First Advisor

Douglas Robertson

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




Functional literacy -- Study and teaching, Elementary education of adults



Physical Description

2, vi, 143 leaves 28 cm.


Past research has not sufficiently addressed the question of what types of adult literacy instructional practice are recognized by participants, i.e., students and teachers, as facilitating learning in Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes. The purpose of this study was to describe instructional practices in two urban literacy programs serving low level adult readers, and to identify which practices were effective in meeting student needs. Effectiveness was measured by the ability of students to achieve learning objectives identified by themselves and the teacher, and included attendance patterns and student participation. Quantitative measures of achievement were not used as criteria since few classes utilized comparable formal assessment instruments. The process of generating grounded theory developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) provided a suitable methodological framework for this qualitative research design that used an ethnographic approach as the format for the participatory research study. Teachers and students in six ABE classes provided data which were collected using a multi-method-plan utilizing interviews, participant observation, and documentary materials The study was structured around one primary and four secondary research questions. These questions were designed to address the various aspects of effective instructional practices in ABE classes and began by describing how teachers and students defined literacy skills and student goals, what practices were used in the classrooms, and how students perceived their learning. After this information was gathered, effective practices could be identified using the criteria elicited from teachers and students. Effective practices were found to be an interdependent process that included teacher, students, and goals within the context of the ABE classroom. The study showed that the effectiveness of discrete instructional practice was dependent on an instructional process that resulted from a teacher's choice of materials and methods accurately reflecting the attributes of students and their educational objectives. Crucial aspects of the teacher's actions were identification of primary objectives development of basic learning skills, interpersonal communication, and establishment of a supportive environment. For students, an active role within the class that included participation and self-directedness was recognized as contributing to goal achievement. Where this process was observed, there was a greater chance of students remaining in the program, actively participating in their learning, and ultimately achieving learning goals.


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