Helping Adult Education Programs Elevate Their Students

Daquanna Harrison is the founder of the Elevation Educational Consulting Group, an organization created to help adult education programs empower their educators and further support student success.

Could you tell me more about your organization and your role?

The organization is called Elevation Educational Consulting Group (EECG) and it’s been rolling since 2016. It came from a vision after seeing really great educators and how they were attached to adult ed and didn’t have an avenue to affect change in the field. People were building curriculums but weren’t well known, especially those working with small programs.

A lot of the work in the adult ed realm is professional development (PD), that’s everything from supporting PD content and understanding best practices and getting that info out to smaller organizations. We even post articles and we know that a lot of small orgs don’t have a means to find out about what’s going on. It really depends on what they need, that sometimes means we develop a PD plan and help their teachers get into teaching and learning from that.

How do you work with adult education programs and educators?

I have close to 15 years of being in adult education. I have been in programs as small as just me (going to libraries) to having $75K and a computer room. I really understand the range of program budgets. One of the biggest focuses for us is at the educator level, a lot of places focus on the student.

When the test changed in 2014, when the teachers got over their fears about it, the students started to be successful.

What’s your background in adult education and education in general?

My passion is helping teachers become great administrators and great trainers.

My first adult ed job was with the Department of Education Services in Washington, DC. I took the CASAS book and it was my job to find out what the students coming in really needed.

A lot of my adult ed life occurred in DC, I helped support a community based organization that was almost 100 percent volunteer and Americorps members. We took that and built an adult ed charter school and went from volunteer to a paid staff.

I started forcing my staff to present, I realized that many educators were reluctant to teach other educators, they experience impostor syndrome, we have to figure out a way to change the feeling that the nontraditional path to teaching in adult ed makes someone less qualified.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing adult educators and adult education programs?

I think the challenges are what makes great programs strong. Adult ed came from the idea of “be everything” for your students, we can no longer do that, we have to have partnerships—it can be at the student or educator level.

Programs really need to be prepared to have students understand the skills they need to have to get a job.

It’s also understanding that adult ed is changing, you don’t necessarily have to change but find partners that are already doing that.

How does your organization work with the GED test program?

When I’m supporting other adult education organizations I advise them to utilize the tools that are available and I help programs understand when students are ready for independent exploration and when they should incorporate that (resource) in class.

What work are you doing to bridge the gap between adult education students and workforce development skills?

A big piece to make sure students are work force ready is helping programs understand what workforce ready means, there’s a difference between workforce ready and career exploration.

Career changer is different from a student that doesn’t have a lot of experience, unfortunately often the programs have a one-size-fits-all approach. We teach programs to make it specific to their students.

What are your tips for adult education programs?

Partnerships—you need four types of partnerships: those that refer learners to you, those that keep your learners, those that strengthen your learners and those you should be referring your learners to

Empower and develop your educators—use the tools that are already out there, too many times programs are trying to recreate the wheel, find your star teachers and allow them to showcase what they’re doing in the classroom

Understand your learners and train and hire for that—if you have a certain type of population, be cognizant of them and shifts in populations, your data people and teachers should be meeting, data can tell teachers what they see and how they can adjust.

Learning something new is so hard the first time and then it becomes easy, we are all adult learners and we have to remind ourselves of that.

Daquanna Harrison is also the Vice President of the Maryland Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education (MAACCE) Board of Directors. She can be reached at dharrison@elevationed.com

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