Framework for Quality Professional Development for Practitioners Working with Adult English Language Learners

Both professional educational organizations and
federal and state legislative bodies view professional development as essential . . . and are more invested
in assuring that teachers have ongoing opportunities
 to learn as an integral part of their practice.

Rosemary, Roskos, & Landreth (2007)


For many years, there has been interest in the field of adult education in teacher quality, effective instruction, and the impact of these on learner progress (e.g., National Center for ESL Literacy Education, 2003; Smith & Gillespie, 2007). The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) in the U.S. Department of Education has played a leadership role in providing resources to enhance teacher quality and guide the improvement of adult education programs.

One area of focus, professional development for practitioners working with adults learning English, has become especially important in the last 20 years as our country has seen the immigrant population grow rapidly. As a result of this growth, many adult education programs are working with new populations of adults who need to learn English. Given the labor market demands of the 21st century, it is important that adult educators prepare English language learners to transition to postsecondary education and employment. For this, a strong workforce of trained and knowledgeable practitioners is needed that can work effectively with adults learning English and facilitate their transitions through adult education programs and into postsecondary education and employment.

The CAELA Network, under contract with OVAE, has created a framework that can be used to plan, implement, and evaluate professional development for practitioners working with adult English language learners at the state, regional, and program levels. The framework addresses the need to improve student learning and facilitate learner progress through and beyond programs and, as a result, the need for high-quality adult education practitioners and professional development programs for them.

The CAELA Network Framework

The framework is based, in part, on An Environmental Scan of Adult Numeracy Professional Development Initiatives and Practices, developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR; Sherman, et al., 2006). AIR’s environmental scan resulted in the identification of the following essential and desirable features of professional development in adult education:

  • Occurs over time; is not a one-shot activity

  • Is built on activities that help instructors advance their own understanding of the subject matter and the ways adults learn this subject matter

  • Helps instructors connect content and materials to real-world situations

  • Reflects the research on how adults learn

  • Reflects national or state standards

  • Is designed for instructors in adult education programs

  • Contains materials whose subject matter accommodates different learner backgrounds

  • Includes an evaluation component to appraise change in the knowledge and practices of instructors

  • Incorporates affective factor intervention (e.g., study skills, time management, reduction in anxiety)

  • Uses appropriate technology to prepare and support participants before, during, and after intervention

The framework provided here is also informed by professional development frameworks developed by professional associations, research from peer-reviewed publications in adult education journals and relevant journals that specialize in K–12 education, and other relevant publications that focus on the professionalization of practitioners working with adult English language learners. (See References for the list of works that inform this framework.)

<< Previous | Next >>