Changing the Odds: Informing Policy with Research on How Adult Learners Succeed
Research has identified the barriers adult learners face in attaining their education and English proficiency goals, entering and advancing in employment, succeeding in postsecondary education and training, and navigating service systems. Most adult learners face long odds in trying to meet these goals. What would it take to address these barriers and produce better outcomes? What policies, focused investments, and public-private partnerships would help change the odds?
AIR hosted a Symposium, Changing the Odds:Informing Policy with Research on How Adult Learners Succeed, on September 16, 2009. The panelists and participants discussed innovative solutions and collaborations for supporting today’s low-skilled adult learners and challenges to improving adult education and workforce development outcomes facing the nation.
Stephen Reder opened the Symposium with a keynote address that discussed the importance of building a ladder of opportunity to improve adult learning in the 21st century.
The Symposium panels and special interest table groups continued in this theme to identify the pressing needs for:
- Facing the reality of impending demographic and immigration trends;
- Alignment and contextualized learning opportunities among Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Title I and Title II programs; and
- Developing ways to reach the vast majority of adults with low skills who are not in programs and to foster innovation through model demonstration projects.
There was widespread interest in innovative models to scale up programs and accelerate learning through leveraging technology and reaching untapped populations. Participants also expressed an immediate need for leadership and evidence, and acknowledged that the workforce in adult education and vocational programs has many unmet professional development needs and little infrastructure available to meet them.
This paper explores these challenges and solutions in more detail, offering many ideas and alternatives for program delivery and policy infrastructure that could change the odds for adult learners in the United States. Based on the research, it is clear that reforms need to be undertaken to ensure that the potential of the low-skilled adult population can be realized.
An evidence-based reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, now seven years overdue, will help “change the odds” for millions of adults.