This week we are highlighting the article titled “Review of Turning Points: Recent Trends in Adult Basic Literacy, Numeracy, and Language Education,” by Elisabeth Gee, Arizona State University. This article is featured in ProLiteracy’s research journal Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy. The goal of this journal is to publish research on adult basic and secondary education to inform practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders about best practices in adult literacy, numeracy, and English language education.
An excerpt of “Review of Turning Points: Recent Trends in Adult Basic Literacy, Numeracy, and Language Education” is featured below.
The impetus for this timely publication was several recent developments with potentially significant implications for the field of adult basic education (ABE), including new federal adult education authorization, the release of a new version of the GED test, and new content standards for ABE curricula. Turning Points is a volume in the long-standing series, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, and reflects the standard format for the series: a collection of short chapters, written in an accessible style, on a significant topic for adult and continuing educators. In this book, editor Alisa Belzer has recruited a group of contributors with an impressive range of experience in the field to address the question of “where the field is in relation to where it has been and to where it might go” (p. 5), particularly in light of the new federal legislation, research findings, and changes in content standards and assessments.
In Chapter 1, Belzer sets the stage for this discussion with a clearly written and concise overview of federal policy initiatives that have shaped the provision of ABE over the last 25 years. As she points out, although the federal government provides less than half of the financial support for adult basic education, its policies play a significant role in shaping the field’s priorities, programs, and practice. Belzer uses the metaphors of narrowing and focusing as a means of characterizing the potential consequences of policy initiatives. Focusing as applied to ABE implies a deepening understanding of and appreciation for the broad and complex nature of literacy practices in the context of learners’ lives, with a corresponding emphasis on more differentiated, responsive, and informed educational strategies. In contrast, narrowing implies increasingly restrictive definitions of “what counts” in literacy education, often leading to one-dimensional conceptions of literacy, learners’ lives, and appropriate instructional approaches.