Project Purpose
The Twenty-First Century Learning Ecosystem Opportunities (21CLEO) research project sought to identify the factors that support frontline service workers as they engaged in workplace-sponsored learning activities that support the development of 21st-century skills. These skills include specific workplace skills, digital literacy, English language and literacy, problem-solving, and foundational academic skills. The voice of the working learner is central to this study.

This project was made possible in part by a Walmart Foundation Grant.

Project Team
This research was a collaborative effort with contributions made by a core team of researchers at Portland State University, the University of Arizona, and World Education. The research team was advised by a convening of working learners and key stakeholders.

Data Collection and Analysis
The study included an expansive and iterative approach. Data include semi-structured interviews of frontline service workers and key stakeholders. The iterative nature of data collection and analysis ensures that questions and processes are relevant to stakeholders and working learners. The research used a qualitative design that included interviews with working learners (N=27) and key stakeholders (N=17). Seven working learners were interviewed multiple times over the course of three years.

Findings and Outcomes
The researchers found that ecosystems are made up of independent and intersecting elements that shift as the social context changes. The research showed that adult working learners, learning opportunities, supports, and outcomes are overlapping components within ecosystems that are situated within social context. Within the social context, issues such as race, language, and socioeconomics play an important role in the health of learning ecosystems. Data were used to create six persona that illustrate the life and work circumstances of working learners. These persona can be used to guide the creation and implementation of learning opportunities. The persona creation process developed by the research team can also be used by others to create persona reflective of the context of different learning ecosystems. Findings resulted in a set of recommendations regarding design and implementation of the learning ecosystem, the role of the working learner in the ecosystem, the ways employers can support and retain skilled workers, the ways employers education providers and others can help working learners connect learning to job success and advancement, and the necessity of using an equity lens when designing and implementing education and training initiatives.


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