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Learning from the Forgotten 90 Percent

Learning from the Forgotten 90 Percent

Why is it that only 10 percent of the adults in the United States who lack basic literacy and numeracy skills participate in adult education? Program capacity is certainly one reason. But what about the adults themselves? What is holding them back, and what changes could increase their levels of participation?

To find out, VALUEUSA and Research Allies for Lifelong Learning partnered to conduct a research study that asked adult nonparticipants for their perspectives. The Critiquing Adult Participation in Education (CAPE) research project sought to identify deterrents and discover ways to mitigate them in order to increase motivation to participate.

Researchers administered a survey to and conducted focus groups with 125 nonparticipating adults in five states. Study subjects included parents, seniors, homeless adults, formerly incarcerated adults, recovering addicts, adults with disabilities, and elder caregivers. The median age was 35 years, with a range from 18 to 75 years, and just over half (57 percent) were female. Annual personal income was at poverty levels, with 84 percent earning $0 to $18,000 annually. All of the study subjects had either left the education system without completing high school or had been educated outside the United States. None were currently enrolled in adult education, and 75 percent had never participated in it at all.

The CAPE project has now released three reports on its findings, summarized below.

 

Report 1: Deterrents and Solutions

by Margaret Becker Patterson and Wei Song

On the basis of the group interview responses, the researchers identified three categories of deterrents: situational, dispositional, and institutional.

  • Situational deterrents included transportation, family care needs, and finances. These deterrents were listed most often; the report notes that “many adults in CAPE interviews were literally fighting to survive financially and seemed on the brink of losing their few resources from threats such as a car breakdown, a family emergency, or a job loss.” Study subjects also listed other situational deterrents, including lack of a support system, anti-education sentiment in the community, unemployment, and work-related issues.
  • Dispositional deterrents included “influences from the past, health concerns or disabilities, struggles with behavior, lack of motivation, little time for themselves, anxiety or fear, [and lack] of confidence in themselves.”
  • Institutional deterrents “included requirements of education policies and procedures and ways in which adults perceived the helpfulness of adult educators. Some adults simply did not know adult education existed within reach.”

In addition to identifying deterrents, study participants outlined a number of actionable solutions. These included partnerships with faith-based and community-based organizations to establish ways of assisting adults with financial management and other situational deterrents; provision of counseling services at adult education sites to help adults manage dispositional deterrents such as anger and feelings of failure, develop self-efficacy, and persist in pursuing their educational goals; and use of both high-tech and low-tech means of distributing information about adult education opportunities more broadly.

 

Report 2: Motivation Around Adult Education

by Margaret Becker Patterson, Research Allies for Lifelong Learning

This report summarizes the attitudes that study participants expressed about adult education and their reasons for nonparticipation. For the most part, attitudes expressed in both surveys and group sessions were positive, although some differences of opinion became evident in the group sessions.

“At the group level,” the report notes, “male, employed, and low-income adults [identified] issues associated with the value of education somewhat more frequently than their counterparts.” Except for a small difference by gender (“a higher percentage of women placed value on education than did men”), the value placed on education did not vary by demographic group. “This finding is positive and important for those planning policy and programming, in that frequently held assumptions such as ‘older adults don’t care about adult education’ or ‘people in poverty don’t value adult education’ are not supported in this research,” according to the report.

Despite their positive attitudes toward adult education, most of the study participants had never participated in it. The reasons for a few were the cost of participating (including conflicts with other commitments and exhaustion, as well as actual financial cost) or a perception that further education was not something they needed. However, for most, the major deterrents were “past influences or traumatic experiences” associated with education, as also noted in the first report. “Adult education policies and outreach efforts need to assure adults that adult education will offer skills that will enable them to reach their goals,” the report concludes. “They need instructional services delivered in a welcoming social context and accepting learning environment.”

 

Report 3: Technology Use

by Margaret Becker Patterson, Research Allies for Lifelong Learning

As its title indicates, this report focuses on respondents’ experiences with technology in general (defined as getting online, pursuing online activities, and experiencing challenges that make online access more difficult) and their attitudes about using technology for learning (defined as employing learning software on standalone computers, participating in online learning, and using apps on a smartphone). The study found the following:

  • 62% of respondents are currently online
  • 24% have been online previously
  • 14% have never been online

Among those currently online, 9 out of 10 connect using smartphones. Four out of five stated that they could locate a website easily, and three out of four stated that they could find the information they needed. As the report notes, “the high rate of access to technology is encouraging and shows promise for engaging” adults who are not currently enrolled in adult education.

According to the report, technology use did not differ significantly by gender, but differences by age group were apparent. “Nearly all Millennials and two-thirds of Generation Xers used smartphones for online access at least sometimes, but 20 percent of Generation Xers and 29 percent of Baby Boomers reported never going online on a smartphone,” the report states. In addition, “Although [respondents] generally perceived high technology efficacy, efficacy rates were higher for Millennials and decreased significantly as age increased. Ease in finding a website and finding information within a website also decreased with rising age, and 10 percent of Generation Xers and 40 percent of Baby Boomers found it difficult to find websites.” However, most Baby Boomers did indicate the belief that they could learn to use technology with support.

Overall, respondents showed a preference for learning on their own rather than in groups, whether by using technology, by reading print materials, or with a tutor’s support. This preference was particularly clear with respect to using technology for learning. “Very few [respondents] preferred learning with others via technology, and stronger preferences were apparent by age. With the exception of Generation X, most indicated a preference to learn on their own rather than with others. … Two in five would use technology to learn along with other people or to solve problems with other people,” according to the report.

Respondents also reported a variety of challenges with using technology. The three challenges cited most often were difficulty concentrating, difficulty sitting for long periods of time, and eyes that tire easily. The report notes that “adults in all age groups reported comparable rates of challenges… The top three challenges were experienced at high rates by adults reporting ‘fair’ health.”

The report observes that the wide availability of access to technology and the overall positive attitude toward its use for learning bode well for initiatives that seek to expand participation in adult education through online offerings. However, it cautions that adult educators will need to respond to the learning preferences of adults who are not enrolled in adult education and work to mitigate the challenges that many of these adults face, if outreach to the forgotten 90 percent is to be successful.

 

The CAPE project was sponsored by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. For more information and full copies of the three reports, visit the VALUEUSA website at http://valueusa.org/projects/.

NCL/Adult Literacy Caucus Hill Briefing, Wednesday May 9

NCL/Adult Literacy Caucus Hill Briefing, Wednesday May 9

The NCL and the House Adult Literacy Caucus will sponsor a Congressional briefing on Outcomes and Significance of Federal Support for Adult Literacy on Wednesday, May 9, 2:30-3:30 pm in Room 340, Cannon House Office Building.

Congressman Phil Roe (TN) is scheduled to open the briefing. The briefing itself will focus on the power and potential of adult literacy education to transform lives. Speakers will include two adult education graduates, Dr Rachel DeVaughan from Mississippi and the Rev David Hendricks from Connecticut; a current program participant, Mr Abraham Castañeda from the Carlos Rosario Public Charter School in Washington, DC; and Dr Margaret Patterson, who will report on the findings of her current research with would-be adult learners on impediments to participation and suggestions for low-cost ways to increase access. NCL president Deborah Kennedy will provide framing comments regarding the federal role in adult education.

The briefing is designed to encourage Members of Congress to maintain a priority focus on adult literacy and adult education as they engage in the federal budget appropriations process for fiscal 2019 and beyond.

The briefing is free and open to the public, and all who wish to do so are most welcome to attend. Feel free also to forward the invitation flyer to colleagues and to the offices of your Members of Congress. We are conducting extensive outreach ourselves, but communications from constituents are often much more powerful.

We will post a summary of the briefing on the NCL website later in May.

National Coalition for Literacy Invitation

What’s Happening During AEFL Week 2016: Part Four

What’s Happening During AEFL Week 2016: Part Four

AEFL Week 2016

 

National:

Social Media Stats

ProLiteracy has been compiling some interesting social media statisitics on AEFl Week:

  • The hashtag #AEFLweek has a total of 1,712,046 potential Twitter views.
  • A total of 967 related tweets have been sent.
  • There are 367 Twitter contributors on the topic so far.

American Library Association Press Release

See: http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2016/09/transforming-lives-through-literacy-aefl-week-2016

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/27/2016

Contact:

Kristin Lahurd
Literacy Officer
Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services
(312) 280-3275

CHICAGO — As we mark 2016’s National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, from Sept. 26 through Oct. 1, libraries across the country are transforming lives through literacy services for adults and families. The increasing demand for services underscores the intersection of literacy with access and equity. In its ties to income inequality, health outcomes, housing access, and rates of incarceration, literacy is an issue of social and economic justice.

In the U.S., more than 30 million adults struggle with basic literacy. Adults who lack a high school diploma are more than twice as likely as those with higher levels of education to be unemployed, working a low-wage job, and living in poverty. At the same time, individuals with high school credentials earn roughly $10,000 more per year than those without. Over four decades, education levels have a greater impact on earnings than any other demographic factor. The impact of low literacy is evident across generations as well: A mother’s education level is the number one determinant of her children’s future academic success.

Libraries are helping to bridge these gaps through their adult and family literacy services.  At Sioux Center Public Library, adult literacy staff has leveraged community partnerships to expand access and services for adult learners. Members of the rural community were eager to take the Spanish GED, but the library lacked the staffing to offer classes. Over the course of a year, Bilingual Services Director Ruth Mahaffy advocated for a partnership with Northwest Iowa Community College, which is 30 miles from Sioux Center—a prohibitive distance for prospective participants. The College agreed to bring the classes to the community if the library could guarantee five students. Twenty-four people signed up. The College now offers classes 30 hours per week at the library, double the number initially offered, and the library recruits the most students for the College.

At Azusa City Library in California, adult literacy staff established Health Literacy Learning, a partnership among the library, the Azusa Neighborhood Wellness Center, and the Azusa Pacific University.  The program is grounded in the belief that literacy is “a catalyst to transform lives.” And indeed, through these twice-a-week sessions over eight weeks, participants develop skills in English language learning while also gaining literacy in health-related topics such as nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention. Nursing students answer participants’ questions, monitor participants’ blood pressure, and track exercise through pedometers given to each participant.

In celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, we recognize the efforts of these and countless other libraries working year round in the service of literacy for adults and their families.

Colorado

Right to Read

Right to Read will celebrate National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week at 5 pm with an event for community members to meet Right to Read students and sample various cuisines. Right to Read is a nonprofit addressing illiteracy and poverty in Greeley and the Weld County area of Colorado. Its goal is to “provide adults with education and cultural integration skills so they may live a better life.”

Illinois

Governor’s Proclamation

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner proclaimed Sept. 26 – Oct. 1 Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, “underscoring the continued demand for programs and services for adult students who need to improve basic skills in reading, writing and math to obtain a high school equivalency certificate.”

Kishwaukee College

During National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, the Division of Workforce and Community Education (WCE) at Kishwaukee College is inviting “anyone wanting to take the first step to earning a high school credential” to attend free High School Equivalency and English as a Second Language classes offered at the College and partner sites. Registration will be open at class sites the week of October 17.

Some interesting census data about Illinois: more than 1.4 million adults in Illinois (15% of the adult population) do not have a high school diploma or High School Equivalency credential. About one out of every seven Illinoisans is an immigrant; and approximately 44% of Illinois’ eight million adults have not completed any college coursework.

 

For more information on programs and services available through the Division of Workforce and Community Education at Kishwaukee College, visitwww.kishwaukeecollege.edu/wce  or call 815-825- 9408.

Kentucky

According to SurfKY News, Henderson Adult Learning Center is celebrating AEFL Week by planting a tree at Henderson Community College.

Administrative Assistant and Instructor of Adult Education Pam Buchanan said the tree represents “planting the seed” for adult education students.

“When I thought about Adult Education week, the first thing that popped into my head is that we’re planting a seed,” Buchanan said. “We’re planting something for the future for these students.”

Adult Education of Henderson is the oldest full-time adult education program at a community college in Kentucky. The program offered resources for improving basic employment skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, skill assessments, TABE testing and remediation, English as a Second Language and academic skills free of charge to Henderson County citizens.

Student Jaime Ruiz began the Adult Education program in June and is currently working to obtain her GED.

“The Adult Education program is a wonderful thing to do,” Ruiz said. “The people here are really nice and they really care about your education and they also really push you to further your education for the future.”

Ruiz helped plant the tree and said it symbolizes the process of the Adult Learning Center.

“The tree is to show, we’re going to plant a seed, so they’re planting seeds in us, like knowledge for us to use our education to go further in our future,” she said.

Ruiz said she plans to retake her GED in November and will attend HCC to major in medical laboratory technology.

Adult Education Director Pamala Wilson said she encourages people to come out and see the Adult Learning Center.

“I just want to invite anyone out who would like to come and see our center or volunteer. We love volunteers to help us,” Wilson said.

The Adult Learning Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

To learn more about the Adult Education in Henderson County, visit henderson.kctcs.edu.

Great photos here.

Richland Community College

Richland Community College is celebrating by “highlighting its ability to provide programs and services that adult students need to improve vital basic skills.”

RCC is one of more than 84 adult education providers offering programs funded through the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) that improves and expands the nation’s available pipeline of workers by assisting those who lack the educational requirements to achieve gainful employment in today’s increasing high-tech, global job market.

South Dakota

Yankton Area Literacy Council 

Yankton Area Literacy Council (YALC) and Cornerstones Career Center celebrated Adult Education and Family Literacy Week today at 5:00 pm in the meeting room at the Yankton Community Library. Certificates will be awarded to those who did not receive them at the National Literacy Day celebration held earlier this month.