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Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy


Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy


ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

The journal’s mission is to publish research on adult basic and secondary education and transitions to college and career programs. It informs practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders about best practices in adult literacy, numeracy, and English language education in publicly funded, community and volunteer-based programs in a wide range of contexts. Each issue will consist of research articles focused on a particular theme plus other content of interest to readers (e.g., resource reviews, opinion pieces, and debates and discussions on timely topics of interest to the field).

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Research Articles

The Lessons of the Churn: Adult Basic Education and Disciplining the Adult Learner

Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people enroll in adult basic education (ABE) classes but leave before completing a level or accomplishing their goals. The persistence of this phenomenon may indicate that it is a feature of the system, rather than an unforeseen outcome. Research on other types of social service provision (e.g., welfare) suggests that seemingly inefficient systems are actually intentionally constructed to discipline the population in need of assistance. From this perspective, learners’ experience of the churn within the ABE system may be just as important as their time in the classroom.

Contact: Erik Jacobson,

A Framework for Capacity Building in Adult and Workforce Education Programming

Elizabeth A. Roumell, Texas A&M University; Corina Todoran, Loyola University New Orleans; Florin D. Salajan, North Dakota State University

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Recent Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act legislation in the United States has initiated increasingly complex and multi-tiered systems for program implementation in the adult learning, career training, and workforce development sectors. The paper presents a conceptual framework to assist in understanding capacity building for implementation of adult and workforce education programming. The framework synthesizes a number of policy models, dimensions, and definitions for program delivery and capacity building.

Contact: Elizabeth A. Roumell,

Report from the Field

Hawa Learns to Write: Strategies for Handwriting Instruction

Dana Downs-Kuritz, Don Bosco School for Adults

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

I teach the beginning level English as a Second Language classes at the Don Bosco School for Adults in Kansas City, Missouri. We service refugees and immigrants from all over the world. In the beginning level classroom, many refugee students require guidance and instruction when they use writing utensils. They do not know how to draw basic shapes, and format letters by hand. I have developed a methodology for instructors who encounter the same unique challenge of teaching adults how to write. A series of steps for helping adults develop handwriting skills is presented in the following article. This article is written for adult basic education instructors who hope to improve their students’ handwriting ability and proficiency.

Contact: Dana Downs-Kuritz,

Forum: Building a Better Adult Basic Skills Development System

Ten Actions to Build an Adult Basic Skills Development System That Is More Inclusive, Relevant, Efficient, and Sustained

Paul J. Jurmo, Independent Consultant, Basic Skills for Development

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Adult learners, their families and communities, and our nation can benefit from an expanded and improved system of basic skills development opportunities. If adult educators and other stakeholders work together in thoughtful, creative ways, we can create such a system. Since the 1980s, work-related adult basic skills programs in the United States have helped learners achieve personal goals, responded to policy requirements, and served other stakeholders including learners’ families and communities, employers and labor unions, and diverse service providers.

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Response to Paul J. Jurmo

Esther Prins, Pennsylvania State University

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Paul Jurmo proposes 10 actions to make “basic skills education more inclusive relevant, efficient, and sustained.” These recommendations are drawn from his decades of experience in the field, coupled with the expertise of researchers and professionals who understand the adult basic education (ABE) system and the needs of adult learners and educators. To further this conversation, I offer questions and observations as a “critical friend” (Forester, 1999). My comments focus on the following topics: (1) how Jurmo’s recommendations highlight learners’ capabilities and multi-faceted purposes, (2) areas for elaboration (diverse populations, efficiency, inclusiveness, and “learning eco-systems”), (3) the distance education and social support needs accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and (4) why a critical approach to education is crucial for building the more inclusive, relevant ABE system that Jurmo envisions.

Contact: Esther Prins,

Response to Paul J. Jurmo

Art Ellison, Former N.H. State Director of Adult Education, Member of the N.H. House Education Committee

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Paul Jurmo’s “Ten Actions to Build an Adult Basic Skills Development System That is More Inclusive, Relevant, Efficient and Sustained” reviews the recent history of the adult education field and then sets out 10 actions that would substantially improve the delivery system for adult education services in this country.

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Resource Review

Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers: Practical Applications Reviewed by Susan Finn Miller

Susan Finn Miller, Lancaster Lebanon IU13 Community Education

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Both current adult English as a Second Language (ESL) practitioners and those who aspire to work in the field of adult ESL will benefit from reading Clarena Larrotta’s book. The book summarizes interviews and observations of adult learners and ESL instructors in central Texas as well as graduate students preparing to become teachers. Through case studies, Clarena Larrotta honors the voices and experiences of adult English learners and their teachers. Drawing from the narratives featured in these case studies, the author underscores effective instructional practices. She also offers words of critique to highlight some of the challenges she sees and to offer suggestions for supporting immigrants who are seeking to learn English.

Contact: Susan Finn Miller,

Technology Solutions for Adult Basic Skills Challenges

Engaging Technology

David J. Rosen, Newsome Associates

ALE Research Journal - ProLiteracy

Each Technology Solutions for Adult Basic Skills Challenges column begins with a common challenge facing adult basic skills practitioners. Solutions offered for these challenges, at least in part through the use of technology, include hardware or software applications such as websites, course management systems, learning management systems, and apps for mobile devices. Each article begins with a description of a teaching challenge, and then examines solutions that involve the use of technology.

Contact: David J. Rosen