Promising Practices for Transitioning Students from Adult Education to Postsecondary Education

This report is a follow-up to California’s Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success initiative and provides an overview of practices and strategies for transitioning adult education students to postsecondary education.

S. Seymour
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges/Center for Student Success
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

A series of literature reviews began in 2007 with the publication of Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success in California Community College (Center for Student Success, 2007). This report is one of a number of follow-up projects to the initial literature review.

The report begins with an overview of educational levels and enrollment of students in adult education, GED, and community colleges.  The author discusses advantages of additional educational achievement, the role of community colleges in serving adult education students, and the importance of collaboration among adult education and community colleges.

Strategies and practices in transitioning students from adult education to postsecondary education were identified and are described in four areas:  organizational and administrative practices; program component practices; staff development practices; and instructional practices.  Practices and models from adult education programs throughout the United States provide practitioners with an array of strategies and examples that could be implemented in adult education and community colleges.

What the experts say

Expert 1:  Although the targeted audience is the community college practitioner, the report is relevant to all adult educators, regardless of whether their host agency is a community college, a public school system, a community-based organization, or other agency. While the 17 effective practices presented in the report for transitioning adult education students to postsecondary education are similar in nature to those published in similar reports from other entities, the strength of this report lies in its review of more than 40 studies and/or references.  The substantial literature review provides clear support and direction for moving forward with transition programming.  The report is not intended to serve as a “toolkit” with checklists for local application. The comprehensive literature review, however, serves a valuable purpose in centralizing an excellent collection of “must reads” for adult educators interested in pursuing additional information on a variety of related transitioning topics.

The report can serve multiple purposes at the national, state, and local levels. For example, at the national level, the attention given to the listing of topics requiring additional research provides a good framework for federal agencies, private foundations, and national organizations to pursue as they develop a common research agenda.

State and local adult educators can benefit from the report in multiple ways.  For example:

  • The report itself serves as an effective communication tool to engage local and state adult education practitioners in informed discussions for moving their delivery systems forward.  Through such mechanisms as focus groups, meetings, webinars, discussion groups, study circles, etc., the field can begin or expand a targeted dialogue around the opportunities and challenges of transitioning adult education students to postsecondary education.
  • The report serves as a meaningful starting point and common ground for building or expanding agency relationships necessary to make transitioning work effectively.  The 17 practices provide a structure around which inter- and intra-agency planning can proceed in a productive and efficient manner.
  • The 17 practices framed within 4 major categories (Organizational and Administrative Practices, Program Component Practices, Staff Development Practices, and Instructional Practices) provide a good framework for designing strategic plans.
  • The 17 practices provide:
    • The specificity needed to assess current practices and determine areas of improvement or expansion. 
    • Clear expectations that can be integrated and/or adapted for inclusion in program standards or indicators of program quality, program monitoring tools, and RFP’s.
    • Guidance that can be used to inform the design of professional development, technical assistance, and resource development.
    • A starting point for determining necessary changes in inter- and intra-agency policies and procedures that support seamless transitioning.
  • The recommended questions that require further research provide an effective resource for informing state and local level data collection and subsequent research needs.
  • The Introduction on pages 10 – 13 represents a strong, logical, and evidence-based statement of need that could easily be adapted with state or local data to customize a convincing advocacy report for increased support for transitioning efforts.

Expert 2:  This report pulls primarily from the research of practitioners to identify and describe the promising practices that have emerged in the field of ABE for successfully transitioning adult education students to postsecondary education.  The authors have categorized their findings into four broad categories (organizational and administrative practices, program component practices, staff development practices, and instructional practices) that provide a useful framework for those interested in the development of transitions programming. Although evidenced -based research is lacking in this area of college transitions, this review is stock full of strategies and policies that practitioners have found effective in transitioning students to postsecondary education.  This document lays a valuable foundation for further research in effective policies and practices for ensuring college success for low-skilled adults.

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