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Adult Education Teacher Inquiry Projects and related research and resources

This page provides archived information about and reports of locally undertaken practitioner-based inquiry and research work, as well as links to information developed around the world related to research addressing language and literacy development. 

New resources are added, and inserted into the alphabetical list below, so please check back from time to time to see what's new.

2004 - 2005 projects departed from the inquiry model, in order to include both inquiry and other forms of learning. 

Final reports; projects completed in 2004, here.  To learn about these research project grants, click here .

Research share - July 31, 2003: read more about itthis link leads to a write up of the work begun so far in thinking about new approaches to practitioner-based research in Rhode Island and also includes links to a range of research reports being considered by the group.

Following a retreat to revision ways of doing this work, inquiry projects were again supported during the 2002 - 2003 academic year.  [ Applcations here, ]

2002 - 2003 completed projects: read proposals here.  Final presentations were given on June 13th; reports  link out from the proposals page.

2001-2002 completed projects:  initial proposals and final reports

Projects completed: 2000 - 2001  Final sharing session was held on June 28, 2001.  Read reflections on that year's process.

Projects completed - January - June, 2000

    Adult Education Teacher Inquiry Projects were initially supported in Rhode Island through funding obtained through Section 353, Special Projects/Professional Development, of the National Literacy Act of 1991. A first round of projects was undertaken in the spring of 1996, followed by a second round the following spring.

    Practitioners throughout the state are invited to submit questions they wish to explore during each round of the inquiry process; and at the end of each cycle come together to share their findings. They participate in an orientation session at the beginning of each round of inquiry, during which information about practitioner-based inquiry is shared, suggestions made and guidance given towards the development of their projects. Reports of many of the projects undertaken in 1996 and 1997 are online.

    Dr. James Barton, Assistant Professor, Education Department, University of RI, assisted the project as advisor and provided technical assistance in 1996 and 97. Howard Dooley of the former Rhode Island Literacy Resource Center participated in disseminating information about the 1996 projects. Bob Mason of the RI Department of Education facilitates the funding process, and  since 1997, Literacy Resources/RI has worksed with RIDE to assist inquiry work. 

    winter/spring/98 Reports on project processes and findings from a third round of inquiry projects (January 1 to June 25th, 1998) were shared at a final large group meeting on June 25th, and are online at inquiry.98.html.

    fall/spring 98/99 Seven projects developed during the 1998-99 academic year are also online. Inquiry participants met monthly in order to bring others into the work, share early findings and perspectives. A final sharing session was held on June 25th.

    In addition to local inquiry work, Rhode Island was represented in the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy's Practitioner Research Dissemination Network (PDRN). RI's PDRN leader, David Hayes disseminated this newsletter devoted to the early work of the PDRN, including links to NCSALL's ongoing research projects. More information about the now-defunct PDRN may be available at

    Inquiry and literacy research resources online

    (* indicates site/description disseminated through The Institute on Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Problem Solving Through Action Research, sponsored by the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University, November, 1997).

    Action Research - Center for Applied Linguistics Digest by Richard Donato, December, 2003 - huge compendium of resources, papers, dissertations, articles from the University of Bath; this is the same resource as Jack White's homepage, listed below -- but might be known by this name.

    Action Research Resources - vast range of resources, including papers, conference proceedings and online coursework.

    Action Researchers’ Educational Theories and their Politics of Educational Knowledge: Reconstructing Educational Theory and Constructing Educational Knowledge. [ full text] Jack Whitehead; Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference  (September 11-14 1997: University of York)

    Adult Learning and the Generation of New Knowledge and Meaning: Creating Liberating Spaces for Fostering Adult Learning Through Practitioner-Based Collaborative Action Inquiry  by Lyle Yorks — 2005 Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 6, 2005, p. 1217-1244

    The Adult Literacy Reserach-in-Practice Pre-conference summary, July 7, 2002 - is not available online; the link here leads citations of this work -   University of British Columbia   Vancouver, BC

Adult Education Research Conference - proceedings from the 2000 conference, held in Vancouver, BC; full text papers available online.

The Adult Educator's Guide to Practitioner Research - by Suzanne Cockley ; "handbook for the novice practitioner researcher provides an overview of the practitioner research process, and discusses the strategies and methods used to conduct a qualitative inquiry...includes case studies, a sample outline for writing a research report, a list of recommended reading, and information about using the ERIC system."

    An overview of practitioner based inquiry can be found in Cassie Drennon's 1994 NCLE Digest, Adult Literacy Practitoners as Researchers
    In addition to providing helpful background information about inquiry, the Digest also provides a useful list of resources for further reading.

    Adult Literacy and Numeracy Australiain Research Constortium - ALNARC represents a national collaboration between university-based centres in each state for research into  adult literacy and numeracy. This gives ALNARC a unique profile internationally. ALNARC builds on the work of the former Adult Literacy Research Network (Language Australia) which had research nodes in the states and territories.

    Adult Literacy Research: Extending our practice and building networks - Memorial University of Newfoundland, June 17 - 21, 2003.  This four day Institute will bring together up to 60 people who are involved in adult literacy research in practice. The  event builds on previous Canadian consultations about literacy research and will draw from current endeavors to  support research in practice in Canada and elsewhere. The gathering will be of interest to new and experienced  researchers in the adult literacy field, including literacy teachers, facilitators or program coordinators an  university-based and independent researchers.

    Adult Literacy Staff Development Trends and Issues Alerts by Susan Imel, also provides a list of resources pertinent to inquiry as well as to other forms of staff development processes.

    American Educational Research Association, and its online publications page; includes resources, events, fellowships and legislative information.

    Areol, action research and evaluation on line, as a web-based program - a 14-week public course offered each semester as a public service by Southern Cross University and the Southern Cross Institute of Action Research.

    Applications of Participatory Action Research with Students who have disabilities - ERIC Digest, July, 2003:  Participatory action research, an approach in which researchers and stakeholders (those individuals who might benefit from the research findings) collaboratively engage in the various stages of the research process, provides for greater influence of stakeholders in the research process and a higher level of support for the implementation of research findings in practice. This digest offers several examples of how researchers and practitioners are using participatory action research data to select effective practices and support change and innovation.
    (also available here)

    Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE)/L'Association Canadienne pour l'Etude de l'Education des Adultes (ACÉÉA) : English (language) resources to research in adult education

    The Changes Project:From 1997 - 1999, adult learners from five Adult Basic Education programs in western Massachusetts conducted a participatory action  research project focused on the impact of welfare reform, immigration  reform and the changing nature of work on 620 of their fellow adult  learners. The work of the project paints a  picture of the impact of these three issues on the lives of adult  learners at these five programs. Researchers make recommendations for  ABE programs, fellow learners, legislators and policy makers. The  Changes Project was a project of the Western Regional Resource Center of  the Massachusetts SABES System at Holyoke Community College and was  funded by the Field Initiated Grant Studies Program of the Office for Educational Research and Improvement at US DOE.
    The Changes Project - Research and Learning in Western Massachusetts, an article by Alex Risley Schroeder giving an account of students participating in action research into issues affecting their own lives, appearning in Field Notes, (summer 2000)

    Dancing in the Dark - report on practitioner research in British Columbia, Canada.

    Directory of UK ELT (English Language Teaching) Research 2005-08 - research-active institutions in the UK to contributed to this Directory, which is available as a searchable database, and a bibliography in printable pdf format. Around 850 research outputs from 52 institutions are listed. These outputs include journal articles, chapters in edited books, papers in conference proceedings,  authored books, unpublished but electronically accessible documents and doctoral theses. Additionally, there are details of 55 research projects.

    Education-line - freely accessible database of the full text of conference papers, working papers and electronic literature which supports educational research, policy and practice.

    Ethnography for classrooms: constructing a reflective curriculum for literacy, Mary Hamilton, Curriculum Stuides, Volume 7, Number 3, 1999.

    Focus on Basics - Volume 1, Issue A, February, 1997 (scroll down for Volume 1) - What is research?  Articles and reflections about research, inquiry and teacher and learner knowledge.

    Focused on Practice  -  A Framework for Adult Literacy Research in Canada, 2007

    Harvard Education Letter Research Online -  bimonthly newsletter, covers timely topics in dept and explores issues from the perspectives of both research and practice.

    Harvard Graduate School of Education News and Views - including research news updates

    Inquiry tools for teachers - from the Coalition for Essential Schools' IITIC (Improving Instruction Through Inquiry and Collaboration) Project through which the Southern Maine Partnership and the CES Northwest Center each work with three local schools to assess and improve classroom instruction.  The site required registration; includes numerous inquiry related resources.

    Jean McNiff - a place for learning, sharing and creating new knowledge, developed by an earll practitioner of and advocate for action research.

    Lancaster Poster Projects - wonderful graduate student projects investigating literacy practices in England; part of Lancaster University's larger literacy research site, The Literacy and Research Group home page

      Becoming expert: using ethnographies of everyday learning to inform the education of adults - Mary Hamilton, Literacy Research Group, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University, UK.

    Local teachers tackle reflection - a report from the Providence Journal about a summer learning opportunity for K-12 teachers

    The Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning - "Lifelong learning is critical for adults to be engaged citizens, active members of the labor force, healthy, and informed consumers.  Adults with limited formal education, who left high school for what ever reason, are most in need of opportunity and encouragement for continued learning.  However, the field of adult education has been limited by a lack of research about literacy development during adulthood that would serve to facilitate lifelong learning for this population. The Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning project is breaking new ground by addressing key questions about the literacy development, learning and life experiences of low-education adults over time."

    Maximising the impact of practitioner research: A handbook of practical advice (Hamilton, Davies and James)  [developed from the NRDC's Practitioner-led research initiative

    Midwest Research-To-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing and Community Education - Two day meeting held each fall at a major university in the Midwest United States; archives of the conference from 2002 - 2006

    Mini-Survey of Research in Adult Education & Literacy - posting to the National Literacy Advocacy List about responses to the question: What 5-10 research studies  ever produced on any aspect of adult literacy do you find most useful  for purposes of guiding policy, management and/or practice?

    National Labsite for Adult ESOL - a project of NCSALL and Portland State University; teachers teach, learners learn, this activity is videotaped, coded, reflected upon and in time, made available to others for their input and response.

    National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy - UK's national centre dedicated to research and development on adult literacy, language and numeracy, was established as part of Skills for Life, the national strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills. The Centre aims to improve practice and inform policy through the generation of knowledge, by creating a strong research culture and by developing professional practice.  check the publications page for information about Strategy 2003-2007, a process that resembles work that RI practitioners are attempting to do in our own contexts.  The work also bears a resemblance to that of NCSALL's five year plans.

    Networks - An On-Line Journal for Teacher Research Journal offering teachers working in classrooms from pre-school to university a place to share their findings and learn from each other, and includes feature length articles, short reports of work in progress, book reviews, discussions on current issues in teacher research, responses to published articles and upcoming events in teacher research. Articles will cover a wide range of issues related to classroom teaching and learning, such as curriculum, research methodology, ethics and collaboration. Classroom teachers at all levels will be involved in reviewing the manuscripts. The emphasis will be on a reader-friendly writing style that gives a clear account of issues, questions and classroom inquiry.

    An Overview of Action Research - from the Development and Dissemination School Initiative, an online resource for Educators of ELL Students.  The project is part of a partnership between New York City Board of Education's Office of Bilingual Education and the Education Alliance at Brown University. Its goal is to help New York's English-language learners (ELLs) acquire both English-language and other skills and  knowledge they will need to meet the New Standards that the Chancellor has established for all students in New York City.

    [symposium ] Participatory Action Research (PAR):    Collaborating to produce worthwhile knowledge - paper focussing on how teachers, researchers and educational advisors balance their different roles in participatory action research teams. (One of many papers archived on the Australian Association for Research in Education site).

    PARnet - "Based at Cornell University in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of central New York State, PARnet serves an international group of students, faculty, and other practitioners who share a commitment to promoting high standards of intellectual and social integrity in doing social research for social change."

    Portraits of literacy: Critical Issues in Family, Community and School Literacies - July 7 - 10, 2002, University of British Columbia.  Strong research and practice components; many papers online and many due to be posted in proceedings, as well.

    ‘Possible Selves’: Girls and Their Mothers Research Own Lives - intergenerational research project; part of What Kids Can Do.

    Practitioner Dissemination and  Research Network of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL): PDF document, evaluation of the now defunct PDRN.

    Practitioner-Led Research Initiative (PLRI) projects - publication from the NRDC summarizing practitioner-led research implemented from 2004-6.

    Practitioner Research - topical listing from a larger subject index for Focus on Basics, a NCSALL quarterly journal.

    Primer on Social Science Inquiry, part of WNET's Learning Adventures inCitizenship ADVENTURES IN CITIZENSHIP, a site containing Web-based learning activities designed to allows teachers, parents, and kids to learn more about and participate in their own communities. The site also includes links to resources found at the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry, "which provides workshops, programs, on-line support, and an intellectual community of practice affording science reform educators a deep and rich experience of how inquiry learning looks and feels."

    Qualitative Research Websites - links from The University of East Anglia, one of of many of ERIC'S resources on action research.

    Recognizing the Knowledge of Young People:  An Interview with Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre on Youth Action Research, from What Kids Can Do.

    Reflective Teaching Practice in Adult ESL Settings -  Digest by MaryAnn Cunningham Florez 

    Research and Practice in Adult Literacy - (RaPAL), a site that has come and gone online, but an entity which has consistently provided information, publications and hands on experience to learners and practitioners in the UK: "RaPAL campaigns for the rights of all adults to have access to the full range of literacies in their lives...RaPAL encourages a broad range of collaborative and reflective research involving all participants in literacy work as partners. We support democratic practices in adult literacy work and believe that a learning democracy can only be achieved if teaching, learning and research are kept together. A dynamic relationship between research and practice keeps the meaning of literacy open and responsive to the variety of changing social contexts and practices that exist in our society. We recognise the role of professional development in this process and of activities which enable learners to make their views known, in all media. As we see it, students are central to a learning democracy and their participation in the decision-making processes of practice and research is essential."

    Research as Staff Development: A Facilitator's Guide - a new component of the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center's website is for adult literacy programs and organizations interested in using inquiry groups and research methods in their program improvement efforts. The guide provides all the basic materials and information to implement practitioner research as staff development. The process is organized into four meetings: Coming Up With A Research Question, Collecting Research Data, Analyzing Research Data, and Making Our Research Knowledge Public.  It includes the steps to facilitate each meeting, handouts for all the activities, and links to teachers' research projects and other resources.
    Ronna Spacone, former VAERN coordinator, developed this extensive website. VAERN was funded in 1998-2000 by a grant to the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP) from the Virginia Department of Education.  -- Susan Joyner, Director Adult Learning Resource Center

    RESEARCH / Centre for Language and LiteracyUniversity of Technology, Syndney/ a research centre that focuses on the areas of language, literacy and numeracy education and research. Centre members are also involved in policy advice, consultancies and training for different educational and professional bodies, workplaces and State and National agencies and institutions.

    Research Community Needs Voices of Classroom Teachers - Dr. Arif Altun Touts Potential Role of Action Research; somewhat problematic in its implication/tone, but also linked to a paper by David Nunan.  Another doctor in the academy considers practice in research.

    Research in Action: Teachers, Projects, and Technology by Heide Wrigley, Literacy Links Volume 8, No. 3, June 2004.  What counts as research, why does it matter and what does it mean?

    Research in Practice in Adult Literacy -  Canadian-based site, designed to provide resources and access to communication with other researchers in practice; the site is in development - give your input through the site's online survey.

    Reports for the Research-in-Practice Project are posted on the RiPAL-BC website and can be downloaded free of charge ( 
    Reports include: Make it Real: Participatory Action Research with Adult Learners by Dee McRae, See Me: Use of Personal Narrative in the Classroom by Paula Davies, Catching Our Breath: Collaborative Reflection-on-Action in Remote-Rural BC by Anne Docherty, From Concrete to Abstract: The benefits of Using a Guided Reflective Writing Technique by Leonne Beebe, Walking Alongside: Youth-Adult Partnerships in Making Change by Melanie Sondergaard

    Research in Practice Seminar Edmonton, October 24th to 26th
    Exploring Tensions and Possibilities for Research in Practice: Notes towards a presentation! Jenny Horsman - notes from an Edmonton seminar.

    Researcher index; subject and author index of research projects organised and posted by the National Literacy Trust.  Rich resource gateway.

    Research, reports and policy on adult literacies from Scotland and beyond from Adult Literacies Online

    Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects  by Nancy Padak and Gary Padak

    Resources for Feminist Research - Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

    Student Research for Action, Supporting students as action researchers - from What Kids Can Do

    TAMING THE  RESEARCH BEAST - Research Methods in TESL and Language Acquisition

    The Impact of Teacher Knowledge Seminars: Unpacking Reflective Practice (drawing on the Teacher Knowledge Project at the School for International Training - The Teacher Knowledge Project (TKP) trains co-facilitators for reflective inquiry groups, offering teachers: time, a community of colleaguesand  a structure for examining their teaching in relation to their students' learning, and for making thoughtful changes in their teaching

    Voices from the field - Third Quarter, 1999. Julia Nora, a former adult educator, currently teaching middle school ESOL, reports on her own action research. Her goals were "to assess the current level of performance in my classroom, experiment with new ways of doing things, measure the results, and begin again as necessary."

    Publications from the National Center on Adult Literacy:

    Invitations to Inquiry: Rethinking Staff Development in Adult Literacy Education, Susan L. Lytle, Alisa Belzer, & Rebecca Reumann (October 1992) introduces a model for inquiry-centered staff development in which participants work collaboratively to conduct systematic inquiries at their program settings, critically analyze current theory and research from field-based perspectives, and make problematic the social, political, and cultural arrangements that structure literacy learning and teaching in particular contexts. (TR92-02, 40 pages)

    Developing the Professional Workforce for Adult Literacy Education, Susan L. Lytle, Alisa Belzer, & Rebecca Reumann (December 1993) identifies policy issues in adult education staff development and introduces inquiry-based staff development as a promising approach for enriching the professional workforce and rethinking both practice and research on practice in adult literacy. (PB92-02, 11 pages)

    Initiating Practitioner Inquiry: Adult Literacy Teachers, Tutors, and Administrators Research Their Practice, Susan L. Lytle, Alisa Belzer, & Rebecca Reumann (November 1993) focuses on the systematic inquiry into daily practice by adult literacy workers whose questions and methods emerge from quite particularized, workplace contexts even while addressing the wider concerns in the field such as staff development. (TR93-11, 53 pages) $

    For more information concerning Rhode Island Inquiry Projects please contact LR/RI

    handwritten notes about research
    LR/RI home

    updated May 20, 2017