learners across the many places of instruction share literacy development needs, learning goals, and other characteristics; on the other hand, learners at a single site vary in these characteristics. In many instances, it would not be possible to know how to categorize the research because research reports do not specify the place of instruction, describe the goals of instruction, or clearly and completely describe the study participants. Indeed, one of the critical needs for future research is to systematically define segments of the population to identify constraints on generalizing research findings and specific features of instruction that might be needed to effectively meet the needs of particular subgroups.
Thus, this report is organized according to the major topics that deserve attention in future research to develop effective instructional approaches. The topics reflect those about which most is known from research—albeit mostly with populations other than one that is the focus of our study—and that have the greatest potential to alleviate the personal, instructional, and systemic barriers that adults outside school experience with learning.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of what is known about the major components and processes of reading and writing and the qualities of instruction that develop reading and writing for both typical and struggling learners in K-12 settings. The chapter presents principles for intervening specifically with struggling learners. Although supported by strong evidence, we stress that caution must be used in generalizing the research to other populations. Translational research is needed on the development of practices that are appropriate for diverse populations of adolescents and adults.
Chapter 3 describes the adults who receive literacy instruction, including major subgroups, and the demographics of the population, what is known about their difficulties with component literacy skills, and characteristics of their instructional contexts. The chapter conveys the state of research on practices that develop adults’ literacy skills and identifies priorities for research and innovation to advance knowledge of adult literacy development and effective literacy instruction.
Chapters 4 through 6 synthesize research from a variety of disciplines on topics that are vital to furthering adult literacy. Chapter 4 summarizes findings from research on the conditions that affect cognitive processing and learning. The chapter draws on and updates several recent efforts to distill principles of learning for educators and discusses considerations in applying these principles to the design of literacy instruction for adults. Chapter 5 synthesizes research on the features of environments—instructional interactions, structures, tasks, texts, systems—that encourage engagement with learning and persistence in adolescents and adults. The chapter draws on research from multiple disciplines that examine the psychological, social, and environmental factors that affect motivation, engagement in learn-