Adult Education`s Contribution to Postsecondary Writing Readiness

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Adult Education’s Contribution to Postsecondary Writing Readiness
Some Research Resources
What follows is a brief – by no means comprehensive -- list of selected and slightly
annotated studies that reference
 The need for postsecondary writing readiness among adult education students,
and/or
 the kind and quality of writing – and writing instruction – that may contribute
to OR may inhibit that postsecondary writing readiness.
American Diploma Project (2004). Ready or not: Creating a high school diploma that
counts. Washington, DC: Achieve, Inc. 775
In 2004, the American Diploma Project (ADP) addressed writing requirements of the
postsecondary setting when they defined a “common core” of fundamental literacy and numeracy
skills for high school graduates who are prepared to succeed in credit-bearing college courses or in
high-growth, highly skilled occupations. Their English benchmarks were identified and refined
over 18 months of research conducted in postsecondary institutions and high-performance
workplaces. ADP Writing Benchmarks authors took the position that high-quality writing results
from careful planning, drafting, and meaningful revising. Further, the discipline used to create,
reshape, and polish pieces of writing prepares students to write quickly and clearly on demand,
whether in the workplace or in college classrooms.
Their benchmarks address skills that are applicable to “good” writing and focus on activities
related to writing that include : planning; selecting language appropriate to purpose, audience, and
context; organizing; summarizing and paraphrasing; editing; revising in response to feedback;
citing print and electronic sources; and using appropriate technologies and software. Integration of
these skills enables students to 1) write academic and research essays and shorter responses to
prompts, 2) demonstrate understanding of ideas and the ability to think critically about them, 3)
construct and defend arguments, and 4) produce various work-related texts.
Chisman, F. (2009). Expanding horizons: Pacesetters in adult education for work. New
York: Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy.
During a 2009 “Adult Readiness Roundtable” co-sponsored by the Council for Advancement of
Adult Literacy and the National Center on Education and the Economy, roundtable participants
(representatives of 20 “exemplary” adult-education-for-work programs from all over the country)
agreed that in their experience the greatest barrier adult education students face in making
successful transitions is mastering college-level writing.
NCTN 2012
Research Agenda - Writing for Transition
Peggy McGuire
1
Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. (2010).
The common core state standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social
studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Author.
College- and career-ready students can
1) write academic and research essays as well as shorter-form responses to prompts,
2) demonstrate understanding of ideas and the ability to think critically about them,
3) construct and defend arguments, and
4) produce various work-related texts on demand.
Dean, D. (2008). Genre Theory: Teaching, writing, and being. Washington, DC: National
Council of Teachers of English.
Effective writers
1) are aware that not all writing is the same;
2) choose and use different kinds (genres) of writing to meet different goals and suit different
tasks, audiences, and contexts;
3) know that each writing genre, whether to meet the purposes of a postsecondary course or a
need in another part of life, will have its own language and conventions.
Garvey, J. (with Grobe, T.). (2011). From GED to college degree: Creating pathways to
postsecondary success for high school dropouts. Boston: Jobs for the Future.
“Typical GED programs may get students over the first test hurdle, but they will not help those
students who have less-developed skills to gain the knowledge they need to pass college
placement tests and access credit-bearing courses—or to do well in those courses when they
enroll”
Garvey argues for more robust GED instruction to prepare adult education students for secondary
certificates and to enter and succeed in college. Because most GED preparation participants have
not acquired the broad range of competencies essential for college readiness, it is critical that
GED-to-college programs retool curricula and instruction so that they provide extensive practice
with genuine tasks that anticipate what students will be expected to complete at the postsecondary
level.
Goldberger, S. (2007). Doing the math: What it means to double the number of lowincome college graduates. In N. Hoffman, J. Vargas, A. Venezia, and M. S. Miller (Eds.),
Minding the gap, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Though nearly half of all GED credential holders enroll in postsecondary education, less than 4%
persist to earn a degree.
NCTN 2012
Research Agenda - Writing for Transition
Peggy McGuire
2
Graham, S. & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of
adolescents in middle and high schools—A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
Although a number of variables influence access to and persistence in postsecondary schooling,
writing skill is broadly understood to be one important predictor of academic success
Hillocks, G. (1986). Research on written composition: New directions for teaching.
Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Postsecondary writing success requires the ability to apply a recursive composing process –
planning, drafting, evaluating, and revising.
Marchwick, K., Johnson, K. A., & Parrish, B. (2008). ATLAS Instructional Practices
Alignment Survey. Retrieved June 11, 2012, from
http://www.atlasabe.org/pd-system/research-surveys/instructional-practices-alignmentsurvey-2008
This small but important study in Minnesota began to expose apparent gaps between
postsecondary writing expectations and the current preparation of adult education students to meet
them. As part of the Minnesota Department of Education’s three-year Transitions to
Postsecondary initiative, the Adult Teaching and Learning Advancement System at Hamline
University, St. Paul, conducted an Instructional Practices Alignment Survey of ABE and
Minnesota State College and University faculty in developmental education, health care, and
trades/technical education. The purpose of the survey was to identify current teaching practices in
such areas as reading, writing, listening, and technology use for both groups and then to use the
resulting data to assess professional development needs of ABE transitions-level instructors
Survey responses indicated that college instructors expect students to be able to
 Write up results of research
 Write to answer test questions
 Write to state and defend a position
 Write to evidence ability to think critically about, analyze, synthesize and draw
conclusions from information
 Write to take notes from text and lecture
The Working Group who analyzed the survey data made a number of recommendations, stressing
that ABE teachers should be trained and encouraged to:
 Use more postsecondary teaching styles such as content lectures, group projects, etc.,
 Teach higher-order thinking skills in writing and reading,
 Move students from personal topics to more academic topics of writing,
 Address issues of intellectual honesty and plagiarism through focused attention on
paraphrasing, using references, and doing in-text citations, and
 Work on summarizing, synthesizing, and organizing information.
NCTN 2012
Research Agenda - Writing for Transition
Peggy McGuire
3
National Commission on Writing (2003, April). The neglected R: The need for a writing
revolution. Retrieved June 11, 2012, from
http://www.writingcommission.org/report.html
In the postsecondary classroom, writing plays two complementary and critical roles. First, students
who write effectively draw upon strategies that include planning, evaluating, and revising text to
accomplish a variety of goals, such as writing a report or expressing an opinion with the support of
evidence. Second, writing is a means of extending and deepening students’ knowledge, a tool for
learning subject matter.
If students earn a GED credential but cannot plan, evaluate, or revise written text to write a report
or express an opinion with the support of evidence, or if they cannot use writing as a tool for
learning new subject matter, they may not be fully prepared for college-level coursework
National Research Council (2011). Improving adult literacy instruction: Options for
practice and research. Committee on Learning Sciences: Foundations and Applications to
Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Alan M. Lesgold and Melissa Welch-Ross, Editors.
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National
Academies Press.
Postsecondary writing success depends upon the ability to apply the full process of writing –
planning, drafting, evaluating, and revising – along with an ability to regulate strategy use (how to
select, implement, and coordinate writing strategies; how to monitor, evaluate, and adjust
strategies) to achieve writing goals.
Among their recommendations for improving adult literacy instruction, the NRC calls for
expanded research on current transition-level adult education instruction and asserts, “The
information collected on instructional programs should include learning goals and objectives and
the practices, materials, tools, and assessments in use. This information is needed to better
understand current practices, plan the appropriate professional development of instructors, create
effective out-of-classroom learning opportunities, and better match literacy instruction to
emerging literacy demands for work, education, health, and functioning in society”
Perin, D. (2006). Can community colleges protect both access and standards? The
problem of remediation. Teachers College Record, 108, 339–373.
Enrollments in developmental writing courses in community colleges are very large, yet appear to
underestimate the number of students who actually need help with writing.
NCTN 2012
Research Agenda - Writing for Transition
Peggy McGuire
4
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