“I’ve Come A Long Way:” Learner-Identified Outcomes of Participation in Adult Literacy Programs

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The Learner Identified Outcomes study brings learners’ perspectives to the ongoing research conversation on outcomes of participation in adult literacy education. The study used a life history methodology to build an understanding of these outcomes on the lives of adult learners. The ten participants were selected from participants of the earlier Tennessee Longitudinal Study of Adult Literacy Participants. This small sample was constructed to be as representative demographically of the Tennessee ABE population as possible.

The outcomes of participation in literacy classes described by the adults in this study went far beyond new skills or educational gains. This research implies that policy makers should take into account all the reasons people want adult basic education as they develop systems of performance accountability. Many of the approaches now being developed do not measure the primary outcomes reported by the participants in this study: new literacy practices and more positive sense of self. To assess these outcomes may require developing performance-based measures that allow for the interaction of skill, task, and context that seem to define outcomes in real life. A study conducted with a national sample in greater depth than previous research may be needed to understand the outcomes of adult literacy programs.


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