Nathan Fields's Retention Strategies for Adult Learners
Center for Adult Learning in


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1. Describe the population served in your program.

I’m lucky. We had our CDE PAIR review this year. So, I’ll copy the first part of this assignment from our CDE PAIR Review:

Center For Adult Learning, Loveland: Most, though not all of the ABE and GED students at Center for Adult Learning are White or Hispanic, most are from a lower socio economic level, and about 20% are 16-21 year olds. In Loveland, ESL students are primarily immigrants and most of them are from a lower socio-economic level.

2. List positive retention practices that are in place for all students served.

We do follow contextualized lesson plans within our ESL, Literacy and GED classes. We’re pretty good at making sure that the students are involved in their own learning by charting what they do in their individual folders given at the beginning of their instruction. The rooms and facilities that we have are adult learning focused and are an appropriate setting for adult education. Our attendance policy works for adult education and we provide open enrollment and flexibility with class schedules to support adult
education. We have a process to contact learners that are not attending classes to encourage them to return for their education.

3. Describe your own student population. Suggest at least five new practices that can provide solutions to retention problems.

Because I teach both Pre-GED (GED this fall!) and ESL classes, my learners are really the same as the entire school. That’s listed under the 1st question answered in this lesson.

There are five practices that I will consider using this fall. I’ll outline them here:

a. A more intensive survey of needs and wants for the student population. We use a very basic questionnaire that doesn’t really break down individual needs/wants of each student. I have one at the school that we developed in EDU 134. I’d like to use that for my four levels of ESL classes along with a similar version for GED class. From the use of the survey, I could develop lesson plans that would help in retention along with meeting our CASAS competencies in ESL.

I also would like to do a survey of learning styles for each student. This would help determine whether the students have a more haptic/audiovisual or text based learning style. It would also help determine whether their background prefers to learn alone, in small groups or in large groups. It helps to see whether they prefer observation vs. participation in the classroom.

However, as pointed out in Unit 9, I would need to follow up and see whether or not these stated goals are really what the students want to do in class. Continue to negotiate these stated goals and try to break them up into smaller steps that the students can reach with more ease on a daily or weekly progress chart or sheet.

b. Better orientation for volunteers. I believe that we need to keep our volunteers involved in our program to maintain larger class sizes in both ESL and GED. We always start with larges classes in September and they shrink come December. I believe that better use of our volunteers would make the students that may leave due to what they feel is “neglect” stick around…(does that make sense?)

I think that if we use some of the training links on the internet (Such as ) that we focused on earlier in this class, our volunteers would know more of what was expected of them. Then, they would stick around understanding their role and more of an appreciation for what they need to do to help out our classes.

c. I also think that we should develop a questionnaire asking them what they expect and wish to have from their volunteer time at our school. In turn, we need to continue to give them a list with our expectations of them in our school.

We need to help new students “catch up” or feel integrated within the classroom sooner. When we’re busy, we tend to lose new students after a class or two. With volunteers sticking around, we could use them to help learners that enroll (we have open enrollment) later in the semester, “catch up” or at least help them feel that connection to the classroom much quicker.

Possibly using a mentor program with current students would be another solution. We could assign new students to a longer-term student to help develop their sense of community and also help assign them a task within that longer-term student’s group. We could also have an introductory pack of materials for new students at each level of learning. These introductory packs of material could include grammar points, vocabulary, and their “daily diary” to be kept in their classroom.

d. Tracking student progress. We need to find ways to show real progress for the students between post-tests. We tend to praise after posttests, but we need to find ways to show those little steps of progress in between those tests. At Rendezvous ‘06 in Denver this year, Reggie Rivers gave a speech during lunch about goals. It made an impact on the way I thought of goals. We tend to think big. We need to focus on the little day-by-day signs of progress. People need to focus on what they can do today, not what will be done a month from now. (Kind of a Buddhist thing! Live in the now!)

We could start student logs where each level of student could either do something as simple as write five new words for vocabulary and basic sentences they learned to do in class all the way up to writing five paragraph essays about different subjects that pertain to their lives.

e. We need to find long term team projects that last the semester. We need to have the students feel responsible for a part of the project so they will be connected to the group.

If they feel connected with a task that needs to be completed to help the other students, they may not wish to let the other students down! Then, they may stick around. I have several projects listed from my 134 class textbook. For GED, we can devise a project with the newspapers we receive daily. Maybe a scrap book devoted to a different subject for different teams?

I will list a variety of ideas for group projects:

• Use the community Resources Aid in retention project for my level 3 ESL class. We could not only list the numbers, but also have them give short presentations on what each resource does and write a very short paragraph about each resource.
• A contact list for jobs in the Loveland-Fort Collins area. These jobs could be for different professions like landscaping, good industry, health care and others. They could list the types of jobs, descriptions and give resources for learning vocabulary, phrases and grammar points for each job.
• Prepare questions for a visit from people in our community. They could practice and model vocabulary, phrases and questions for people from different professions. We could invite a police officer, teacher, nurse, doctor, and assistance agency personnel for example. The students could use their learning to practice for the day they arrive to speak to the class and answer their questions.
• They could prepare a scrapbook of news stores that affect hem. They could read, discuss and report these to the rest of their class. They could do either local, national or international stories. They could work on weather reports and other information like the community calendars.
• They could keep a daily journal in the classroom. Cheap notebooks can be bought and they could do anything from five new words and simple sentences for lower level ESL students to five paragraph essays for upper level and GED students.

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