Meeting the Language Needs of Today’s Adult English Language Learner: Issue Brief

This issue brief, one of the resources in the suite of materials “Meeting the Language Needs of Today’s Adult English Language Learner,” presents an overview of the need for increased rigor in all English language acquisition programs.

Betsy Parrish
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Hamline University
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This Issue Brief seeks to address the gaps that exist between what is offered in adult English language acquisition (ELA) programming with regard to academic and work readiness (academic language, analytical and reasoning skills, organizational skills, strong oral and written communication skills) and the expectations in employment and postsecondary training. Increased demands are reflected in the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), which represent the real-world demands of postsecondary training and employment, as well as in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

This Brief provides an overview of current research and practice.  It draws from current scholarship, highlights issues in the topic and provides an update to adult educators as well as to other relevant audiences, such as government representatives, policymakers and researchers. Although the Brief can be used as a stand-alone document, it also provides the foundation to the other resources  in the suite of materials “Meeting the Language Needs of Today’s Adult English Language Learner”.

Benefits and Uses

The benefits and uses section will include the:

  • Reasons the resource has implications for the adult education field;
  • Resource’s potential use; and,
  • Most significant or useful features to the target audience(s).

This Issue Brief provides a synthesis of the research supporting the need for increased rigor in Adult ELA programming. It delineates the elements that should be integrated systematically into instruction, including academic language (e.g., complex texts, expressing cause and effect), language strategies (e.g., listening or reading for different purposes, inferring meaning from context, recognizing attitude), and critical thinking, all of which have been shown to be critical for full access to academic and work opportunities. Suggestions for how administrators can support these efforts are provided as well.

The Issue Brief can serve as an introduction to its Companion Learning Resource or as a stand-alone overview of the topic.

Resource Notice

This site includes links to information created by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user’s convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this non-ED information. The inclusion of these links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse views expressed, or products or services offered, on these non-ED sites.

Please note that privacy policies on non-ED sites may differ from ED’s privacy policy. When you visit, no personal information is collected unless you choose to provide that information to us. We do not give, share, sell, or transfer any personal information to a third party. We recommend that you read the privacy policy of non-ED websites that you visit. We invite you to read our privacy policy.