and extensive practice with motivating and varied texts, tools, and tasks matched to the learner’s skills, educational and cultural backgrounds, and literacy needs and goals. It explicitly addresses the automation and integration of component skills and the transfer of skills to tasks valued by society and the learner. Effective instruction includes formative (ongoing) assessments to monitor progress, provide feedback, and adjust instruction.
Students who have not mastered the foundations of reading and writing require instruction targeted to their skill levels and practice in amounts substantial enough to produce high levels of competence in the component skills. A large body of research with K-12 students provides the principles and practices of literacy instruction that are equally important to developing and struggling adult learners. Additional principles have been identified to help those with learning disabilities overcome specific areas of difficulty. The available research on accommodations for adults with learning disabilities, conducted mainly with college students, also warrant application and further study in adult education settings to remove barriers to learning.
Although findings from research specifically on effective literacy instruction for adults is lacking, research with younger populations can guide the development of instructional approaches for adults if it is modified to account for two major differences between adults and younger populations. One is that adults may experience age-related neurocognitive declines that affect reading and writing processes and speed of learning. The second is that adults bring varied life experiences, knowledge, and motivations for learning that need attention in the design of literacy instruction for them. Compared with children, adolescents and adults may have more knowledge and possess some literacy skills while still needing to fill gaps in other skills, acquire content knowledge, and develop the level of literacy needed for education, work, and practical life.
Research on learning and motivation can inform the design of supportive instructional interactions and environments. This research has not included low-literate adults: translational research is needed to design and evaluate instructional approaches consistent with these principles for this population. Although basic principles of learning and motivation apply to learners of all ages, the particular motivations to read or write are often different at different ages. Instruction for adolescents and adults may need to be designed differently to motivate these populations.
Literacy is a complex skill that requires thousands of hours of practice, but many adults do not persist in adult literacy instruction long enough or have enough time to practice outside the instructional setting to reach their goals. The problem of high attrition needs to be resolved for adults to receive sufficient practice and instruction and for rigorous research to accumulate on effective instructional methods. The available research suggests ways to design motivating instructional approaches and environments, cre-