[Assessment 1494] Re: Using Data

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David Rosen DJRosen at theworld.com
Wed Dec 10 06:57:15 EST 2008

Drucie and others,

Earlier in this discussion I asked for specific examples (narratives)
of teachers systematically using program data to answer their
questions. In the SEQUEL Monographs that you suggested we look at,
found at


I see several good examples in these monographs. Thank you for
calling them to our attention. I would like to mention one, in
particular, the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9—“Cooperative
Learning in Adult Education to Improve Attitudes and Skills in Math” .

One of the biggest challenges our field faces is that very, very few
(I think under 4%) of those in adult secondary education who say they
want to go to college actually complete a degree. There are many
reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that they cannot pass
(usually required) college algebra. This is because they did not get
(positive) exposure to algebra either in school or in an adult
literacy education program. It is also because -- even if algebra is
offered in their ASE program -- many have negative attitudes about,
or fear of, learning algebra. This study, carried out by program
practitioners, looks at the use of cooperative learning as a strategy
to help students overcome negative attitudes and increase knowledge
of algebra during an eight-week program. The monograph is short, well-
written, easy to read, and has some findings worth getting excited
about. It would be great if there were other programs, where teachers
care about this problem, that could replicate it. I wonder if any
programs in Pennsylvania have already done that.

It would be terrific if there were a U.S. national adult literacy
research institute (such as NCSALL was) that would make funds
available to support programs replicating important studies such as
this, to help build a body of professional wisdom on the use of
cooperative learning in adult numeracy and mathematics. This might
provide a sufficient base of evidence to see if it is worthwhile
later to do "gold standard" experimental research.

Thanks, Drucie, and other leaders at all levels in Pennsylvania, who
have for many years now supported programs using data for program
decision-making. It looks like this may be paying off for
Pennsylvania practitioners, as they learn what does and doesn't work
for their students, and it is contributing to a literature of
professional wisdom* so necessary in our field.

David J. Rosen
djrosen at theworld.com

* For a dialogue about professional wisdom (including a definition)
with John Comings, former Director of the U.S. National Center for
the Study of Adult learning and Literacy, see: http://

On Dec 9, 2008, at 11:23 AM, Drucilla Weirauch wrote:

> In Pennsylvania we have a statewide program improvement initiative

> that uses a specific Practitioner Action Research (PAR) model. Each

> program chooses its own area of inquiry, based on its data. These

> data may be hard data (scores, hours, enrollment numbers, etc.) or

> other data, based on our Indicators of Program Quality (for example,

> the quality of the adult education classroom environment or depth of

> partnerships). Last year, there were 61 projects conducted by PA

> Family Literacy sites. Topics ranged from increasing enrollment or

> retention hours, implementing scientifically-based reading research

> in the adult classroom, improving children's oral receptive

> vocabulary, to increasing referrals from partners. In the spring we

> hosted regional poster shows where programs showcased their projects

> and results. Each program also submitted a monograph that detailed

> their question and background to it (the data), the interventions,

> data sources, results, reflections, and implications for the field.


> Monographs can be found at our website

> www.pafamilyliteracy.org. Left side, click on SEQUAL project, then

> Monographs.


> The website also includes the PAR handbook that helped the programs

> identify a problem based on data, intervention, choose best data

> sources, etc.


> I evaluated the process to ascertain practitioners' perceptions of

> the inaugural year of the intentional, systematic PAR process. While

> it added a layer of work, most felt that it empowered them as

> practitioners and gave their program "teeth." What was also important

> is that this allowed them to show highlights of their program and

> program improvement that mere data do not always capture (e.g. data

> reported to the state and feds.) Programs used data to inform their

> question and chart their success. Analyzing and reflecting on the

> data made it more than mere numbers. This evaluation report is also

> on the website. It includes a summary of the outcomes from the

> projects and the perceptions of the participants on the research

> process.


> Drucie Weirauch

> Penn State University

> Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy


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