KU Center for Research on Learning

KU Center for Research on Learning



Improving Adults Reading Outcomes with Strategic Tutoring and Content Enhancement Routines


About the Project


Project Synopsis:

Develop literacy interventions that can improve adults’ literacy skills by adapting instructional interventions (i.e., Strategic Tutoring and Content Enhancement Routines) proven to be effective for struggling readers in school settings for use with adult struggling readers in a vocational training setting, (i.e., Job Corps).

About the Project

The need for adult literacy is most essential when looking at our nation’s work force. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy indicated approximately 40% of U.S. adults read at “Basic” or “Below Basic” levels. As a result, 70 million U.S. adults do not read well enough to secure employment in the majority of entry-level occupations. The consequences for struggling readers are numerous: fewer job options, limited advancement opportunity, less job security, lower income, and a greater workplace communication difficulty. Many economic and political consequences result because of these reading levels. Therefore, the goal of this vocational literacy project is to develop practical, portable and replicable curricular interventions that improve adult literacy.

Our approach to this research uses methods shown to be efficient and effective with younger struggling readers. Drawing from literacy interventions from the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning (KU-CRL), Strategic Tutoring and Content Enhancement Routines allows us to intervene at two levels, the instructor and the learner, creating a top-down and bottom-up, or “sandwich” approach.

     
  • Strategic Tutoring (ST) involves tutors helping students to complete and understand immediate assignments and teaches students strategies that will prepare them to efficiently and independently complete tasks. Research results showed that students in ST improved their achievement test scores in reading comprehension, written expression, and basic math skills. On average, their grade-level achievement scores increased by 10 months during a four-month instructional period.
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  • Content Enhancement Routines (CERs) strive to help teachers make sound decisions about what is most the important content they teach, how they deliver content, and how they can teach to ensure that all students in the class learn critical content. The teaching routines have been successfully field-tested in public middle and high schools, and have been successfully tested in instructional models involving both general and special education teachers.

Our sample of struggling adult readers comes from the Excelsior Spring’s, Missouri Job Corps (ESJC) site. Job Corps is a no-cost education and vocational training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Designed to help young-adults (ages 16-24) with basic and vocational skills, the Job Corps program represents a unique opportunity for tying adult literacy interventions to vocational outcomes. Additionally, many Job Corps students have limited academic skills, especially in reading, and limited “learning how to learn” skills. We are working closely with ESJC staff to ensure that ST and CERs are executed in realistic and meaningful ways because the intervention strategies require significant systems change. Because our project has focused on the practicality of implementation and the replication of previously tested interventions (CERs & ST) we hope that results from this project will be useful to other vocational and technical schools, community colleges and adult education programs.

Research design: During the first 18 months we addressed the first two goals. Now in the 2nd through 4th year we are addressing the third goal.

     
  • Goal 1: Reading Component Descriptive Study: To describe Job Corps’ participants’ performance on recognized reading components. Goal 1 is important for understanding enrollees’ specific reading skills and literacy needs.
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  • Goal 2: Design studies: To establish conditions necessary for successfully implementing reading interventions (Strategic Tutoring and Content Enhancement Routines). Our studies will ensure that the interventions are clearly defined, workable under the Job Corps conditions, have appropriate fidelity measures, and have suitable outcome measures.
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  • Goal 3: Experimental studies: To determine the effects of reading interventions on the performance of ESJC enrollees.

The research reported here is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant #R305B07029, to the University of Kansas. The opinions expressed are those