of adolescents and adults who vary greatly in literacy development needs, education levels, socioeconomic status, linguistic background, and other characteristics.
Given the dearth of relevant research with the target adult population, this report draws on what is available: extensive research on reading and writing processes and difficulties of younger students, emerging research on literacy and learning in adolescents and adults with normal reading capability, and extremely limited research on adult literacy learners. Until the necessary research is conducted with adults who receive literacy instruction outside the K-12 system, the committee concluded that it is reasonable to apply the wealth of available research on learning and literacy with other populations. Findings from this research provide guidance about the reading and writing skills to target with instruction and principles for designing instructional practices, technologies, assessments, and preparation for teachers. With our conclusions, we recommend a program of research and innovation to validate, identify the boundaries of, and extend current knowledge to improve instruction for adults and adolescents outside school and create the supports needed for learning and achievement.
The request to the committee stressed the need for guidance from research to inform the design of instructional curricula and practices for use in programs, and not broader improvements to adult education delivery systems or access to programs—important as such improvements might be. In drawing conclusions from the research and recommending a more systemic approach to research, practice, and policy, however, we recognize four main issues related to the adult literacy system: (1) the variability in the profiles of adult learners, (2) the variability of instructor preparation, (3) the existence of many different types of programs that have varied literacy development aims and practices, and (4) the instructional and other supports that enable adults to persist in programs and practice skills outside the classroom. We urge attention to these issues in research and policy because they impinge directly on the quality of instruction, the feasibility of completing the recommended research, and the potential for broad dissemination and implementation of the practices that emerge as effective from research findings.
Conclusion 1: The population of adult learners is heterogeneous. Optimal reading and writing instruction will therefore vary according to goals for literacy development and learning, knowledge and skill, interests, neurocognitive profiles, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The contexts in which adults receive literacy instruc-