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Evidence-based Strategies - Examples, Research and Tools

Strategy b: Use authentic materials and real-world instructional activities that are relevant and meaningful to adult students’ life contexts and prepare them to apply their new skills outside the classroom.


Building Community and Skills through Multilevel Classes
Judy Hofer and Pat Larson
Contrary to the current movement away from mixed levels, this program finds that multilevel classes better reflect the diversity of the world in which adults function and communicates to students that they all have strengths and can learn from one another. The authors illustrate that building connections and community helps students work across differences to hear a range of perspectives and collaboratively solve problems.

Collaborating with Students to Build Curriculum that Incorporates Real-Life Materials
Charissa Ahlstrom
This article describes one teacher’s process for developing curriculum based on each group of learners’ lives, interests and goals and a curriculum framework.

Differentiating Instruction for a Multilevel Class
Catherine Saldana
This is an account of how the author differentiated instruction by giving students choices in what they would read and write and in how they would practice their skills. This approach resulted in increased participation and engagement.

Lesson Examples from the Equipped for the Future Teaching/Learning Toolkit
Equipped for the Future
This toolkit includes standards-based lessons that address the real-life interests, goals, and concerns of students, and that model the contextualized teaching of skills needed in adult life.

Making it Worth the Stay: Findings from the New England Learner Persistence Project, pp. 47-49
Andy Nash and Silja Kallenbach
These pages describe the strategies New England programs used to offer relevant instruction that engages students’ experiences and emotions.

Project-Based Learning and the GED
Anson Green
This piece chronicles changes in a GED class after the teacher introduced projects based on student interests and experience. He found that having a real audience for their work led students to apply themselves as never before, provided recognition and praise that boosted their self-confidence, and helped them develop a host of teamwork and presentation skills.

Teaching Adults to Read with Reading Apprenticeship
Michele Benjamin Lesmeister
Reported to improve student persistence and reading ability, this model involves mentoring students in discipline-based reading, showing them how to be active, strategic, and reflective readers.


EFF Research Principle: A Contextualized Approach to Curriculum and Instruction
Marilyn Gillespie
This digest identifies the research basis for a contextualized approach to teaching and learning and provides examples that illustrates how contextualized teaching supports the transfer of learning to real-world applications outside the classroom.

Taking Literacy Skills Home
Victoria Purcell-Gates, Sophie Degener, Erik Jacobson, and Marta Soler
This NCSALL-sponsored research found that use of authentic reading materials in class increases learners' out-of-class literacy activities and expands the variety of texts they read and write outside of school. The researchers collected data on out-of-school literacy practices from 173 adults attending 83 different classes across the United States.  


Creating Authentic Materials and Activities for the Adult Literacy Classroom: A Handbook for Practitioners
Erik Jacobson, Sophie Degener, and Victoria Purcell-Gates
Research into the teaching practices in 83 adult literacy classes shows that using authentic, contextualized materials and activities improves the transfer of learning into real life practice. This guide shares examples of the approach and steps for creating lessons.