ERIC Identifier: ED353862
Publication Date: 1992-09-00
Author: Kutner, Mark
Source: National Clearinghouse on
Literacy Education Washington DC., Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse on Literacy
Education for Limited-English-Proficient Adults Washington DC.
Staff Development for ABE and ESL Teachers and Volunteers. ERIC
Preparation of instructors is considered to be one of the greatest needs in
adult basic education (ABE) and English as a second language (ESL) programs
(Foster, 1988; Kazemek, 1988). Many ABE and ESL teachers and volunteer
instructors receive little or no training, either in subject matter content or
in the process of teaching English to adults. The challenge for the adult
education field is to design an effective system of staff development within the
constraints of the ABE and ESL delivery system. These constraints include
limited financial resources for programs, the part-time nature of instruction
for adults, high instructor turnover, few state training requirements for ABE
and ESL instructors, and lack of a unified adult education research base
(Tibbetts, Kutner, Hemphill, & Jones, 1991). This digest summarizes research
on the formats of staff development for ABE and ESL teachers and volunteer
instructors and identifies key elements of effective staff development programs.
STAFF DEVELOPMENT FORMATS
Because of the lack of state
certification requirements and the lack of training opportunities in
institutions of higher education, most adult education staff development takes
place through voluntary inservice offerings (e.g., workshops, conferences,
seminars) rather than in preservice training (Tibbetts et al., 1991). The
following types of inservice staff development formats have emerged:
"Single workshops"--usually one session focused on a specific topic without
follow-up; "Conferences"--a day or two of workshops and plenary sessions on
various topics; "Workshop series"--a sequenced group of training sessions, each
session drawing upon prior training; "Summer institutes"--generally full-day
training over a period of time during the summer followed up by one or more
workshops during the year; "University coursework"--a weekly or monthly class;
"Peer coaching"--teachers teaching teachers; "Action research"--teachers as
researchers identify questions that interest them and conduct systematic inquiry
in their own teaching environments as they work with their students; and
"Self-directed learning"--the adult education teacher or volunteer instructor
determines the areas in which he or she would like to receive training and how
to go about getting that training. Self-directed learning can include
teacher-sharing groups, study circles, and minigrants to instructors to do their
own reading or research.
KEY ELEMENTS OF EFFECTIVE STAFF DEVELOPMENT
Given the lack
of empirical data with which to document effective staff development practices,
in 1991 the U.S. Department of Education funded the "Study of ABE/ESL Instructor
Training Approaches." The study identified a number of key elements of effective
staff development through a review of the research literature and site visits to
nine staff development programs. The programs selected for the study were
nominated by leaders in the field and represented ABE and ESL training programs,
training for both new and experienced teachers and volunteer instructors, and
locally and state-focused services. The key elements of effective staff
development identified in the study were organized into three broad categories:
developing ownership in training, designing instruction, and addressing the
concerns of teachers and volunteer instructors (Kutner et al., 1992; Sherman et
DEVELOPING OWNERSHIP IN TRAINING
There are several ways in
which program administrators can create an environment for learning that enables
adult education teachers and volunteer instructors to feel they are key players
in their own professional development.
*Conducting needs assessments. An essential component of effective staff
development programs is a needs assessment that includes state and local
directors, instructors, and learners. Assessment of staff development needs
should rely heavily, although not exclusively, on the perceptions of teachers
and volunteer instructors (Orlich, 1989).
*Involving teachers and volunteer instructors in planning. Teachers and
volunteer instructors benefit most from training activities that they have major
responsibility for planning, implementing, and evaluating (Loucks-Horsley et
*Creating a professional environment. Teachers need to be "rewarded" (with
money, release time, advancement) for engaging in staff development,
"recognized" for their achievements, and "respected" as professionals. They also
need time and support to pursue new learning and to experiment in their
classrooms (Jones & Lowe, 1982; Lieberman, 1988).
*Actively involving teachers in their own learning. Self-directed learning,
peer coaching, and teacher research actively involve teachers and volunteer
instructors in their own training (Loucks-Horsley et al., 1987).
Effective staff development related
to designing instruction includes the following:
*Incorporation of theory and research into teaching. Effective staff
development programs need to include theoretical background and, where possible,
applied research findings regarding the new practices being fostered.
Instructors need to know why an instructional change is being sought and what
research evidence supports that change (Joyce & Showers, 1984; Tibbetts et
*Demonstration of practice. Demonstration or modeling of desired practices
helps to reinforce the concepts being taught and to make concrete the
application of theory to practice. Such demonstrations can be displayed through
video, modeling by trainers, and peer coaching (Kutner et al., 1992).
*Practice and feedback. Teaching strategies must be modeled and practiced
many times before they are internalized. When learning new instructional
techniques or procedures, participants should first be allowed to practice them
in a safe environment in simulations and role plays, with opportunities for
positive and constructive feedback.
*Application. Practice in a simulated situation should be followed by
supported application in a real one. Such practice is best provided by peer
coaches who are themselves learning the new practice. Mentors or other support
personnel are also effective, especially if they are not in a position to
evaluate the instructor (Jones & Lowe, 1990).
*Follow-up. Staff development programs should be spaced over time to afford
teachers opportunities to adapt and modify practices to fit their teaching
environments. One approach involves sequential training sessions, allowing
instructors to try methods and materials between workshops and compare results.
*Evaluation. Although it is important to determine what participants liked or
did not like about a particular staff development approach, effective evaluation
of training should be concerned more directly with changes that take place in
instructional practices (Leahy, 1986).
ADDRESSING CONCERNS OF TEACHERS AND VOLUNTEERS
training that is easily accessible and sensitive to the needs of teachers and
volunteers is essential. This can be accomplished by providing decentralized
training and by using experienced and qualified staff to provide training. A
decentralized training approach promotes local camaraderie by providing adult
educators the opportunity to receive training with others who are in close
proximity and with whom they can share ideas and materials (Leahy, 1986). It is
important to use experienced and dedicated administrators and staff to provide
training. Often, practitioners are used effectively as trainers because of their
first-hand experience, sensitivity to instructors' needs, accessibility to
trainees, and expertise in specific content areas (Kutner et al., 1992; Sherman
et al., 1991).
The constraints of the adult education delivery
system make teacher and volunteer instructor training a challenging task.
Although a number of training formats have been used, not all are successful.
Teachers may evaluate some formats positively, but lack the feedback,
reinforcement, and support they need to apply what they have learned in their
classrooms. The most successful teacher and volunteer training programs involve
extensive, ongoing training that has a solid theoretical basis and that teachers
help to plan, implement, and evaluate.
Foster, S.E. (1988). "Professionalization of the
adult literacy workforce." Washington, DC: Project on Adult Literacy. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED 302 680)
Jones, E.V., & Lowe, J.H. (1982). Teacher evaluation and staff
development in adult basic education (ABE). In "Linking philosophy and
practice." (pp. 59-70). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Jones, E.V., & Lowe, J.H. (1990). Changing teacher behavior: Effective
staff development. "Adult Learning," 1(7) 1-5.
Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1984). "Power and staff development through
research on training." Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Kazemek, F.E. (1988). Necessary changes: Professional involvement in adult
literacy programs. "Harvard Educational Review," 58, 464-484.
Kutner, M., Sherman, R., Webb, L., Herman, R., Tibbetts, J., Hemphill, J.,
Terdy, D., & Jones, E. (1992). "Study of ABE/ESL instructor training
approaches: Phase I technical report." Washington, DC: Pelavin Associates.
Leahy, M.A. (1986). "Recommendations for expanding and enhancing adult
education staff development in Pennsylvania." Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania
Department of Education, Division of Adult Education.
Lieberman, A. (1988). "Building a professional culture in schools." New York:
Teachers College Press.
Loucks-Horsley, S., Harding, C., Arbuckle, M., Murray, L., Dubea, C., &
Williams, M. (1987). "Continuing to learn: A guidebook for teacher development."
Andover, MA and Oxford, OH: The Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement
of the Northeast and Islands and the National Staff Development Council.
Orlich, D.C. (1989). "Staff development: Enhancing human potential." Boston:
Allyn and Bacon.
Sherman, R., Kutner, M., Webb, L., & Herman, R. (1991). "Key elements of
adult education teacher and volunteer training programs." Washington, DC:
Tibbetts, J., Kutner, M., Hemphill, D., & Jones, E. (1991). "The delivery
and content of training for adult education teachers and volunteer instructors."
Washington, DC: Pelavin Associates.