Options for Practice and Research
Committee on Learning Sciences: Foundations and
Applications to Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Alan M. Lesgold and Melissa Welch-Ross, Editors
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. ED-08-CO-0142 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Learning Sciences: Foundations and Applications to Adolescent and Adult Literacy.
Improving adult literacy instruction : options for practice and research / Committee on Learning Sciences: Foundations and Applications to Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Alan M. Lesgold and Melissa Welch-Ross, Editors, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council of the National Academies.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-309-21959-4 (pbk.) — ISBN (invalid) 978-0-309-21960-0 (pdf) 1. Functional literacy—United States. I. Lesgold, Alan M. II. Welch-Ross, Melissa K. III. Title.
Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.
Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2012). Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research. Committee on Learning Sciences: Foundations and Applications to Adolescent and Adult Literacy, A.M. Lesgold and M. Welch-Ross, Eds. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
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The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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COMMITTEE ON LEARNING SCIENCES: FOUNDATIONS AND APPLICATIONS TO ADOLESCENT AND ADULT LITERACY
ALAN M. LESGOLD (Chair), School of Education, University of Pittsburgh
KAREN S. COOK, Department of Sociology, Stanford University
AYDIN Y. DURGUNOĞLU, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Duluth
ARTHUR C. GRAESSER, Psychology Department, University of Memphis
STEVE GRAHAM, Special Education and Literacy, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University
NOEL GREGG, Regents’ Center for Learning Disorders and Psychology Department, University of Georgia, Athens
JOYCE L. HARRIS, College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin
GLYNDA A. HULL, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
MAUREEN W. LOVETT, Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto
DARYL F. MELLARD, School of Education, University of Kansas
ELIZABETH B. MOJE, School of Educational Studies, University of Michigan
KENNETH PUGH, Haskins Laboratories, New Haven
CHRIS SCHATSCHNEIDER, Department of Psychology, Florida State University
MARK S. SEIDENBERG, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison
ELIZABETH A.L. STINE-MORROW, Department of Education and Psychology, University of Illinois
MELISSA WELCH-ROSS, Study Director
PATRICIA MORISON, Associate Executive Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences
MARY ANN KASPER, Senior Program Assistant
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The Committee on Learning Sciences: Foundations and Applications to Adolescent and Adult Literacy was established to review evidence on learning and literacy to develop a roadmap for research and practice to strengthen adult literacy education in the United States. This report is the culmination of a 36-month study by the 15 experts from diverse disciplines appointed to carry out this charge. First, we would like to thank the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) and the U.S. Department of Education for their sponsorship of the study and for turning to the National Research Council (NRC) for help in synthesizing the available research to improve literacy instruction for adults and youth in the United States.
Over the course of the study, committee members and staff benefited from discussions and presentations by individuals who brought a range of perspectives and expertise to three fact-finding meetings. The first meeting allowed us to gain a better understanding of the study charge and the work before us. We heard from experts in adult literacy education to understand adult literacy levels, the literacy needs and challenges of diverse populations, and recent large-scale adult literacy interventions. The invited experts were Judy Alamprese, Abt Associates, Inc.; Alisa Belzer, Rutgers University; Daphne Greenberg, Georgia State University; Mark Kutner, American Institutes of Research; T. Scott Murray, DataAngel Policy Research, Inc.; Dolores Perin, Teachers College, Columbia University; and John Strucker, World Education, Inc.
At the second meeting, the committee heard evidence about cognitive and neural models of reading comprehension, genetic and environmental
influences on reading, the neurobiology of literacy in a second language, maturational effects on cognition and learning, the state of adult literacy assessment, and relations between oral language and literacy. Invited participants included Elena Grigorenko, Yale University; Arturo Hernandez, University of Houston; Denise Park, University of Texas, Dallas; John Sabatini, ETS; Paul van den Broek, University of Leiden and University of Minnesota; and Gloria Waters, Boston University.
The third meeting included a diverse set of presenters who provided researcher and practitioner perspectives about factors that affect persistence, motivation, and engagement for learners from late adolescence through adulthood and that are amenable to being influenced by instruction. Members also sought information about the cognitive and social factors that influence progress with literacy among English language learners. Invited experts included John Comings, World Education, Inc.; Edward L. Deci, University of Rochester; Ruth Kanfer, Georgia Tech; Judith Kroll, Pennsylvania State University; Nonie Lesaux, Harvard University; Steve Reder, Portland State University; Dan Wagner, University of Pennsylvania; and Heide Spruck Wrigley, Literacywork International.
Our work was also advanced by the contributions of able consultants who wrote papers that were invaluable to our discussions and development of report text: Eric Anderman, Ohio State University; Alisa Belzer, Rutgers University; Mary Ellen Cushman, Michigan State University; Edward L. Deci; Elena Grigorenko; W. Norton Grubb, University of California, Berkeley; Ruth Kanfer; Judith Kroll; Dolores Perin; Amy Stornaiuolo, University of California, Berkeley; Paul van den Broek; Lalitha Vasudevan, Teachers College, Columbia University; Kari L. Woods, University of Kansas; and Heide Spruck Wrigley. Francisco Rivera-Batiz of the Department of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, was a member of the committee until other commitments required him to step down in November of 2009; we thank him for the insights and expertise he brought to the committee on issues of economics and education involving immigrant and minority populations.
We thank Peggy McCardle and Brett Miller. who facilitated access to the results of studies funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the U.S. Department of Education while the studies were in press. We also thank those who assisted committee members with literature searches or background research, including NRC staff Julie Shuck and Matthew von Hendy, as well as Mary Ann Kasper, who ably arranged logistics for members and meetings and assisted with manuscript preparation. The committee is grateful for the guidance and support of Patricia Morison, associate executive director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE). We thank Chris McShane,
Yvonne Wise, and Eugenia Grohman of the DBASSE Office of Reports and Communication for editing the report.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the NRC. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Patricia Alexander, College of Education, University of Maryland; Roger Azevedo, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, McGill University; Virginia Berninger, College of Education, University of Washington; Larry Condelli, American Institutes for Research; Laurie E. Cutting, Departments of Special Education and Psychology, Radiology, and Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center; Morton Ann Gernsbacher, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Susan R. Goldman, Department of Psychology and Education, University of Illinois at Chicago; Maryalice Jordan-Marsh, School of Social Work, University of Southern California; Susan Kemper, Department of Psychology, University of Kansas; Richard E. Mayer, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara; Larry J. Mikulecky, Department of Education, Indiana University; Timothy Shanahan, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois at Chicago; Catherine Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University; Sharon Vaughn, Department of Human Development, College of Education, University of Texas at Austin; Dan Wagner, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania; and Christina Zarcadoolas, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health Literacy, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Paul R. Sackett, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, and Johanna T. Dwyer, Tufts University School of Medicine and Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Frances Stern Nutrition Center, Tufts Medical Center, and Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully
considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Alan M. Lesgold, Chair
Melissa Welch-Ross, Study Director
Committee on Learning Sciences:
Foundations and Applications to
Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Study Charge, Scope, and Approach
Conceptual Framework and Approach to the Review of Evidence
2 Foundations of Reading and Writing
Social, Cultural, and Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Literacy Development
Teacher Knowledge, Skills, and Beliefs
Components and Processes of Writing
Neurobiology of Reading and Writing Development and Difficulties
Instruction for Struggling Readers and Writers
Principles of Instruction for Struggling Learners
Reading and Writing Across the Life Span
3 Literacy Instruction for Adults
Contexts for Literacy Learning
Literacy Instruction in Adult Education Programs
Developmental Education Courses in Colleges
Instructional Practices and Outcomes: State of the Research
Assumptions and Sources of Evidence
Adults in Basic and Secondary Education Programs
Topics for Future Study from Adult Literacy Research
Funds of Knowledge and Authentic Learning Experiences
Social, Psychological, and Functional Outcomes
Underprepared Postsecondary Students
Summary and Directions for Research
4 Principles of Learning for Instructional Design
Supporting Attention, Retention, and Transfer
Present Material in a Clear and Organized Format
Use Multiple and Varied Examples
Present Material in Multiple Modalities and Formats
Teach in the Zone of Proximal Development
Space Presentations of New Material
Test on Multiple Occasions, Preferably with Spacing
Supporting Generation of Content and Reasoning
Encourage the Learner to Generate Content
Encourage the Generation of Explanations, Substantive Questions, and the Resolution of Contradictions
Encourage the Learner to Construct Ideas from Multiple Points of View and Different Perspectives
Complex Strategies, Critical Thinking, Inquiry, and Self-Regulated Learning
Structure Instruction to Develop Effective Use of Complex Strategies
Combine Complex Strategy Instruction with Learning of Content
Accurate and Timely Feedback Helps Learning
Qualitative Feedback Is Better for Learning Than Test Scores and Error Flagging
Adaptive and Interactive Learning Environments
Adaptive Learning Environments Foster Understanding in Complex Domains
Interactive Learning Environments Facilitate Learning
Learning Is Facilitated in Genuine and Coherent Learning Environments
Learning Is Influenced by Motivation and Emotion
Summary and Directions for Research
5 Motivation, Engagement, and Persistence
The Psychology of Motivation and Learning
Social, Contextual, and Systemic Mediators of Persistence
Formal School Structures and Persistence
Cultural and Linguistic Differences
Social Relationships and Interactions
Potentially Negative Effects of Stereotype
Social and Systemic Supports for and Barriers to Persistence
6 Technology to Promote Adult Literacy
Classes of Technologies for Learning
How Technologies Affect Learning
Digital Tools for Practicing Skills
7 Learning, Reading, and Writing Disabilities
Developing Brain Systems in Struggling Readers
Accommodations to Support Literacy Learning
Summary and Directions for Research
8 Language and Literacy Development of English Language Learners
Component Literacy Skills of English Language Learners
Influences on Language and Literacy in a Second Language
First Language Knowledge and Education Level
Aptitude for a Second Language
Reading and Learning Disabilities
Cultural Knowledge and Background
Approaches to Second Language Literacy Instruction
Integration of Explicit Instruction and Implicit Learning of Language and Literacy
Development of Language and Knowledge for Learning and Reading Comprehension
Access to Language and Literacy Practice Outside Classrooms
Leveraging Knowledge in the First Language, When Available
Integrated Multimodal Instruction
Affective Aspects of Learning and Instruction
Summary and Directions for Research
9 Conclusions and Recommendations
Adult Learners and Learning Environments
Principles of Effective Literacy Instruction
Adult Literacy Instruction: State of the Evidence
Priorities for Basic and Applied Research
Priorities for Translational Science
Large-Scale Data Collection and Information Gathering
Concluding Thoughts: Leadership and Partnership
A Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staff
Adult Literacy Practices and Proficiencies
Adults’ Engagement with Information and Communication Technologies
Instructional Practices and Learning Environments
C Interventions to Develop the Component Literacy Skills of Low-Literate Adults
A. Study Populations and Sample Characteristics
B. Intervention Practices, Intensity, Duration, and Attrition Rates
C. Study Instruments by Measurement Construct by Study
D Search Procedures and Reviewed Studies of Adult Literacy Instruction*
*Appendix D is not printed in this volume but is available online. Go to http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13242.