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Focus On Basics

Volume 6, Issue A ::: October 2002


Perhaps it's just that my Web search skills are poor. In preparing for this issue, I looked and looked for content on the subject of counseling for adult basic education (ABE). I managed to find articles on career and vocational counseling, growing (yet still markedly slim) resources on dealing with domestic violence and trauma, and a newly developing set of resources about how to help ABE learners make the transition to and remain in college. But the day-to-day counseling that is so important to supporting learners' persistence in ABE programs? To my surprise, there was almost nothing. The National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) does not sponsor an electronic discussion list, nor does it house a special collection on the topic. I could not find much on this entire subject anywhere.

I surmise, therefore, that this Focus on Basics, slim as it may be, may be more useful than any of us imagined when we chose the subject for this issue. We start off with findings from NCSALL's Persistence Research that highlight the role of what authors John Comings and Sondra Cuban call "sponsors": those individuals who help learners get into and stay in programs. The authors encourage programs to look into how learners are being sponsored and consider ways to maximize this crucial resource.

A team of writers - Nikki Merritt, Miriam Spencer, and Lori Withers - from an Independence, Missouri, literacy program, share the process their program went through to document the counseling-related needs of their students. These stark data mobilized the program into hiring a trained social worker. The initial results are positive.

Massachusetts' Cathy Coleman took to the phones to find out what kind of training and support programs and states are providing for staff responsible for counseling students. She found out a lot about the challenges that counselors face, and the innovative practices used to address these challenges.

Stress interferes with learning, so teacher Marjorie Jacobs, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, decided to incorporate stress reduction activities into her classes. She writes about the science of brain waves and how she uses this information. Try some of the exercises she describes in your classes and let us know your results by participating in the Focus on Basics electronic discussion list (click here for information on how to subscribe).

Counselors are often responsible for recruiting and enrolling learners. Debby D'Amico, Diane Lentz, Robert L. Smith, and Marcia L. Taylor, of a workplace learning program
in East Chicago, Indiana, decided to use action research techniques to see if they could understand why eligible learners were not enrolling in their programs. They learned that recruitment materials need to be not just informative but also encouraging. Click here for more about their techniques and results.

Students in classes of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) often have immigration problems layered on top of concerns caused by stress, poverty, and poor health. To find out how ESOL programs handled counseling, I talked with Nazneen Rahman, Education Director at the International Institute of Providence, Rhode Island, and Myrna Atkins, CEO and President of the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning in Denver, Colorado. Both programs use a teacher as counselor model, and recommend building strong relationships with complementary departments and agencies to ensure that referrals go smoothly. Click here for this article.

This issue's "Blackboard" contains a long list of counseling-related articles that have been published in earlier issues of Focus on Basics. I'm also very sure that I've missed other resources. If you know of them, please e-mail the information to your colleagues via the Focus on Basics electronic discussion list. Thanks!


Barbara Garner


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