In Their Own Words:  ABE Students Talk About Success Strategies – Part 2

In Their Own Words: ABE Students Talk About Success Strategies – Part 2

This fall I started working on a project to gather student voices and hear what they had to say about remote learning during COVID-19. As ABE teachers, we often have ideas about what makes a learner successful, but I wanted to hear from the students themselves. It was my plan from the start to compile what I learned into a session for the statewide Teaching and Learning at a Distance Conference that took place on November 5-6.

In Part 1 of this article, I explained the main takeaways from this project to show just how much can be learned by talking with our students about their learning strategies. In Part 2, I describe the process I went through to document these interviews.

The Process

To begin with, I reached out to a handful of ABE colleagues from around the state and asked them if they could think of any students who had really been standouts during remote learning. I explained that I wanted to conduct some student interviews to try and find out what strategies the learners had been using to navigate school during a pandemic.

I knew that I was onto something right away because almost everyone to whom I reached out responded quickly and enthusiastically. Within a few days of making my request, I was connecting with students via e-mail to introduce myself, explain the project, and schedule interviews.

Prior to interviewing the students, I compiled a list of questions. Using the Transitions Integration Framework (TIF) as inspiration, I wanted to draw out what skills students were using to help them keep on track even after learning shifted from in-person to remote instruction.

These are the questions that I asked the students to reflect on:

  1. How have you been keeping your learning materials organized during remote learning? Do you have an at home work space? If so, can you describe it a little bit?
  2. How do you organize your time so that you can attend classes from home and manage your home or family responsibilities?
  3. How are you staying connected with your teacher(s) while learning from home? What do you do if you have a problem or run into a barrier during independent learning?
  4. What helps you to stay focused on learning while you’re at home?
  5. What’s been the biggest challenge with remote learning, and how have you coped with that challenge?
  6. What other advice would you give to teachers or other adult students who are learning from home?

In the end, I scheduled five interviews, and each one lasted for roughly 20 minutes. I spoke with three non-native English speakers and two native English speakers who were born in the United States; all were female. They agreed to join me in a Microsoft Teams meeting, which I recorded. The record function is one of the standard tools available in MS Teams. Similar tools exist in Zoom and Google Meet.

When I was finished, I used iMovie to edit the video recordings and cut each one down to about 3 or 4 minutes. However, if you don’t have access to iMovie, there are also a number of free open-source video editing programs available for download. One that functions similarly to iMovie is Openshot ( I mention this because there was a great deal of interest during my November 6 session in allowing teachers to use the videos in their classrooms, and I wanted to explain how they were created in case others would like to do something similar using their own students as interview subjects.

There were a number of common themes that emerged from talking with these students, and there is much to be learned from these conversations. Be sure to refer back to Part 1 of this article to find out what my interviewees said about organizing time, goal setting, interpersonal relationships, and taking breaks.

My hope is that you will be able to replicate what I did in your own context! For inspiration, you are welcome to watch the recording of my November 6 presentation (which includes the student interviews).

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of this article, where I explore the main takeaways from doing this project!

Stephanie Sommers, ACES Coordinator ATLAS