Program Design

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This topic area will eventually have all the research we can find on what makes an effective adult literacy education program design. It will address this question:

What are the most effective elements of program design for particular kinds and levels of adult students pursuing basic literacy, English language learning, adult basic skills, adult secondary education and transiton to post-secondary education?

Program staff who are interested in program improvement may find helpful the research and other resources below.


  • Program Administrators' Sourcebook
    "If you administer an adult education program, you face a wide variety of challenges:
    • How can you help students make “level” gains?
    • How can you help students gain the skills they need to reach their goals?
    • How can you help students stay in programs long enough to meet their goals?
    • How can you prepare and retain good teachers?
    • How can you document the successes of your program?

    The National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) has conducted research relevant to these questions. This Sourcebook is designed to give you, as a program
    administrator, direct access to research that may help you address the challenges you face in your job."

  • An Evidence-based Adult Education Program Model Appropriate for Research [PDF-1MB] (March 2006) John P. Comings, Lisa Soricone, and Maricel Santos Although designed for researchers, beginning with Chapter Two, this occasional paper offers well-defined quality indicators which should be considered for program design.

Other Resources for Program Quality and Improvement

  • Program Leadership and Improvement Special Collection, Literacy Information and Communications System (LINCS) sponsored by the National Institute for Literacy and the Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee
  • Assessing Your Program Needs.
    This handout in the appendix of a NCSALL seminar Guide (p.17) is a program self-assessment instrument. Taken together with the Program Administrators' Sourcebook (see above) a program could assess its needs for program improvement and find practical suggestions for program change based on evidence from research.
  • Creating A Sustainable Program
    Many programs are struggling to identify new ways to fund their services as traditional sources are shrinking, changing focus or moving on to a new set of grantees.
    • What are programs doing to help stay alive during times of uncertain funding? Read this report explaining how Even Start programs fared at the conclusion of their federal grants (in Texas), here:
    • What resources are out there to help staff create sustainable funding plans? The Massachusetts 21st Century Learning Centers (afterschool programs) have created a sustainability blog which is open to all and links to some great resources. Visit it here:
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