LITERACY RESOURCES/RI Progress report, July, 2003

OVERVIEW OF PROJECT PERIOD: 7/02 - 6/03 and workplan 2003 - 2004

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 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 and language instruction.

During the 2002-2003 program year, LR/RI built on previous initiatives and explored new directions, continuing particularly in the area of practitioner-driven inquiry, and also collaborating with RIDE and other state directors/literacy resource center personnel from around the country in undertaking a process of sustained reflection and analysis regarding systemic approaches to professional development.

Leadership in action

Bob Mason, state director of adult education (RIDE) and Janet Isserlis participated in a two-part professional development institute entitled Leadership in Action, (LIA), the purpose of which has been to help Bob and Janet collaboratively analyse strengths and needs among literacy practitioners and to explore and implement mentorship opportunities for adult educators in the state. (The institute is a project of the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium ­ and Abt Associates, Inc ). LIA sessions were held in Minneapolis (fall, 2002) and in Santa Fe (early spring, 2003). 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.

As part of the LIA process, a survey has been developed and distributed to the field, as well as a review of RFP's for the current grant cycle in order for RIDE and LR/RI to identify areas of strength and need amongst adult educators across the state. Both elements of this research are designed to learn about both reported and perceived needs and assistance offered to teaching staff in RIDE-funded (and other) adult education programs in Rhode Island.

Practitioner inquiry

The recently-evolved 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. The ESOL share practitioners developed and offered a two-part six-hour training session for new and volunteer teachers in January of this year. Well attended and received, the workshops are designed to meet the needs of agencies who often separately recruit and train volunteer teachers and tutors. As a result of this initial training, several attendees subsequently participated in other professional development activities during the spring, and joined the network of those receiving regular bulletin and other updates from LR/RI.

LR/RI undertook, with capable assistance from others in the adult education community, Rhode Islandıs first (in a very long time) adult education conference, held on May 15, 2003. Over one hundred people attended the conference, as did a number of publishers and programs displaying information and educational products. Evaluations of that conference were largely positive; plans are underway to hold a slightly expanded conference in the spring of 2004 (see Workplan).

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 adults1 needs and strengths ­ both relative to and beyond language and literacy development.

ongoing 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 continues 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 general adult education practice.

Participation in sharing sessions provides 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. The ESOL sharing group ­ a thriving group of practitioners who have met monthly for the past 6 years has recently expressed interest in research models, particularly those deemed 'appropriate' for purposes of informing reports to funding sources. An initial meeting of practitioners focusing their interest on research will take place on July 31st, 2003. Many of those attending that meeting were present at the final share of this year's inquiry projects on June 13th.

- 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, Women and Literacy and ESL Special Collections Core Knowledge Groups.

- 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.

- participation, by invitation, to act as a respondent to the University of Lancaster (UK)'s online practitioner research course, February - April ( )

- 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).

- participation on the editorial board of the Change Agent's issue on Language and Power, and presentation of a workshop addressing its use at the May 15th conference.

- 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 and other relevant resources.

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 Senators Reed and Chafee, Congressman Kennedy and others within and beyond the literacy provider network.

- LR/RI met with Luke Hill, of the Rhode Island Organizing Project (RIOP), in support of that organizationıs focus on adult education as an advocacy and equity issue. LR/RI assisted RIOP in publicizing its well-attended awareness-raising event (June 19th) and welcomed RIOPıs participation in the Adult Education Commission as part of our joint interest in promoting awareness of the need for support for adult learning across the state.

- 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 adult literacy resources. 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 at

conferences, presentations, trainings

During the 2002-2003 project period, LR/RI represented the state, along with other practitioners, at the international TESOL conference (March, 2003), and has moderated TESOL's Adult Education Interest Section's listserv for the past three years.

Janet facilitated a workshop on violence and learning at the two-day MATSOL conference, held in October, 2002.

Other workshop presentations include the workshop, Supporting inquiry work: what do we know? what do we do?, given at the third Research in Practice conference held at Memorial University, St. Johns Newfoundland, June, 2003. In addition to presenting this workshop, Janet participated in a three-day course, led by Dr. Mary Hamilton, of the University of Lancaster, on research practices in uses of literacies. Janet also served as a rapporteur/reporter for this conference, documenting sessions for forthcoming publication of conference proceedings.

In July of 2002, at the Portraits of Literacy Conference in Vancouver, BC, [] she co-facilitated a workshop, Constructions of women, literacy and public institutions: privilege, role and language with Suzanne Smythe, and was also part of a panel at that conference addressing promising practices in youth literacy. Additionally she participated in the pre-conference workshop on research in practice, a continuation of the conference in Edmonton, Alberta, held the previous summer.

As one of 20 adult education and rehabilitation practitioners invited 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, in September, Janet was invited to Atlanta for a one-day symposium of practitioners in the areas of literacy and services for the blind and visually impaired. The project, "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. In collaboration with the Carroll Center for the Blind, Janet worked to develop and publicize a two-part series of trainings, ³Crossing Boundaries,² which were held in the fall of 2002.

Practitioners from Rhode Island and Massachusetts learned about visual disabilities and the connections between adult learning for those with visual impairments. In the spring of 2003, Janet, along with Sally Gabb at Southeast SABES and Maria Elena Gonzalez, in Boston, successfully bid on a minigrant through which to continue this work within the catchment area shared by LR/RI and SABES central and southeast in order 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. Two workshops will be held in the fall to address these needs; a survey establishing the scope and breadth of needs and abilities was sent to the field in May. These workshops will differ somewhat from the two offered in the fall of 2002, in that they will focus more on adult learning needs of people with visual disabilities, but will also draw on the expertise of our colleagues at the Carroll Center and the American Foundation for the Blind.

advocacy 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. 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. LR/RI continues to be included among those contacted by elected officials seeking information about literacy and adult education needs and services, and has worked especially to build relationships with educational aides of the stateıs two US Senators, and was among those invited to meet with Senator Jack Reed, in June, 2003, to discuss issues relevant to adult education and legislation.

LR/RI participated in a focus group meeting of the staff of RI KIDS COUNT, as part of their efforts to make visible links between adult learning and child well-being.

LR/RI continues to work with VALUE, a national learner organization, to support its national and local initiatives. Along with Luis and Maria Vargas, student and former student, respectively, of Project LEARN, Janet co-facilitated a workshop on teamwork at the Learner Leadership Institute held June 26-28 in Tampa. In addition to Luis and Maria, another student from the Washington County Adult Learning Center also attended this conference. Plans are currently underway to maintain the momentum and support for learner leadership locally and regionally; collaboration with Earnest Best and others in the region is in the early planning stages.


- Field Notes, (Volume 12, No. 3 Winter 2003) Prison Issue; with Jessica Gonzalez: A Tutor and Learner at the ACI
also with Jessica Gonzalez; edited Reading and Learning:A Handbook for Adults, by Pat Campbell
- "The Good Mother" Exploring Mothering Discourses in Family Literacy Texts, with Suzanne Smythe, forthcoming, Literacy Harvest, New York City: Literacy Assistance Center.
- (2002), "Regulating Women and Families: Mothering Discourses and Family Literacy Texts," published in English Quarterly 34 also with Suzanne Smythe.

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 with Cassadra Drennon's analysis of the 2001-2002 inquiry work), to facilitate a new round of practitioner inquiry projects, posting initial proposals, interim and final reports on its web site and meeting monthly with practitioners. Reports of 2002/3 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

Janet continued to tutor Jessica Gonzalez at the Adult Correctional Institution Jessica continues to work on learning software applications and other work supporting her attempt to pass the GED, and also completed a distance course on marriage and families during the spring. 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.

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.

As part of her work of supporting teacher inquiry projects, Janet enrolled in an online course during the summer of 2002; the course is described as follows:

AEROL: action research and evaluation on line, Conducted over four months or a little less, its 14 sessions (or thereabouts 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 planning a statewide conference for the spring of the coming program year, given the success of this year's spring event. 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 worked with Ms. Nash, who provided a three-part series from intergenerational literacy programs 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.

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, 2003 - June 30, 2004






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