Teaching Skills That Matter in Adult Education

TSTM logoBackground

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, Pub. L. 113-128, July 2014), the first major reform in the publicly funded workforce system since 1998, increases access to employment, education, training, and support services for individuals, particularly those with barriers to employment. Title II of WIOA, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), presents an extraordinary opportunity to improve the quality of life for individuals with low skills. WIOA Section 203 encourages programs to provide instruction tied to “activities, programs or services designed to help an individual acquire a combination of basic academic skills, critical thinking skills, digital literacy skills and self-management skills, including competencies in utilizing resources, using information, working with others, understanding systems and obtaining skills necessary for successful transition into and completion of postsecondary education or training, or employment.” (WIOA, Pub. L. 113-128, Section 203, July 2014).

Based upon public comments received during the WIOA rule-making process, recent technical assistance conversations with states, and ongoing community of practice conversations in LINCS, it is clear to OCTAE that adult education teachers need support and training in how to meaningfully integrate these skills (i.e., the skills that matter) into regular adult education classroom instruction.

By providing training and technical assistance to teachers in adult basic skills education classes to target skills that matter in the areas of:

  • civics education

  • digital literacy

  • financial literacy

  • health literacy

  • workforce preparation

with instructional approaches that work, this initiative will assist states in helping adult education classroom teachers integrate these skills into regular adult education classroom instruction.

The nine skills that matter in adult education are:

  • Adaptability and willingness to learn
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Navigating systems
  • Problem solving
  • Processing and analyzing information
  • Respecting difference and diversity
  • Self-awareness


This project will train and coach basic skills education teachers on using a toolkit of newly created materials that teach the skills that matter to adult students using approaches that work across the critical context of civics education, digital literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, and workforce preparation skills. States and programs will benefit from the project’s development of tools and the provision of related basic skills education teacher training to teach necessary transferable skills that are useful to students in these critical contexts and increase overall program effectiveness.

This initiative will also train new adult education instructional coaches who will provide teacher participants guidance on applying the new knowledge learned. It will also provide the field with virtual conferences and instructional videos to ensure widespread dissemination of the toolkit materials.

Teaching Skills That Matter in Adult Education is being conducted by the American Institutes for Research, under contract to the U.S. Department of Education. The project concludes in September 2021.

Call for Applications

Apply Now! Apply for the Teaching the Skills that Matter in Adult Education Project through June 1, 2020.

Virtual Conference

2020 Teaching the Skills That Matter in Adult Education (TSTM) Virtual Conference – June 16 and 17, 2020

The Office of Career Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) under contract with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), will be hosting a virtual conference on June 16-17, 2020 to share the Teaching the Skills That Matter in Adult Education (TSTM) project tools and strategies with the field.  The FREE event promises to be a great professional development opportunity for adult educators. 

Register Now!  Register for the 2020 Teaching the Skills That Matter in Adult Education (TSTM) Virtual Conference

Project Milestones

  • Identify a set of central and transferable skills that matter in adult education.

  • Develop tools to teach the skills that matter with approaches that work that are central across the five content areas.

  • Train teams from 25 states to develop sustainability plans for a broader roll out of the toolkit.

  • Provide virtual and in-person instructional coaching to support application of the knowledge learned.

  • Host two virtual conferences to disseminate the toolkit materials.

Outcomes and Products

  • Increased capacity of 25 states to provide classroom instruction on the central skills that matter.

  • Originally developed instructional materials as part of a toolkit to support basic skills teachers with approaches that work to teach the skills that matter.

  • Identification of state teacher leaders with a goal of increasing each state’s capacity to replicate and expand the content learned from the project throughout the state.

  • A set of eight instructional videos to be used in support of the Toolkit and for technical assistance


Katie Chase, Katie.chase@ed.gov