erally funded adult education programs. This figure is likely to be an underestimate because it does not include nonnative speakers in adult basic education and adult secondary education (general educational development [GED]) classes or in ESL classes offered by private organizations.
The adults who participate in ESL classes are diverse in terms of languages spoken, education levels, literacy skill in the first language, and knowledge of English (Burt, Peyton, and Adams, 2003). Some are highly educated in their home countries and have strong academic backgrounds; others are recent immigrants with low levels of education and first language literacy. The numbers of adults in ESL classes who have limited education in their home countries continues to grow (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2010; Condelli, Wrigley and Yoon, 2009; Purcell-Gates et al., 2002; Strucker and Davidson, 2003). Other adults are born in the United States or came to the United States as young children but have grown up with a home language other than English (Tamassia et al., 2007). Though educated in U.S. schools, these adults can be unprepared for work and higher education (Burt, Peyton and Adams, 2003; Thonus 2003; Wrigley et al., 2009), and many drop out before completing high school.
Despite the need for English language and literacy instruction, adult ESL programs have had limited success. A 7-year longitudinal study of noncredit ESL classes showed that only about 8 percent of more than 38,000 learners made the transition to other academic (credit) studies (Spurling, Seymour, and Chisman, 2008). In fact, 44 percent advanced only one literacy level, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Reporting System for adult literacy programs. Persistence was also an issue. Half of the learners who did not advance attended fewer than 50 hours of instruction. Most of those who advanced received 50 or more hours of instruction, taking on average 50 to 149 hours of attendance (usually referred to as “100 instruction hours”) to advance one level.
This chapter has four parts. Part one presents a brief orienting discussion of the component skills of English learners. Part two summarizes research on the various factors (cognitive, linguistic, social, affective, and cultural) that influence the development of literacy in a second language. Part three identifies practices to develop language and literacy instruction that warrant application and further study with adults developing their English language and literacy skills outside school. The available research does not allow for conclusions about effective approaches to literacy instruction. Thus, the chapter concludes with a summary and discussion of priorities for research to develop effective approaches to instruction for this population.
In this chapter, we draw on several recent systematic reviews of research on effective instructional practices for English language learners, augmented with targeted searches to update or expand on previous find-