Skip to main content

Advancing Innovation in Adult Education

Identifying Innovative Program Practices

Local adult education programs help adult learners develop knowledge and skills, gain secondary credentials, and transition to further education and employment. To enhance program capacity to support learners’ success, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) is funding a five-year project to identify and highlight innovative practices in adult education that lead to improved outcomes.

Defining Innovation in Adult Education

Adult education practices are instructional or supportive activities that facilitate learners’ knowledge and skill development, secondary credential attainment, postsecondary credential attainment, and/or employment.

Innovative adult education practices are new or significantly improved:

  • products or services, such as a curriculum (product) or inclusion of career and college advising (service);
  • processes for delivering adult education services, such as online learning; or
  • ways of organizing adult education services, such as integrated education and training.

The new or significantly improved practices should result in outcomes for adult learners.

Examples of Innovative Approaches to Delivering Instruction

  • Competency-based instruction
  • Concurrent enrollment in adult education and credit-bearing postsecondary courses
  • Integrated education and training (IET)
  • Integrated English literacy and civics education (IELCE) in combination with IET
  • Strategies for working with adults with learning disabilities or difficulties
  • Use of learning in context
  • Use of technology to increase access to, quality of, and amount of instruction
  • Work-based learning

The Application Process

An application will be available in spring/summer 2019 for adult education programs to complete. Potential applicants should consider the following questions to determine whether an adult education program may have an innovative practice. The project will offer a series of webinars this spring to support the application process.

Questions to Determine Whether an Adult Education Practice is Innovative

  • Does the practice involve one of the instructional delivery approaches listed in the box above OR an approach that has not been used extensively in adult education?
  • Was the practice developed in the past 10 years OR has the practice been substantially refined during this period?
  • Is there evidence that the practice has increased adult learners’ skill development, attainment of a secondary credential, participation in postsecondary education, or employment?

Step 1 Use the pre-application questions to consider if your program practices are innovative. Step 2 Identify the practice and its measureable outcomes. Step 3 Work with your state staff contact to obtain a letter of support. Step 4 Complete and submit your application.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I apply for my program’s innovative practice to be considered?
An application will be available in Spring/Summer 2019 for adult education program to complete. Programs may contact for assistance in working through this process.

What are the next steps if my program’s innovative practice is selected?
The Advancing Innovation project team will work with your program to learn more about how the practices are carried out, including the key components of the practice and its outcomes for adult learners. The project team may also conduct a site visit to your program.

How does this benefit my program?
The innovative practices selected for the project will be disseminated nationally through LINCS and other project activities. The application process includes technical assistance to assist applicants in determining their practices’ innovativeness and outcomes.

Contact Us

The Advancing Innovation in Adult Education project (Contract No. 91990018F0047) is executed by Manhattan Strategy Group and Abt Associates.

For more information, contact us at