Adult Education Teacher Competencies

The Adult Education Teacher Competencies are designed to identify the knowledge and skills needed by adult education teachers to improve student learning and performance.

Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
American Institutes for Research
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

The Adult Education Teacher Competencies (the competencies) are designed to identify the knowledge and skills needed by adult education teachers to improve student learning and performance. They are organized into broad areas of skills and knowledge (domains) and then into specific demonstrable and observable areas of performance (competencies). Each of the individual competencies is further detailed through a set of performance indicators with sample illustrations of teachers demonstrating that performance in a variety of adult education contexts. Each area is further defined below.

The competencies are one response to the challenges and needs identified in recent surveys of and reports on adult education. The competencies identify the knowledge and skills expected of any adult education teacher. They also offer a structured approach to determining the knowledge and skills that adult education teachers still need to develop and the professional development activities that will help them to acquire them. Although the competencies are focused on the skills needed to teach effectively across subject areas, teachers also need specific content knowledge and skills related to teaching in their particular field, such as English as a second language, mathematics, career or technical training, etc., in order to be effective. 

Benefits and Uses

Beginning Teachers 
The competencies are designed to assist beginning teachers in becoming more effective at helping learners to achieve their goals. Beginning teachers experience a sharp learning curve as they discover how to navigate the demands of the classroom or the program during their first years of teaching. Some adult education teachers may have little prior preparation for their teaching position. However, even those who have had the benefit of a strong teacher preparation program may face a number of challenges for which they may not feel adequately prepared. In addition to teaching responsibilities, they may have to become familiar with program policies, create productive learning environments, plan lessons, plan for professional development, and assess student needs.

Experienced Teachers
Experienced teachers (those teaching in their subject for at least 5–7 years) can also benefit from the competencies. They can reflect on their own practice and engage in self-assessment, comparing their knowledge and skills with those outlined in the competencies. Teachers who received their initial teacher education or training several years ago may find that there is some new knowledge or new skills that they want to acquire through professional development. In addition, experienced teachers often become mentors to beginning teachers (or to teachers who are new to the program).

Mentor Teachers
Mentor teachers can use the competencies as a guide for helping beginning teachers who teach in the same field or subject to develop the required knowledge and skills. Together, a mentor teacher and beginning teacher can analyze and use data from classroom observations and feedback to guide instructional practice. They can identify the domains in which the teacher needs the most support and the types of support or professional development to be offered. The competencies can be used to guide coaching for beginning teachers and help improve a teacher’s practice.

Administrators and Instructional Leaders
The competencies are designed to assist administrators and instructional leaders in guiding their program in the instructional improvement or induction process. Instructional leaders can use the competencies as a guide for classroom observation and also to identify both the specific and more general professional development needs of individual teachers or groups of teachers.

Professional Developers
The competencies can also be used to design and guide ongoing professional development that will improve teachers’ abilities to address diverse students’ learning needs by increasing teachers’ content knowledge and teaching skills. They can also be used to develop a community of practice in which teachers share their expertise and learn together to expand their knowledge and teaching skills.

The graphic version of the competencies allows users to interact with the competencies and easily move from one domain, competency, performance indicator or sample illustration to another. To begin, the user clicks on one of the four domains, making the first competency under that domain appear. The user can then review that competency or select the number of one of the other competencies in that domain. In the box for each competency, the user has the option to learn more by clicking on the symbol for one of the performance indicators. The user can then decide to view the sample illustration of that performance indicator by clicking on the paint brush symbol bellow the text for the performance indicator or select another domain, competency or performance indicator to view.

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