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Project Title:

Learning Sciences: Foundations and Applications to Adolescent and Adult Literacy
PIN: CFEX-Q-08-03-A        

Major Unit:

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Sub Unit: Center for Education

RSO: Welch-Ross, Melissa

Subject/Focus Area: Education

Project Scope
In response to a request from the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL), the Center for Education will convene a committee to conduct a study of the scientific foundations of adolescent and adult literacy with implications for policy and practice. In particular, the study will synthesize research-based knowledge on literacy from the multidisciplinary perspectives of education, cognitive and behavioral science, neuroscience, and other relevant disciplines; and will provide a strong empirical foundation for understanding the main factors that affect literacy learning in adolescence and adulthood generally and with respect to the specific populations served by adult education. The committee will develop a conceptual and methodological framework to guide the study and conduct a review of the existing research literature and sources of evidence. The committee's final report will provide a basis for research and practice, laying out the most promising areas for future research while informing curriculum and instruction for current adolescent literacy and adult education practitioners and service providers.

This study will (1) synthesize the behavioral and cognitive sciences, education, and neuroscience research on literacy to understand its applicability to adolescent and adult populations (2) analyze the implications of this research for the instructional practices used to teach reading in adolescent and adult literacy programs and (3) establish a set of recommendations or roadmap for a more systemic approach to subsequent research, practice and policy. The committee will synthesize and integrate new knowledge from the multidisciplinary perspectives of behavioral and cognitive sciences, education, neuroscience, and other related disciplines, with emphasis on potential uses in the research and policy communities. It will provide a broad understanding of the factors that affect typical and atypical literacy learning in adolescence and adulthood generally and with respect to the specific populations served by adult education and such related issues as motivation, retention and prevention.

The following questions will be among those the committee will consider in developing its roadmap for a more systematic approach to subsequent research, practice and policy:

-- Does the available research on learning and instruction apply to the full range of types of learners served by adult education? If not, for what specific populations is research particularly needed? What do we know, for example, about how to deliver reading instruction to students in the lowest achievement levels normally found in Adult Basic Education?
-- What are some of the specific challenges faced by adults who need to learn literacy skills in English when it is their second language? What does the cognitive and learning research suggest about the most effective instructional strategies for these learners?
-- What outcome measures and methods are suggested from research addressing literacy remediation and prevention in both adolescent and adult programs?
-- Where are there gaps in our understanding about what research is needed related to retention and motivation of adult literacy learners?
-- What implications does the research on learning and effective instruction have for remediation and prevention of problems with literacy during middle and/or high school?
-- What is known about teacher characteristics, training and capacity of programs to implement more effective literacy instructional methods?
-- Are there policy strategies that could be implemented to help assure that the evidence base on best practices for learning gets used by programs and teachers?

The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

The approximate start date for the project is September 30, 2008.

A report will be issued at the end of the project in approximately 36 months.

Project Duration: 36 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 05/21/2009
 Meeting 2 - 09/10/2009
 Meeting 3 - 12/10/2009
 Meeting 4 - 05/17/2010
 Meeting 5 - 09/15/2010


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office
Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research