Current Research

The Goodling Institute is currently engaged in the following research studies:

Prins, E., Clymer, C. Elder, S.F., Needle, M. & Raymond, R., & Toso, B. W..  Career Pathways Programming for Lower-Skilled Adults and Immigrants: A Comparative Analysis of Adult Education Providers in High-Need Cities.  Funded through the Institutes for Education Sciences ($399,908).

Many adult education providers seek to develop career pathway programs that build low-skilled adult learners' core skills (e.g., math, reading)in preparation for specific careers or fields (e.g., health care). In this project, representatives of adult education programs in Chicago, Miami, and Houston will work with researchers to describe how providers in each city integrate career pathway components into their services. This information will help programs understand and improve practices as well as create the foundation for subsequent collaboration and research.

 This grant is in partnership with the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy (Esther Prins, Carol Clymer, & Blaire Toso), Houston Center for Literacy (Sheri Foreman Elder), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Mark Needle), and Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition (Rebecca Raymond).

Prins, E. (Co-PI), Clymer, C. Toso, B.W., and Monnat, S.(Co-PI). Literacy, numeracy, ICT skills, post-initial education, and health status: Variation by race/ethnicity and educational attainment among U.S. respondents. Funded through the American Institutes for Research and the National Center for Education Statistics ($8000).

The purpose of this grant is to analyze data from the 2012 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey.

The project will examine how U.S. respondents' health outcomes are shaped by literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology (ICT) skills and by post-initial education such as adult education, GED classes, and workplace training. Second, the research will analyze how the relationship between proficiencies in these areas varies across racial/ethnic groups and by educational attainment. Third, we will identify which types of post-initial education have the strongest association with health, and which types matter the most for people with different racial/ethnic identities and levels of educational attainment.

Prins, Clymer and Toso are associated with the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and Monnat is associated with Rural Sociology at Penn State.

Prins, E. (PI). Poor women's involvement in community-based adult education: Consequences for social networks, social support, and mental health. Funded through the Spencer Foundation ($40,000).

girl-toddler-painting.jpgResearch suggests that poor women with low educational attainment tend to have smaller, less supportive social networks and, concomitantly, to experience depression and  other forms of psychological distress.  The purpose of this study is to examine how poor women with limited educational attainment use family literacy and adult education programs to construct supportive social networks, and in turn, how these networks influence women's mental health.  The study investigates the types of emotional  and material resources women exchange with each other; whether intensity of participation increases the number and quality of women's social ties; and whether women who establish more and higher quality social ties experience improved mental health (i.e., depression, sense of control over their lives).

The project includes approximately 40 women who are enrolled in family literacy (n=5) and adult education (n=1) programs in Pennsylvania.  The methods include:  (1) a structured pre-post questionnaire, regarding relationships with program participants and staff, social networks, social support, social interaction, and mental health; (2) interviews with a sub-set of 20 learners; (3) daily social interaction records documenting interactions with students and teachers from the program outside of class time; (4) program records and participant reading scores and participation data; and (5) observations of classrooms and program events.


Prins, E. (PI), Huang-Pollock, C., Schaffer, B., Toso, B.W., Woodhouse, S., & Witherspoon, D. P-PLAN STUDY: Parents planning and learning about attention-related needs. Funded through the PSU College of Education Research Initiation Grant ($8304) and the PSU Children, Youth, and Families Consortium ($5000).


Raising a child with overactivity or attention difficulties can be challenging.  Seeking information and treatment, understanding diagnoses, making decisions about treatment, and interacting with teachers and health care professionals can pose a number of challenges, especially for caregivers who lack access to economic, educational, or other support systems.

The purpose of this project is to understand health literacy among low-socioeconomic status (SES) parents (or other primary caregivers) of school-age children with overactivity or attention difficulties, or who are diagnosed with ADHD.  The specific aims are to better understand parents' perspectives on (a) how parents seek out and make sense of information about their children's diagnoses or concerns about behavior, (b) how parents make decisions about treatment, (c) parents' experiences of interactions with professionals involved in diagnosing and treating their children, and (d) parents' supports and needs for support related to parenting a child with ADHD or other such difficulties (including managing challenging behaviors).  The study focuses both on current experiences and what would most help to promote access to services, support, empowerment, and health literacy.