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The Adult Education Workforce in Virginia

by Virginia Department of Education Staff

This issue of the PROGRESS newsletter is devoted to professional development of adult education practitioners. As we consider the current issues that drive professional development decisions at both the regional and state levels, it is important to have a clear sense of the workforce. What is the composition of the Virginia adult education provider workforce and how does it compare to the national composition? What do these numbers tell us about how to support practitioner learning and development? This article explores who we are as adult educators in Virginia and highlights resources that articulate what high-quality adult educators know and can do with their students. Let’s start by looking at some comparative data between Virginia instructor and those nationwide.

In 2016-2017, Virginia reported information on 981 paid instructors, 95 percent of whom were part-time employees, and five percent of whom were full-time. Of the 142 paid local administrators reported, 49 percent were part-time employees, and 51 percent were full-time. Nationally, states and territories reported information on 45,769 paid instructors in 2016- 2017, 81 percent of whom were part-time instructors and 19 percent were full-time. Of the 10,760 paid local administrators reported nationwide, 48 percent were part-time, and 52 percent were full-time. This tells us that Virginia has a similar percentage of full-time administrators and a lower percentage of full-time instructors than the national rate.

image of adult learners in a classroom

Instructors in Virginia tend to be experienced at rates similar to the national rates. Sixty-two percent of Virginia’s paid instructors were reported as having more than three years of experience in adult education, 20 percent have one to three years, and 17 percent have less than one year’s experience. Nationally, 64 percent of instructors have three or more years of experience in adult education, 23 percent have one to three years, and 14 percent have less than one year of experience. The reporting range can be quite understated, however, with “more than three years” as the top of the range.

In 2016-2017, Virginia reported information on 981 paid instructors, 95 percent of whom were part-time employees.

The majority of instructors in Virginia, 56 percent, do not have a teaching certification; however, five percent hold an adult education endorsement, 38 percent hold a K-12 teaching certification, five percent hold a special education certification, and six percent hold TESOL certification. Nationally, 35 percent of adult education instructors do not currently have a certification, 24 percent hold an adult education certification, 40 percent hold a K-12 certification, five percent hold a special education certification, and nine percent hold a TESOL certification. Note that there are instructors who hold multiple certifications. Many practitioners in Virginia are highly educated: 36 hold doctorates, and 611 hold master’s degrees.

How is your experience represented in these numbers? Are you a part-time or full-time instructor or administrator? How many years have you been teaching in adult education and what types of certification(s) do you hold? How do these factors influence your teaching and your students’ outcomes? What is it an experienced adult educator should know and be able to do?

One place to look for an answer to the last question is in the materials produced through the Teacher Effectiveness in Adult Education national study. This project produced a set of teacher competencies that identifies the core knowledge and skills expected of adult education teachers, a self-assessment, an introductory online course, and an interactive framework. Other materials produced through this project include materials for teacher induction and mentoring to assist the many teachers who join adult education each year in getting off to a strong and productive start.

Providing professional learning opportunities to teachers who are part-time employees is one of the challenges of adult education. Not unlike our learners’ busy schedules, teachers’ schedules are also often busy, and it’s difficult to find a time when all instructors in a program can be together. Online, self-paced learning may be part of the solution to the time crunch. Programs can create a hybrid, blended experience that brings the best of self-paced and face-to-face learning together by creating a cohort of learners who can reflect on their online experience in an on-site environment.

The Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center website features information on free professional learning opportunities available to Virginia educators. Find information on VALRC’s facilitated online courses, which allow educators schedule flexibility and the option to participate from home or work while interacting with an experienced facilitator and peers from across the state. Search the Professional Learning topic areas (numeracy, reading, ESOL, tech tools, career pathways, and more) for links to relevant resources, including websites to explore and, for some topics, self-paced online courses. Each topic area includes information about on-site and online trainings offered by VALRC; program managers can call a VALRC specialist to arrange a local training or to discuss recently developed or custom training options.

This article was prepared by the staff of the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.