Date of Completion


Embargo Period



adult learning, adult learning projects, adult basic education, literacy educators, professional learning

Major Advisor

Marijke T. Kehrhahn

Associate Advisor

Alexandra A. Bell

Associate Advisor

Robin Grenier

Associate Advisor

Eileen Eckert McFall

Field of Study

Adult Learning


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Self-Directed Learning Projects of Adult Basic and Literacy Educators:

A Professional Learning Model

Maureen K. Crowley, Ph.D.

University of Connecticut, 2014

Adult basic education and literacy (ABEL) educators face the same scrutiny of their professional practice as do today’s public school teachers and administrators, as they contend equally with increased standards and heightened expectations of student performance outcomes. The press for professional development is keen, despite insufficient funding to meet the demand. Learning projects, well established as a viable model for developing proficiency among workers in various fields of employment, is little understood or recognized as such in the ABEL field. The conceptual foundation of this qualitative study included acceptance of adults as intentional, self-directed, and effective learners (Eckert, 2003; Ertmer & Newby, 1996; Penland, 1977; Rose, 2004; Scribner, 1986; Tough, 1979); that learning is largely implicit and, therefore, challenging to articulate (Eraut, 2004; Reber, 1993); and that the learner, process, and environment are seamlessly integrated in a progressive process (Eckert, 2003; Greeno et al., 1999; Sheckley & Keeton, 2000). The sample included 12 educators, 8 women and 4 men, who were working part-time in four different ABEL programs. To obtain suitably rich data, two sustained conversation-type interviews were conducted using an initial and follow-up semi-structured protocol; all interviews were taped and transcribed. Data were analyzed following Creswell’s (1994) recommended procedure, which was reductive, inductive,

Maureen K. Crowley - University of Connecticut, 2014

and interpretive. The iterative and reductive process of analysis used yielded common themes and patterns which informed the research questions. Knowledge gained extends the view of what constitutes effective professional learning in the workplace. Results suggest that a broader, blended view, rather than a dichotomized one depicting professional learning as either formal/traditional or informal/nontraditional, and ascribing greater value ascribed to the former, is warranted.