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Focus On Basics

Volume 2, Issue D ::: December 1998

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Reader,

We're very excited to announce that we've launched a Focus on Basics electronic discussion list. The list will be a virtual study circle: a place where we can debate, discuss, and critique the ideas found in Focus on Basics. Article authors have agreed to sign on and respond to questions about their work, and to engage in the general discussion. I will be moderating. The discussion list is very much a work in progress: your input will help shape it. See listserv information.

Many adult literacy programs seek to support students in the development of not just academic skills, but other skills as well. Project-based learning is one instructional approach that seems to provide students with opportunities to hone both academics and the wide variety of other skills they may need. What is project-based learning? What are the theoretical underpinnings of this approach? What benefits does it offer and drawbacks does it present? Heide Spruck Wrigley provides us with an overview, starting on page . To get a real sense of what it takes to facilitate project-based learning, turn to the candid articles by teachers Susan Gaer and Deborah L. Johnson, pages and . Their experiences may provide you with the inspiration and strategies you need to experiment with this approach. What do we know about the effectiveness the outcomes and impact of the adult literacy system in the U.S. today? NCSALL researcher Hal Beder examined most of the adult basic education outcome and impact studies done in the United States over the past 35 years, trying to answer this question. Given the length of his research paper more than 130 pages and 11 sets of conclusions and the brevity of this publication, we asked Hal to focus on one aspect of his study and walk us through the process he used so we can understand how he came to his conclusions. He chose an issue of great interest to practitioners, the contradiction between test scores and learners self-reports of learning gain. On average, do learners gain in academic skills? The research evidence is inconclusive. Are outcome and impact studies being carried out in a manner that leads to useful results? Not really. Beder provides us with evidence of why this is so, and suggestions on how to improve research in the future.

For help in making sense of the statistics Beder includes in his article, refer to "Understanding Quantitative Research about Adult Literacy" by Thomas Valentine, in the first volume of Focus on Basics. Click here to see article. Back issues can be purchased for $2 a copy by contacting:

Kim French
World Education
44 Farnsworth Street
Boston, MA 02210

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