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Focus On Basics

Volume 1, Issue B ::: May 1997

Building a Research Agenda

con-sen-sus: an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole or by majority will, a general agreement or accord.

-- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition

Dear Readers,

NCSALL based its initial research agenda on a survey of 450 practitioners, administrators, policy makers, and scholars from around the country. Though that survey was a useful exercise, it was only a beginning. NCSALL is continuing this process. We hope to reach a consensus as to what the most important research and development questions are and how they should be answered. The National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) is a partner in this effort.

This consensus-building process will require broad participation from the field of adult learning and literacy. It will result in the publication of a comprehensive national research agenda for adult learning and literacy and several special agendas on topics that may include English for Speakers of Other Languages, staff development, and technology. This agenda will inform the work of NCSALL and other research institutions as well.

NCSALL and NIFL are also working on a broader consensus-building effort incollaboration with U.S. Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) through its Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). Together, these three institutions will provide an opportunity for the field of adult learning and literacy to describe where it is now, where it wants to go, and how it wants to get there. The research agenda will be part of the plan to realize this vision.

We believe that on many of the most important issues, a consensus already exists, and this process will help to articulate that vision. On those issues where a consensus has not yet been reached, the different opinions will be described so that a national debate might either lead to a consensus or to a majority opinion. The final product will be a document that describes a vision for the future and a course of action to achieve that vision.

Over the rest of 1997, these three institutions will hold meetings, convene focus groups, and seek input via the Internet and in writing from adult learners, practitioners, administrators, policy makers, and scholars. This input will be summarized in a written form that will be discussed in many different venues, including the AAACE meeting in Cincinnati in November. As the consensus becomes clear, it will be described in a document for discussion at a national adult literacy summit in the late spring or early summer of 1998.

The easiest way to keep informed of this process is to make periodic visits to our web page, but we will also make announcements on the various adult learning- and literacy-related listservs. If none of these are available to you, please request information by mail.


John Comings, Director
NCSALL, Nichols House
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Cambridge, MA 02138-3572

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