(Pictured: Vanessa Richards, Ellsworth Adult Education)
The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Adult Education team recently brought together 23 educators from adult education programs across Maine at the UMA-Lewiston campus to celebrate their capstone presentations for Teaching Skills that Matter in Adult Education (TSTM). The event was the culmination of a 7-month TSTM training provided by Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team.
Teaching Skills that Matter in Adult Education (TSTM) is a federal initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) that was developed by the American Institutes for Research. The goal of the initiative is to train teachers to integrate the skills that adults need for success in career and life using evidence-based approaches that work across topics that are also important to adults (civics education, digital literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, and workforce preparation).
In 2020, the Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team applied to be part of a cohort of states to be trained in using the TSTM materials. A team of four Maine adult educators, Michael Emery from Augusta Adult and Community Education, Melanie North from MSAD 52 Adult and Community Education, Irina Petranek from Lewiston Adult Education, and Lyn Warne from Eastern Aroostook Adult Education, and Amy Poland, Maine DOE Adult Education PD Coordinator participated in an intensive yearlong training which resulted in a plan to bring the TSTM training to Maine’s adult education programs.
As a result of this effort, Maine’s first cohort of TSTM training kicked off in September 2021 at a 2-day, in-person event that was followed by virtual meetings to support their on-going efforts to teach TSTM in diverse teaching contexts, making math and science connections to TSTM lessons, and integrating TSTM into the existing curriculum. Participants also worked with a coach and coaching group on an ongoing basis from September 2021 through April 2022 meeting regularly to discuss using TSTM in the classroom. They also had two classroom observations, giving them a chance to reflect on their work.
The recently held event served as the wrap up event for Maine’s first TSTM cohort featuring 5 minute presentations from each adult education educator that participated in the training including: Washington County Adult and Community Education, RSU 24 Adult Ed, Mount Desert Island Adult Education, Ellsworth Adult Education, MSAD1 Adult and Community Education, Riverside Adult Education (RSU 22, 26, 34), Franklin County Adult Education, Spruce Mountain Adult and Community Education, Augusta Adult and Community Education, MSAD52 Adult & Community Education, RSU 16 Adult Ed, Lewiston Adult Education, Merrymeeting Adult Education, Portland Adult Education, Windham Raymond Adult Ed, and Marshwood Adult Education.
During each presentation, participants shared their experiences teaching using TSTM lessons in practice, how they adapted the lessons to fit what their learners needs, their lessons learned, and many other useful pieces of information relevant to their peers and the Maine DOE for future success with the TSTM program.
With culture as a common theme, many shared their experiences working both remotely and in-person to teach lessons that were both relevant and accessible to adult learners enrolled in their respective programs and regions.
There were also many shared experiences in working with adult learners which resulted in everything from sharing tips and tricks to turning common frustrations into something positive.
“The tech will get you every time,” said Valerie from Washington County Adult Education program. While her comment got a chuckle and a knowing head nod from most around the room, she turned it into an important lesson for educators about modeling working through a problem (such as a technology issue) in front of students, to show them how to problem-solve in real time – a handy skill for everyone to develop.
Also included in the training was a TSTM toolkit packed with high-quality lessons that are easily adapted for Maine’s varied adult education population (multilingual, adult basic education, high school completion, workforce training, college transitions, etc.). Also integrated into the toolkit are many of the employability skills (soft skills) already taught in Maine which are integrated into academic lessons that highlight relevant topics for adult learners, such as budgeting, reading workplace safety signs, and first amendment rights.
“TSTM pushed me to learn a variety of remote learning tools,” shared Rochelle from Portland Adult Education Program. Rochelle wasn’t the only one to talk about a journey with learning remote learning tools and refreshing their toolbox of digital tools that can help with in-person learning as well. Many of the educators in the room really benefited from their experience using the toolkit provided by TSTM, especially in the wake of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic which changed the way most educators teach.
Another common theme among participants was how much more enriching and sustainable their lessons and curriculum became as a result of partnering with local agencies. For many, these connections were critical for things like food stamps and/or education materials, and to supplement their curriculum without having to reinvent something that community partners could come in and present or provide information and/or tools for.
Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team Professional Development Coordinator Amy Poland says, “We are currently planning next year, but we anticipate holding another statewide training similar to this year’s.” She adds that the team is also working on a community of practice which will feature a series of workshops around effective teaching practices using the TSTM Toolkit lessons, and convening a cohort of teachers who will create and curate new materials, and more for their fellow adult education educators across the State.
To learn more about TSTM visit their national website. To learn more about Maine’s Adult Education efforts, join the Adult Education listserv or email Amy Poland at firstname.lastname@example.org.