Teaching Skills That Matter in Adult Education

About Teaching the Skills that Matter

The Teaching the Skills That Matter in Adult Education project (TSTM) trains teachers to integrate the skills that matter to adult students using approaches that work across critical topics. Using the project's tools and training, adult education teachers can teach the transferable skills students need in these critical contexts.

The 9 skills that matter are:

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

The 5 topic areas are:

  • Civics education
  • Digital literacy
  • Financial literacy
  • Health literacy
  • Workforce preparation

The 3 approaches that work are:

  • Integrated & contextualized learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • Project-based learning

The following resources can help you to integrate these skills into your classroom.

Teaching the Skills That Matter Toolkit

The TSTM Toolkit was developed by adult education experts to support teachers in using approaches that work to help students gain the skills that matter. The toolkit has seven sections:

  • The Overview section introduces the key toolkit components;
  • Five topic-based sections each including an issue brief, a case study, lesson plans, and an annotated bibliography; and
  • The Other Tools and Resources section, which has additional tools and resources to support the integration of the skills into your instruction.


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), hosted 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. With over 1,500 registrants, the free event was a great professional development opportunity for adult educators.

Click here to learn more about the 2020 Teaching the Skills That Matter in Adult Education (TSTM) Virtual Conference.

TSTM logo Background and Contact Information

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, 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.

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. For more information, please email tstm@air.org.