How Adult Literacy Time and Technology Use Should Be Focused:
Views from Learners and Teachers
A mixed-methods design (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004) was used to study the complex variables gleaned from the quantitative and qualitative measures to construct a deeper understanding of adults who participate in formal adult education. The quantitative survey of a broad sample of adult learners and instructors was matched to interviews of a sub-set of learners and teachers to triangulate with and elaborate upon survey responses.
A total of 188 adult literacy students and 25 teachers from six adult literacy programs in three different states were surveyed about how they prefer to use learning time and their use of technology. At the conclusion of the survey, participants indicated if they were willing to be interviewed. From the total population, 10 percent of adult learners and 30 percent of teachers volunteered to elaborate upon and extend their survey responses through formal conversation.
Of the total population (N=188) 42 adults attended adult basic education classes, 66 learners enrolled in general equivalency degree classes, and 80 students took English as a second language courses. Thirty-nine percent were male and 61% were female. Ages ranged from 16-66 with a fairly even breakdown among age groups: 16-19 (21%), ages 20-29 (24%), and ages 30-39 (20%). Fifteen percent of the adults were ages 40-49 and another 15% were 50-59 years of age. Only 5% were ages 60-66.
Six adult education programs in three Midwestern states participated in this research study. Five of the six programs were traditional adult education centers that offered classes for the three types of learners (ABE, GED, ESL), and the remaining program was a vocational rehabilitation facility. Four centers were located in middle-sized university cities. One center was located in a suburb of a large metropolitan city and one in a rural setting. Program description documents, instructional materials and notes from site observations were used to triangulate survey and interview statements.
Data sources and analysis
Survey: All participants indicated their priorities for best uses of learning time and technology in-and-out of class by responding to a survey comprised of sixteen 5-point Likert items ranging from 1= not very important to 5 = very important. In addition, two items asked participants to divide ideal time for learning and to rank technology priorities.
Interviews: At the end of the survey, participants could indicate their willingness to be interviewed by providing their name and contact information. The three authors/researchers in each state conducted either face-to-face or telephone interviews. Interviews asked participants to elaborate on their survey responses, clarify confusions, and provide views about adult literacy priorities and topics not directly addressed by the survey. Each interview lasted approximately 15 minutes and provided rich data.
Survey responses were analyzed first to provide descriptive statistics on learning time, priorities and technology use by adult learners as well as teachers. Analysis of variance among learner groups with post-hoc Scheffe tests were used to determine statistically significant (p < .05) differences among groups. T-test comparisons were made between teacher and learner responses. Interview data were typed by categories of time and technology and separated by program area (ABE, GED, ESL). The researchers read through the interview comments looking for patterns and themes. For example, participants were asked if they should spend more time learning at the center; the results were initially coded yes or no. Then the responses were re-read to determine the reasons for ‘yes’ and the reasons for ‘no’ and were organized as categories emerged. Finally we looked across the three program areas to see if there were similarities or differences in responses. The qualitative results were then used to triangulate the quantitative findings.