adult Education and the Community Learning Center (MA), providing study options for students who had stopped out and were trying to "re-engage" (return to class, independent study, or tutoring), enabled many students to find a way to reconnect and persist in their studies.

I'm very interested in how others are providing opportunities for shared control, self-direction, and student autonomy in your work.

Andy Nash, Guest Facilitator


Subject: [PD 6193] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Isserlis, Janet
Date: Thu Dec 8 10:42:07 EST 2011

Andy

Thanks again for this very helpful summary.

Here's a question for another day - looking at your closing: I'm very interested in how others are providing opportunities for shared control, self-direction, and student autonomy in your work.

I'm also interested in thinking about how we provide opportunities for one another as colleagues for shared control, self-direction and autonomy. As practitioners we may or may not feel we have power over our students; we may think of having power with, if we think about power at all.

How/do we apply these principles to our dealings with learners and with peers?

Janet Isserlis


Subject: [PD 6194] Re : Topic 4, Control and Autonomy
From: Roger Downey
Date: Thu Dec 8 10:43:56 EST 2011

Hey All,

Our program tries to keep control, or structure as I like to call it, on what the participants are doing daily. When they enter a class for the first time they are given a module, syllabus like format, showing what assignments they have to complete; not only on a daily basis but for the entire grading period. Having the participants work on completing one day's work at a time is sometimes a tedious project. "I have to leave early tonight", "Can I work ahead?", "How many class times do we have to complete our work?". A few understand and plow through but others need that direction of where to go and what to do. With the use of modules, though, we don't have the line of participants at the beginning of each class asking the teacher "what do I have to do today?" So, for our program, structure is felt to be needed. We do deviate now and then on peripheral items, but for the most part we stay the course.

We do have morning and evening classes, though, and allow students to switch back and forth if needed for their work commitments, or child care concerns. With that we run the morning and the evening classes the same way, except we don't have any regulated break time in the evening as we do during the day.

The autonomy is mainly seen in letting the participants work at their own pace. It is giving the participants four hours to do their work, whether they need that much time or not. The assignments aren't that long for all, but some need the time. I don't like letting books go out, for they don't seem to come back, and with a limited amount in the budget for replacement we tend to rather replace those books in bad shape, then to replace books someone has taken out of the class, so we don't give homework.

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6200] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Schwarz, Robin
Date: Thu Dec 8 12:23:31 EST 2011

Andy--this is SUCH an important aspect of adult learning, in my experience (as an adult learner, a teacher of adults and a trainer of teachers). One of the aspects of learning centers that is most important to their success is that learners develop a great deal of control over their own learning--all aspects of it: content, time on task, way of learning, degree of mastery, self-monitoring of learning. When implemented effectively, a whole class of learners with diverse everything - goals, needs, education, age, language skills, language backgrounds - can meaningfully proceed with directing their own learning. It is easy for them to know when they are 'getting' something or not. Teachers I coach who use them successfully say that among the few problems the method presents is that some learners tend to hog certain centers where they feel they need more practice or are learning the most. Because learners move themselves to other activities or centers, they have a sense of really directing their learning.

Another successful approach to encouraging control and autonomy again comes from Laura Weisel and PowerPath. Laura has developed a system of training adults to identify long term goals, then identify short term goals and all that they need to do to do self-directed learning to attain that goal: identify materials needed, steps to be taken in studying, the quantity of work to be done and the period of time needed to accomplish that. Then students are trained to self-evaluate--to see if they met their goal and if so, whether they could do more, or if not, why not. It is a remarkable system. Students who adopt it often apply the process to many aspects of their lives. If anyone on this lists uses Powerpath, please do describe how empowering this personal learning plan approach really is for adult students.

Robin H. Lovrien, Ph.D.

Consultant in Adult ESOL/Learning Difficulties

Steuben, ME


Subject: [PD 6199] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Schwarz, Robin
Date: Thu Dec 8 12:29:25 EST 2011

Janet-- I love this little prod into thinking about being collaborators with adult students, not teachers of them. To me, one of the great joys of working with adults is being able to be an adult with them, not a teacher with power over them. It is very hard sometimes to dodge the role of having power that students want to give us, but I think that some of the things Andy refers to in the report indicate that where instructors work WITH students to identify what they need to do and how to do it, students persist better and are more likely to make progress. Many adult students have trouble with the emotional aspects of the authority exerted over them in the classroom--baggage they bring from previous learning experiences. All the more reason to approach the learning experience differently by shedding the power and being facilitator and guide, not director or driver.

Robin H. Lovrien, Ph.D.

Consultant in Adult ESOL/Learning Difficulties

Steuben, ME


Subject: [PD 6202] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Donn Liston
Date: Thu Dec 8 14:37:33 EST 2011

As adult instructors of adults we must first be role models. We must establish ourselves as persons who are capable and able to think in creative ways. I deal with many young men who have no meaningful male role models in their lives and I am direct and assertive with them. On the other hand, I make it clear from the start of our "relationship" that I believe in Natural Consequences and society NEEDS people who struggle at the margins to do the lousy jobs educated people don't want to do. It's not my problem they don't have a high school diploma, so now it's up to them.

The other role I am careful to promote is one of expectations in my class; every woman in my class must feel safe, and anybody who doesn't like being here can hit the door, NOW!

If you don't establish this "climate" in an adult learning situation, particularly in a ghetto environment such as I teach in, you don't get the traction with students to do much else.

Donn Liston

Anchorage, Alaska


Subject: [PD 6203] Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Roger Downey
Date: Thu Dec 8 15:31:09 EST 2011

Hey All,

Robin and Janet make a point about learning with our students, facilitating. I strongly agree. What I had commented about earlier was our structure in our classrooms. I still feel that there needs to be parameters in place, so students know what is expected, not an iron fist as they walk in the door. I would then ask the question of "What is meant by control or authority?" We are all adults within our program, no doubting that, but doesn't the buck need to stop somewhere? Here!

The students look for guidance, if their peers can give that to them, let them, but for help on school matters, test matters, there still needs to be a central source to go to. Doesn't there?

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6205] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Donn Liston
Date: Thu Dec 8 17:00:02 EST 2011

Students at any level appreciate knowing the boundaries; at the elementary school level the students will actively test those boundries, but adults who want to reach a goal are likely to figure it out quickly what expectations are if you model and state them plainly.

I have an overhead slide that I pull out periodically and review with the class so we all know where we stand. It says:

  • You are self-sufficient and responsible for your own learning.
  • You have a wealth of experience and knowledge to bring to the classroom.
  • You know what you want to attain.
  • You deserve to know why you need to learn something.
  • Your motivation comes primarily from within rather than from external sources.

We chat about this a little bit, I ask if there are any questions, and we get to work.

Donn Liston

Anchorage, Alaska


Subject: [PD 6204] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Lisa Mullins
Date: Thu Dec 8 19:26:26 EST 2011

Hi All,

In my GED and ESOL classes, I ask the students to share what tasks they feel they have mastered, need to work more on, or would like to explore. I do this often to give each student the opportunity to share. I ask the students to tell me what they like about the activities and lessons we complete. They are very honest and upfront about things they enjoy doing, how they learn best, the pace of the learning, and my teaching methods. I believe this helps them feel they have control of their own learning. It seems to work very well with all levels and subjects. I believe it improves attendance and retention.

I do lots of goal setting activities and often. This helps the students to understand what they are working toward. They make the goals for themselves and for what will take place in the classroom. This, in my opinion, gives them a stake in their learning. I also remind them that goals are flexible and changeable. So when life gives them another direction, or delays the achievement of a goal, they can refocus and redo the goal to fit the situation.

Providing feedback on anything learning or assessment is essential to good teaching. When I was in college, the best classes and best teachers provided lots of feedback. Sometimes it wasn't what I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear in order to make the adjustments in my studying and work habits to do well. I use this as a model for my own teaching. I give lots of feedback. I write notes on papers, have talks with the students, share information about their success or nonsuccess in everything we do. I encourage them in the classroom and praise their efforts. I have made the mistake of praising students in a generic or fake way (praise when they had not done well) and the students "called me out on it". They asked me not to do that. They wanted the truth. So I do share their scores with them and help them to understand their progress or areas that need work.

Lisa Mullins

Teacher- Hawkins County Adult Education Program

Rogersville, Tennessee


Subject: [PD 6206] Re: Topic 4: Control and Autonomy
From: Roger Downey
Date: Fri Dec 9 08:24:50 EST 2011

Hey Donn,

Thank you for these five points. They are great to share with the students and to practice within the classroom.

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6211] autonomy discussion
From: Robben Wainer
Date: Fri Dec 9 16:49:51 EST 2011

Hello,

In an adult literacy class that provides reason why all our experiences are valid. The role is to direct our motivations to learn from a more reciprocal process of intuition. If autonomy is viewed as this reciprocity rather than a conformity, or comorbidity the permissions in establishing values that make human traits filled with reliable, and valid assertions, can lead us to an understanding that considers all measures of commendable endeavors. While we may never be called to alert all those whom we feel can support our claims. Non-biased instruction is the fundamental assertion that life works parallel to the preservation and recognizance of both cognitive approaches of collectivism, and the ability to decipher amongst determinations, those that can allow our amiability to appease our social ambivalence, by helping us to unite with critical awareness.

Thank You,

Robben Wainer


Topic 5: Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers

Subject: [PD 6207] Topic 5: Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers
From: Andy Nash
Date: Fri Dec 9 10:54:21 EST 2011

Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers
The authors report that establishing positive peer relationships during learning supports engagement, motivation, and persistence. This is particularly true (affirming what Robin and Roger have noted in recent posts), when the collaborative activities are structured so that students clearly know what is expected of them.

However, relationships can be undermined if a student feels that others in a group will judge her or him by a dominant stereotype (based on race, gender, age, etc.). There is evidence that when "stereotype threat" is triggered, "working memory that is needed for effective performance may be consumed with distracting thoughts. . . . The threat can be activated by seemingly innocuous features of the learning situation, like reporting one's gender on a math test, but also by teachers' own anxieties about stereotypes. Interventions that promote task-focused verbalizations have been found to mitigate against stereotype threat." (p. 5-24)

Other research, analyzing the performance of two groups of young men of the same social class but different races, found that although all of them struggled in school, those who "lacked awareness of how their racial and class status shaped their treatment were more likely to fail in the long term." (p. 5-20) This suggests (to me) that students in oft-stereotyped groups need support to not internalize negative messages and to analyze the social barriers that undermine their success.

In fact, O'Connor (1997) found that "a sense of the importance of collective struggle, combined with role models who demonstrated how to challenge oppressive practices in positive ways, contributed to the high resilience and achievement among the 47 black students she studied." (p. 5-22) Specifically, what distinguished high-achieving adolescents was their exposure to family and community members who modeled positive struggle and resistance in the face of oppression.

Other research has shown that opportunities for engaging in participatory, action-oriented learning supported persistence, motivation, resilience, and achievement in school, and suggests that adult literacy programs might benefit from engaging learners in using reading and writing to examine social and political issues of interest to them, and work with other adults to solve real-world problems in their living or work conditions. Such activities demonstrate to students the usefulness of literacy tasks, support individual and collective agency, and provide students with the community support needed to persist with learning even in the face of challenge.

Finally, the report discusses the weighing of priorities that adults use to make decisions about enrollment and persistence. As discussed before, they must see the value of participation, believe that they can handle the short-term trade-offs in their lives, and grapple with basic survival needs (daycare, etc.).

The chapter concludes with a section on "Directions for Research," which are listed out in Box 5-2 (p. 5-32), so I will not relist them here.

Two thoughts:

  • It seems that we've come a long way from the days when "participatory, action-oriented learning" or social analysis were included in adult education curricula. Particularly, the idea that education and literacy can be used for social action, rather than solely for individual advancement (i.e., a job), is absent from most discussions in our field. What can we do to reclaim this role for adult education?
  • One of the only studies to examine the relationship between poverty and persistence, which was not reviewed in this report, is "Poverty, Residential Mobility, and Persistence in Family Literacy Programs" by the Goodling Center's Kai Schafft, Esther Prins, and Marcela Movit (available on this page: http://nelrc.org/persist/overview.html)

Thank you so much for allowing me to contribute to this conversation,

Andy Nash, Guest Facilitator

p.s. The Change Agent (www.nelrc.org/changeagent) is one resource that promotes social analysis, but it struggles to survive.

Andy Nash

World Education

44 Farnsworth Street

Boston, MA


Subject: [PD 6208] Dealing with Stereotyping and The Change Agent
From: Stephanie Moran
Date: Fri Dec 9 11:39:01 EST 2011

We definitely strive to build community and relationships in all of our classes. We do this by using teaching methods that involve students and offer choices wherever possible while maintaining high expectations for learning outcomes. We have monthly school assemblies and regular free or cheap field trips on a variety of pertinent topics ranging from presentations on dating, STD, etc. from Planned Parenthood to lectures on your credit rating and how to improve it to local admissions counselors from colleges; we invite our entire student body of ABE, GED, and ESOL students.

We also listen closely and act quickly on any signs of harassment, bullying, etc., and while we cannot control what takes place in the parking lot and beyond, we take a pro-active approach in dealing with inappropriate remarks or behavior.

Some of us teachers are much more comfortable putting controversial perspectives and issues out on the table and modeling talking about uncomfortable topics and also using literature (fiction/poetry/drama/nonfiction) as well as materials across the curriculum to keep ourselves and students aware of how little it can take to trigger the "stereotype threat" that Andy mentions below.

Andy also mentions at the very end of his post the publication The Change Agent: an Adult Education Newspaper for Social Justice, a wonderful publication for helping adult educators find their way into content and discussions that raise awareness about stereotyping, inequities in our systems and misguided thinking, and it uses topics of interest to students both young and older. It is a phenomenal bargain as well. Recent issues dealt with September 11th and fashion in surprising and eye-opening ways.

http://www.nelrc.org/changeagent/ Check it out and see whether it might be a useful tool for helping to build a true community of learners critical thinking skills, and a way for educators to teach across the curriculum.

Stephanie Moran


Subject: [PD 6210] Re: Dealing with Stereotyping and The Change Agent
From: Deborah McCormick
Date: Fri Dec 9 15:16:11 EST 2011

Thanks Stephanie!

In addition to using The Change Agent, there is a great supplement publication; Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using the Change Agent in Adult Education, edited by Andy Nash and published by NELRC.

Deb

Deb McCormick, PhD

ESL & Citizenship Coor.

Dona Ana Community College

Las Cruces, NM


Subject: [PD 6215] Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Jackie Taylor
Date: Mon Dec 12 14:17:41 EST 2011

Dear PD List Colleagues:

Thank you to Andy Nash for facilitating last week's study circle discussion on Motivation, Engagement, and Persistence! It was a tremendous amount of work to summarize the chapter 4 readings and put them forth as succinctly as she did for us to then contemplate and discuss.

In particular, I'd like to revisit Friday's topic on social change. The summary was posted around lunch time ET, so you may not have had an opportunity to consider the question Andy posed:

  • "It seems that we've come a long way from the days when "participatory, action-oriented learning" or social analysis were included in adult education curricula. Particularly, the idea that education and literacy can be used for social action, rather than solely for individual advancement (i.e., a job), is absent from most discussions in our field. What can we do to reclaim this role for adult education?" (Read the full post here: Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers <http://wiki.literacytent.org/index.php/Social_and_Systemic_Supports_and_Barriers> )

What do you think needs to happen to reclaim the role of literacy for social action? What have you done recently to facilitate "participatory, action-oriented learning," or to include social analysis in your classroom?

I look forward to hearing from you,

Jackie

Jackie Taylor

Professional Development List Facilitator |Jackie@jataylor.net


Subject: [PD 6218] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Stephanie Moran
Date: Mon Dec 12 15:52:33 EST 2011

Great question to continue to pursue for a bit longer. I use the power of literature both fiction and non-fiction to help students gain reading skills while chewing on some of the critical questions about ourselves as humans and what it means to be a humane citizen. Some examples of what we've read in this realm: a number of David Brooks' and N. Kristof's articles (NYT), "Resistance to Civil Government" by Thoreau, a Newsweek article on "Should Kidneys Be a Commodity" and others in a like vein. I use books of historic photographs that examine our humanity (Life and Look and National Geo) in all its glory and ugliness. Many students are shocked to see an authentic photograph of a man who was lynched, a small child being stalked by a vulture, and a pile of skulls from the Pol Pot regime. So many students live in a photoshopped world that such honest photographs teach more than lengthy historical passages alone can ever do.

We do not have to search high and low for good materials that help develop thinking minds that expose adult learners to pressing issues and problems and seek potential answers as part of an advanced reading/social studies/etc. problem-solving process unit. Literacy includes but is not limited to only comprehension; without action, how much is mere thought alone worth?

Stephanie Moran


Subject: [PD 6219] Re: Topic 5: Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers
From: Alan Archer
Date: Mon Dec 12 16:50:22 EST 2011

I apologize for my late response as I was out of the office on Friday. I offer my "one man perspective."

I am very concerned with the idea that our literacy tutors and adult education instructors should be building their curriculum around social and political issues; that "education and literacy can be used for social action, rather than solely for individual advancement". I believe that would carry them well beyond the mission that they are charged with, and their level of expertise.

I believe that our "calling" is to help people become literate, analytical individuals. My fear is, if we encourage the use of social action/social justice issues, and imply it to be part of our professional job description, many tutors/instructors will feel it is their license to create more conservatives, liberals, libertarians, union members, etc. in their own image. It is my opinion that there is too much of this already taking place in our high schools and colleges by teachers and professors who are inappropriately overstepping that boundary. It is my belief that our focus should be on helping our learners become literate, and to learn the processes of problem solving and decision making. We must then allow them, and trust them, to make their own decisions about what issues they wish to pursue, and what actions they feel necessary to take on their own behalf.

Adult educators are free to present stand-alone courses on social action issues that learners may enroll in if it meets their needs and interests. But let’s please not blend it surreptitiously into our literacy and adult education curriculum.

Regards, Alan

Read Up

Building Reading & Writing Skills

Alan Archer - Director

Nevada City, CA


Subject: [PD 6221] Re: Topic 5: Social and Systemic Supports and Barriers
From: Winston Lawrence
Date: Tue Dec 13 00:12:14 EST 2011

Thanks Andy for asking the question about the absence of social justice orientation in current adult education practice. Jackie also inquired about what folks were doing about it.

I think that the dominant workforce education ideology that undergirded the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and subordinated adult literacy over the past two decades has really taken its toll on adult education practice to the extent that many practitioners and leaders who hitherto allowed the inclusion of themes of social justice have almost abandoned this focus in preference to a more comfortable existence that comes from fairly guaranteed funding afforded by the said legislation.

The fact that there is very little funding for adult literacy education means that if program managers want their programs to survive, they would have to conduct programs that originate from a stable income source. And which programs fit this bill? Of course they are the programs that are workforce oriented or include a significant workforce component.. Many programs that wanted to retain their literacy focus, where social justice themes can more readily be integrated into instruction, found themselves gradually overwhelmed, and often pushed out of existence because they could not meet the new accountability demands (like educational gains, job retention etc.); or perhaps because they did not want to compromise their program philosophy. I think this explains partly the lack of social justice focus in literacy programs. There are others, particularly the conservative ideology that has dominated the marketplace and permeated educational policy making.

So I would disagree with Alan that teachers should not be encouraged to build their curriculum around social and political issues. "Should social justice themes be included in the adult literacy curriculum and instruction?" My answer unhesitatingly is, absolutely. Adult literacy education is about providing adults with literacy and language skills to engage in adult tasks and perform adult roles (ref - EFF standards). When we teach problem solving in adult literacy classes, what are we teaching problem solving for? Is it just to solve a mathematical problem? Is it just to identify the best reading strategy to derive the answer to a test question? I submit that problem solving for the adult student has to have much more meaning and relate to life issues.- problems at home; problems on the job; being ripped off by a salesman; lack of access to health care; lack of money to buy food for the family. These are problems around which there can be very useful discussions and rich opportunities for language production. The "occupy wall street' movement across the country provides more fertile material for social justice discussions in the classroom around social, political and economic issues. Classrooms should be alight. and buzzing with activities at this time. All of this fits into education research that shows that "contextualized instruction" can produce significant academic gains in the classroom. (See NCSALL Research Report)

A couple of weeks ago I conducted a workshop on "Using Freirean Pedagogy in the Classroom". My Executive Director had said she believed that our agency should offer such a workshop to adult literacy teachers because many new teachers have not had the opportunity to explore such an orientation to teaching. We were not surprised by the response. About 25 teachers registered for a half day professional development workshop. Those teachers left quite excited, understanding and practicing at least one new skill - how to use problem posing in the classroom. In the Summer I conducted a Summer Intensive on "Freirean Popular Education" The Change Agent was one of the resources used. it will be repeated this Summer.

Adult education policy makers and administrators need to give adults space to really engage in quality learning. Incorporating social justice themes into the curricula and instruction can provide a solid foundation for language production, literacy learning as well as empower students.

Winston

Winston Lawrence Ed D

Senior Professional Development Associate

Literacy Assistance Center

New York, NY


Subject: [PD 6222] Re: Social/Systemic Supports & Social Change -- Research
From: Jackie Taylor
Date: Tue Dec 13 09:19:30 EST 2011

Thank you, Stephanie and Alan, for your responses to Andy's question below. Thanks to Winston for bringing us back to the NCSALL research on authentic, real-life instruction <http://www.ncsall.net/index.php?id=529> .

Stephanie, you give examples of how to infuse critical questioning in the context of reading fiction and nonfiction. You noted, "Literacy includes but is not limited to only comprehension; without action, how much is mere thought alone worth?"

Alan, you discussed your concern about building curriculum around social and political issues: "My fear is, if we encourage the use of social action/social justice issues, and imply it to be part of our professional job descriptions, many tutors/instructors will feel it is their license to create more conservatives, liberals, libertarians, union members, etc. in their own image."

These two articulate a distinct dynamic tension in our field around whether our field's purpose is only instruction for possession of basic skills, or whether it also includes application of these skills, with literacy for social action being one example of that application. I'm wondering, is it necessarily one or the other, or both? Are there other options we've missed? What does your concept of how we should view and approach instruction look like? What research supports your view? (C'mon, think back again on Ch's 4 and 5 and other research.)

And just a few notes on the research:

What used to be called contextual teaching and learning in the 90's (the definition seems to have shifted since then) focuses on the application, rather than on the possession, of basic skills and knowledge. I've found Marilyn Gillespie's EFF research brief that highlights four key features of contextual instruction to be very helpful in understanding the differences. She discusses transfer of learning, social nature of learning, procedural knowledge, and application of learning: http://www.edpubs.gov/document/ed001934w.pdf.

You might also check out the 2011 TEAL Center's fact sheets found here: https://teal.ed.gov/resources. In particular, see the student-centered fact sheet (It notes the research, for ex., that learning is more meaningful when topics are relevant to the lives, needs, and interests of adult learners, and when they are actively engaged in creating, understanding, and connecting to knowledge.).

To Alan's point, the research also notes the need for adult learners to be "active participants in their own learning and to make decisions about what and how they will learn." So teaching authentic, real life instruction and student centered teaching is not about instructors recreating learners in their own image, but about starting and staying with what learners want to learn and how they want to learn it. I'm wondering to what extent adult educators participate in staff development on these research-based principles? If so, I'd like to know what PD is out there.

Lots of questions! Let's hear from you. Discussion Resources and Archive: http://bit.ly/trPiol

Best...Jackie


Subject: [PD 6224] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Jeff McClelland
Date: Tue Dec 13 16:52:07 EST 2011

I agree with Alan that teachers should trust students " to make their own decisions about what issues they wish to pursue, and what actions they feel necessary to take on their own behalf" and that's exactly why I support participatory and action-oriented learning in all of my teaching contexts. And in response to Andy and Jackie's question, I'd like to share what I have done in my classroom.

I teach a multi-level mainly beginner ESL class provided by 2 Community-based organizations that support women leadership and participation for social justice, and over the past year I have helped integrate that vision at various levels into the instruction of English. The 10 week long curriculum is framed around 5 research projects where the students investigate relevant issues and then present their findings to the class. Each research project is scaffolded to support the students in carrying out the next more challenging one and the class session culminates with the students presenting on a community issue to the public on their graduation day. For this last research project, the students are given 4 weeks to collaboratively choose an issue, share their stories and experiences about this issue, interview people and organizations in their community, organize their research and then present their findings and stories to an invited public at their graduation party. The students presented on gang violence last spring and bullying this fall.

This class not only provides students the tools to use English to transform their lives and communities outside the classroom, but supports them in doing that inside the classroom. Through seeing their individual stories merge into a collective story, students are supported in connecting their experiences to larger social patterns.

Some excellent models of student action-research been documented by Kaudia Rivera (El Bario Popular Education Program) and Heide Wrigley (El Paso). Anybody can contact me if they would like more information on the class I've been teaching.

Jeff McClelland, The Women's Building and Mujeres Unidas y Activas, San Francisco

jeffmc at gmail.com


Subject: [PD 6225] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Andy Nash
Date: Wed Dec 14 10:47:21 EST 2011

Hi all,

Thanks for being willing to be in this discussion. I know it's a difficult one and that sometimes it turns into "camps" that struggle to find common ground. I appreciate Jackie's reminder of the research that relates to this conversation, Winston's reminder of the historic moment that shapes our discussion, and Jeff's great example of applied learning that benefits both individuals and community. I'd like to address Alan's concerns about the danger of unskilled educators manipulating students politically.

First, I want to note that my reference to social action last week grew from doing the research summary, which suggested that using literacy to work together to address shared goals and concerns builds community (and persistence), and that experiencing group efficacy (the sense that you can accomplish a goal/make something happen) supports the development of individual self-efficacy (Bandura). Social action can be, among other things, organizing a blood drive, registering voters, or advocating for adult education funding.

But to the concern about creating liberals or conservatives in our own image, I think we already have plenty of those, but nowadays they live in separate communities, listen to different media, and try not to talk to one another. I think our democracy would benefit if we took more care preparing people to make civic decisions together (i.e. crafting well-reasoned positions, listening to understand, finding common ground, etc.). I don't think that's so far from the decision-making and problem-solving instruction that you (Alan) propose, except that I explicitly 1) value discussion of civic issues and the social meaning of our individual experiences, 2) believe that adult education should support a wide range of adult roles, not just worker and consumer, and 3) believe we have a responsibility to introduce learners to varied uses and purposes of literacy, some of which are individual and some of which are shared/collective.

Adult students deserve this. If educators (tutors or teachers) cannot deliver it, responsibly, then that is a question of how they are selected and trained. When educators do a bad job of teaching math, we don't therefore stop teaching math.

Andy Nash


Subject: [PD 6227] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Terry Shearer
Date: Wed Dec 14 12:51:11 EST 2011

Well said,

Our students live within communities and the shared goals of community involvement are important lessons for social integration whether they are from a foreign country, or have felt isolated from their home communities. Students need to hear both sides of an issue in order to develop critical thinking skills and to understand the benefits of services provided by we the taxpayers (i.e., free classes).

Terry Shearer


Subject: [PD 6226] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Alan Archer
Date: Wed Dec 14 12:45:37 EST 2011

Andy-I appreciate the input from Jackie, Winston, Jeff and you on this issue. It all helps frame the discussion.

When I hear the words Social Action and Social Justice, I immediately think of the more volatile issues facing our country: Illegal Immigration, Occupy Wall Street, the economy, taxation, reducing government employee's collective bargaining rights, abortion, etc. These are real complex, heavyweight issues that require great study and understanding. It would be a disservice to encourage our learners to tackle those issues until they are equipped with the skills to be successful.

Next I look at the individuals that our literacy programs serve. Most are in their 30's, 40's and 50's, and most read at the 3rd to 6th grade level coming into the program. Life has been, and continues to be a struggle. Because of their limitations with literacy, their analytical skills and base knowledge relating to the types of issues mentioned above are very limited. The same is true of their knowledge of the democratic process we use to make our voices heard and to seek change. If we are going to use social action and social justice issues as teaching tools, we have a responsibility to ensure that learners understand our democratic process.

Of course I agree with the concept of having learners work with motivating and engaging topics to keep them focused and interested. Therein is the essence of persistence. But there are hundreds of important, necessary, fascinating, fun, engaging topics that learners can cut their teeth on and develop their skills before launching into one of the heavyweight issues. We, the instructors and tutors, have the responsibility to provide proper guidance and not send them out to "fight a lion with a switch". To encourage them into "action" too soon may very well place them in a position of failing to achieve the goal of their action, and the accompanying embarrassment. They need some successful experiences to build that persistence. Andy pointed out 2-3 potential topics. Jeff's program seems like the right approach as long as they start small and progress up through the ranks. The class that Winston conducted for new literacy teachers is off to a good start, and I am hopeful that more than a half-day can be scheduled.

I repeat: It is my belief that our focus should be on helping our learners become literate, and to learn the processes of problem solving and decision making. We must then allow them, and trust them, to make their own decisions about what issues they wish to pursue, and what actions they feel necessary to take on their own.

Regards, Alan

Read Up

Building Reading & Writing Skills

Alan Archer - Director

Nevada City, CA


Subject: [PD 6228] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Anderson, Philip
Date: Wed Dec 14 13:57:47 EST 2011

I appreciate the comments made by Andy Nash, Alan Archer and others on what to do with topics on social issues and our responsibility toward those who come to our classes with a focus on learning English.

Alan wrote:

Next I look at the individuals that our literacy programs serve. Most are in their 30's, 40's and 50's, and most read at the 3rd to 6th grade level coming into the program. Life has been, and continues to be a struggle. Because of their limitations with literacy, their analytical skills and base knowledge relating to the types of issues mentioned above are very limited. The same is true of their knowledge of the democratic process we use to make our voices heard and to seek change. If we are going to use social action and social justice issues as teaching tools, we have a responsibility to ensure that learners understand our democratic process.

I hope I am misunderstanding what is meant by the words "analytical skills and base knowledge" in the statement "the [students'] analytical skills and base knowledge relating to these types of issues are very limited." My experience with low level literacy students is that while they may not know some of the facts that constitute a problem, they are extremely aware of the essence of the matter. They may not be prepared to say what they want to say in English, but they certainly say a lot in their own language. "The rock in the water can't know the misery of the rock in the sun," is only one of many Haitian proverbs that says a lot with a little. I have felt embarrassed many times by having my eyes opened to the reality of the social injustices that my students understand much more clearly than I do.

I have discovered that they, more often than not, have experience with certain aspects of how democracy has worked for them in their home communities that we in the US may not have seen in action in our country. They are adept at creating networks of democratic support among themselves, not just to survive but to thrive. Instead of approaching students with the idea that we have whatever it is we think they lack, it is my experience that they often have more of what they need than I think. It is also my experience that they think I have more of what they think they need than I actually do.

Phil Anderson

ESOL Program Specialist

Florida Department of Education


Subject: [PD 6229] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Bonnie Odiorne
Date: Wed Dec 14 14:42:30 EST 2011

I am replying to all who have spoken, not to anyone in particular. I cannot speak from a research base, but I can speak as someone involved in spirit with adult education because many of the students I serve are on the edges go the skills of this population. I am also a community organizer in my 'private' public life, and lest that sounds like rabble rousing, let me assure you it's mostly listening to people's concerns, research, meetings, mostly tedious and a lot of work. Another factor in my understanding of the issues of social justice in the classroom are from memories of students in a workplace literacy program at a local factory. These students may not have been the most articulate, but they felt in a very visceral way the instances where they have felt injustice; they may not be able to engage in reasonable debate, but show me which of our so- called 'normal citizenry have developed the higher order critical thinking skills to do the same? I think the key is listening. Students know when they're being talked at, they don't know how many ways of phrasing, tones of voice might seem more combative than they really are. Listening and speaking, at all levels of conversation, scaffolding to larger issues when it seems appropriate, modeling how to deal civilly and openly about controversy, these are what they and we need to learn in order to function at all levels. Many, many people in TANF training programs lose jobs because they do not know how to deal with conflict and frustration with whatever system. It seems to me that we're edging not just to problem-solving/decision making skills, but also to emotional intelligence, affect, intra-and inter- personal skills, something I know I, at least, need a little practice in.

Warmest regards,

Bonnie Odiorne, Director, Writing Center

Post University

Waterbury, CT


Subject: [PD 6230] Re: Motivation, Engagement, Persistence & Social Change
From: Sarah Braun Hamilton
Date: Wed Dec 14 17:51:44 EST 2011

Thank you all for such an interesting and important discussion. I tend to think like Alan that "When I hear the words Social Action and Social Justice, I immediately think of the more volatile issues facing our country: Illegal Immigration, Occupy Wall Street, the economy, taxation, reducing government employee's collective bargaining rights, abortion, etc. These are real complex, heavyweight issues that require great study and understanding."

But when I think about it, in terms of my students and myself, social action and social justice can be, and often is, much "smaller" than those huge complex issues that even I, as a well-educated middle class American, can't claim to understand. When I think of social action and social justice, I think of agency and advocacy for self and others - something many of my students have quite a bit of experience with as a survival skill on the scale of their own personal lives.

I work mostly one-on-one with students, so the "social action" work that I do with them might be something like doing writing instruction around the project of writing a letter to a landlord or a consumer rights organization, or looking at a problem the student is facing and reading about how other people have faced that problem. I also feel that sometimes we put too much emphasis on problems, trying to orient our students towards describing and addressing their problems and their communities' problems.

I feel like many of my students spend a lot of time going to different offices and talking to more privileged people about their problems, and think of education (or their lack of education) as just one more problem that they, a problematic person, have to face. I think it can be a powerful piece of social action just to focus on something that a student loves, enjoys, and does not find problematic, and find a way to share that joy with others (using reading, writing, and math, of course!).

My (totally non-research-based) two cents...now back to lurking!

Sarah Braun Hamilton, Teacher/Community Coordinator

Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, Inc.

Montpelier, VT


Subject: [PD 6231] Re: Motivation, Engagement, persistence, and Social Change
From: Roger Downey
Date: Wed Dec 14 19:42:26 EST 2011

Hey All,

My mentor, fellow, teacher in Decatur Adult Choice would have a 'round-table' discussion during class time, on issues that were either in the news or on the students minds. The 'round-table' had no set day or time but there would be a point that discussion would end for that day. Questions were asked, not all answered; opinions were made, not all agreed; and students would learn proper ways to listen and conduct themselves within a discussion. No one was forced to speak, though all had their chance, and throughout the course of the school year, those students who were within a shell at the beginning, were usually coming out and voicing their opinion on some topic or another. It was simple and gave encouragement to all that they had a voice and could work within that group to mature that voice and their own thought pattern. These discussions were not formal but still the students learned how to conduct themselves and respect others thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics. They also learned that if you choose not to participate you still have made a choice.

Roger Downey

Columbia Adult Education


Subject: [PD 6233] Social Issues in Adult Education Classrooms
From: Anderson, Philip
Date: Thu Dec 15 11:21:41 EST 2011

In response to Sarah's post (#6230):

I really appreciate that you took the time to put your thoughts down. This is a keeper: "I think it can be a powerful piece of social action just to focus on something that a student loves, enjoys, and does not find problematic, and find a way to share that joy with others (using reading, writing, and math, of course!)."

You have pointed out a facet of adult education that many of us forget. The great power and energy inside of our students is often not on our minds when we meet with them in a classroom. A visual image came to mind when I read your words, of a little burro I saw once. It had been left tied to a tree, and the more it circled the tree, the closer and closer it got to the tree until it could go no more. The adults who come to our classrooms are already tied up with problems upon problems. As you pointed out, it is better if we give them a chance to become part of a process that strengthens them. It is good that you reminded us of a better way, that of tapping into the sources of power in their lives and find ways to share with others.

In response to Roger's post (#6231)

Thank you for sharing the practice of your colleague of having roundtable discussions with students. It made me realize how enjoyable it is to listen to the adults who come to our classrooms as they express their thoughts. From many different experiences in the countries and the families they grew up in, this is a great way for them to do little non-explosive experiments on how to express their thoughts in a way that leaves them feeling satisfied.

In our ESOL class we held an event at least twice each term called "Meet the Expert." We formed two groups, one with Experts and the other with Learners. Each of the Experts was asked to prepare a short presentation on a topic he or she knew. The Learners had the chance to meet with the Expert on a topic they wanted to learn more about. The next "Meet the Expert" event switched who would be Experts and who would be Learners. We were always impressed with the interesting topics that we all knew about and could teach to others.

Phil Anderson

Adult ESOL Program Specialist

Florida DOE