6 Costly Mistakes that Are Hurting Almost All Adult Ed Programs (And what to do about them)
Building a solid adult ed (AE) program is difficult.
An uphill battle to recruit students, find good teachers, meet learners’ needs, reach target goals, and provide high quality learner-centered instructional services.
The core challenges? Learner attrition, lack of student progress, not enough funding, low teacher satisfaction, and poor student attendance.
Your admin has so many things to do. Grant and report writing, budget monitoring, scheduling, student registration, meetings, testing, teacher recruitment, training and evaluation. The list goes on and on…
But none of that stuff matters if poor and crappy instruction/teaching is the norm in your classrooms. The question is: are your teachers proficient? Does your admin care enough about the quality of teaching students get?
Don’t get me wrong, I also think good management is important. But that alone does not get you funded. Ask yourself: why should donors fund your program over another provider’s services?
The scary thing is, funding for AE is scarce; so, donors don’t fund losers. For example, state and local governments want to support winners over losers. Well, it’s obvious no funders want to be associated with rock bottom performance.
What’s Important …
The thing is, number of graduates, increase on standardized tests, level completion, high learner retention rate, and high student satisfaction rate matter. In other words, good data and high quality learner-centered instructional services will take an AE program a long way.
How exactly do you improve the quality of what happens in your classrooms?
I have good news for you: you can improve the quality of your classroom instruction if you want to. Yes, it is possible. And you should start right now for the sake of your students.
You provide services that can change students’ lives. This is something worth fighting for. Your learners count on you. Your program has a duty to provide them with quality services.
Now you must be wondering where to start. As an Adult Education Consultant, here’s what I tell my clients: check if you are making the 6 costly mistakes below. Let’s dig in.
1. Class Observation
Focusing too much on the teacher’s performance instead of paying attention to what learners are able to do and what happens in the learning process is a huge mistake.
Sadly, adult ed teachers can put on a good show for their supervisors; but that does not mean they are consistent in their teaching; nor does it mean students are learning a thing.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example. Teachers tech skills are almost useless if they are not used to help students leverage technology to further their learning.
2. Teacher Evaluation
One classroom visit to evaluate a teacher’s performance? Seriously? This is a big no-no.
A classroom visit per semester or per year cannot give you enough data to judge the quality of instruction your learners are getting. It doesn’t do teachers justice either.
By the way, students survey might generate some data but it won’t provide an accurate assessment of the teaching quality they are exposed to.
Don’t want students to lose motivation and dropout? Build a better system to collect instructional data. Then, use the data to drive and improve instructions.
3. Observation/Evaluation Feedback
Pointing fingers at things teachers do wrong is easy. Showering them with vague positive feedback might make them feel good. But… how does that help them grow?
More importantly, what’s in the feedback for the students? How does that improve your program performance?
As a coach, my advice to you is to partner with teachers in solving pressing classroom issues. Instructors will appreciate your guidance. Students will enjoy the benefits as well.
4. Develop (New & Veteran )Teachers
There is a shortage of instructors in adult ed. Of course, we both know that. Hiring people with content knowledge is a good move. But failing to develop them into proficient teachers is deadly sin. It’s unfair to the learners your program seeks to serve.
Developing teachers is no easy task. But it’s one thing successful AE programs must do well.
Warning: veteran teachers might claim everything is going great when in reality learners might be going through a painful and boring experience in their classrooms.
Like they say, the proof is in the pudding… so you know where to look.
If you really care and respect your learners, you’ve got to get this teacher development thing right. Otherwise your students will lose big, so will your program.
What should you do? Start by getting a good instructional coach (consultant or full-time).
Offering (high quality) training is a good thing. But it’s waste of time and money if teachers don’t transfer and translate their learning into classroom practices.
During training teachers might get excited about new tools, new strategies, and best practices but return to old habits as soon as they go back into the classroom.
Do you need my advice here, too? Ok, fine. Build a follow up structure to help teachers transfer new learning into their teaching.
6. Novice Teachers in Low Level Classes
Giving low level classes (ABE or ESL) to novice teachers is another big no no.
It’s risky, tricky, and taxing for students and teachers alike. Why? Lower level students (ABE & ESL) need more help, more structure, and more scaffolding to progress in their learning journey.
My advice? If you have to do it, make sure novice teachers have a clear development plan and a coach to hold their hands. Otherwise, don’t go there. Unless you can afford losing your students. Just saying…
Finally, if your program does not make those mistakes, bravo (good for you)! But if its instructional practices need a little rethinking, your administration should take action immediately.
Have questions or need my help? Schedule a 30 minute discovery call here – for free.
Do you want to add your two cents to the discussion? Leave your comments below.
Thanks in advance for commenting and sharing the post with your adult ed colleagues.