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Authentic Contexts

NCSALL has a variety of materials that can be used to learn more about the benefits of using authentic materials in the adult literacy classroom and to learn more about how to implement the use of these materials into practice.


Creating Authentic Materials and Activities for the Adult Literacy Classroom. Erik Jacobson, Sophie Degener, and Victoria Purcell-Gates, 2003.
Based on the results of a five-year study in which the authors investigated the use of authentic materials and dialogic relationships in adult basic education (ABE) programs, this handbook provides practitioners with suggestions, activities, and assessment practices for creating authentic context. The use of authentic, contextualized materials correlated to increased reading time by adult learners and a broadening of their literacy activities. The authors conclude, “Bringing the lives, needs, and interests of the students into the classroom is an integral part of best practices.”

Program Administrators' Sourcebook: A Resource on NCSALL's Research for Adult Education Administrators. Jackie Taylor, Cristine Smith, and Beth Bingman with Margaret Bott, Kim Gass, Bethany Lay, Douglas Ann Taylor, and Kristin Tiedeman, December 2005.
This sourcebook presents NCSALL's research findings in short sections related to key challenges that program administrators face in their work as managers of adult education programs. It also presents the implications of these research findings for program structure and services, as well as some strategies for implementing change based on these implications.

Seminar Guide: Building Teacher/Learner Collaborations. March 2006.
This 3-hour seminar introduces practitioners to the research on teacher/learner collaborations.

Seminar Guide: Overview of Critical Pedagogy. November 2005.
This 3-hour seminar introduces adult education practitioners to critical pedagogy theory. It provides a tool for analyzing the degree to which their own programs reflect the theory.

Seminar Guide: Philosophy of Using Authentic Curriculum. January 2006.
In this 4-hour seminar, practitioners compare three approaches to curriculum and identify their own philosophies of teaching and curriculum development.

Seminar Guide: Using Authentic Curriculum and Materials. October 2005.
In this 3-hour seminar, teachers and tutors use the handbook, Creating Authentic Materials and Activities for the Adult Literacy Classroom, as a guide in moving toward contextualized literacy instruction.

Study Circle Guide: Teaching and Learning in Authentic Contexts. November 2003.
This guide is based on research that examined the impact of the degree of authenticity of activities and texts and the degree of student/teacher collaboration on changes in literacy practices of students outside the classroom. Participants examine teaching and learning in authentic contexts, and discuss the challenges of using authentic instruction and integrating authentic activities and materials into their classes. This guide provides all the necessary materials and clear instructions to plan and facilitate a three-session study circle (with an option for a fourth). Each session lasts three hours.



Affecting Change in Literacy Practices of Adult Learners: Impact of Two Dimensions of Instruction. Victoria Purcell-Gates with Sophie Degener, Erik Jacobson, and Marta Soler, NCSALL Report #17, November 2000.
In this empirical study, the researchers investigate how the use of authentic materials and collaborative learning contributes to learners' increased and new literacy practices outside of the adult literacy classroom. The authors argue that this has implications for improving the emergent literacy of students’ children. In making this argument, they cite research that demonstrates the link between the frequency of literacy practices in the home and the types of texts read and written by parents, and the development of their children’s reading skills.

U.S. Adult Literacy Program Practice: A Typology Across Dimensions of Life-Contextualized/Decontextualized and Dialogic/Monologic. Victoria Purcell-Gates, Sophie Degener, and Erik Jacobson, NCSALL Report #2, July 1998.
The researchers determined that students learn most efficiently when instructional materials reflect and incorporate the life experiences of students and that learning is enhanced when students are involved as partners in decision making at the program and class levels. Most programs included in the study were determined to use decontextualized materials and monologic practices.



“Collaborating with Students to Build Curriculum That Incorporates Real-Life Materials.” Charissa Ahlstrom, Focus on Basics, Volume 6, Issue C, September 2003.
This article provides practical application of Freirean theory to an ESOL classroom. The author describes her approach to curriculum development as social and contextual. Ahlstrom describes how she develops curriculum with her students.

"A Conversation with FOB...Learning How to Teach Health Literacy." Winston Lawrence and Lisa Soricone, Focus on Basics, Volume 8, Issue A, November 2005.
The Health Literacy Study Circle+ Guides is a new series published by NCSALL. Each of the three guides provides all the materials and methods needed to facilitate a 15-hour study circle that introduces teachers to a skills-based approach to health literacy. Focus on Basics spoke with the developers.

"Culturally Relevant Education." Barbara Garner, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue D, August 2005.
In Hawaii, vanessa Helsham uses Hawaiian cultural references and literature in her classes in the Learning Center in teh Halawa Correctional Facility. She also teaches traditional hula dancing and, in her class, rival gangs work together. If you're doing it wrong, in hula, you have to change. It's like life, she explains.

“Developing Adults’ Numerate Thinking: Getting Out From Under the Workbooks.” Mary Jane Schmitt, Focus on Basics, Volume 4, Issue B, September 2000.
This article emphasizes the importance of creating adult-centered math curriculum using realistic decision-making and problem-solving scenarios. The author argues for a shift from “school math” to numeracy and underscores the importance of linking math to the lives of adult learners.

“Education Leads to Investments.” Cheryl Jackson, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue B, November 2004.
Numeracy and financial planning lessons motivated transportation employees to form an Investment Club.

“Making Sense of Critical Pedagogy in Adult Literacy Education.” Sophie Degener, The Annual Review of Adult Learning and Literacy, Volume 2, Chapter 2.
This article provides a theoretical background for those who wish to use critical pedagogy for program design, curriculum development, and selection and use of instructional materials. Degener addresses issues in implementing this approach and recognizes that a continuum of practices exists in ABE programs. She calls for practitioners to reflect on their practices and to consider how they can gradually implement a critical approach to teaching and learning into program and curriculum design, as well as instructional methods.

“Much More than ABE.” Don Block and Lori Keefer, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue B, November 2004.
This article describes the workplace literacy program the authors developed in communication, team-building, and problem-solving for hotel housekeeping workers. They developed the program in response to the employer’s request that the employees demonstrate the customer service principles for the hotel.

“Multicultural Education: Connecting Theory to Practice.” Allison Cumming-McCann, Focus on Basics, Volume 6, Issue B, February 2003.
The author reviews four approaches to multicultural education—Contributions, Additive, Transformative, and the Decision Making and Social Action—and considers how these approaches can be implemented in an ABE program. She argues for the Decision Making and Social Action Approach, but also considers how practitioners can draw from the four approaches to gradually reach this desired approach to multicultural education.

“Numeracy Needs of Adult Literacy Participants—Learners’ Descriptions of Their Numeracy Needs Have a Surprisingly Strong Emotional Component.” Aydin Yucesan Durgunoglu and Banu Oney, Focus on Basics, Volume 4, Issue B, September 2000.
The authors describe how they investigated their adult learners’ need for mathematical skills and used this information to develop a math curriculum in Turkey.

“One-on-One Tutoring.” Mary Dunn Siedow, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue C, March 2005.
Starting with the learner’s perspective on tutoring, the author moves on to describe the tutors, the instruction, and programming of one-on-one tutoring situations. Siedow describes the limited research that is available on tutoring and calls for more research on the effectiveness of tutoring.

“Reading Work: Literacies in the New Workplace.” Tracy Defoe and Sue Folinsbee, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue B, November 2004.
This article describes the ethnographic study the authors conducted in four work sites to examine literacy from a social practice view. The findings showed that literacy is intrinsic to the work performed. The authors learned that events and documents in the workplace hold different meanings for different groups.

“Rediscovering Themselves: Learning to Read for Survival.” Melissa Nieves, Focus on Basics, Volume 1, Issue B, May 1997.
The author describes the process by which she worked with colleagues to develop a three-phase program that draws on students’ personal histories as topics and texts for ESOL instruction.

“Teaching ESOL Using Word Processing: A Communicative Approach.” Steve Quann and Diana Satin, Focus on Basics, Volume 4, Issue C, December 2000.
Two instructors describe how they developed a structured and collaborative approach to improving students’ computer and language skills through responding to their learners’ stated needs and interests.

“Teaching for Communicative Competence: Interaction in the ESOL Classroom.” Donna Moss, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue C, March 2005.
Plotting scenarios for telephone conversations provides language learners practice in authentic contexts. This activity has its roots in communicative language teaching, a framework for which the author offers the research background. Moss describes the principles for and challenges in creating an interactive classroom.

“Values and Beliefs: The World View Behind Curriculum.” Amy Prevedel, Focus on Basics, Volume 6, Issue C, September 2003.
This article encourages practitioners to reflect on their personal philosophies of teaching and learning through the introduction of three approaches to curriculum development—traditional, learner-driven, and critical. The author describes the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

“Workplace Literacy Education: Definitions, Purposes, and Approaches.” Paul Jurmo, Focus on Basics, Volume 7, Issue B, November 2004.
The author describes three common approaches to workplace literacy—basic skills, functional context, and collaborative, problem-posing—and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

“Yes! A Literacy Program’s Antiracist Journey.” Margery Freeman and Lou Johnson, Focus on Basics, Volume 6, Issue B, February 2003.
The authors outline the process by which one literacy program redesigned its structure to become learner-centered and anti-racist. Examining the program’s original mission and its evolution in responding to community requests sets the stage for the growth of the organization.


Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL