Requirements for teaching adult literacy and basic and secondary education vary by State and by program. Programs that are run by State and local governments require high accountability to student achievement standards. Most States require teachers in these programs to have some form of credential; the most common are a public school teacher license, an adult education credential, or both. However, programs in States that do not have these requirements still generally require that adult education teachers have at least a bachelorís degree and, preferably, a masterís degree. Teaching experience, especially with adults, also is preferred or required. Those programs run by private religious, community, or volunteer organizations generally develop standards based on their own needs and organizational goals, but generally also require paid teachers to have at least a bachelorís degree. Volunteers usually do not need a bachelorís degree, but often must attend a training program before they are allowed to work with students.
Most programs recommend that adult literacy and basic and secondary education teachers take classes or workshops on teaching adults, using technology to teach, working with learners from a variety of cultures, and teaching adults with learning disabilities. ESOL teachers also should have courses or training in second-language acquisition theory and linguistics. In addition, knowledge of the citizenship and naturalization process may be useful. Knowledge of a second language is not necessary to teach ESOL students, but can be helpful in understanding the studentsí perspectives. GED teachers should know what is required to pass the GED and be able to instruct students in the subject matter. Training for literacy volunteers usually consists of instruction in effective teaching practices, needs assessment, lesson planning, the selection of appropriate instructional materials, characteristics of adult learners, and cross-cultural awareness.
Adult education and literacy teachers must have the ability to work with students who come from a variety of cultural, educational, and economic backgrounds. They must be understanding and respectful of their studentsí circumstances and be familiar with their concerns. All teachers, both paid and volunteer, should be able to communicate well and motivate their students.
Professional development among adult education and literacy teachers varies widely. Both part-time and full-time teachers are expected to participate in ongoing professional development activities in order to keep current on new developments in the field and to enhance skills already acquired. Each Stateís professional development system reflects the unique needs and organizational structure of that State. Attendance by teachers at professional development workshops and other activities is often outlined in State or local policy. Some teachers are able to access professional development activities through alternative delivery systems such as the Internet or distance learning.
Opportunities for advancement for adult education and literacy teachers again vary from State to State and program to program. Some part-time teachers are able to move into full-time teaching positions or program administrator positions, such as coordinator or director, when such vacancies occur. Others may decide to use their classroom experience to move into policy work at a nonprofit organization or with the local, State, or Federal government or to perform research.