How Do You Support Adult Education and Family Literacy?


aefl 2012This week, EFFTIPS joins practitioners and organizations across the United States as we celebrate Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, declared by act of the US Congress for the 4th year in a row.

According to the latest national survey of adults, more than 93 million American adults have Basic or Below Basic literacy skills that limit their ability to advance at work and in education, help their children with school work, take care of their family’s health, and participate in their communities.

Have you, or has your program, sponsored any activities in support of this celebration? If so please comment and share!

The (US) National Coalition for Literacy spearheads this annual effort to raise awareness of and promote adult education and literacy, family literacy, and English language development in the United States – nicknamed AEFL. In partnership with CLASP, they developed and disseminated a great summary of the need for and importance of adult education efforts: Adult Education, Jobs, and the Economy Fact Sheet. More information on this campaign can be found on NCL’s AEFL website.

EFFTIPS wholeheartedly supports this awareness effort! The Equipped for the Future project is grounded in a belief that ALL adults should have the “… knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.” [Goals 2000]  This belief is reflected throughout EFF’s work, and drove the development of the framework , which began with an analysis of adult’s critical work functions and key activities in the goal’s three primary roles: Worker, Parent and Family member, and Citizen and Community Member.*

Now while EFFTIPS is based in the US, we are proud to have subscribers from other nations – Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and others – and Wordpress tells us we have readers from all over the world.  Reflecting upon this US National campaign, we wondered about adult education and literacy awareness/support in other nations. So to our international readers we ask:

What are the issues in Adult Literacy and ESL education in your country (or area)?  How great is the need? Do you have national support and/or adequate funding?

What do you do to raise awareness and increase support in your country (or area)? Do you involve your learners, and if so how? 

These questions fit our US readership as well, so we look forward to a great international conversation!


*For more information on the EFF Role Maps, or the development of the EFF Framework, visit http://eff.clee.utk.edu  or contact us via eff@utk.edu.

In the News: Combating the Negative Effects of Math Anxiety


Duren Thompson
EFFTIPS Editor/Admin

Here’s something we found online that seems like an interesting idea for adult education practitioners:

Today I ran across this from Science Daily:
Math Anxiety Causes Trouble for Students as Early as First Grade

…which brings together two articles co-written by researcher Sian L. Beilock from the University of Chicago (see references below). Beilock and his co-authors have been involved in research focused on causes and solutions for math anxiety in very young learners.  Aware that many adult learners describe or exhibit math anxieties (based on my own experiences and those related by adult education practitioners), I thought this information might be applicable to what we do.

One result of the research examined in this article1 is a better understanding of the relationship between working memory and math anxiety – in even the youngest learners. In the Science Daily article, Beilock is quoted as saying:

“You can think of working memory as a kind of ‘mental scratchpad’ that allows us to ‘work’ with whatever information is temporarily flowing through consciousness.  It’s especially important when we have to do a math problem and juggle numbers in our head.”

Worries about math can disrupt working memory, which students could otherwise use to succeed.”

This research goes on to posit that those with stronger working memory are likely to be more affected by math anxiety  (an interesting implication for those with learning disabilities in math), but Beilock also strongly cautions that:

“Educators should not only consider math learning in terms of concepts, procedures, math curricula and instruction but also the emotions and anxieties children may bring to the learning situation.”

We’ve touched on the importance of addressing math fears previously in a post where Donna Curry recommended that algebra fear can be combated by, “Activities based on real-life examples, solved with concrete tools like [play] money or other manipulatives…”  More ideas can be found in another article cited by Science Daily,2 in which authors Beilock and Maloney state, “… regulation of the negativity associated with math situations may increase math success, even for those individuals who are chronically math anxious.”

Two techniques for helping learners to regulate or ‘reframe’ math anxiety suggested by the authors are:

Expressive writing: Have students write about their worries regarding math ahead of time. This is believed to help students to, “…download worries and minimize anxiety’s effects on working memory.” For students with low writing ability (or very young students), “…expressive picture drawing, rather than writing, may also help lessen the burden of math anxiety.”

Support an emotional shift: Anxiety is a ‘heightened’ or aroused emotional state. Teachers can help students to shift their thinking to a more advantageous heightened emotional state like anticipation. For example, “…when students view a math test as a challenge rather than a threat,” their performance increases as their emotions are heightened (vs anxiety which reduces performance as it grows stronger).

What do you think? Is this information useful to you?  Please share your thoughts about math anxiety!

What are your experiences with students with math anxiety? Do you have other ways you help learners to reduce their fears?

Have you used either of these approaches with Adult Learners?  I’m wondering if expressive writing could also tie into strengthening writing fluency or confidence?

Have you recently found something interesting ‘in the news’? If so – let us know at eff@utk.edu.

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References:

1 Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E.A., Levine, S.C. and Beilock, S.L. (2012 in press) Math anxiety, working memory and math achievement in early elementary school. Journal of Cognition and Development.  Retrieved on 9/13/12 from http://home.uchicago.edu/ramirezg/RamirezG_MathAnxietyManuscript_workingdraft.doc
(Note, I had trouble downloading this – right clicking on the link and choosing ‘save target as’ worked for me.)

2 Maloney, E. A., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). Math anxiety: who has it, why it develops, and how to guard against it. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(8), 404-406.  Retrieved on 9/13/12 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661312001465


Announcing: The Center for Literacy, Education and Employment


 The Center that hosts the EFF Project and EFFTIPS has a new name!

Please help us celebrate and spread the word!

The former Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee is now the Center for Literacy, Education and Employment (CLEE). This new name better reflects the breadth of the Center’s scope of work and interests as an organization, and more closely aligns with our recently revised mission:

…to support continuous  improvement in the fields of education and workforce development through  training, resources, advocacy and research.

Our Center also has a new web site – we invite you to take a look:  New CLEE website.

And this means our address has changed as well – efftips.clee.utk.edu.

The official announcement appears below – please feel free to pass it on!

Helping Writers Develop Their Own Ideas: Revising the Content of Writing


Peggy McGuire photo

Peggy McGuire
EFF Writing Content Expert

As mentioned in a previous post,  I presented ‘Writing the Book’ on Writing for Postsecondary Transition at COABE in April this past year. One thing that stood out for me was a lively conversation by the participants around the ‘revision’ component of the Convery Ideas in Writing  process.*

When you think of “revising” a draft piece of writing, what activity comes to mind?

When you ask students to “revise” their first draft of a written text, what are you actually asking them to do?

For many of us, revision of writing immediately brings to mind the act of “correcting” – correcting mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. – that might also be called proofreading. There is no doubt that it is important to learn how to correct mistakes like these in writings. Otherwise, errors could get in the way of a reader’s ability to understand what we are trying to say in our writing. Further, if our students can fix mistakes of these kinds, they are providing evidence that they know about, and can correctly use, common writing conventions.

There is, however, another meaning for revision. This meaning, while sometimes overlooked, is important for our students to be aware of and understand: revision of the actual content of their writing. If our goal is to Convey Ideas in Writing, then content revision is the strategy for making sure that we are conveying our intended ideas to our targeted audience via our written text. And of course, content revision is a process that we can teach our students to employ for all types of writing tasks at ANY functional level (not just for those transitioning into postsecondary settings).

Do you currently ask your students to engage in content revision of their writing drafts? If so, what activities or strategies do you use to support them in the content revision process?

Here are a couple of ideas for helping your students learn how to revise the content of their writing:

Idea #1: Compare Your Draft to Planned Ideas

So much of successful, effective writing comes back to what we do (or don’t do!) during the planning stages – affecting all other components of the writing process, even content revision.  Once your students have produced a first draft, encourage them to compare it to the information and ideas they generated during their planning, and then to decide if they have said everything that they planned to say about the topic. To come up with ideas for ‘what to write about,’ did the student:

  • Brainstorm a list of terms/key points on the topic?
  • Make a mind map?
  • Freewrite on the topic?
  • Develop an outline?
  • Keep a writing journal?
  • Highlight important information in a text they were reading?

Whatever kind of planning was done to generate and organize ideas to use in writing, at the content revision stage, encourage your students to:

  1. Look at the results of their planning,
  2. Reread their drafts,
  3. Reflect, and decide:
    • Did I incorporate all the ideas I wanted to into my draft?
    • Did I miss anything important?
    • Did I include anything that doesn’t really seem to belong there now?
    • Did I come up with new ideas that I hadn’t thought about when I was planning?
    • And in the end, is my point clear and am I saying what I want to say about my topic?

 Idea #2: Seek Feedback on Your Writing

Revising writing content becomes much easier when a writer can get direct and constructive feedback from an external audience. This can give writers an immediate sense of whether or not they are in fact conveying the ideas they want to convey. So – encourage your students to find an audience!

Your student-authors can ask someone they trust to read what they have written (or listen to them read it aloud – remember, the focus is on content, not writing mechanics at this point). Authors can then prompt the readers/listeners to:

  • Tell the authors what they ‘heard’ in the piece of writing – basically “reflecting the piece back” to the writers.
  • Ask questions and/or clear up any confusion about specific points, asking the authors what they meant to convey.
  • Describe to the author specifically what they liked about the piece. This gives authors information about what’s working well in their writing.
  • Describe the words or images that stood out for them as they read/listened to the piece of writing.
  • (If needed) Ask the authors, “What’s hard/easy about writing this piece?” This gives the writers a chance to talk about what’s blocking them, and to find their own ways ‘through’ the block.

As you may have noticed, this idea can also assist students to be effective peer reviewers/editors as well!

The above activites are designed to provide feedback focused on helping writers develop their own ideas. Note, however, that your student-authors may need a bit of practice before they feel comfortable performing these tasks. It may be a good idea to model these strategies with your students, and provide supported practice opportunities before asking them to use them on their own. They will find, however, that the payoff can be considerable. Such strategies for content revision empower students to really think about the substance of their writing and to revise their drafts (as needed) to meet their own communication goals.

What is your experience with teaching content revision to adult literacy (or ESL) learners? Please post a comment to share your ideas, thoughts, and insights. Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

  • Have you ever taught your students strategies like these? How did it go?
  • Have you used other effective strategies for helping your students revise the content of their writing? If so, please share!

We look forward to hearing from you!

*Note that effective revision of writing is also a  Writing Anchor Standard of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and as such appears at every grade level of these Standards.


For more ideas, take a look at how these two writing lesson examples from the EFF Teaching Learning Toolkit  address content revision:
Heritage Books: Family Literacy    Preparing for Release: Corrections


Post Contributor:

Peggy McGuire, EFF Trainer & Content Expert, Center for Literacy Studies

In the News: Engaging Beginning Writers


Here’s something we found online that seems like a good resource for adult education practitioners:

Aaron Kohring
Manager, EFF Project

I recently read an Education Week Teacher article, Motivating Reluctant Writers With Journals. The author, Laurie Wasserman, offers suggestions for supporting “…students who are hesitant to share their thoughts in writing.”

Although drawn from her experiences with K-12 students, I saw in her article many applications for our adult education learners. She recommends  journaling — which I have used many times with my hesitant adult education writers, as well as the use of peers/teachers as scribes for individuals with more severe writing barriers (including learning disabilities) to help get them started in the writing process. She makes several other suggestions including ‘relatable topics’ – relating writing to the real-world (or contextualized instruction).

This article also reminded me of how useful the Language Experience Approach (LEA) can be in supporting hesitant writers, as well as in providing both reading and writing practice.  All of which then (of course), leads me to wonder about your own experiences in motivating hesitant writers:

What are your experiences with journal writing? Do you have other ways in which you engage learners to start writing?

Have you used the Language Experience Approach with Adult Learners?  What tips might you share with peers about this strategy?

 


Have you recently found something interesting ‘in the news’? If so – let us know at eff@utk.edu.