The purpose of the TEAL project is to improve the quality of teaching in adult education in the content areas. The TEAL Center offers participating state teams an intensive program of professional development and individualized technical assistance in the area of writing instruction for adult basic education students. In addition, TEAL focuses on evidence-based instructional approaches that are effective across the content areas (e.g., formative assessment, differentiated instruction, self-regulated learning, effective lesson planning, and universal design for learning [UDL]). Evidence-based instruction means that there is reliable, trustworthy, and valid evidence to suggest that particular instructional practices are effective and successful in helping students learn.

The TEAL Just Write! Guide represents the culmination of two years of work identifying research-based instructional practices in the content area of writing. It also incorporates professional wisdom from participants in six online courses that TEAL provided to adult educators during the second year of the project. The intent of the guide is to increase the familiarity of adult basic education teachers with evidence-based writing instruction and to facilitate translation of research findings into teaching practices and products that will enhance the quality of instruction delivered to adult learners.

This guide aims to help adult education instructors improve the writing instruction they already use in their programs. As such, the guide is not a curriculum; rather, it is intended to strengthen existing writing instruction. We hope that this guide will inspire and guide adult education teachers to write more, think more deeply about the writing they do with their learners, and consider how to enhance their instruction overall.

To begin, we specify a set of assumptions about the writing process to position our work within the larger academic conversation about literacy development. The TEAL Center staff and our advisors consider writing to be the following:

  • A language-based process that includes oral language, reading, and writing
  • A complex social and cognitive process
  • A process that carries a significant affective or emotional element that affects learners’ motivation and engagement

We also believe that research can inform practice. We know that the literacy research base is stronger in K–12 and postsecondary settings and weaker in adult education settings; therefore, we have extrapolated and contextualized findings and recommendations based on our experiences serving adult education students and teachers. Research citations are provided throughout the guide to ground our recommendations; these resources form the evidence base on which we have drawn these recommendations.

This approach has been developed and field-tested with participants in our 12 state pilot programs; their input into the materials has been invaluable. Their voices are represented in the guide as they shared reflections on their own learning or relayed stories of how adult learners responded to the activities. We are indebted to their dedication to their students’ success and enthusiastic participation in the online courses in which these materials were first presented.

We also strongly believe that writing instruction, as with all other instruction, should be based on diagnostic information, such as a thoughtfully analyzed writing sample that can be used to personalize and differentiate instruction. We provide suggestions throughout the guide on how to gather and analyze information from students. Finally, we add our voices to the call for more research and research-based diagnostic rubrics and tools in this area for the adult education population.

Organization of the Guide

The guide is presented in three parts:

  1. Introduction – background information about the project and research-based information
  2. Research-Based Interventions – writing practices and activities to support the writing process
  3. Enhancing Teaching Practices – best practice approaches and how they can serve improved writing instruction

The guide is designed for use by adult education administrators and professional development specialists, coaches and mentors, and adult education teachers at all stages of professional development. It is a resource they can turn to again and again to review models and best practices. The guide has been written for those who are interested in writing as a process and who would like to use their understanding of the concepts presented herein for designing classroom instruction or professional development opportunities. (For additional information, see the TEAL Center Fact Sheet on Research-Based Writing Instruction.)