LITERACY RESOURCES/RI/1  Progress report, July, 2002

OVERVIEW OF PROJECT PERIOD: 7/01 - 6/02 and workplan 2002 - 2003

Literacy Resources/Rhode Island continues to address its mission of maximizing collaboration and cooperation among adult educators/literacy providers in Rhode Island, and strengthening connections among existing and emerging adult education programs and practitioners. LR/RI works to expand existing professional capacity of the adult education field in Rhode Island, thereby strengthening the quality of adult literacy instruction.

During the 2001-2002 program year, LR/RI has built on previous initiatives and explored new directions, particularly in the area of practitioner-driven inquiry. With the assistance of Cassandra Drennon, the inquiry project process has been broadened so that practitioners receive a more thorough grounding in principles of teacher-driven research. The structure of inquiry projects during this program year provided expanded opportunities for practitioners to meet with one another and to communicate both in face-to-face meetings and electronically in order to strengthen their work. In addition to this focused form of professional development, LR/RI facilitated monthly sharing sessions of ESOL practitioners, disseminated information through its bulletin and website and continued to be present to professional development, policy and advocacy activity throughout the state, as detailed within this report.

LR/RI addresses its interdependent priorities of building capacity and strengthening communication and instruction by linking existing Rhode Island adult education, literacy and human resources providers and learners via the Internet, and through direct contact in various forms. LR/RI has sought to expand awareness of literacy and adult education issues to policy makers, the general public and to providers of social services and to deepen mutual understandings of adultsı needs and strengths ­ both relative to and beyond language and literacy development.

specific activities:

- the development and distribution via mail, email, and fax, of LR/RI's bulletin through which information is regularly shared amongst agencies/practitioners. LR/RI has continued to link people and information through the bulletin, which is also posted and archived on its web site. The bulletin is directly distributed to over 290 people, representing approximately 80 educational and/or professional development service providers.

- assisting practitioners in connecting to one another through sharing/discussion sessions and other facilitated meetings focusing on the areas of ESOL, intergenerational learning, women's issues in adult learning, learning disabilities, assessment, adult secondary education, technology and adult education generally.

Participation in sharing sessions serves as a means for practitioners to identify both need and interest in learning and teaching more about particular areas. Fostering participation in these sessions is an ongoing struggle, due in part to the fact that teachers work part time, have little institutional support for their participation and because they teach during mornings, afternoons and evenings, scheduling almost always means someone will miss a session. While participation in informal discussions has furthered in-depth exploration of particular topics and issues through the sharing of resources and joint exploration of topics of interest, it remains a challenge to find ways to actively engage practitioners who would like to be involved in such sessions, but for whom the means to do so remain elusive. LR/RI will renew its efforts to learn from the ESOL sharing group ­ a thriving group of practitioners who have met monthly for the past 5 years ­ to determine purposes and particular areas of focus for sharing sessions in the areas of women and literacy, ABE, technology and intergenerational learning and to increase participation in these sessions.

- participation in regional and national work through listservs, meetings, and task-based committees, geared towards furthering the National Institute for Literacy's LINCS national and regional web sites, and furthering conversations about policy, instruction and pedagogy amongst an international group of participants working in adult language and literacy development. . Janet Isserlis is a member of the LINCS Family Literacy and ESL Special Collections Core Knowledge Groups, and also serves on the National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE) advisory board. She has recently been invited to participate in the Core Knowledge Group for the Women and Literacy Special Collection, now under development through NIFL/LINCS.

- development of locally-produced content for LR/RI's own web site. Chief among this content are reports from inquiry participants, as well as statements from learners given to the press and congressional delegations.

- distribution of The Change Agent in hard copy and through links to The Change Agent on-line, and contribution of content to the online version (extension exercises developed to broaden the usefulness of The Change Agent for beginning level English language literacy learners).

- distribution of information and resource material, including Focus on Basics,
Field Notes and
Captured Wisdom, a video and CD Rom illustrating ways in which to integrate technology into adult basic education and ESOL programs.

activity relevant to addressing the priorities within and beyond the state

- telephone and face-to-face consultation with adult students, educators, policy makers and interested others including referrals, provision of information about programs, employment and volunteer opportunities, pedagogy, legislation, statistics and responses to requests for information and/or technical assistance, including those from Congressman Patrick Kennedy and others within and beyond the literacy provider network.

- membership in and participation on the board of directors of the New England Literacy Resource Center
. - membership on the board of directors of MATSOL, the Massachusetts affiliate of TESOL, which is in the process of developing a Rhode Island affiliate.

- production of a web-based resource system: LR/RI's web site is linked to that of the National Institute For Literacy - through its state directories, through the Eastern LINCS site and through various postings on NIFL literacy listservs, and is also linked through a number of state literacy resource center web sites also listing literacy resource centers. Additionally, links to LR/RI can be found at over 60 (and counting) online sites. A search at yields sites linking to LR/RI. Web sites linking to LR/RI, and/or to which LR/RI has contributed, appear here.

conferences, presentations, trainings,

During the 2001-2002 project period, LR/RI represented the state at the international TESOL conference (April, 2002), co-facilitating a panel session within the Adult Education in ESOL interest section, Action agenda for adult ESL language and literacy; that session engaged participants in reviewing a document supporting the need for ESOL services within the larger National Literacy Summit Agenda, . Janet also assisted facilitation of small group discussions within a larger session devoted to Classroom Responses to Terrorism and co-facilitated a workshop with the Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/ Transgender and Friends in TESOL Caucus focused on the impact of language in the classroom around issues of sexual orientation, entitled, What's in a name? Janet has also managed TESOL's Adult Education Interest Sectionıs listserv for the past two years.

Other workshop presentations include participation in a symposium, Women and Literacy: What are the Issues? at the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education: Adult Education and the Contested Terrain of Public Policy conference, Toronto, May, 2001. Follow-up work on the NIFL fellowship examining impacts of violence on learning has included a workshop on violence, learning and literacy presented at Project Learn, and ongoing support of the Genesis Center;s work within World Education;s Women, Violence and Literacy project. Janet has also facilitated workshops on multilevel ESOL classes for LVA-RI, SABES and MATSOL-RI during the past year.

In July, 2001, Janet and Cassie Drennon co-facilitated a workshop at a research conference, A Gathering about Literacy Research in Practice, in Edmonton Alberta, where Janet also served as a rapporteur/reporter for the conference, documenting sessions for forthcoming publication of conference proceedings.

In Feburary, Janet was invited to participate in the first round of standards validation for the Equipped for the Future standards. This three-day process enabled her to participate in developing a validation process for one of the 16 content standards created by EFF (convey ideas in writing), and also provided an invaluable opportunity for Janet to learn more and more intensively about the applications and implications of the EFF frameworks, role models and standards.

Janet was invited to participate as a vignette-based discussions facilitator within Brown Univeristy and the Annenberg Institute's Literacy, Diversity and Equity in the Context of Reform conference, held in April.

Janet was one of 20 adult education and rehabilitation practitioners in to participate in an intensive three-day train the trainer course sponsored by The American Foundation for the Blind's National Literacy Center in May of 2002. The training is part of a new project called, "Bridging the Gap: Best Practices for Instructing Adults Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and Have Low Literacy Skills", which has as its goal effecting systemic change in the way literacy instruction is delivered. Janet is working this month (June, 2002) with representatives of the Carroll Center for the Blind in order to explore possibilities for enacting systemic change within the catchment area shared by LR/RI and the Carroll Center. The Carroll Center and LR/RI are jointly applying for funding to support practitioner participation in a similar local effort as well as to work towards systematizing both rehabilitation and literacy providersı capacities to meet the needs of adults with visual impairments.

advocacy -- advocating for adult learners and practitioners in the realm of policy and practice

During the project year, LR/RI was present at meetings of the Adult Education Commission and the RI Adult Literacy Council. In addition to attendance at these meetings, LR/RI provides information to the field, and specifically to members of the Commission, through dissemination of policy updates and other relevant information on its web site and through the bulletin. Janet has been an active member of the Commission's advocacy sub-committee and a vocal proponent of learners' and teachers' rights within the state. In the last year, LR/RI has been included among those contacted by elected officials seeking information about literacy and adult education needs and services.

LR/RI has also attended meetings of the Education and Training Collaborative, an ad hoc entity funded by the Poverty Institute, RIDE, the Rhode Island Foundation, and others with the goal of exploring the need for, and allocation of adequate resources to education and training for adult learners and TANF recipients in the state. Janet's colleagues in the field requested that she be appointed to the Collaborativeıs steering committee, and she was invited to join that committee in October of 2001. This process, contentious at times, began in 2000 and continues as of this writing, although little activity has occurred within recent months.

Janet facilitated the presentation of an information session given to the Adult Education Commission by William Diehl and Johan Uvin of Literacy Works, an initiative seeking funding for the possible development of adolescent literacy programming to be sited in Rhode Island, and possibly funded through the Annie Casey Foundation. In addition to the meeting with Literacy Works, Janet has maintained contact with Mr. Diehl, providing additional agency and individual contact information so that Mr. Diehl and his colleagues might explore the feasibility of siting their project in Rhode Island.

LR/RI continues to work with < a href ="">VALUE, a national learner organization, to support its national and local initiatives. Janet has participated in VALUE's board nomination processes over the past three years and is working with the committee to expand portions of the VALUE web site. LR/RI, through its RIDE funding, also sponsored participation of a Rhode Island learner at VALUEıs national conference and has worked with that learner and others in the state to support and promote learner leadership following the conference and throughout the year.


- Field Notes, (Volume 12, Number 1, Spring, 2002) Adult Ed by Way of Store 24
- On the Screen: setting the stage for Learning in Off Our Backs, December, 2001
- Voices of Canadian Literacy: Teachers Guide, 2002, John Howard Society of Canada
- ongoing web development and publication through Literacy Resources/RI website

developing professional development opportunities for adult education practitioners / review of activities

LR/RI's work is informed and driven by the rationale that professional development is most meaningful when practitioners have opportunities to process learning, share, rehearse, and reflect upon changes they make in their practice and to have a voice in determining the kinds of professional development in which they participate. The work is also informed by an awareness that adult education workers are at varying stages of capability and readiness to learn ­ from those for whom a one-off workshop might be of value, to those for whom a more intensive, reflective process would be in order. LR/RI is committed to providing follow up to its workshops ­ either through sharing sessions, web-based continuation or other means of extending learning ­ so that teachers might feel more supported and less isolated in their work.

LR/RI again worked with the RI Department of Education, and this year with Cassadra Drennon (as mentioned above) to facilitate a round of practitioner inquiry projects, posting initial proposals, interim and final reports on its web site and meeting monthly with practitioners. Reports of 2001 inquiry projects are posted on line.

The following describes professional development activities, the planning and/or implementing of which LR/RI was entirely or partially responsible, and/or in which it participated:

direct teaching, conferences, workshops, meetings

LR/RI functioned in an advisory capacity to the RI Bridges to Practice team (of the New England LD partnership project), providing support to the stateıs team of three practitioners in the form of access to technology and needed communications assistance, and in disseminating information about the project on an as-needed basis. The team was working with carried over funding, facilitating sharing sessions around topics of learning disabilities and assisting with/participating in planning and implementing a state conference held in May at CCRI. Lag funding was also used to support Robin Schwarz's workshop at that conference, focussing on LD issues and ESOL learning and teaching. A follow up sharing session was hosted at LR/RI following the conference, but attendance was minimal. Again, consideration of specific purposes / foci for sharing sessions is part of the work that LR/RI is taking on for the coming year.

LR/RI has also met with the regional Bridges planning team and with Steve Brunero, whose work is closely related to that of the Bridges team. Steve capably represented the adult education/LD piece at a regional conference in May when Janet was unable to attend due to a death in her family. Janet has also attended meetings of committees looking at educational needs of FIP recipients, including a sub-committee specifically focussed on learning disabilities.

During the summer of 2001, LR/RI facilitated open computer drop-in sessions at Brown's Center for Information Technology. That program continued, albeit in shortened form (fewer sessions) during the summer of 2001. Janet is often contacted by program directors and practitioners seeking information about possible sources of technical assistance related to uses of technology; she is able to provide some of that assistance herself and/or recommend appropriate others.

Janet worked with Rachel Paras, at the Swearer Center for Public Service to facilitate access to computers to mothers and children from the Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association, part of an ongoing collaboration between the Swearer Center and Mt. Hope. Meeting at both the Swearer Center and later at the Martin Luther King Elementary School's computer lab, Janet and Rachel assisted mothers and their children in learning to use various internet and software applications; these mothers are on their way to becoming neighborhood assistants to others in the community who wish to learn to use technology themselves.

Janet continued to tutor two women at the Adult Correctional Institution. One of those students was released on parole last fall, and came to the Swearer Center to work on the internet once; subsequent calls have not been returned. The second student, temporarily transferred to a facility in Massachusetts, has returned to Rhode Island and continues to work on learning software applications and other work supporting her attempt to pass the GED (which she missed by 1 point). Both learners have made strides in their educational development; Janet plans to work with the woman remaining in state to support her work towards the passing the GED and also in exploring her own writing and expression, and will renew efforts to contact the woman on parole, to assure her that when and if she is prepared to return to the center, and/or seek alternative placement in an adult education program, the resources will be in place to assist her to do so.

As before, as a result of LR/RI's dissemination efforts, a growing number of practitioners in the state participate in national and state-based on-line discussion groups (listservs) in the areas of literacy policy and advocacy (NLA), intergenerational literacy learning (NIFL-family), learning disabilities (NIFL-LD) and English language learning (NIFL-ESL). Additionally, through regional work sponsored by the New England Literacy Resource Center, practitioners remain involved in national projects, including work around the Equipped for the Future role maps and standards, women and violence, field testing of ELINCS online courses, transition to postsecondary studies, and currently, exploration of options for additional resources and strategies to be implemented within the areas of corrections education.

professional development in Rhode Island - collaboration and future plans

Adult learners and practitioners bring strengths as well as needs to educational processes; recognizing and building from these strengths is an intrinsic part of adult education practice and is explicitly addressed in all elements of professional development activity. Professional development needs to occur through a variety of delivery models and in a sustained and ongoing manner if it is to be effective. The need continues to exist for sustained activity over time to enable people to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information and advocate, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond.

LR/RI works to afford a greater number of literacy and language development practitioners in the state opportunities to meet with one another and to participate in staff development activities in order to reflect and act upon current experience and thereby increase capacity in terms of:

- knowledge bases / access to exemplary practices, to colleagues and collegial channels and to information (print and other media)
- expansion of understandings of adult education and the perspectives held by various stakeholders within adult education in the state
- participation in assets-based professional development and leadership education to expand understanding of and influence over systemic forces impacting literacy education.

This work is undertaken with the goal of assisting adult educator in obtaining the following:

  • increased access to professional development resources and processes
  • increased ability to communicate / interact with the field
  • increased leadership capacity for individuals and programs
  • development of sustainable professional development networks engaged in ongoing projects and activities in order to provide the best possible resources and instruction for adult learners in the state.
  • In the coming year, RIDE and LR/RI (Bob Mason and Janet Isserlis) will participate in a two-session professional development institute entitled Leadership in Action, (LIA), an institute to which they jointly successfully applied, and whose purpose is to help Bob and Janet collaboratively explore and implement mentorship opportunities for adult educators in the state. (The institute is a project of NAEPDC -- the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium ­ and Abt Associates, Inc.). LIA sessions will be held in Minneapolis and in Santa Fe; LR/RIıs travel budget reflects the additional funding committed to this project. It is our belief that a strengths-based approach to mentoring will enable practitioners in the state to capitalize on one anotherıs expertise and will also serve to grow a viable professional development community within a culture that must support professional development and advancement in order to serve adult learners as well as possible. We believe that the mentoring component ­ and strengthening our own ability to support it ­ will appropriately complement the ongoing varieties of staff development currently available to adult educators in the state. In the coming years, while practitioner inquiry may remain the most intensive and ongoing form of professional development, we anticipate that mentoring opportunities will grow ­ and vary in intensity ­ along with workshops, study circles, sharing and discussion sessions and as-needed ongoing technical assistance already provided.

    As part of her work of supporting teacher inquiry projects, Janet is enrolling in an online course, beginning in mid-July, described below:

    Conducted over four months or a little less, its 14 sessions (or thereabouts) will provide you with basic information about one form of action research. As with earlier programs, the theme of areol 16 is the integration of effective change with rigorous research. In some respects, it is a combination of the principles of community and organisational change with those for change-oriented qualitative research.
    The program does not attempt to cover all varieties of action research. Nor does it analyse the philosophy of action research in any depth. The main intention is to allow participants to understand some processes which combine action and research, and which can be used in practice.
    Later sessions briefly describe an action research approach to evaluation. The on-line sessions are supplemented by archived files on various aspects of action research and evaluation. There is no charge. This is provided as a public service by Southern Cross University. [AREOL website]

    We are also contemplating a state-wide conference for the late winter / early spring of the coming program year. RIDE and LR/RI have also worked closely in supporting EL/Civics activities. Our colleagues Andy Nash and Heide Wrigley have provided workshop and on-line support and materials for the field; as well their workshops are consistently well-received. We plan to continue to work with Ms. Nash as intergenerational literacy programs in the state work to deepen their understanding of the ways in which the Equipped for the Future standards can help them shape and strengthen their work with adult and child learners. LR/RI's budget reflects RIDE's and LR/RI's commitment to supporting that work.

    Literacy educators need a cohesive base for professional development. Too few people access professional development opportunities not only because of lack of funding, but also because most adult educators work in more than one part time position so that finding the time to participate becomes problematic. Addressing these concerns and building a strong, local base for professional development has continued and will continue to drive much of LR/RI's work. A vision that recognizes individuals engaged in adult education as dedicated professionals must encompass provision of ongoing and sustained opportunities for development for them, and by extension, for the communities they serve. LR/RI continues to work on strengthening partnerships and communication among education entities across the state.

    Literacy Resources/Rhode Island workplan - July 1, 2002 - June 30, 2003

    Literacy Resources/Rhode Island OVERVIEW OF PROJECT PERIOD: 7/02 - 6/03 and workplan 2003 - 2004





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