Learning Circles Address Wait Lists for English Classes

According to the Adult Student Waiting List Survey conducted in 2010 by the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education, seventy-two percent of programs had waiting lists across all 50 states. This equals about 160,000 potential learners who were not able to receive access to educational services.

P2PU
Photo Credit: P2PU

World Education, in partnership with Peer2Peer University (P2PU), has taken up the challenge to pilot a program model to serve English Language Learners (ELLs) who are on waiting lists. English Now!, a project of EdTech Center at World Education, is supported by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to pilot a framework that utilizes blended learning in a facilitated learning circle format. 

English Now! is working with five adult education programs: YMCA International Learning Center – Boston, The Immigrant Learning Center, and Notre Dame Education Center in Massachusetts, RIFLI in Rhode Island, and Portland Adult Education in Maine as they try out the learning circle model with their ELLs.

Learning Circle
Photo Credit: Manuel Reynoso
Learning Circle participants with their facilitator, Manny Reynoso, from Notre Dame Education Center in Boston, MA

Learning Circles are a lightly facilitated peer-learning model for adults working through online course materials face-to-face, with a facilitator trained in blended learning approaches. Programs have been using various online learning tools such as USA Learns, Burlington English as well as DuoLingo, and Newsla. With guidance and training, the facilitators have been employing an adapted version of the P2PU lesson plan framework to structure the learning circle meetings. The pilot project is currently underway, and we are already seeing some promising results from the first round that ended earlier this year. In addition to the English language learning circles, some programs are now using the same model to engage students on waiting lists for citizenship classes.

The learners have reported that they like the peer learning, participatory approach of the learning circles. They appreciate the support they get from each other. One of the beginner-level ELLs noted that she felt better prepared to be in a formal class as a result of  her participation in the learning circle. Another student shared that being part of a learning circle has given her confidence to talk to her daughter’s teacher for the first time without an interpreter. She was glowing with pride!

Stay tuned as we continue to finesse this learning circle model to accelerate adult students’ learning while they wait for a slot in a class and help them be more effective learners. For information about the English Now! Project, contact the project director, Priyanka Sharma.


Reference: McLendon, L., Jones, D. and M. Rosin. (2011). The Return on Investment from Adult Education and Training. McGraw Hill Research Foundation.

Financial Literacy Skills

Introduction

Adult literacy has been at the heart of World Education’s work since it was established in 1951 in India and founded the Literacy House upon the urging of Mohandas Gandhi. Sixty-four years later, while gains have been made in many parts of the world, the need for literacy education remains great:  there are nearly 800 million adults and out-of-school youth in the world with limited or no literacy and numeracy.  In the U.S., adults’ basic skills are falling behind those of other developed nations.  For the first time, the skills of young adults are lower than those of their parents’ generation.  At the same time, people need even more different types of literacies to move ahead in their lives than in 1951. World Education’s approach to literacy education and how we define it has evolved and expanded commensurate with the skills adults need to navigate systems, pursue opportunities, and address problems successfully in their personal lives, work, and communities.

To commemorate the Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, in this series of blog posts World Education/ U.S. staff share their views on what literacy means to us today and how we are helping to advance adult education in multiple ways.  Our list is not comprehensive: there are not enough days in a week to feature all the types of literacy youth and adults need in today’s world!  Please join the dialogue.


Financial Literacy

Financial literacy skills enrich all facets of life. A recent study, With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them, found that over 60% of students cited financial and not academic reasons for dropping out of college.  A strong foundation in financial literacy needs to be a hallmark of all educational programming. The importance in making financial literacy and planning integral in adult education programming is magnified with the increased emphasis on college and credential completion, if learners are to earn a family sustaining wage.

How is World Education helping to support financial literacy education for adult students? National College Transition Network continues to partner with the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) to raise awareness of the importance of financial literacy. We co-developed a financial literacy publication that is geared specifically towards adult learners. This publication, Mapping your Financial Journey: Helping Adults Plan for College, is available as a free resource. We have also collaborated with NEFE to develop a workshop kit called Money Management for Adult Learners that can be used in adult education programs. We continue to present workshops and deliver trainings together and have an upcoming workshop at the 2015 NCTN Conference. See you there!

 

Mentor Support for Adults Transitioning to College

If asked to name a person who has had a significant impact, been a role model, or who has guided us in our professional and/or personal lives, almost all of us will have at least one person come to mind. These guides and/or mentors play a crucial role in our personal and professional growth. Research studies confirm what we already know intuitively – that mentoring works!

In the academic context, the bulk of the research has been done with high school students. Studies have shown mentoring to positively improve attendance (Kennelly & Monrad, 2007), and increase college enrollment rates (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002), to name a few of the benefits. Mentoring has also been shown to have a definite impact on student persistence and academic achievement in college (Crisp & Cruz 2009; Terenzani, Psacarella, & Blimling 1996).

With such an encouraging evidence base, we at the National College Transition Network (NCTN) were interested in developing a mentoring model that addresses an unmet need for mentoring adult learners transitioning to college from adult basic education programs. Building on our College for a Day project, and with support from the State Street Foundation and the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, Adult College Engagement (ACE) Mentoring project aims to increase access, persistence, and success of adults in college and training and build capacity of the participating adult education programs. To implement the program, NCTN has partnered with three adult learning programs and two community colleges in the Boston area. Mentors are adult ed program alumni, who have completed at least one year of postsecondary education. The mentees are adult education students who are transitioning to college this Fall.

As of September, 15 mentors are guiding their mentees through their first couple of weeks in college. The mentors bring the wealth of their own college-going experience to the mix and have been guiding the mentees over the summer. The ACE project is unique because mentorship straddles the adult education program experience and the first year of college to ensure persistence. Research shows that the first semester and year represent a crucial threshold after which students’ persistence to completion increases considerably (McCormick & Carroll, 1999, Calcagno, et. al., 2006). The mentoring activities are geared to get the mentees through the critical periods when new college students are most likely to drop out: the period between acceptance and when classes begin; the first month of classes; mid-terms; the end of 1st semester; and enrolling in 2nd semester. The testimonials from the participating mentors and mentees have been encouraging and we look forward to seeing the continued impact of the planned activities. All the tools and resources used in the project implementation come from our Mentoring Toolkit, which we hope to make available on our website in January 2015.

Does your program have a mentoring component? Tell us more about your mentoring experiences by connecting with NCTN on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information about the Adult College Engagement project, contact Priyanka Sharma, psharma@worlded.org.

Example of a Mentor-Mentee Profile

Mentor #1 is an ESOL and College Transition program graduate from one of the participating programs. After graduating in 2010, she went on to work towards her Associate’s degree in the biotechnology field. At the local community college, she has continued as an exceptional student, working as a teaching assistant. She is now in her final year of study. She is excited to be a mentor and happy to give back as the adult education program has been such a force for success in her life.

Mentee #1, a 50-something immigrant from Haiti, just finished her high school diploma and has enrolled in the local community college to pursue a certification in Medical Transcription. She is very excited to begin her classes as going to college has been a lifelong dream, and she wants to set an example for her teenage daughter.

Mentoring for Student Success

student and teacherJanuary marks National Mentoring Month! Formed in 2002, National Mentoring Month celebrates the evidence-based, positive impact of mentoring in the United States. Although most of January’s activities focus on youth, mentoring can have a positive effect on adult student success, too. Returning to Learning: Adults’ Success in College is Key to America’s Future (Lumina Foundation, 2007) asserts that a mentor is a primary need for many adults, especially those who belong to minority groups, need financial aid, work more than 20 hours a week, and maintain single-parent responsibilities. The most successful mentoring provides four types of support: 1) psychological and emotional; 2) degree and career-related; 3) academic/ subject knowledge; and 4) the presence of a role model. Mentoring can have a positive impact on student outcomes including self-confidence, future aspirations, grade point average, and persistence rates (Crisp, 2010). Mentor recruitment, selection, training and ongoing support are key for obtaining positive outcomes.

The United States Department of Education Adult Basic Education to Community College Transitions Symposium identified the provision of mentoring as a promising approach to effectively support nontraditional adult education students’ transition to postsecondary education (MPR Associates, 2007). The first semester and first year in college represent a crucial threshold after which students’ persistence to completion increases by over 45% (McCormick & Carroll, 1999, Calcagno, et. al., 2006). Mentoring for adult college transition students must be geared to get the mentees through the critical periods when research shows new college students are most likely to drop out: 1) period between acceptance and when classes begin; 2) first month of classes; 3) mid-terms; 4) end of the first semester; and 5) planning to enroll in the second semester.

World Education’s Adult College Engagement (ACE), supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, will further build evidence for this promising practice. Beginning in January 2014, mentoring will be provided to 15 Boston-area adult learners as they complete their final semester in one of the participating adult education programs, as they transition to college by September 2014, and as they complete their first semester and enroll for the second semester in college. Mentors will be graduates/alumni of the adult education programs, who have successfully transitioned to college, and completed at least one year of postsecondary education. To accomplish this, the National College Transition Network (NCTN) will pilot a replicable, scalable mentoring model and a mentoring toolkit in partnership with three Boston-area adult education programs: Asian-American Civic Association, X-CEL,Inc., and Cambridge Community Learning Center, and with two community colleges: Bunker Hill Community College and Roxbury Community College.

For more information about Adult College Engagement, contact Priyanka Sharma at psharma@worlded.org. As the project director, Priyanka will share our lessons and new tools as they emerge. Stay tuned!