Recent Changes - Search:

Adult Learners

edit SideBar


What needs would it serve?

  • Highlight and validate adult student experience
  • Provide relevant readings
  • Connect forms of reading and writing adult learners might not otherwise encounter
  • Offer approachable and appropriate discussion/instruction on writing
  • Coach faculty in how to engage these students

What is already out there?

Recommendation: Focus on a reader rather than a rhetoric

Existing Publications: Reader and/or Rhetoric for Adult Learners Draft, Karen Uehling, March 28, 2011


Robert F. Sommer in his classic Teaching Writing to Adults (: Jossey-Bass, 1989) notes that most freshman composition texts responded “only to the needs of traditional students . . . issues that concern adult learners are often ignored” (190 191). At that time many texts, targeted at the traditional age student, contained examples and assignments dealing with issues of adolescent emancipation, such as living independently for the first time, early love affairs, making peace with parents, the death of grandparents. When I developed the proposals for my texts (1990), I had located only one text, Edward Quinn’s reader (1987), which dealt with issues more relevant to adults: family and parenting, jobs, mid life crises, lifelong learning.

Existing publications: Edward Quinn, Responsibilities: A College Reader (Harper & Row, 1987)


Lifelong learning Starting Over Modern Times: Past and Present The Job Male/Female Parenting Cultural Contexts Karen Uehling, Starting Out or Starting Over: A Guide to Writing (HarperCollins 1993) Karen Uehling, Vision and Revision: A Reader for Writers (HarperCollins 1994)


Returning to school: coming back to school after an absence and lifelong learning; perhaps mid life crises and transitions

Relationships: Partner relationships and friendship

Family and parenting

Work: jobs and the work place
Recreation: hobbies, sports, and music.

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing (Norton 2006)-- not explicitly for adults, but they love its “demystifying” approach.

Now I believe most texts try to make reference to various realities (older, younger) in their examples/tone—so I’m not sure we need a separate rhetoric for older students; I feel a reader makes more sense because of the particular audience and themes,

[The rest of this document is what I came up with when I did some quick, basic searching for readers for adult learners—it’s all over the place and reveals to me that there is very little out there that we were not aware of.]

Journal of College Reading and Learning (refereed) “Position Statement on Rights of Adult Readers and Learners,” by Kathryn Bartle Angus and JoAnne Greenbaum for College Reading and Learning Association (2002): March 22, 2003

Publisher: College Reading and Learning Association

33.2; 122 (9). The Westcoast Reader is a newspaper for adults who are improving their English reading skills. The newspaper is published from September to June. Educational programs for adults, libraries, and multicultural agencies in British Columbia can receive the newspaper free of charge. Master of Education in Adult Education: Penn State’s master of education (M.Ed.) degree program in adult education is intended for professionals who work with adults in a variety of fields, including distance education, continuing professional education, adult and family literacy, corporate training, and education technology.

[From scanning the Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing]

Bernstein, Susan N., and Pete Johnson. “Writing to Learn: The Nickel and Dimed Project.” Research and Teaching in Developmental Education 20.2 (2004): 59–75. Print. The participant inquiry research of a critical literacy project in a linked developmental reading and writing course suggests that students engaged in real-life mathematics, reading, and writing can gain content knowledge, critical literacy, and appreciation of the roles math and literacy may play in their lives. The assignments for the linked classes were based on Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed. Literacy lessons included multiple, guided close readings and rereadings of the book as well as note-taking lessons and writing assignments, such as reactions to insights gained while rereading the book. Mathematical lessons included a re-creation in the students’ Houston area of Ehrenreich’s efforts to survive on a minimum wage salary. Students combined mathematical and literacy insights, and the authors offer poignant evidence of students’ maturation.

Falk, Jane E. “Shaped by Resistance: Work as a Topical Theme for the Composition Classroom.” Open Words: Access and English Studies 1.2 (2007): 49–61. Print. Falk traces the use of work as a topical theme through several semesters of first-year composition at The University of Akron. A former manufacturing hub, Akron experienced severe decline in its rubber industry, and a high percentage of University of Akron students reported having at least one part-time job while they attended the university. In her composition classroom, the author utilized summer reading texts such as Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Yvonne Thornton’s The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, and Joyce Dyer’s Gum-Dipped. Assignments ranged from personal narratives of a work experience, rhetorical analyses of American Dream narratives, critical analyses of employer-employee relationships, and comparisons between student work experiences and those of fictional characters in film and television. Collaborative projects involving field research furthered the inquiry into work issues. While many students showed critical thinking and raised awareness of issues, student resistance often acted as a catalyst for assignment revisions and prompted the use of reflective journals. In particular, students debated the depressing nature of some work-related topics, their perceptions of the summer reading texts, and the ethical issues involved in conducting research in one’s own workplace. Falk concludes that, “despite initial resistance to the topic, I believe that the study of students’ working lives enables growth, furthers lively discussion and critical thinking about the commodified and class stratified world in which we live, and has present and future relevance for students at The University of Akron” (60).

Back to Reader for People in Transition

Edit - History - Print - Recent Changes - Search
Page last modified on April 13, 2011, at 10:35 AM