Allan Quigley’s life work has made a lasting impact on adult and continuing education on a national and international level—particularly in the area of adult literacy. A Canadian who has lived in the United States, Quigley helped found 12 community colleges across western Canada as a practitioner and policy maker in the 1970s and 1980s. After a move to The Pennsylvania State University in 1987, he helped establish Penn State’s Adult Education Graduate program and Monroeville Graduate Center in Pittsburgh.
Today, Quigley is a recognized authority on literacy, and his work has inspired learners, practitioners, policy-makers, and researchers with more than 200 keynotes, presentations, and workshops given across the United States, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, India, Slovenia, and Australia.
He is the author of more than 150 publications, including some 80 articles, chapters, books, research reports, and policy papers. His theoretical work launched “non-participation research,” which continues to impact literacy recruiting, retention, teaching, and programming across North America. His early theoretical work helped move practitioners, researchers, policy-makers, and members of the public from the stereotype of low literate adults as either “lazy or crazy,” as the images of the 1950s and 1960s strongly suggested.
By advancing non-participation research, literacy has taken a less remediated, more adult approach to adult education. This approach was explored in Quigley’s Rethinking Literacy Education (1997). In Building Professional Pride in Literacy (2006), he followed up with recommendations to improve recruitment, teaching, and persistence.
As a scholar, his 1987 AERC award-winning dissertation introduced sociological Resistance Theory to literacy. This perspective was expanded in his Houle Award winning book, Rethinking Literacy Education, and helps explain non-participation and high dropout from adult literacy programs. His research on non-participation challenged mainstream literacy theory and practice. In addition to 23 years teaching graduate students, he increased literacy professionalism and research capacity by training hundreds of literacy practitioners across North America in action research. Literacy practitioners are today researching their own practice and sharing findings worldwide on the state/provincial research-in-practice websites Quigley helped establish.
Quigley also advocated for adult education with the Saskatchewan government, and this led to the province’s first literacy campaign and strategic campaign for literacy. He has been invited to advise both the Canadian National Literacy Secretariat and the Council of Ministers of Education Canada on adult literacy education. He also served as editor for The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, raising the publication to international status. While co-chairing a research team on adult health and learning, his team created Canada’s first literature review on the topic and conducted consultations with marginalized groups. Once dismissive of adult education, the Canadian Professional Health Association has since praised and highlighted the group’s findings on their world-wide portal.
Quigley’s leadership has been recognized with the COABE Mattran Award, the Houle Award, the Pennsylvania Outstanding Adult Educator Award, the PSU Award for Academic Excellence, and the Campion University College Alumni Award.
Quigley is professor emeritus at St. Francis Xavier University and continues to advocate for the life chances of those with literacy challenges.
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