In the second response of the research journal’s Forum about educational research, Carmine Stewart of Seeds of Literacy in Cleveland, Ohio, writes “Research and the Field of Adult Education.”
In the article, Stewart discusses how research impacts the program’s ability to raise awareness, inform instructional strategies, implement program initiatives, and improve learner outcomes. While research plays an important role in each of these contexts, Stewart points out that there are barriers, including lack of access to research and a lack of understanding how to implement it.
Read an excerpt from the article:
Seeds uses research to inform program initiatives. As an example, Seeds broadened its reading program based on findings of the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) to address all five components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). Several factors encouraged us to make this change. First, many students were testing and retesting and not improving their high school equivalency exam scores by much. Seeds was looking for interventions to help those students. Second, tutors asked for help because they didn’t feel effective in their work with struggling readers; they worried that students might become discouraged. Third, Seeds began to see an increase in the number of students in orientation who read below a third- grade level. Many of them had already sought help elsewhere, and Seeds was committed to finding solutions. It was clear that Seeds needed to do something different.
The findings from the National Reading Panel made clear that we needed to address all five components of reading to improve learner outcomes. This shift to focusing attention on foundational reading skills impacted everything from assessment to intervention. Seeds began providing training on diagnostic measures to pinpoint student reading struggles, and to offer training on instructional strategies to address those reading skill deficits. Soon students who overheard newly trained tutors working with other students asked for the same type of help. These tutors were assessing student fluency and phonics and using a more systematic approach to help students develop their reading skills. Now during orientation students are assessed for particular skill deficits, and receive targeted intervention based on the assessment results. Anecdotally, Seeds has witnessed increases in students’ confidence, enthusiasm, and skill levels. One student joined the program as a beginning reader with the goal of being able to read his Bible independently read the entire introduction to the Book of Genesis to a staff member within a year’s time. Another beginning reader has not only used what she learned to begin writing, she has also used those skills to help other students. This demonstrates that using research to modify program practices can impact learning and instruction, and the experiences of adult learners.