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How Are We Doing? An Inquiry Guide for Adult Education Programs

What difference are we making?

How do we know?

How can we show it?

These questions about program performance are asked by adult literacy and ESOL teachers, program administrators, and funders. This guide is designed to be used by local adult education programs to facilitate a systematic inquiry process answering these kinds of questions. In this process, program staff take part in activities that involve them in identifying and clarifying program goals, examining current documentation processes, addressing the challenges of performance accountability and outcomes documentation at the program level. They produce a number of documents that their program can use (a) to make a decision about implementing ongoing improvement work and (b) to conduct this ongoing work.

This inquiry guide was developed as part of a larger project of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) that examined outcomes of adult literacy programs. The project included research on how adult learners identify these outcomes (Bingman and Ebert, 2000; Bingman, Ebert, and Smith, 1999), policy papers addressing performance accountability (Merrifield, 1998) and previous outcomes studies (Beder, 1999) and an action research project in which teams from three adult education programs in Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky examined their programs’ outcomes documentation processes and developed new processes designed to meet specific program needs (Bingman, 2001).

Practitioners from three Tennessee programs field tested the inquiry process described in this guide and the guide was revised based on their suggestions. All the programs that took part in the field test made plans to continue program improvement work.

The program staff that participate in this inquiry process will have a clearer understanding of:

When a program undertakes this inquiry process, one program staff member takes the responsibility of using the guide to facilitate a team of co-workers in six hour-and-a-half sessions. The activities in the sessions include:

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL