Implementing and studying effective literacy instruction requires strong professional development and training of those who teach adults. Currently, adult literacy instructors vary widely in their professional backgrounds and levels of knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, however, there has been little research on the efficacy of teacher education and professional development and the degree to which it addresses the needs of adult literacy instructors. Literacy development, like the learning of any complex task, requires a range of explicit teaching and implicit learning guided by an expert.
To be effective, literacy teachers need to:
• have significant knowledge of the component skills of reading and writing, including spoken language, and how to teach these components;
• be capable of establishing nurturing relationships and developing a positive, dynamic, and emotionally supportive environment for learning;
• be able to plan activities using clear objectives with deep understanding of reading and writing processes;
• be able to reflect on their teaching and their students’learning and select from a repertoire of instructional strategies accordingly; and
• have a deep knowledge of the English language system.
It will be vital to learn, through systematic research, how best to prepare teachers to be effective instructors for adult literacy learners.
To implement the agenda for practice and research detailed in Improving Adult Literacy Instruction, substantial national leadership will be needed from the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, as well as other agencies that sponsor relevant research. Success will depend on a strong partnership among the federal government, states, and the many settings where adults receive instruction. Sustained partnerships will also be needed among practitioners, curriculum developers, administrators, and researchers to systematically build the needed knowledge and tools and to identify and address barriers to implementation. Major employers, existing training and education organizations, faith-based groups, and other community groups will need to be enlisted to help in the effort.