Teachers—Adult Literacy and Remedial Education
- Many adult literacy and remedial education teachers work part
time and receive no benefits; unpaid volunteers also teach these
- Most programs require teachers to have at least a bachelor’s
degree; a public school teaching license is required for public
programs in some States.
- Opportunities for teachers of English as a second language
are expected to be very good because their classes should be
in demand by the increasing number of residents with limited
Adult literacy and remedial education teachers instruct
adults and out-of-school youths in reading, writing, speaking
English, and performing elementary mathematical calculations—basic
skills that equip them to solve problems well enough to become
active participants in our society, to hold a job, and to further
their education. The instruction provided by these teachers can
be divided into three principle categories: remedial or adult
basic education (ABE) is geared toward adults whose skills
are either at or below an eighth-grade level; adult secondary
education (ASE) is geared towards students who wish to obtain
their General Educational Development (GED) certificate or other
high school equivalency credential; and English literacy
instruction for adults with limited proficiency in English. Traditionally,
the students in these adult education classes have been primarily
those who did not graduate high school or who passed through school
without acquiring the knowledge needed to meet their educational
goals or to participate fully in today’s high-skill society. Increasingly,
however, students in these classes are immigrants or other people
whose native language is not English. Educators who work with
adult English-language learners are usually called teachers
of English as a second language (ESL) or teachers
of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL).
Remedial education teachers, more commonly called adult basic
education teachers, teach basic academic courses in mathematics,
languages, history, reading, writing, science, and other areas,
using instructional methods geared toward adult learning. They
teach these subjects to students 16 years of age and older who
demonstrate the need to increase their skills in one or more of
the subject areas mentioned. Classes are taught to appeal to a
variety of learning styles and usually include large-group, small-group,
and one-on-one instruction. Because the students often are at
different proficiency levels for different subjects, adult basic
education teachers must make individual assessments of each student’s
abilities beforehand. In many programs, the assessment is used
to develop an individualized education plan for each student.
Teachers are required to evaluate students periodically to determine
their progress and potential for advancement to the next level.
Teachers in remedial or adult basic education may have to assist
students in acquiring effective study skills and the self-confidence
they need to reenter an academic environment. Teachers also may
encounter students with a learning or physical disability that
requires additional expertise. Teachers should possess an understanding
of how to help these students achieve their goals, but they also
may need to have the knowledge to detect challenges their students
may have and provide them with access to a broader system of additional
services that are required to address their challenges.
For students who wish to get a GED credential in order to get
a job or qualify for postsecondary education, adult secondary
education, or GED, teachers provide help in acquiring the necessary
knowledge and skills to pass the test. The GED tests students
in subject areas such as reading, writing, mathematics, science,
and social studies, while at the same time measuring students’
communication, information-processing, problem-solving, and critical-thinking
skills. The emphasis in class is on acquiring the knowledge needed
to pass the GED test, as well as preparing students for success
in further educational endeavors.
ESOL teachers help adults to speak, listen, read, and write in
English, often in the context of real-life situations to promote
learning. More advanced students may concentrate on writing and
conversational skills or focus on learning more academic or job-related
communication skills. ESOL teachers teach adults who possess a
wide range of cultures and abilities and who speak a variety of
languages. Some of their students have a college degree and many
advance quickly through the program owing to a variety of factors,
such as their age, previous language experience, educational background,
and native language. Others may need additional time due to these
same factors. Because the teacher and students often do not share
a common language, creativity is an important part of fostering
communication in the classroom and achieving learning goals.
All adult literacy and remedial teachers must prepare lessons
beforehand, do any related paperwork, and stay current in their
fields. Attendance for students is mostly voluntary and course
work is rarely graded. Many teachers also must learn the latest
uses for computers in the classroom, as computers are increasingly
being used to supplement instruction in basic skills and in teaching
A large number of adult literacy and remedial education teachers
work part time. Some have several part-time teaching assignments
or work full time in addition to their part-time teaching job.
Classes for adults are held on days and at times that best accommodate
students who may have a job or family responsibilities.
Because many of these teachers work with adult students, they
do not encounter some of the behavioral or social problems sometimes
found with younger students. Adults attend by choice, are highly
motivated, and bring years of experience to the classroom—attributes
that can make teaching these students rewarding and satisfying.
However, many adult education programs are located in cramped
facilities that lack modern amenities, which can be frustrating
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Requirements for teaching adult literacy and basic and secondary
education vary by State and by program. Programs that are run
by State and local governments require high accountability to
student achievement standards. Most States require teachers in
these programs to have some form of credential; the most common
are a public school teacher license, an adult education credential,
or both. However, programs in States that do not have these requirements
still generally require that adult education teachers have at
least a bachelor’s degree and, preferably, a master’s degree.
Teaching experience, especially with adults, also is preferred
or required. Those programs run by private religious, community,
or volunteer organizations generally develop standards based on
their own needs and organizational goals, but generally also require
paid teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Volunteers
usually do not need a bachelor’s degree, but often must attend
a training program before they are allowed to work with students.
Most programs recommend that adult literacy and basic and secondary
education teachers take classes or workshops on teaching adults,
using technology to teach, working with learners from a variety
of cultures, and teaching adults with learning disabilities. ESOL
teachers also should have courses or training in second-language
acquisition theory and linguistics. In addition, knowledge of
the citizenship and naturalization process may be useful. Knowledge
of a second language is not necessary to teach ESOL students,
but can be helpful in understanding the students’ perspectives.
GED teachers should know what is required to pass the GED and
be able to instruct students in the subject matter. Training for
literacy volunteers usually consists of instruction in effective
teaching practices, needs assessment, lesson planning, the selection
of appropriate instructional materials, characteristics of adult
learners, and cross-cultural awareness.
Adult education and literacy teachers must have the ability to
work with students who come from a variety of cultural, educational,
and economic backgrounds. They must be understanding and respectful
of their students’ circumstances and be familiar with their concerns.
All teachers, both paid and volunteer, should be able to communicate
well and motivate their students.
Professional development among adult education and literacy teachers
varies widely. Both part-time and full-time teachers are expected
to participate in ongoing professional development activities
in order to keep current on new developments in the field and
to enhance skills already acquired. Each State’s professional
development system reflects the unique needs and organizational
structure of that State. Attendance by teachers at professional
development workshops and other activities is often outlined in
State or local policy. Some teachers are able to access professional
development activities through alternative delivery systems such
as the Internet or distance learning.
Opportunities for advancement for adult education and literacy
teachers again vary from State to State and program to program.
Some part-time teachers are able to move into full-time teaching
positions or program administrator positions, such as coordinator
or director, when such vacancies occur. Others may decide to use
their classroom experience to move into policy work at a nonprofit
organization or with the local, State, or Federal government or
to perform research.
Teachers of adult literacy and remedial education held about
98,000 jobs in 2004. About 1 in 3 was self-employed. Many additional
teachers worked as unpaid volunteers. Many of the jobs are federally
funded, with additional funds coming from State and local governments.
State and local governments employ the majority of these teachers,
who work in adult learning centers, libraries, community colleges,
juvenile detention centers, and corrections institutions, among
other places. Others work for private educational institutions
and for social service organizations, such as job-training or
residential care facilities.
Opportunities for jobs as adult literacy and remedial education
teachers are expected to be favorable. Employment is expected
to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014,
and a large number of job openings is expected due to the need
to replace people who leave the occupation or retire.
As employers increasingly require a more literate workforce,
workers’ demand for adult literacy, basic education, and secondary
education classes is expected to grow. Significant employment
growth is anticipated especially for ESOL teachers, who will be
needed by the increasing number of immigrants and other residents
living in this country that need to learn, or improve their English
skills. In addition, greater proportions of these groups are expected
to take ESOL classes. Demand for ESOL teachers will be greatest
in States that have large populations of residents who have limited
English skills—such as California, Florida, Texas, and New York,.
However, many other parts of the Nation have begun to attract
large numbers of immigrants, making good opportunities in this
field widely available.
The demand for adult literacy and basic and secondary education
often fluctuates with the economy. When the economy is good and
workers are hard to find, employers relax their standards and
hire workers without a degree or GED or good proficiency in English.
As the economy softens, employers can be more selective, and more
students may find that they need additional education to get a
job. In addition, adult education classes often are subject to
changes in funding levels, which can cause the number of teaching
jobs to fluctuate from year to year. In particular, budget pressures
may limit Federal funding of adult education, which may cause
programs to rely more on volunteers if other organizations and
governments do not make up the difference. Other factors such
as immigration policies and the relative prosperity of the United
States compared with other countries also may have an impact on
the number of immigrants entering this country and, consequently,
on the demand for ESOL teachers.
Median hourly earnings of adult literacy and remedial education
teachers were $18.74 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned
between $14.07 and $25.49. The lowest 10 percent earned less than
$10.57, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34.94. Part-time
adult literacy and remedial education instructors are usually
paid by the hour or for each class that they teach, and receive
few or no benefits. Full-time teachers are generally paid a salary
and receive health insurance and other benefits if they work for
a school system or government.
The work of adult literacy and remedial education teachers is
closely related to that of other types of teachers, especially
preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and
secondary school teachers. In addition, adult literacy and basic
and secondary education teachers require a wide variety of skills
and aptitudes. Not only must they be able to teach and motivate
students (including, at times, those with learning disabilities),
but they also must often take on roles as advisers and mentors.
Workers in other occupations that require these aptitudes include
special-education teachers, counselors, and social workers.
|Sources of Additional Information
Information on adult literacy, basic and secondary education
programs, and teacher certification requirements is available
from State departments of education, local school districts, and
literacy resource centers. Information also may be obtained through
local religious and charitable organizations.
For information on adult education and family literacy programs,
For information on teaching English as a second language, contact:
- The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition, 4646 40th
St. NW., Washington, DC 20016. Internet: http://www.cal.org/caela
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,