Deadline Extended: BWe Special Issue on Adult Learners in Basic Writing

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Basic Writing Electronic Journal (BWe)
contact email: 

Call for Papers

BWe Special Issue

Theme: Adult Learners in Basic Writing

Guest Editors: Sonia Feder-Lewis and Christine Photinos

Sonia Feder-Lewis:        
Christine Photinos:

Submissions Deadline: December 15, 2017


BWe is a peer-reviewed online journal that welcomes both traditional and multi-modal texts. Submission guidelines for formatting print essays and webtexts can be found at  Guest editors welcome pre-submission queries from prospective authors.


This special issue of BWe will focus on adult learners in basic writing.

Sharan Merriam and her colleagues ask a crucial question in their essential text, Learning in Adulthood: “Why is it important that educators of adults recognize that learning happens in so many and varied places in the lives of adults?” (27).   Adult learners make up more than a third of all college students (“More Than One-Third of College Students Are Over 25” 1) and bring the strengths of their lived experiences to enrich our writing classrooms. However, they also face the challenges of living as adults while being students, and many are first generation college students who come from underserved populations. They are a diverse group, defined not always by age alone, but by diverse experiences, e.g., financial independence, family obligations for a spouse, children or parents, an educational journey with frequent stop-outs and transfers, economic hardships, varied work experiences and lifestyles, and military service. While they have in the past been labeled as “non-traditional students,” we choose now to use the term adult learner to recognize that they are a defined group in their own right. A significant number of these adult learners are also assessed by colleges and adult education programs as underprepared for academic programs. Not all adult learners are basic writers (and vice versa), but the overlap between these two groups is substantial and demands our ongoing attention. This special issue of BWe seeks to contribute to the scholarship on both basic writing and adult learners, focusing especially on the present moment and on emerging challenges and trends. We seek practical and theoretical submissions reflecting both studies of students and studies of the experience of teaching these students in basic writing classes.


Suggested topics:

1. A primary motivation for many adult learners is career advancement and/or a greater ability to act meaningfully in their communities. Can we leverage these learners’ lives outside the classroom to propel their development as writers?


2. As the nature of college campuses continues to change, basic writing will continue to evolve.  What might curricula and delivery of basic writing courses look like in 10 or 15 years, as the majority of students become more experienced learners with increasingly diverse backgrounds?


3. Many colleges are now pursuing alternatives to remediation in order to accelerate students’ progress towards a degree and prevent overuse of financial aid for non-credit bearing coursework. However, many accelerated learning and alternative remediation programs require an intensive day-time commitment which is not possible for adults with work and family responsibilities. How might basic writing programs develop alternative ways of delivering intensive learning that respond to the needs and situation of adults?


4. In Retention and Resistance: Writing Instruction and Students Who Leave, Pegeen Reichert Powell asks,  “What is going on in my students’ lives right now to which we might use writing as a meaningful response?" (50).   Adult learners are often experiencing a great deal “right now.”  How can we create curriculum that will help adult learners find relevance in their basic writing classes?


5. Basic writing instruction can play a transformational role for adult students, opening many new possibilities. In what ways can we use basic writing instruction to empower life-long learners?


6. While some programs exist specifically for adult learners, the trend is simply for more adult learners to be present in every classroom. For teachers, these mixed groups can present challenges, as learners with greater life experience interact with traditional students. In what ways can we capitalize on this interaction and view it as advantageous, rather than considering it as a problem?


7. How can online basic writing instruction be designed to successfully reach adult learners?  Are there successes from which we can learn?


8. What approaches have proven successful for working with particular categories of adult learners in specific basic writing teaching contexts? How have you worked with veterans, or women in prison, or other unique groups, and how might your approaches to working with particular groups of adult learners apply more broadly to other student populations or to other basic writing contexts?



Works Cited

Merriam, Sharan B., et al.  Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, 3rd Ed. Josse-Bass Publishing, 2007.

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “More Than One‐Third of College Students Are Over 25.” National Student Clearinghouse, 19 Apr. 2012,

Powell, Pegeen Reichert. Retention and resistance: Writing Instruction and Students Who Leave. U of Colorado P, 2014.