A distinctive feature of educational innovation in the last quarter century is the increasing use of multimedia and various emerging technologies to package and deliver learning experiences for audiences ranging from young children to adults. Since 1975 the Teaching, Learning and Technology Program at the Institute for Social Research has studied many of these innovations, examining their assumptions and discovering the conditions necessary to achieve their goals.

Studies have explored how learning is shaped by factors in the product design as well as by factors outside the product: teaching practices, student assignments, arrangement of the learning space and classroom interaction patterns. Studies have examined a wide range of content domains, including social studies, science, writing, adult literacy, foreign languages, and social values.

Research designs range from small-scale controlled experiments to national sample surveys; measurement strategies include self-completed surveys, face-to-face interviews, systematic coding of classroom interaction, and ethnographic field studies.

Current Projects

  • Project IDEAL - providing technical assistance to 28 states for the development of non-classroom approaches to teaching ABE, ASE and ESL learners.

  • National evaluation of Workplace Essential Skills from the PBS LiteracyLink Project: using broadcast video, print and online instruction to provide workplace skills training for adults. Study of the impact on learners under varying conditions of engagement.

  • Evaluation of TV411 from the Adult Literacy Media Alliance. using broadcast video and print to provide basic reading, writing and math skills for adults at the ABE level. Studies of the impact of the series when used under a variety of conditions: home study, home study with tutorial support, and viewing and studying in an informal facilitated group.

  • Assessing the Impact of Technology in Teaching and Learning: A Sourcebook for Evaluators.


  • Expanding Access in Adult Literacy with Web-Based Instruction. A book summarizing the state of Web use in adult education. Authors: Eunice Askov (PSU), Jerome Johnston, Leslie Petty, and Shannon Young. Scheduled for publication in late 2002.

  • AAPOR Award - Johnston received the AAPOR 2002 Innovators Award. At the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Johnston and four other researchers were recognized for their role in the development of Audio Computer-Assisted Self Interviewing (Audio CASI). This innovation helps with the collection of information that respondents might deem too sensitive to reveal to a live interviewer-medical condition, drug use, or risky sexual behavior. Audio CASI uses a laptop computer equipped with headphones to speak aloud questions and answer choices to a respondent. The respondent answers each question by selecting an answer on the screen or typing a word or phrase. In addition to helping keep answers confidential, Audio CASI helps reduce literacy problems associated with a self-completed paper-and-pencil questionnaire.

Research Overviews

Selected Bibliography