Four Purposes for Learning

The tools that make up the Equipped for the Future (EFF) Content Framework include Four Purposes for Learning:

    To gain access to information and resources so that adults can orient themselves in the world
    To express ideas and opinions with the confidence they will be heard and taken into account
    To solve problems and make decisions without having to rely on others to mediate the world for them
    Learning to learn so that adults can be prepared to keep up with the world as it changes

Putting the Focus on Fundamental Purposes for Learning. Adult learners helped the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) identify the Four Purposes for Learning in the initial stage of EFF. In 1994, NIFL invited teachers, tutors, and adult learners across the country to help answer the question behind National Education Goal 6:

What do adults need to know and be able to do in order to be literate, compete in a global economy, and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship?

Written responses came from over 1,500 adult students, participating in 149 programs in 34 states and Puerto Rico. They reflected the full spectrum of adult education students, in terms of age, race, culture, and ethnicity, as well as the full spectrum of programs, including community-based organizations, community colleges, volunteer programs, and vocational and public schools. They described: 1. What students saw as the chief responsibilities of their primary life roles and 2. What students expected to gain from formal learning opportunities to help them fulfill those responsibilities.

The students' responses presented a remarkably consistent vision of what adults want literacy programs to prepare them to do. They provided EFF with a strong starting point for building a purpose-based framework grounded in how adults expect literacy - and, more broadly, education - to prepare them to carry out their roles as parents, workers, and citizens. Starting with what adults do - with what they need literacy for - provided the foundation elements that led EFF to identify sixteen skills and a set of content standards. The EFF Standards, published in 2000, completed the content framework development.

Adopting a Purposeful Approach to Education. Purposeful teaching and learning is the first key research principle underlying the EFF initiative. The tools that make up the EFF Content Framework support a purposeful approach to education because they make explicit the core knowledge and skills adults need to meet their goals and purposes. Learning for access and orientation; learning for voice; learning for independent action; learning in order to build a bridge to the future. All EFF work is anchored in helping adults accomplish these four purposes.

Further reading:

The Four Purposes for Learning research and development is fully described in Section 4 of the EFF Research Report: Building the Framework, 1993-1997 (Merrifield, 2000)

Equipped for the Future: A Customer-Driven Vision for Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning (Stein, 1995) contains a synthesis of adult learner perspectives on Goal 6 and examples of the actual essays submitted to NIFL.

EFF Research Principle: A Purposeful and Transparent Approach to Teaching and Learning (Gillespie, 2002) summarizes the research basis for this key EFF principle; includes examples of EFF program practices.

Results That Matter: An EFF Approach to Quality (Bingman and Stein, 2001) presents five program practices that reflect the theoretical foundations of the EFF initiative, including a purposeful and transparent approach to education.