Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2005 11:48:16 -0800 From: Stacia Levy Subject: Review of Adult Learning and Literacy, vol. 4
EDITORS: Comings, John; Garner, Barbara; Smith, Cristine TITLE: Review of Adult Learning and Literacy, Volume 4 SUBTITLE: Connecting Research, Policy, and Practice PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2004
Stacia Levy, University of the Pacific
Intended for policymakers, teachers, and scholars of adult basic education and adult ESL (English as a Second Language) programs, this book is part of a series of volumes of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) that address major issues and research in adult learning. Topics covered in the papers of this volume include the following: the interaction of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in adult literacy and effects on power within the programs; motivation of workplaces in providing education programs; implications of technology and adult literacy and learning; application of constructive-developmental theories of adult development to ABE (Adult Basic Education) and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) practices, and changes in adult literacy theory.
The forward is by Delores Perin, who addresses special issues in adult literacy research, such as the difficulty in collecting data because of the transient nature of the subject population. Part of the purpose of this book is to suggest ways to design and interpret research in adult literacy. Perin states the latest data available suggests that the largest portions of adults with low literacy skills are at an intermediate, rather than lowest, level of performance, while the bulk of the research has focused on lower levels, giving us a need for research on intermediate learners.
Chapter 1: This chapter, by Thomas Sticht, reviews the major events and issues of 2001, most notably, of course, the terrorist attacks of September 11. This seems rather strange, given the book's 2004 publication date. This set an expectation for much of the information in the chapter of being dated, although the author does address some perennial issues in the field, such as the difficulty of programs in securing funding. The author also addresses the new organizations forming to support adult literacy, important reading research findings, and initiatives to address the needs of the growing ESL population.
Chapter 2: In this chapter, the author, Deborah D'Amico, provides a critical look at race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in adult literacy programs. She reviews demographics, presents past and current methods of addressing the issue of diversity, and gives examples of models to grapple with bias in programs for both staff and students, as well as strategies for staffing, instruction, and research.
Chapter 3: Here the author, Alec Levenson, addresses the role of workplace education in building adult basic education programs and addresses theories of human capital, or skills workers bring to their jobs, as motivation for employers to provide these programs. He also reviews the topic of the effectiveness of workplace adult literacy programs. His recommendations are to provide more public funds to support such programs and professional development. He also poses questions for research.
Chapter 4: In this chapter, Regie Stites examines new technology in adult education and literacy programs. The author also reviews the research, finding evidence of positive outcomes for use of technology in literacy programs and discusses barriers to its use: limited accessibly, cost, and practitioners' lack of expertise in incorporating technology in learning. The author concludes by suggesting positive outcomes of investing to overcome such barriers.
Chapter 5: In this chapter authors Deborah Hesling, Eleanor Drago- Severson, and Robert Kegan review various adult development theories, focusing in particular on the constructive-developmental model, or theories about how individuals understand their world in terms of their own development, and its implications for ABE/ESOL. They provide recommendations for instruction and program design to support learning.
Chapter 6: Here the author, Sharan Merriam, reviews past and current adult learning theories and includes an annotated bibliography of key resources on adult learning theory. Topics covered include andragogy, critical perspectives, and theories of the role of body, spirit, and emotion in learning.
My main concern about this book is its apparent slowness in coming to publication: no book published in 2004 should begin by discussing September 11, 2001 as a current event. Particularly puzzling is that this volume is said to be one of a series of 'annual' publications on adult learning. The book also opens by discussing the results of two reports on adult education from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Reporting System (NRS), going into such detail that it is likely to confuse anyone not deeply involved in the field of adult learning.
After this rocky beginning, the book in general seems to provide a thorough overview of the issues involved in education programs that serve adults, both the theoretical and the practical. The book is concise, only 216 pages long aside from the reference list and index, yet it goes into sufficient detail on most of the issues. For example, chapter 2, which discusses the demographics of enrollment in ABE/ESL programs, could be just a dry recitation of statistics, but it is not. Instead, the author analyzes the reasons and implications for the participation of different groups: why women outnumber men, for example, in adult basic education classes. Also, in theories of adult learning in chapter 5, issues addressed are age, gender, and the constructive-development model of learning, with the four levels of adult learning broken down and detailed thoroughly. I find this chapter particularly valuable for teachers of adult learners, who often trained to teach elementary or high school children, and have had little or no instruction on the teaching of adults. This chapter details well why adults behave in the classroom as they do, the expectations as learners they bring with them, and the implications that has for instruction.
The authors also do a particularly good job in calling for more research in such areas as workplace learning and pointing out the need for additional funding because such research as we have shows the general effectiveness of most available programs that serve this often-neglected population.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Stacia Levy is an English and education professor in California. She recently completed her dissertation, which examined the vocabulary patterns found in college student and professional writing. Her areas of research interest include academic writing instruction, adolescent and adult literacy, and vocabulary acquisition.