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Continuous Improvement Scenarios—Research Findings

 

Participatory Learning

Health and Literacy

Inquiry-based Professional Development

 

 

Participatory Learning

 

1.  ACCESS RESEARCH FINDINGS

 

In 1982, the State Director received a call from one of the local practitioners who had just returned from CoABE where she heard a presentation by Hanna Fingeret on participatory learning.  The research documented the positive effects of engaging each ABE learner in planning and evaluating his or her own learning.

 

2.   UNDERSTAND

 

The State Director received and reviewed a copy of the research and called Hannah to discuss it.  Subsequently, he set up a workgroup of twelve practitioners (part-time teachers, full-time teachers, rural and urban, program managers, and resource center staff) to meet with a consultant/researcher familiar with the research.  Their charge was to help understand the research, identify the implications, and, if appropriate, plan and recommend further action.

 

Prior to the first workgroup meeting, each practitioner studied the research.  The workgroup’s first discussion confirmed that the research was well done and the data supported the findings.  The findings also “made sense”—if learners were more engaged in periodically evaluating and revising their plan, there seem to be several benefits:  1) the learning stood a better chance of meeting their needs; 2) the learner would learn that if a learning strategy was not working, there were other strategies, and 3) the teachers would be modeling good learning and moving toward our goal of helping learners become independent learners.

 

Implementation of such an initiative would require developing and pilot testing tools the teacher could use to engage each learner in planning and evaluating his or her own learning.

 

 

3.  JUDGE

 

Because many teachers currently try to individualize and customize instruction for each learner, the workgroup felt that teachers would be receptive to receiving tools to help them be more effective. 

 

Teachers try to develop individual plans during class time and they have created a variety of strategies to do so.  The consultant/researcher indicated that policies may have to be changed to give the teacher unencumbered time to meet with each learner to plan and evaluate.

 

The workgroup reported to the state director that the research held promise for improving the responsiveness of instruction and recommended proceeding with pilots to work out the details.  The state director reviewed the recommendations and earmarked funds for the pilot stage.

 

SET THE VISION

As a result of this initiative, the state director and the workgroup envisioned every teacher meeting independently with each ABE learner to review and interpret initial assessments, clarify and specify learning goals, develop a plan of work, and schedule a review of the plan in ten weeks (or an interval determined by the local program).  They envisioned that review involving the learner evaluating his/her progress, the learning materials and strategies used, and the goal.  A new ten week plan would be developed to discard materials and strategies that were not productive, incorporate alternative materials and strategies, restate or revise the goal, and schedule the next ten week appointment.

 

4.  ASSESS IMPACT

 

In preparation for pilot testing, the workgroup recommended that new policies and financial support would need to be developed to pay teachers to meet individually with each learner to plan and evaluate learning.

 

In addition, because teachers come from a variety of backgrounds with limited training in adult education, the workgroup recommended that through the pilots 1) the state needs to adopt a set of principles regarding teacher/learner interaction that states specifically “we believe that learners should be involved in planning and evaluating their own learning,” and 2) the state needs to develop guidelines for preparing students for planning, meeting with students to plan, preparing students for evaluation, and meeting with students to evaluate, and 3) the state needs to identify resources to pay teachers for meeting with students, and 4) the state needs to establish a means through the program application process to ensure that each teacher engages in the planning and evaluation process.

 

State:  The state staff 1) developed the policies and resources to pay teachers for conducting the “STEPS” (Student Teacher Evaluation and Planning System) sessions, 2) earmarked resources to train all program managers and teachers, and 3) developed a component for the next round of local plans (2 years later) that would certify that each teacher conducted a “STEPS” session with each learner.

 

5. COST AND BUDGETING

 

The state staff earmarked funds to run the six month pilots.  Subsequent year professional development funds were targeted for three wave implementation over two fiscal years.

 

6. BENCHMARKS

 

Three month benchmarks were established for the pilots and six month benchmarks were established for the remained of the initiative.

 

7. PILOTS

 

The pilots developed a document that established the basic principles entitled “We Believe.”  They also developed STEPS which identified procedures, working papers, and resources for engaging the learning in developing an individualized learning plan, scheduling the periodic evaluation session, preparing the learner for that evaluation, and conducting the evaluation and revising the learning plan and setting the next evaluation date.

 

The pilots also operationalized a process whereby teachers were paid for thirty minutes before each class to meet with students individually to complete an evaluation or planning session.

 

The pilots also developed the program manger training and teacher training components to prepare all practitioners to use “We Believe” and “STEPS.”  To create a cadre of trainers, the pilot staff trained the state staff, the resource center staff members, as well as a number of teachers who were already engaging learners in a similar process. 

 

The pilots established the evaluation criteria to judge the success of the wave implementation.

 

8. LINK TO OTHER STATE INITIATIVES – not addressed

 

9. DESIGN AND PLACE STAFF DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES

 

Based on the preliminary program manager and teacher training components developed by the pilots, the resource center developed a three wave training plan.  The plan was submitted to the state director for approval and budget allocation.

 

10. DESIGN AND PLACE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES

 

Based on the pilots’ recommendations for financial and support resources,

 

11. FIRST WAVE

 

Because the state was divided into four geographic service regions, the first wave of implementation focused on the southeast region in the fall. 

 

12. MEASURE AND TWEAK

 

Using the criteria established by the pilots, the working group assessed the impact and made adjustments.

 

13. SECOND WAVE

The implementation was evaluated and tweaked and replicated in the southwest region in the winter. 

 

14. MEASURE AND TWEAK

 

Using the criteria established by the pilots, the working group assessed the impact and made adjustments.

 

15. GO TO SCALE

 

The process was replicated in the remaining two regions in the fall of the next year.

 

16. MEASURE IMPACT

 

Using the criteria established by the pilots, the working group assessed the impact and produced the final report.

 

17. CELEBRATE

 

At the summer institutes the pilot sites and trainers received awards.  Documentation was presented on increased retention that resulted from the initiative.


 

 

Continuous Improvement Scenario– Research Finding

 

Health and Literacy

 

The state director was informed by the Governor’s Office that the state would be receiving a substantial amount of funding as a result of the recent tobacco settlement.  The Governor would like for a portion of those funds to be used to address health issues with low literate adults.  The state director was asked to develop a plan of action based on health-related research. 

 

1.  ACCESS

The state director had recently attended a statewide Healthy Schools conference and had learned of studies that established the connections between literacy level and health status.  These studies had found various evidence that low literacy, poor health, and early death were inexorably linked (Weiss et al, 1992, Williams et al., 1995, Perrin, 1989). 

 

2.  UNDERSTAND

The state director realized that a project of this magnitude and importance would require not only input from his staff and literacy practitioners but from the health field as well.  He decided to form a Health Literacy Taskforce to help him examine the research and make recommendations for an action plan.  He invited the state’s professional development coordinator, the Healthy Schools coordinator from K-12, two health professionals from county health agencies, and two program directors. 

 

The taskforce’s first assignment was to review the research and determine (1) if the data clearly supported the findings and (2) the most significant research implications for the health literacy project.  Through a facilitated discussion led by one of the health practitioners, the taskforce concluded the following: 

¨      Perrin’s findings indicated that persons with low literacy (a) cannot read medication labels and sometimes take medication incorrectly, (b) fix formula wrong and may improperly feed infants, (c) cannot read written instructions for follow-up care, (d) are less likely to have had a PAP test or a blood pressure check, (e) are less likely to have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, or first aid kits in their homes, (f) smoke more, (g) drink more coffee, (h) exercise less and (I) get hurt on the job more frequently. 

¨      The studies of Weiss and Williams affirmed the interaction between literacy level and health status and outcome, and added new insights into the health and literacy connections.  Their studies indicated that low literate adults may also be less healthy because they lack information about where to go and when to seek help, inhibiting their access to health care.  Adults are expected to (a) understand signage, (b) locate health facilities, and (c) comprehend written instructions, pamphlets and brochures about medical tests, management of medical conditions, treatment options and treatment protocols.  The inability to read and understand them limits care.

¨      The research also indicated that health education and health promotion activities are accomplished primarily through print material, written at the 10th+ grade levels by skilled readers for skilled readers.  Thus, a significant part of the population that needs the information the most is unable to access it.

 

3.  JUDGE

During the taskforce’s second meeting they began to delve into the findings more closely to determine their relevance to the health literacy project.  They discussed (1) if the findings were valid for the adult population they serve, (2) if the findings appeared to confirm or contradict what they knew about the link between health and literacy, and (3) if the policies or practices advocated by the researchers matched what was already going on in the state.

 

The taskforce felt the findings were valid and confirmed their observations at the classroom level, particularly given the high percentage of non-native speakers in their programs.  The research did not, however, offer particular strategies for addressing the problems. The problems were too complex to be addressed by any one approach.  It was implied that action was needed but was rather vague in identifying appropriate solutions.  The major problem then was identifying effective means of working with low literacy populations that would make them feel empowered to engage in productive health practices. 

 

The professional development coordinator felt the research of Hannah Fingeret, 1990 regarding participatory learning could be an effective vehicle for approaching this issue. The experience of the literacy field has shown that inviting learners to be active participants in the learning process, and providing opportunities to work on identifying problems and constructing solutions, has moved learners from passivity to active engagement, enhancing the potential for positive change.   A statewide training initiative was conducted two years ago to help teachers learn and use strategies for participatory learning.  A core of master teachers had been identified as participatory learning trainers.  While the subject of health literacy had not been addressed at the policy or practice level, the taskforce felt that a good foundation was in place for a participatory approach to the issue.

 

VISION

By combining what they learned from the health and literacy research with the participatory learner research, the taskforce created the following vision for the health literacy initiative:

 

“Through a participatory process, the Health Literacy Initiative will develop an informed community of adults who feel empowered to address issues of health and well-being in their own lives and to confront a health care system that needs to be more responsive to their informational needs.”

 

4.  ASSESS IMPACT

At the conclusion of the meeting, the taskforce recommended that an individual and/or team be assigned (1) to determine how best to incorporate health literacy issues into the existing participatory approach, and (2) to determine if existing policies or new policies would be needed (and the level of change needed) for the health literacy initiative.

 

Tasks were assigned: 

(1)   The professional development coordinator agreed to analyze the programs and teachers who were currently incorporating participatory learning into their classrooms.  She would conduct interviews and site visits to determine possible pilot sites for the health literacy initiative. She would also work with the health practitioners to determine how the current participatory learning training module would need to be adapted to address health literacy issues.  This group would also then adapt the current participatory learning training module and include accompanying resources for the pilot initiative.  Since procedures and practices were already developed to accommodate participatory learning at the local level, substantial changes were not anticipated to address health literacy.  The changes would be piloted first with the eight sites and then adapted as more programs came on board.

(2) The state director would analyze the research and their developed approach to determine if state policy changes would be needed.

 

Results:

(1)   The professional development coordinator found that additional training was necessary on the development and implementation of active student teams.

(2) While policies regarding participatory learning had already been developed in the state, payment to students was something brand new.   Following discussions with the state’s financial office, the state director developed guidelines for local programs to use in the distribution of funds to student team members.

 

As a result of their work, the decision was made by the state director to proceed. 

 

5.  COST OUT AND BUDGET THE INITIATIVE

Based on the developed process and policy, the state director then developed a budget for the pilot projects.  ABE received $150,000 from the tobacco settlement during the first year.  Each site was given $15,000 to cover student payments, teaching resources, field trips, developmental work, etc.  The remaining funds were used to cover the costs of the taskforce meetings and related developmental expenses.

 

6.  SET SIX-MONTH BENCHMARKS

The state director, PD coordinator, and program directors set six-month benchmarks for the pilot process.  The benchmarks addressed anticipated training outcomes, state and local planning processes, data collection, local implementation activities, student outcomes, and evaluation.

 

7.  PILOT AND ADAPT TO FIT STATE SYSTEM

The following model and policies were developed:

1.       Training on the proposed process with accompanying resources would be conducted for four-member teams from each pilot site, including an adult learner from each.  The major initiative components would consist of:

  • Development of student action health teams, with the initial members recruited through program-wide advertising and selected through an interview process by the facilitating teacher.  The advertisement heavily promoted the $10 per hour that student action health team members would receive for their work in the team, setting a new precedent for student work.

  • Development of the team’s awareness and knowledge of teambuilding skills, health issues and the cultural and social aspects of health.

  • Use of the team as a forum where members could give their opinions about what were the important health issues in the community and how they could be addressed.

  • Use of student-driven participatory research to identify and resolve health-related problems.

  • Conducting of surveys to determine health knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and smoking among all class members.

Each student action health team would also include a health practitioner as a local resource.  This individual, such as a representative from the county health agency, would attend one meeting per month to offer valuable information and guidance on health issues.  This process would also help to link adult literacy even closer to the community health field.

 

Eight pilot sites that were actively engaged in participatory learning were invited to participate in the health literacy initiative.  All enthusiastically agreed.

 

Evaluation procedures included:  (1) use of teacher focus groups to give evidence that students were understanding the information and taking action on it, (2) student interviews to uncover subtle changes in thinking and knowing, and (3) follow-up surveys to measure behavioral changes in health practices.  In addition, teachers maintained logs on processes, materials, and practices that worked and didn’t work.

 

8.  LINK TO OTHER STATE INITIATIVES

The Governor formed a statewide health taskforce to address overall health issues, many of which were targeted to receive the tobacco settlement dollars.  The state director served on this taskforce and kept other state agencies and individuals abreast of the health literacy initiative.

9.  DESIGN AND PLACE STAFF DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES

During the pilot year, feedback forms were submitted by the facilitating teachers on a regular basis with recommendations on changes and/or additions to the training module.  A variety of health resources were added in addition to sample team activities that had proven to be effective.  A website was developed to post the multitude of resources that the pilot sites had identified.  The facilitating teachers at the pilot sites were trained to serve as master trainers for the next wave of projects.

 

10.  DESIGN AND PLACE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES

At the end of the pilot year, the evaluations were analyzed and necessary adjustments were made.  The major finding was the fact that the student health teams needed more time initially to bond as a group and become aware of health issues themselves.  

 

It was also recommended that the budgets be increased from $15,000 to $20,000 to cover necessary expenses.  ABE received $450,000 from the tobacco settlement in year 2 so the decision was made to offer 20 competitive grants of $20,000 each.

 

11.  FIRST WAVE

News of the health initiative spread quickly.  Thirty programs applied for the $20,000 grants.  Twenty were selected for the first wave. 

 

12.  MEASURE IMPACT BASED ON GOALS AND TWEAK

Evaluation data were analyzed.  Further refinements to the training module and ongoing teacher support system were made to the process after the end of year 2.  A listserv and discussion board were added to the website.  A student health team chat room was also added, as well as a statewide student health team conference for students to discuss and share their experiences.

 

13.  SECOND WAVE

Now in the third year, 35 of the state’s 39 funded programs have active student health teams in place.

 

14 -16  Still in progress

 

 

 

17.  CELEBRATE

The Governor’s Office was extremely pleased with the new initiative and the behavioral outcomes that the evaluations produced.  A statewide press conference and reception was held at the Governor’s Mansion to celebrate the success of the initiative and to honor the original eight pilot sites.

 

 

Continuous Improvement Scenario—Research Finding

 

Inquiry-based Professional Development

 

 

1.  ACCESS RESEARCH FINDINGS

 

The state director read a report on inquiry-based professional development is another state’s ABE newsletter.  The assumption was that because few if any adult education teachers come to the program trained in adult education methods and strategies—there are no bachelor’s degrees in adult education—each has strengths as well as gaps in their knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Further, each has unique gaps in his/her knowledge, skills, and abilities.  It then behooves adult education professional development to respond to the unique, individual learning needs of each teacher.

 

Thus, inquiry-based professional development begins with a question the teacher has about her/his work (the inquiry), and builds a professional development plan to answer that question.

 

He had heard complaints that the workshop delivery system often did not meet the learning needs of all participants so it was worth investigating.

 

2.  UNDERSTAND

 

The state director formed a workgroup of ten practitioners (urban and rural, part-time and full time teachers, program managers, and resource center staff) to meet with an inquiry-based professional development resource person.  They read the original research and three other research projects related to the topic. 

 

In their first discussions, they noted that the inquiry-based principles for professional development paralleled the principles for teachers teaching adult learners—they have unique needs and we need to develop a learning plan that reflects those needs.

 

Secondly, it seemed obvious that each teacher, especially those in satellite classes who come with different preparations but are asked to be prepared to teach all five subjects, at twelve grade levels, interspersed with life skills, customized to the learner’s context, for learners half of whom may be learning disabled, could benefit from professional development focused on his/her needs.

 

Implementing such a program for 1,200 teachers and 2,000 volunteers would be a challenge.

 

 

3. JUDGE

 

Because there was so little experience with inquiry-based professional development, the workgroup wavered between conceptual issues and implementation issues—not knowing how such a service could be implemented dominated the conceptualization early on. 

 

The researchers recommended that each teacher assess his/her needs, identity a question they have about their work, develop a professional development plan to address that question, be linked up with resources to answer that question, complete the plan and report the findings to his/her peers.

 

The workgroup felt that the concept held promise for improving the responsiveness of the professional development offerings and recommended to the state director that a development and pilot project proceed.  The state director reviewed the findings and earmarked funds to continue the work.

 

SET THE VISION:  The state director and workgroup envisioned an annual process whereby each teacher would reflect upon her/his knowledge, skills, and abilities (through a formal self assessment or as a result of an issue emerging from the classroom), develop a professional development plan with the help of a trained facilitator, identify resources and obtain resources and links from the resource center, engage and complete their learning plan, and report what methods they found useful as well as what they learned to his/her peers.  

 

 

 

4.  ASSESS THE IMPACT

 

Implementing an inquiry-based system meant significantly revamping the professional development system.  Parts of the old system would probably be retained, but new policies and practices would be needed.  All programs would be affected. 

 

Through a grant to the resource center, a larger workgroup of thirty practitioners, representing all facets of adult education, was established to work with the consultant/researcher.  A project manager was hired to guide the work.

 

The “Gang of Thirty,” as it called itself, spent a year conceptualizing the system to include designing a professional development plan instrument to be completed by each teacher, means for paying teachers for completion of their plans, opportunities for teachers to report their plans to their colleagues, developing resources at the resource center to support the plans, staff at the resource center to support the plans, linking teachers who were studying similar topics, integrating the individual professional development plans with other pre-service and in-service delivery systems, and other support resources.

 

 At the end of their year’s work and in preparation for piloting the system, the Gang recommended 1) changes in state policy that would allow and encourage participation, 2) changes in policy and staffing at the resource center to accommodate participation, 3) a marketing campaign to sell the idea to teachers and program managers, and 4) training components for training PD plan facilitators.

 

 

5.  COST AND BUDGETING

 

The state staff earmarked funds to run the six month pilots.  Subsequent year professional development funds were targeted for three wave implementation over two fiscal years.

 

6.  BENCHMARKS

 

Three month benchmarks were established for the pilots and six month benchmarks were established for the remained of the initiative.

 

7. PILOTS

 

The pilots began by refining the professional development plan instrument to make it as simple as possible and developing training for regional specialists and lead teachers who would facilitate teachers developing their plans.  They developed guidelines for the program manager to support the process.  They worked in collaboration with the resource center staff who would receive the learning plans, organize and transmit resources to the teachers, and create opportunities for teachers to share their results:  their methods and their results.

 

The pilots established the evaluation criteria to judge the success of the wave implementation.

 

8. LINK TO OTHER STATE INITIATIVES – not addressed

 

9. DESIGN AND PLACE STAFF DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES

 

Based on the preliminary program manager and teacher training components developed by the pilots, the resource center developed a three wave training plan.  The plan was submitted to the state director for approval and budget allocation.

 

10. DESIGN AND PLACE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES

 

Based on the pilots’ recommendations for financial and support resources for localities and for the resource center.

 

11. FIRST WAVE

 

Because of the radical departure from previous professional development offerings, the plans were presented at the program managers meeting and volunteers were sought to begin the implementation process.  Eight programs volunteered to participate.

 

12. MEASURE AND TWEAK

 

Using the criteria established by the pilots, the working group assessed the impact and made adjustments.

 

13. SECOND WAVE

 

The implementation was evaluated and tweaked.  Participating program mangers reported the impact on their program at a program managers meeting and a second wave of volunteers were solicited. 

 

14. MEASURE AND TWEAK

 

Using the criteria established by the pilots, the working group assessed the impact and made adjustments.

 

15. GO TO SCALE

 

The process was replicated in the remainder of the state.

 

16. MEASURE IMPACT

 

Using the criteria established by the pilots, the working group assessed the impact and produced the final report.

 

17. CELEBRATE

 

At the summer institutes the pilot sites and early adopters were recognized.  Documentation was presented on increased retention that resulted from the initiative.


 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Contact us: Dr. Lennox McLendon, Executive Director; 444 North Capitol Street, NW; Suite 422; Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-624-5250; Fax: 202-624-1497; Email: lmclendon@naepdc.org