Interim Evaluation Report #2: The Prospects for Disseminating Research to a Hungry Field

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During the summer and fall of 1999, we interviewed 60 adult basic education and literacy (ABE&L) decision-makers and practitioners from ten different states about their work and information needs. What they described was a field starved for professional development and little opportunity to sate its appetite. The reasons for this unfortunate circumstance were both extenuating and common. That is, each individual could detail situations and/or events that forced his or her particular program to keep workshops, conferences, and informal sharing from the professional table, but the specifics always boiled down to resources. There was too little money to free up enough non-“hide-taking” time to enable ABE&L educators to sample the occasionally available professional development activities.

In the following pages, we portray the ABE&L field as akin to subsistence farming, with decision makers and practitioners having barely enough support to serve their day-to-day clients and little else to nurture long-term, sustainable professional growth. Our goal in doing so, however, is not to overwhelm the reader with a bleak and gloomy prospect for disseminating research but rather to highlight (1) the points at which research already connects with practitioners and (2) the settings in which practitioners eagerly recount the acquisition of contextually relevant and immediately applicable information. These constructive occurrences could serve as potentially promising signposts for initiating and implementing effective dissemination and outreach.

The report is organized into four sections. The first two are short, with one reviewing the purpose of the evaluation activities – of which this round of field interviews is a part – and the other giving an overview of the means by which we selected interview participants and analyzed their comments. The third section contains our findings about the occupational contexts of ABE&L educators and the role that professional development plays in them. This discussion highlights key research “connect points” to the field and effective information-sharing settings. The final section ventures several recommendations for NCSALL to consider as it continues to wrestle with how to interact meaningfully with ABE&L educators.

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