Sherry Romero's Retention Strategies for Adult Learners
Intergenerational Learning Center in Commerce City


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The Intergenerational Learning Center has the following positive retention practices in place:

1.      We offer day and evening programs for ESL, ABE/ASE with schedules to accommodate adult learners.  We have three 12-week sessions for all classes; open enrollment is allowed in our GED program.

2.      All students attend orientation and receive a student manual.  The manuals are provided in Spanish or English.

3.      Free childcare is provided for students attending the evening program.  Students’ children of the ages 2-12 are allowed while parents are attending classes.

4.      At intake each student has a personal interview.  Students are asked about current work and family obligations.  They are asked to identify short and long term goals.

5.      Our ESL classes embrace an atmosphere of community and support.  The GED classes offer one-on-one assistance through the instructors and Americorps Volunteers.

6.      End of Year Celebration for ESL students.  Families are invited to attend an awards presentation for ESL students.  The program provides refreshments.

7.      GED Graduation.  A formal graduation ceremony with cap & gown, guest speakers, and diploma presentations for those students that have obtained their GED during the school year.  Again, families are invited and refreshments are provided.

8.      Our program pays for GED testing of students having financial difficulties.

9.      Students are contacted after three absences from class.

10.  Our program provides counsel, assistance and referral to other community services.

11.  End of session classroom or group celebrations/potlucks.

12.  Staff development is available through staff meetings, and attendance at adult education trainings and conferences offered through CDE.

13.  Monthly news letters featuring ILC students, activities, and news.

My student population:

I have ABE/ASE learners 21 and over. Each student is given a class syllabus and semester schedule.  Within the first week of attendance new students are tested and given a personal learning plan. I help the students to set weekly and semester goals.  Students have folders which contain their assignments and goals.  I try to make each student feel valuable by checking with them daily to monitor progress and give them an opportunity to share personal concerns.  I also try to have a comfortable environment for learning where students are both physically comfortable as well as comfortable participating and expressing themselves.

The five new practices that I hope to implement to improve retention are:

1.      Increase contact.   “To prevent first-class no-shows, call students the day before and confirm attendance.  Establish a system for contacting students; call them after the first class missed.”  Retention Strategies found at  Give monthly awards/certificates for punctuality, attendance, progress, etc. (Retention Strategies) Also, as discussed at a recent staff meeting I will implement to use of a chart to track contact hours for each student.

2.      “Provide comprehensive orientation that includes assessment of ability, self-esteem, learning style, motivations, and values” Strategies for Retaining Adult Student:  The Educationally Disadvantaged.  ERIC Digest No. 76. found at  I would like to develop lesson plans to address all of the above.  First I will need to develop a checklist of SCANS that can be used to assess students in our GED program.  The lesson would include discussions on abilities and self-esteem, motivations and values.  I would like to implement the use of a learning styles survey and create a lesson plan to teach students about the different styles. 

3.      “Make work relevant. Teach students one new skill everyday that they can use at home or work.”   (Retention Strategies) Use adult oriented coursework, geared toward real life situations.  Vary classroom activities. (Retention Strategies)  Help students focus on the positive they have to offer.  Do group and individual work daily. (Retention Strategies)  “Small group work with time for socializing enhanced feelings of group solidarity in the learning situation.” (ERIC)  I want to focus on finding activities that are relevant, that everyone can participate in and something to which they can contribute. 

4.      Student bulletin board.  Establish a board where students can place items of interest to them:  set up a carpool, study group, for sale signs, etc.  Display a calendar and celebrate birthdays of students. (Retention Strategies)  Periodic visits from “Graduates” to hear success stories.  (Retention Strategies)

5.       “Have newspapers available for reading and activities. This makes students a more active part of a broader world. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each class to share opinions and ideas about current events. Class accounts of local news.” (Retention Strategies)  Have the students keep a current events journal and write a paragraph daily about a story they have read.  Introduce and enforce “Ground rules” for use in classroom discussions or small groups.  Planning & Implementing Instruction for Adults.  John M. Dirkx, Suzanne M. Prenger.  Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1997.

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