ProLiteracy has created a series of research briefs on adult literacy and education. They are 2,500- to 3,000-word summaries that offer a synthesis of research on a topic, implications for practice, and next steps in research. Written by scholars who have demonstrated expertise on specific topics, ProLiteracy Research Briefs were developed to help adult literacy practitioners understand ideas that have emerged from research. They will also help researchers identify research needs by pointing to gaps in knowledge as part of an effort to respond to the needs of adult educators who are looking for relevant research to inform their work.
“Student Recruitment: A Review of the Research” was authored by Carol Clymer, Co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy, with co-author Shannon Frey, Guided Study Groups Coordinator at Penn State Learning. All briefs are edited by Alisa Belzer of Rutgers University. An excerpt of the research brief is highlighted below.
Learner recruitment has been a longstanding concern of adult basic education (ABE) programs. It involves identifying individuals who need and would benefit from the services that adult education provides. Recruitment is a particularly important activity because the population of potential adult learners is largely unreached, estimated to be near 90% (Patterson, 2018). Recruitment requires understanding the motivations that contribute to and the obstacles that prevent individuals from enrolling in programs. Adult education providers must be intentional, systematic, creative, and persistent in their recruitment approaches. They must also find attractive and compelling ways to encourage learners to take advantage of the opportunities that are offered.
This research brief describes findings drawn from the research base and highlights key practices and strategies that can be used to recruit ABE learners. In addition to summarizing the research on recruitment, this brief also includes recruitment strategies developed in other fields that serve similar populations and concludes with links to recruitment resource guides and toolkits.
Getting Started on Recruitment: Collecting Data
As programs seek participants, it is important to engage with prospective learners and understand their motivations for enrolling (Martin, 1989, Patterson, 2018). A key strategy here is to collect targeted data (e.g., through qualitative interviews and focus groups or community surveys and questionnaires) in order to make strategic recruitment decisions. The focus here is on understanding prospective learners’ community contexts and the driving factors that may encourage and inhibit participation. Although valuable, collecting relevant data for recruitment can be resource intensive, and it may not be practical for programs to engage in multiple information-gathering strategies. Therefore, it is important for staff to prioritize what information to collect and make strategic decisions about how it will be used.