printable version of page Printer-friendly page

Focus On Basics

Volume 4, Issue A ::: March 2000

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Readers,

It's a thrill when findings from different research studies build on each other. As we assembled this issue of Focus on Basics, we realized that the two NCSALL studies reported in this issue are intrinsically linked.

John Comings, Lisa Soricone, and Andrea Parrella have been interviewing adult learners to understand what makes some people persist in their studies while others drop out. Their preliminary findings, which are presented in our cover article suggest that there are four types of support programs can give to learners to help them persist.

John Tyler's research on the economic impact of cognitive skills suggests that the answers to questions about even more important than we knew. Tyler's findings, which he presents on page 15, indicate that skills do matter, not just for college graduates but for holders of the certificate of General Educational Development (GED) as well. Higher skills translate into higher earnings over time. This means that just passing the GED isn't good enough: learners must improve their scores by improving their skills. They must persist.

As part of its efforts to test the practical implications of research findings, NCSALL encourages teachers to implement changes based on NCSALL research findings and conduct practitioner research to better understand the impact of those changes. Despite considerable effort, Pam Meader, a math teacher from Maine, was plagued by high drop out rates. Intrigued by Comings' finding that setting-and reaching-goals helps learners persist, she introduced goal setting to her math class. Turn to page 7 to read about what she discovered.

Marti Giese, of Virginia, was also trying to get learners in her program to persist in their studies. She and a colleague developed an orientation program that helped potential learners work together to research their educational options, and data indicate that the learners made more appropriate choices for themselves as a result. She writes about her experiences in the article that begins on page 11.

English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher Ann Hilferty has been examining the relationship between speaking and reading in teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) learners. Her reading of the research indicates that there is reciprocity between the two. I interviewed her to learn more. This interview can be found on page 17.

Interested in helping learners understand the forces that help them in and hinder them from persisting in their studies? Turn to "Focus on Teaching" on page 19 where Andrea Parrella provides us with the steps needed to do a force-analysis suitable for the beginning of a school term. If you try this in your program, please let us know how it goes, either via the Focus on Basics electronic discussion list or by e-mail, at We look forward to hearing from you!


Barbara Garner


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