Working Papers (

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version



In the fields of adult literacy and adult learning, most researchers have focused on the acquisition of various skills and abilities. Very little attention has been devoted to skill retention. Without more research information, however, it is difficult to know whether the literacy skills learned in America's adult education programs are likely to be retained for very long. This report is a literature review that covers what is known about (a) cognitive skill retention across the life span, (b) studies of literacy and basic skills retention, and (c) policy implications of skill retention work. The main conclusion of the report is that while much is known about fields related to that of literacy retention, very little research has been done directly on the topic and serious work needs to be undertakne soon. A set of questions to guide future work in this area is provided in the final section of the report.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Published by the National Center on Adult Literacy (NCAL) as NCAL Technical Report TR94-07. NCAL is affiliated with both the University of Pensylvania and the International Literacy Institute (ILI).



Date Posted: 25 April 2018