TEAL, Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy, has published a variety of guides and fact sheets for teachers of adults, usually in GED-type programs. In their Just Write! Guide, they look at interventions and practices that support adult learners. An important caveat is that much of the research is with school aged students because there is a limited base with adult learners.
On page 19 they highlight Malcolm Knowles's assumptions about adult learners:
- Move to increasing self- directedness as he matures
- Draws on life experiences to assist learning
- Ready to learn when he assumes a new role
- Is problem-centered- apply immediately
- Motivated by internal factors
Therefore he suggests that teachers of adult learners
- Use a cooperative climate
- Assess for specific needs and interests
- Develop objectives on those needs and interests
- Sequentially work to achieve objectives
- Collaboratively select methods, materials and resources
- Evaluate progress and adjust
One strategy they recommend is to use sentence frames as part of the gradual release of control. Sentence frames have been recommended for English Language Learners and students with language disabilities. We use frames regularly in the classroom. Examples of frames include:
- I wonder what [the character] will do when ___________.
- Although you believe that _______________________, I think ________________________ because ________________________.
- In your essay you did ________________________ well.
The Guide is full of references to other fact sheets both as part of the guide and part of other guides both ahead and behind the point of reading. This is somewhat disruptive to reading. There are quotes from practitioners throughout the guide. It lends support and voice to the research-based, somewhat dry text. While providing good research and practical guidance on what to do, there are very few examples of the practices in action.
The beginning's information about adult learning information is important when considering instruction of adults whether in a high school equivalency, college or job program. In my coaching I need to keep in mind that providing choice is important- what do the people I work with feel is important to develop, when should they receive support, and how do I help them evaluate their progress and provide coherent feedback. If I can ensure that these are met, I will have happier teachers who will find my assistance more valuable.