The TEAL Project and Strategies for Research-Based Writing Instruction - Discussion Announcement - Reading and Writing Discussion List

The TEAL Project and Strategies for Research-Based Writing Instruction
September 19-23, 2011

Description | Guests | Suggested Readings | Guiding Questions | Summary

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The Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) project, operated by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education, provides ABE teachers with professional development (PD) related to effective teaching with an emphasis on evidence-based practices in writing instruction. The TEAL team created sustained PD by running online courses during the 2010-2011 school year, culminating in a 4-day face-to-face institute on research-based writing instruction, held in August 2011.

TEAL has 12 participating states: California, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. Teams from each of the 12 states consist of 3 or 4 ABE teachers and 1 state-level PD person to coordinate the state effort. During our Summer Institute, participants had a chance to learn from researchers and experts in writing instruction how to help ABE students enhance their writing skills. Five writing researchers/subject matter experts, including this discussion’s guest facilitator Dr. Gary Troia, conducted sessions at the Summer Institute. Teachers have set goals for their own professional growth, will try out in their classrooms some of the strategies learned through TEAL during 2011-2012, and will provide TEAL staff with feedback on how well the materials work. By the summer of 2012, TEAL staff will refine all the PD materials and place them online on the TEAL Web site,

Days 1 and 2 of this discussion will provide an overview of research in writing instruction. Days 3-5 will feature TEAL teachers who will describe successes and challenges in implementing research-based writing practices.


Gary A. Troia, Ph.D., is an associate professor of special education at Michigan State University and a principal investigator with the Literacy Achievement Research Center located at MSU. He was a faculty member at the University of Washington in Seattle before taking his current position at MSU. Prior to receiving his doctorate from the University of Maryland in 2000, he worked 10 years in the public schools as a special educator and speech-language pathologist, and 6 years as a university clinical supervisor. Dr. Troia is a consulting editor for several journals and an associate editor of Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. He is the editor of the book Instruction and Assessment for Struggling Writers: Evidence-Based Practices, and a co-editor of Putting Writing Research into Practice: Applications for Teacher Professional Development, both published by Guilford Press. With colleagues Froma Roth and Colleen Worthington, he has co-authored a phonological awareness intervention program called Promoting Awareness of Sounds in Speech (PASS), published by Attainment Company, for young at risk children. Along with Janine Certo and Natalie Olinghouse, he is currently developing a genre study resource for classroom teachers titled Growing Writers: Teaching Writing to Students of All Abilities. He is the principal investigator for a 4-year IES-funded grant that examines the content of states’ writing standards and assessments, the Common Core writing standards, and the alignment of standards and assessments with research-based practices, postsecondary expectations, and NEAP writing performance. Dr. Troia has authored over thirty research papers and book chapters and has given numerous presentations about his work in the areas of phonological processing, writing assessment and instruction, and teacher professional development in literacy.

Mary Ann Corley, Ph.D., is a Principal Research Analyst with the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC, where she serves as Director of the Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) project, which is designed to offer professional development and technical assistance to states to enhance the quality of adult literacy instruction. As director (2001-2008) of the California Adult Literacy Professional Development Project (CALPRO), Corley led the design and development of a comprehensive system of research-based professional development and technical assistance for California’s adult education teachers and administrators, including the establishment of professional learning communities. As Director of the National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities (ALLD) Center (1996-1999), Corley led the development of Bridges to Practice, a nationally disseminated training module for literacy providers serving adults with learning disabilities. In 1988, the Baltimore County ABE/GED/ESL Program she directed was named “Outstanding Adult Education Program” by the U.S. Secretary of Education. She has authored numerous articles, textbooks, and professional development materials on adult literacy, with emphasis on instructional strategies in ABE, GED, and ESL as well as on serving adults with learning disabilities.

Joining Gary and Mary Ann are TEAL teachers who will share their experiences with us:

  • Deborah DeSousa teaches GED, Transition to College, and distance learning classes in all subject areas in the state of Rhode Island. She has a B.A. from Boise State University in elementary/middle school education and holds a teaching certificate (K-8). After teaching fifth grade for five years, she made the move to adult education, teaching ESL, ABE and GED classes for the next seven years. Deborah currently is working on an MA in Literacy.
  • Hilary Gwilt has been teaching Adult Education for almost six years. She has spent the past year as the Transitions Coordinator for Abilene Adult Education in Texas. Currently, she teaches a literacy/ABE level class as well as a GED class in conjunction with the Abilene Workforce Center.
  • Kristin Hott. After nearly a decade of teaching in community-based, face-to-face adult GED classes in Richmond, VA, Kristin Hott made the move to JSRCC's Middle College program, a transition/college prep program for adults 18-24 who need their GED credential to pursue higher education goals. She is a trainer in the Virginia Adult Educator Certification Program, and an online course facilitator and eLearn VA mentor with the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center. Kristin is en route to complete her Master's degree in Adult Education at VCU with a focus on Adult Literacy.
  • Jonathan Moore is an ABE/GED instructor at the Grenada Adult Education Center in Grenada MS. Although his degree in education from the University of London (UK) had an emphasis in elementary education, he has been teaching adults for more than 10 years at the center and, until recently, at a local correctional facility.
  • Sue Pohlman is an ABE/GED instructor at Northeast Community College In Norfolk, Nebraska. She has been teaching literacy, math, and GED classes for over 25 years. She holds a B.S. in elementary education and enjoys attending professional development trainings at the state and national level.
  • Lynn Stewart has taught adult education in Oklahoma for 12 years and was recognized as Oklahoma’s Adult Education Teacher of the Year in 2004. She holds a BS in secondary education from University of Nebraska and a master’s degree in behavioral sciences from Cameron University. Her past work experiences include Family Day Care Coordinator for the U.S. Air Force in Washington, DC and in the Republic of Panama, and Ready to Learn Trainer for the OK Department of Libraries.
  • Sharri Turk is an ABE/GED instructor in New York State with 15 years teaching experience. She has a B.A. in Sociology, a J.D. in Law, and Secondary certification in Social Studies. For the last 5 years, Sharri has taught adult education, which has been her most rewarding teaching experience to date.
  • Guillermo Verdin is a STAR-trained evidence-based reading instruction (EBRI) ABE instructor at Belmont Community Adult School in Los Angeles, CA. He has been teaching Reading and Language Arts for 10 years now. Proudly, yet oddly, he holds a B.S. in Business Administration from USC and an Adult Teaching Credential from UCLA. He strongly believes in his own growth and professional development and every year strives to be a better teacher than the year before.

Suggested Readings


  1. Research-Based Writing Instruction: Center Research-based Writing Instruction Fact Sheet No 1.pdf
  2. Self-Regulated Strategy Development: Strategy Development.pdf
  3. Technology-Supported Writing Instruction:"


Troia, G. Research in writing instruction: What we know and what we need to know. To appear in Pressley, M., Billman, A., Perry, K., Refitt, K., & Reynolds, J.M. (Eds.), Shaping literacy achievement: Research we have, research we need. New York: Guilford Press.

Troia, G. & Graham, S. (2003). Effective writing instruction across the grades: What every educational consultant should know. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 24(1), 75-89.

Guiding Questions

Questions for people to think about in preparation for the Discussion:

  1. Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of the quality in composed texts written by primary grade students is associated with text transcription skills like spelling and handwriting and around 40% of text quality is predicted by transcription skills among intermediate grade students. Though it is likely the effects of spelling and handwriting performance on writing quality may diminish even more in older individuals, they most definitely continue to exert a strong influence. Given the likelihood that struggling adult writers will have difficulties with the mechanics of writing, how should spelling, handwriting/ keyboarding, punctuation and other aspects of written English conventions be formally addressed in an adult writing instruction context?
  2. Research shows that we need to increase the amount of writing that students do. What do you do/can you do to get your students to write more?
  3. Research also indicates that teaching grammar is not overly effective in helping students improve their writing. The reason for this is that grammar usually is taught out of context and is abstract. What strategies do you use to connect grammar with writing instruction?
  4. The 5-paragraph essay...use it or lose it? If, in our often-limited time with learners, we stick to the 5-paragraph structure for essay writing and composition, what might our students miss out on? Do we owe it to students to traverse across writing genres with non-"traditional" GED prep structures?
  5. Research of writing proficiency for students entering college shows that many students lack the necessary writings skills for college success. What strategies do you use to help your AE students transition into college level writing?
  6. Effective Questions + Quick Writes add up to stimulating discussions and short, in-depth writing assignments. What Effective Questions have been the most engaging in your Quick Write prompts?

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