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Montana ABLE Research-based Instruction:

Research Snippets

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Research #1

Dropout Rate

Research #2

Dropout Rate

Research #3

Lack of Literacy Skills

Research #4

Research from Reach Higher Montana Conference

Research #5

Low Parent Education

Research #6

Distance Learning

Research #7

Distance Learning

Research #8

Adult Multiple Intelligences

Research #9

A Whole New Mind

Research #10

Reading and the College Student

Research #11


Research #12

Using Authentic Materials

Research #13

Using Authentic Materials

Research #14

Working with English Language Learners

Research #15

Multilevel ESL Classes

Research #15: Promoting Success of Multilevel ESL Classes

Since participants of the Montana ESL conference are still digesting what they have learned, the month of May will finish out with one more research item regarding multilevel classrooms.

Multilevel esl classess can provide many challenges, but they may also provide several opportunities.  In the CAELA Brief "Promoting Success of Multilievel ESL Classes:  What Teachers and Adminstrators Can Do", Julie Mathews-Aydinili and Tegina Van Horne state the following:


Multilevel classes can provide opportunities for learners. Those with limited proficiency have an opportunity to interact with more proficient English speakers, and advanced learners benefit by using their English skills to help lower level students negotiate meaning. Students in multilevel classes can learn to work together across differences and develop learning communities in which members learn from one another’s strengths (Corley, 2005; Hofer & Larson, 1997; Jacobson, 2000; Wright, 1999) ...

... If the instructor plans activities that meet only the needs of learners whose skills fall in the middle, those learners with lower skills may become frustrated, and those with more advanced skills may become bored (Boyd & Boyd, 1989; Wrigley & Guth, 1992). Multilevel lesson planning must include strategies for organizing group, pair, and individual work ...

Mathews-Aydinili, Julie and Van Horne, Tegina, "Beginning to Work with Adult English Language Learners:  Some Consideration."  CAELA Brief, April 2006, <  >


  • What challenges and opportunities do you have in teaching multilevel esl classess?

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS. 


Research #14: Working with English Language Learners

Montana just celebrated its first annual Montana Adult Education ESL Conference.  One might think that Montana ABLE/ESL Professionals actually work for the United States Postal Service since they drive through rain and sleet and hail and snow to attend professional conferences.  Not so!  Twenty-five dedicated professionals, those who could make it across the state following another Montana spring blizzard, participated in the OPI -sponsored conference in Helena on April 30 and May 1..

Sarah Young and Amber Rodriguez of the CAELA (Center for Adult English Language Acquisition) at CAL (Center for Applied Linguistics) network along with Montana professionals Terrence Kelly, Ellen Guettler, and Katya Mandino Irish provided excellent presentations for participants.  Stay tuned for future postings at and for next year's conference.


According to Mary Ann Cunningham Florez and Miriam Burt  in "Beginning to Work with Adult English Language Learners:  Some Consideration," there are four areas teachers may need to consider:

... recommendations in four areas:  application of principles of adult earning in ESL contexts, second language acquisition, culture and working with multicultural groups, and instructional approaches that support language development in adults.  It's not intended to be comprehensive ... it gives teachers an overview of important points ...

Cunningham Florez, Mary Ann, Burt, Miriam; "Beginning to Work with Adult English Language Learners:  Some Considerations." ERIC Q & A


    • How do you think principles of adult learning apply to English language learners?

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS. 


Research Item #13:  Using Authentic Materials Continuation

Googling more information on internet regarding using authentic materials in the classroom leads one to several websites referencing the use of authentic materials with the adult English Speaker of Other Languages.  The ideas may be transferred to materials for ABLE students. 

According to Gail Oura in "Authentic Task- Based Materials:  Bringing the Real World Into the Classroom,"

The extra time involved for teachers in planning for the use of authentic materials to supplement lessons is well worth it. In fact, using authentic materials has several advantages. According to Brinton (1991), authentic materials and media can reinforce for students the direct relationship between the language classroom and the outside world. Gebhard (1996) sees authentic materials as a way to contextualize language learning.”

Oura, Gail K., Cristine; "Authentic Task- Based Materials:  Bringing the Real World Into the Classroom."  <>

The key word to the statement above is extra time. MTLINCS believes that ABLE classes are actually implementing some authentic material activities and sometimes don't think of them as such,  One such activity that has recently occurred was the letter/email correspondence in which students of several programs participated.  During the past two weeks, students wrote their Congressional representatives to tell them about their experiences, positive or negative, in Montana ABLE.  Click here  and read Responses #3 and #4 to check out what some of your Montana colleagues have to say about this event.


    • If, in fact, that it is true that Montana ABLE programs are implementing authentic material activities, what are some of the things your program has done? 
    • What materials have you used? 

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS. 


Research Item #12:  4/6/09

MTLINCS Research Item #12:  Using Authentic Materials

Members of the Leadership Academy have surveyed their colleagues to determine in which research they are interested.  One of the top interests was in the Literacy Practices of Adult Learners (LPAL) Study conducted by a team of researchers led by Victoria Purcell-Gates.  The research states the following:

Adult students in classes using real-life (authentic) literacy activities and texts read and wrote more often and used a greater variety of texts in their lives outside class than students from classes that relied on textbooks and workbooks. Students from the classes that used real-life texts for real-life purposes were more likely to report that they spent more time reading and writing outside of school.

Taylor, Jackie; Smith, Cristine; and Bingman, Beth.  "Program Administrators' Sourcebook."  NCSALL, December 2005.  p.14. < >

The Sourcebook suggests the following implications of LPAL Study:

Implication: Make improvements in students’ literacy practices a goal of your program and ensure that instruction helps students reach that goal.


What the research says: Participating in classes that used real-life activities and texts was related to increases in literacy practices in students’ daily lives.


Therefore, you should …

… ensure that increasing adult students’ literacy practices is a part of your program’s mission and that instruction is organized to maximize use of texts from students’ lives.

Taylor, Jackie; Smith, Cristine; and Bingman, Beth.  "Program Administrators' Sourcebook."  NCSALL, December 2005.  p.14. < >

Gathering appropriate, authentic materials may seem a time-consuming task.


    • How easy is it to implement using authentic materials in the classroom?
    • What kind of authentic materials do you use? 

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.


Research Item #11:  3/23/09

MTLINCS Research Item #11:  Multitasking -- It's more than just walking and chewing gum at the same time.

In the March issue of NEA Today, Charles J. Abaté addresses the three myths of multitasking: 

  • Myth One:  Multitasking Saves Time
  • Myth Two:  Multitasked Learning is as Good as Single-Task Learning
  • Myth Three:  Multitasking, Forte of the Young.
He cites some interesting research and makes some interesting observations about multi-tasking and conceptual learning.

Most of us are quite capable of riding an exercise bike and listening to music at the same time. What is far less obvious is our ability to engage in conceptual learning-the type of learning we expect to foster in the classroom-along with other simultaneous activities, such as watching television or text messaging ... In fact, recent experiments provide strong evidence that multitasking is counterproductive, particularly when at least one of the tasks involves higher-level conceptual learning ... What now passes for multitasking was once called "not paying attention."

Abaté, Charles J. "You Say Multitasking Like It's a Good Thing."  NEA Today, March/April 2009  <>

Workshop after workshop discusses the necessity of teaching our students to synthesize information when they read.  During Montana's Reading is the Bridge workshop, Dr. John Kruidenier stated from his text, Research-Based Principles for Adult Basic Education Reading Instruction (2002), that "adult learners may be able to perform daily comprehension tasks, such as locating a piece of information in a simple text, but be unable to integrate or synthesize information from longer or more complicated texts."  The GED has synthesis questions on it. 


    • What is your definition of multi-tasking? 
    • Do you believe that multi-tasking interferes with your students' learning? 

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.

Research Item #10:  3/9/09

MTLINCS Research Item #10:  Reading and the College Student

Many of the students in Montana ABLE programs are retooling to get ready to enter post-secondary training.  However, whether we want to admit it or not, some still have difficulty with decoding and fluency.  Yes, these are important skills that really affect a student's ability to be successful in college.  The December 2008 article, Decoding and Fluency Problems of Poor College Readers, states the following: 

College instructors often assume that their students have mastered basic reading skills, such as phonics, word recognition, and fluency (Dietrich, 1994). However, many college students in developmental reading courses, as well as those who have reading disabilities, have insufficient word recognition, limited phonics skills, and laborious reading rates - three reading components that contribute to these students' comprehension difficulties (Bell & Perfetti, 1994; Martino & Hoffman, 2002; Sabatini, 1997) ...

In summary, research clearly suggests that phonics and word decoding problems pose significant challenges for many struggling college readers and that these problems impact their comprehension skills ...

It is not enough for word decoding and recognition processes to be accurate; they must also be rapid so that readers can devote their mental energies toward comprehension (Sabatini, 1997) ...

Capotosto, Lauren.  "Decoding and Fluency Problems of Poor College Readers." National College Transition Network, Issue 8.  December 2008  <>

Need some strategies to help transition your students with reading challenges?  Click here to check out this interesting article at the National College Transition Network at


    • Do many of your students experience difficulty with decoding and fluency problems?  How do you know?
    • What kind of strategies do you recommend to them?  

Research Item #9:  2/23/09

A Whole New Mind?

Left brain - right brain.  Remember those concepts?  Nothing new, right?  Maybe it's just like Multiple Intelligences.  However, do you ever think about those concepts any more?  If not, you may want to pick up Daniel H. Pink's book, A Whole New Mind:  Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.  He shares some interesting observations and proposals.      

"Our broader culture tends to prize L-Directed Thinking more highly than its counterpart ... But this is changing - and it will dramatically reshape our lives.  Left-brain-style thinking used to be the driver and the right-brain-style thinking the passenger.  Now, R-Directed Thinking is suddenly grabbing the wheel, stepping on the gas, and determining where we're going and how we'll get there.  L-Directed aptitudes -- the sorts of things measured by the SAT and deployed by CPAs -- are still necessary.  But they're no longer sufficient.  Instead, the R-Directed aptitudes so often disdained and dismissed -- artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursuing the transcendent -- will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles.  It's a dizzying - but ultimately inspiring -- change."

Pink, Daniel H.  A Whole New Mind, 2005, Penguin Group Inc., p.27

From the Information Age, we have gone to the Conceptual Age.  "... today, facts are ubiquitous, nearly free, and available at the speed of light ... When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable.  What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.  And that is the essence of the aptitude of Story -- context enriched by emotion."   Pink, p. 103

We are keeping data (Information Age); however, our students' stories are vital in our quest to help them achieve success.  We are constantly being bombarded by the terms -- Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.   Do Montana ABLE programs provide rigor?  Do the programs provide relevance?  And what about relationships?  Do programs pay attention to their students' stories?  Gut feeling - yes!  Skills are being taught; goals are being met; bonds are being forged.  What do you think?



Research Item #8:  2/1/09

Adult Multiple Intelligences

Participants of the Leadership Academy discussed several research items the last time they met.  They will soon be surveying your interests in research studies.  Here's just a snippet from one such research study:    

"It's not how smart you are, but how you are smart."

Dr. Howard Gardner

The February 2001 Adult Multiple Intelligences Study sponsored by NCSALL was the first systematic application of multiple intelligences (MT) theory to adult literacy education.  The Adult Multiple Intelligences Study says:

Students whose instructors utilized the Multiple Intelligences theory took more control over their learning, were more engaged in classroom activities that used authentic materials, and, in some cases, attended class more regularly.

MI reflection enhanced students' perceptions of their abilities.

Program Administrators' Sourcebook, A Resource on NCSALL's Research for Adult Education Program Administrators, NCSALL, December 2005, p.21.

Multiple Intelligences and Adult Literacy,


    • Do you consider the variety of ways students learn when you are working with them?  If so, what ideas do you have that you can share with other Montana ABLE instructors?
    • Put the MI in context to Distance Learning.  Do you think Distance Learning will bring a different dimension to your students' learning?  Do you think they will feel more in control of their learning? 

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.


Research Item #7:  1/19/09

Is distance learning for everyone?

The Reach Higher, America report states the following:

With 73 percent of adults already online in 2006, including those at lower levels of literacy, online learning can be a powerful way to assist adult learners. Touch screens and other userfriendly technologies can provide lower-skilled adults—even those with little or no computer experience—with access to electronic instruction. Bill Gates predicts that voice-activated computers will be the next revolution in technology. That technology may hold promise for lowskilled adults, including nonreaders. 

Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, June 2008. National Commission on Adult Literacy,, p.25. 

Should you consider reading level of the online learner?  Participants in the GED online program at Vance Granville Community College in North Carolina must demonstrate a 9th grade level or higher in order to be enrolled in online courses.

For all new online students, Reading scores must be at 9th grade level or higher. For all returning "active" online students with a lower than acceptable score to continue in their program, they will be given two months to raise their Reading score to the 9th grade level. Failure to reach a 9th grade Reading level will result in that students being removed from the online program; however, they will be given the opportunity to continue their education program in a literacy lab (classroom) setting until a 9th grade reading level is achieved.

Students desiring enrollment in one of our Literacy Online programs but not reading at a 9th grade level can expect to be assigned lessons designed to improve reading skills. The objective is to first raise those reading skills to a 9th grade or better level. A similar program will also be available to provide improvement in basic math skills.



o    Should you consider a student's reading level in relationship to online learning?

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.

Research Item #6:  1/5/09

Distance Learning

Beginning in January 2009, several Montana ABLE programs will be added to OPI's Distance Learning Project as a way to provide another educational delivery method for students. 

The Reach Higher, America report states the following:

Technology should be used in all its forms to make learning a continuous process of inquiry and improvement that keeps pace with the speed of change in business and society. It can be used to create new models for teaching and learning, provide greater access and knowledge resources to adult students in real time, help working adults with childcare and transportation issues improve their education, provide training to instructors, improve program management and data collection, allow students to work and learn in virtual teams with video conferencing and collaboration software, and much more. It can put the highest quality teachers in the world at everyone’s doorstep.

Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, June 2008. National Commission on Adult Literacy,, p.24.


o    How is your program using technology to enhance students' learning? 

o    What challenges do you see with distance learning?

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.


Research Item #5:  12/1/08

Low Parent Education

RISK 2: Low Parent Education Deters Children's Learning

Today, one in four U.S. working families is low-income, and one in five American children lives in poverty.  And in many of those households, the parents or caregivers are employed, but they lack the education and skills necessary to earn family-sustaining wages.

Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, June 2008. National Commission on Adult Literacy,, p. 5


With the economic problems that our country is experiencing, is your program encountering an influx of individuals who, as the report above states, are lacking "the education and skills necessary to earn family-sustaining wages"?

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.

Research Item #4:  11/17/08

Research Quoted during Reach Higher, Montana Conference

Last week there was a two-day conference sponsored by MSU-Billings - Reach Higher, Montana:  A Time for Action.  During that conference, presenters encouraged participants to collborate and move beyond the "me", "my" and "mine".  They also provided several citations from a variety of studies.  Here are just a few:

Comments heard during Reach Higher, Montana Conference

Dr. Ron Sexton, Chancellor of MSU-Billings

  • In the United States our current generation will be less educated than their parents.

  • Adult Learners are the new marketplace for colleges.

  • Dropping out of high school is becoming the norm.  In the United States, there are 6,000 students who drop out each day.

Dr. Gail Mellow, Commissioner of Reach Higher, America report

  • The ability of U.S. adults to understand an editorial has dropped from 15% to 13% from 1992 to 2003.

  • By 2020 20 million individuals will need literacy training - approximately 3.5 times the number of people now in ABE.

  • We need to move away from "weeding out those we don't want to serve to finding unique services to serve them."

Margaret Bowles, Montana OPI Adult Basic and Literacy Education Specialist and GED Administrator

  • Ten percent of Montana's adult population does not have a GED or high school diploma.

  • Thirty-eight percent of those lacking a GED or high school diploma are between the ages of 16 to 24.

  • There is a $5,500 earning differential for those Montanans who have a GED.

Studies Cited during Conference

  • Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, June 2008

  • Beyond Social Justice:  The Threat of Inequality to Workforce Development in the Western United States by Patrick J. Kelly, July 2008

  • Counting on Graduation:  An Agenda for State Leadership by Anna Habash, Fall 2008

  • Weak Education Leaves Americans Unprepared,, March 2008

  • Annual Report 2006 of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Do any of you who attended the conference have information to add?  What were your perceptions? 

Do any MTLINCS readers have any reactions to the information provided above?

Click here to mail a response to MTLINCS.

Research Item #3:  11/3/08

Our Treacherous Path

Americans should have been stunned when the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), released in 2005, revealed that a staggering 30 million American adults scored at "below basic" - meaning they could perform no more than the most rudimentary literacy tasks.  Another 63 million adults could perform only simple, basic everyday literacy activities.

The NAAL findings are ominous because most good jobs require at least some education beyond high school.  The NAAL found that of the approximately 222 million adults aged 16 or older living in households or prisons in the United States, some 93 million lack literacy at a level needed to enroll in the postsecondary education or job training that current and future jobs require.

Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, June 2008. National Commission on Adult Literacy,, p. 2. 


Whoa!  Is this the conclusion you all draw from the information above?

Approximately 42% of America's adults aged 16 or older LACK literacy skills in order to get a good job.   

Does that figure bother any of you?  What do you think?  Please tell MTLINCS to take a math class!

Click here to mail a response to MT LINCS.

Research Item #2:  10/6/08

RISK 1: Dropout Rates Are Staggering

… Even more alarming, many students who do complete high school are deficient in basic skills and job and college readiness. Some 40 percent of all college students take at least one remedial course (at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $1 billion), while 63 percent of two-year college students take at least one remedial course.4

Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, Executive Summary, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, June 2008. National Commission on Adult Literacy, 


Have those post-secondary students with skill deficiencies impacted your program?  If so, how?

Click here to mail a response to MT LINCS.

Research Item #1:  9/22/08

High School Dropout Rate Research #1

High school dropout rates are staggering.  Every year, one in three young adults—more than 1.2 million people—drop out of high school. Even more alarming, many high school graduates who do complete high school lack basic skills and readiness for job training and college.

Reach Higher, America:  Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, Executive Summary, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, June 2008. National Commission on Adult Literacy, 


Has the dropout rate impacted your ABLE program?  If so, how?

Click here to mail a response to MT LINCS.