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What Adult Literacy and GED Teachers Do

Adult literacy and General Education Development (GED) teachers instruct adults and youths who are out of school in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their GED or high school diploma.


Adult literacy and GED teachers typically do the following:

Before students enter these education programs, their educational level and skills are assessed. Sometimes the teachers do this assessment, but in many cases another staff member does it.

In many programs, the teacher then works with other staff members to use information from the assessment and information about the student’s goals to develop an individualized educational program (IEP).

Teachers must formally evaluate their students periodically to determine their progress and potential to go on to the next level. However, they informally evaluate their students' progress continually.

Adult literacy and GED teachers often have students of various levels in their classes. As a result, teachers need to use teaching strategies and methods that meet all of their students’ needs. In addition, teachers focus on helping students develop skills they need in the workplace. For example, they may teach students how to read a contract or how to estimate the cost of materials needed to remodel a kitchen. Teachers may work with students in classes or tutor them one-on-one.

There are three basic types of education that adult literacy and GED teachers provide:

Adult basic education classes teach students the basics of reading, writing, and math. Students often enter these classes at or below an eighth-grade level in these subjects. Students generally are 16 years and older and need to gain proficiency in these skills to improve their job situation.

GED and adult secondary education classes prepare students to take the test to earn their GED. Sometimes these classes help students finish the credits necessary for them to earn a high school diploma. Some programs are combined with career preparation programs so that students can earn their GED or high school diploma and a career-related credential at the same time.

Passing the GED means passing five tests: reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. In addition, GED and adult secondary teachers help their students improve their skills in communicating, critical thinking, and problem solving—skills they will need for further education and successful careers.

English as a Second Language (ESL) classes teach students to read, write, and speak English. These classes are sometimes also called English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). People in these classes are recent immigrants to the United States and others whose native language is not English.

ESL teachers often focus on helping their students with practical vocabulary for jobs and daily living. They may also focus on preparing their students to take the citizenship exam.

In one class, an ESL teacher may have students from many different countries and cultures. Because the ESL teacher and the students may not share a common native language, ESL teachers must be creative in fostering communication in the classroom to achieve their education goals.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition