The Regional Instructional Specialist for Adult Education in Virginia: A Case Study

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Virginia Tech

In the late 1980s regional instructional specialists were hired by the Virginia Department of Education in 18 planning districts. The purpose of this study was to describe the role of one specialist in a rural setting. The description may be beneficial to adult education planners and policy makers as they look for innovative ways of delivering rural adult education programs.

Three research questions guided the study:

  1. What are the contexts (historical, legal, geographical, and program) in which the rural regional instructional specialist works?
  2. What tasks (administrative and program) are performed by the rural regional instructional specialist?
  3. What are the outcomes of the work of the rural regional instructional specialist?

Through interviews, review of documents, and observations, the researcher found that the historical, legal, geographical, and program contexts of the rural regional instructional specialist were interrelated, and that they guided and constrained the work of the specialist. Governmental mandates and budgets prescribed the development of programs. Geographical features,employment opportunities, educational needs, and social conditions influenced what was offered and when it was offered in adult education programs in the Mount Rogers Region.

Planning and conducting professional development activities, maintaining links with teachers in the regional program and with personnel at the state office in Richmond, visiting classes in each locality, maintaining referral links with other agencies, and recruitment of students were tasks performed by the regional instructional specialist. Priorities were family literacy, workplace programs, infusion of technology, and health literacy.

By increasing classes for One-Stop centers and immigrants, offering in-service programs for teachers, visiting program sites, and collaborating with other agencies, the specialist contributed to higher enrollment in classes and increased educational gains for students. The role of the rural regional instructional specialist in Virginia is changing, and the future of the position is uncertain.

family literacy, literacy education, literacy, workplace literacy, Adult education