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Areas of Expertise

Civic Literacy & Participation

NELRC is one of few organizations in the country whose top priorities include making civic literacy and participation a part of adult literacy and ESOL education. Our goal is to build the capacity of adult literacy teachers and students to take informed action in order to make a positive difference in their lives and communities. We work toward that goal by providing publications and professional development, and through special projects with teachers, students and activist organizations.

NELRC offers customized professional development and technical assistance to adult literacy providers on integrating civic participation and civics into ABE and ESOL instruction. We also partner with community action organizations to develop issue-based curriculum and provide technical assistance to support collaborative projects between those organizations and education programs.

Federal funding for English Language Civics has offered an opportunity for many ESOL programs to focus on civic literacy. NELRC’s professional development for these programs is informed by current discussions in civic education, developments in adult learning theory and research, and our past experience working with citizenship, ABE, ESOL, and bilingual ESOL educators.

NELRC’s civic literacy and participation work helps adult learners develop research, interviewing, advocacy, critical thinking and public speaking skills as they analyze and express their views about community concerns. Our current major projects or products are:

  • The Change Agent, a semi-annual, theme-based newspaper focuses on social justice related issues and the ways these issues can become part of teaching and learning. Supplementary online materials and workshops help to develop teachers' capacity to use The Change Agent in instruction.
  • Civic Participation and Community Action Sourcebook for adult educators includes narrative accounts and skill-building activities that are organized around topics such as Finding Connections to Communities and Issues; Holding Decision-Makers Accountable; Expressing Ourselves and Educating Others; and Organizing for Change.
  • Civic Participation and Citizenship Online Collection features annotated web sites and original materials that cover a wide range of topics related to community action and active citizenship. This collection was built with an emphasis on informed activism to serve adult educators in diverse settings. Each site and resource has been reviewed and selected based on its relevance to adult education.
  • Thinking Beyond “Increased Participation” – Integrating Civics and Adult ESOL paper proposes a process for building ESOL students’ capacity for engaged and active citizenship through which EL/Civics classes serve as a venue for not just comprehending, but also critically examining the systems we have.
  • Voter Education, Registration and Action (VERA) campaign is activated during the presidential elections. Read here about the 2012 VERA campaign.
  • Educating the Public and Elected Officials about Adult Education (PDF): a report on Adult Education Advocacy Efforts in New England by the New England Literacy Resource Center at World Education. This new report takes stock of the program, policy and legislative context for adult education in each of the six New England states. It discusses local and statewide advocacy strategies by adult educators. The findings show that adult education advocacy efforts in New England are multi-faceted, and growing in sophistication and reach. The report discusses the principal challenges and related promising strategies revealed through interviews with leading adult education advocates in New England. They are grouped into four areas:
    1) Visibility; 2) Framing the Message; 3) Student Involvement; and 4) Increasing and Sustaining Advocacy Efforts.

We offer workshops, mini-courses and consultations in the following areas:

  • Incorporating civic participation and community action into instruction
  • Teaching and assessing EL/Civics, and citizenship
  • Using The Change Agent in instruction
  • Popular education

NELRC’s civic literacy and participation workshops are developed and led by

Andy Nash
NELRC Director

Please see Andy’s bio.

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