ERIC Identifier: ED355454
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Freer, Kevin J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Adult Literacy Volunteers. ERIC Digest.
The role of literacy volunteers has taken on new dimensions and importance
due to recent policy changes on the national level and changing views of program
management and instruction by literacy providers. The National Literacy Act of
1991 provides volunteer literacy programs access to public funds previously not
available to community-based organizations. In addition, the fifth educational
goal stating that by the year 2000 every adult American will be literate has
resulted in a resurgence of interest in adult literacy that is affecting
volunteer programs. This ERIC DIGEST provides an overview of recent changes
being made by adult literacy volunteer programs. These changes are reflected in
new roles for learners, revisions of tutor training materials, concern for
quality in volunteer management, and increased participation by campus
organizations. Issues related to these changes and recent legislation that
affects literacy volunteerism are highlighted.
COLLABORATIVE ROLES FOR LEARNERS
As literacy volunteer
groups develop learner-centered approaches, the roles of adult new readers have
taken on new forms. This includes management of programs and staff positions,
goal setting with tutors, board representation, literacy advocacy, and
instructional leadership (Fingeret and Jurmo 1989). Adult literacy students have
formed a national organization, Gather, that is run entirely by learners
themselves. Laubach Literacy Action (LLA) has played a major role by sponsoring
the first Adult Literacy Congress and by working with Literacy Volunteers of
America, Inc. (LVA) and others to develop opportunities for student leadership.
In 1993 LLA has increased its scope of commitment to the Congress by assigning a
full-time staff person as coordinator. LVA's STUDENT INVOLVEMENT GUIDELINES
(1989) is an example of increased focus on learner-centered programs.
The literacy initiative of the National Issues Forum is another example of
how learners are participating in discussions of issues of national importance.
Staff positions, training, book discussion clubs, student support groups, board
membership, and attendance at local and national conferences are examples of the
active roles learners are taking with volunteer programs. Gaining a voice
through their writing is in keeping with a learner-centered, whole language
philosophy. "New Readers Speaking Out," a nationally distributed, quarterly
newsletter begun in 1986 by LLA, is written for and by new readers. New Readers
Press has a two-volume text of new reader writing, FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Local
literacy programs are involving learners in similar ways.
NEW APPROACHES TO TUTOR TRAINING
Another development has
been in the area of new tutor training approaches that reflect current thinking
in adult literacy education. In keeping with its learner-centered philosophy and
whole language approach to literacy, LVA led the field with its small
group/collaborative approach to tutoring (Cheatham and Lawson 1990). After a
national field test of this model, guides and handbooks are being revised. Other
special focus areas have received attention by LVA in their new training for
family literacy, corrections, and for disabled workers. Their English as a
second language (ESL) materials will be revised in 1994. The READING EVALUATION
ADULT DIAGNOSIS (READ) test (1986) is being rewritten and placed within an
integrated assessment approach that will include development of portfolios for
LLA is producing a new set of basic literacy tutor training materials that
are not dependent on any one curriculum but offer training modules on a variety
of general reading and writing issues as well as modules from the New Readers
Press reading curriculum, LAUBACH WAY TO READING (LWR) (Laubach, Kirk, and
Laubach 1991) and CHALLENGER ADULT READING SERIES (Murphy 1985). The primary
instructional approach in LLA's new basic literacy tutor training will be a
local option, not necessarily the LWR. LLA is developing new ESL tutor training
materials scheduled for release in 1994. The LLA CERTIFICATION MANUAL (1992) can
be used by program managers or trainers to review existing training and/or
design new training.
QUALITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Demands for increased attention
to both quality and accountability are being made on volunteer literacy
programs. The two national literacy volunteer programs have responded to these
demands with additional training and materials for local programs. New Readers
Press, the publishing arm of LLA, has produced a new Program Management
Information Series that addresses administrative and management issues. LLA also
has plans for training and technical assistance and support in the design of
tutor training based on the assessment of learner needs. A three-part video
management training series has been produced jointly by LVA and LLA (Trabert,
Lawson and Church 1988). LVA has field tested a volunteer management system for
the last 3 years (DuPrey 1992). This 50/50 management theory recognizes the need
to devote an equal amount of time and resources to both intake and support
functions of a volunteer literacy program. LVA is instituting a quality
improvement program throughout their network with this training.
The Student Literacy Corps Program begun
in 1989 has dramatically influenced campus involvement in literacy. Funded by
the Higher Education Act, this program grew out of recent interest in promoting
community service, experiential learning, and volunteerism among college
students. Students were already active in this area and were organizing through
the Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education (SCALE). SCALE, a
national network of college and university students, administrators, faculty,
and community agencies who are committed to increased literacy in the United
States, encourages and supports students in program development, awareness, and
advocacy. SCALE is aware of the politics of college literacy programs and has
developed resources for campus programs dealing with mapping out who is involved
in literacy, meeting resistance to campus programs, and building collaborative
partnerships between the campus and the community (Swartz 1992).
Resources have been developed to encourage participatory programs by diverse
stakeholders and to institutionalize Student Literacy Corps programs through
student leadership (Meacham 1990; Strubel 1991; Thorp, Shearer, and Allen 1992).
Their publications and training involve new readers in program management and
decision making and seek to develop college student leadership in literacy
volunteer programs. Literacy Impact (Presler 1992), a national campaign to
promote college student involvement in literacy, will begin nationwide in 1993.
ADULT LITERACY VOLUNTEER ISSUES
Recent developments in
literacy legislation as well as thinking in whole language, learner-centered,
and participatory approaches to adult literacy have raised further issues facing
AND ACCESS. With passage of the National Literacy Act of 1991, methods for
effectively integrating volunteer programs into a state's comprehensive system
for adult education need to be developed. This includes the ability to obtain
funding, involvement in the development of state indicators of program quality,
planning for the State Literacy Resource Centers, participation in development
of and recent amendments to state plans mandated by the Adult Education Act, and
service on State Advisory Councils.
LEARNING. The number of learners being referred to volunteer programs from
judicial systems and state assistance programs is increasing, often without
increased resources. Although programs wish to collaborate fully with the courts
and social service agencies, they often must do so without clear working
agreements. Volunteers are being asked to document attendance and learner
progress. Mandatory involvement puts a new face on volunteerism and volunteer
Program evaluation and learner assessment will increasingly be issues for
literacy volunteer programs, due to increased visibility, acceptance of public
and private funds with demands for measurable outcomes, mandated learner
participation due to welfare reform, and changing roles of learners in
participatory programs. Debate over quantitative versus qualitative assessment
procedures will continue as portfolio assessment research and practice gain
wider acceptance for youth in the K-12 curriculum. Participatory programs will
also demand different roles for program participants in these processes.
AND COALITIONS. Literacy volunteer programs will be expected to form
partnerships and coalitions among themselves and with other providers due to
several recent developments related to public policy and funding changes,
including funding for training and materials that can be shared by the national
literacy organizations. A recent National Volunteer Literacy Campaign Training
Project sponsored by the Coors Literacy Foundation to increase the training
capacity of LVA and LLA is such an example. State adult education plans and
subsequent funding may require adult basic and literacy education programs to
develop or form partnerships with community-based literacy volunteer programs.
Recent experiences with campus literacy groups reveal that roles and
responsibilities of each of these partners or members of broader coalitions have
yet to be worked out clearly in theory and practice.
TO CHANGE. Local programs and volunteers often reflect the traditions of their
respective national organizations. Although many program managers, board
members, trainers, tutors, and learners are anticipating new methods and
materials, some may need time to adjust to the changes underway in their
organizations. Volunteer trainers may need additional time and assistance with
these new teaching strategies. Students themselves have become dependent on
their tutors and may have to learn to participate in more collaborative small
group settings as well. It takes time to train volunteers to help them reach new
comfort levels within their own organizations. Despite a strong movement toward
professionalization, many volunteers have not received professional training and
Participatory models of literacy education will include participatory/action
research models in the volunteer organizations. These methodologies may conflict
with the values and understanding of program funders and the stakeholders
themselves. Research agendas for programs with adult literacy volunteers need to
be developed apart from those not using volunteers. This research will have to
find ways to work with diverse populations to meet community needs.
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