Thomas Sticht

Thomas Sticht

Hall of Fame Class of 2013

As an international consultant, Thomas Sticht has contributed greatly to the field of adult education. These contributions include extensive research and development on the oral and written language skills of adults, diagnostic tests for learning-disabled adults, and the development of adult education programs that integrate the teaching of basic skills with career education.

One of Dr. Sticht’s greatest contributions has been his research on literacy for the U.S. Army. His research on listening and reading skills of lower aptitude recruits resulted in the development of the literacy assessment battery. His research also led to the creation of the Army’s Functional Literacy program, which integrated and contextualized basic skills education with Army occupational training. He directed teams that developed adult literacy programs for the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force.

As a practitioner, he co-authored 15 volumes that integrated the teaching of reading and mathematics in five occupational fields. He also evaluated workplace literacy programs in the United States and conducted professional development workshops around the globe. He was also the senior author of the book Cast-off Youth: Policy and Training Methods from the Military Experience, which formulated the principles of Functional Context Education and led to the government funding programs that served low-skilled adults, helping them integrate basic and occupational skills education. 

As a policymaker, Dr. Sticht served as Associate Director for the National Institute for Education. He was responsible for all Basic Skills Research and Development policy in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. He presented Congressional testimony on issues of basic skills education for children and adults. He also served as Interagency Advisor on Basic Skills Education and advised educators in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Labor.

He has contributed to research in early childhood education, arguing that poorly educated children are the source of adult functional illiteracy and functionally illiterate adults are the source of poorly educated children. He and his colleagues conducted the first conference on the intergenerational transfer of cognitive skills. He has also published several articles on early childhood and parenthood education with attention to the role of oral language in the intergenerational transfer of literacy and educational achievement. Citing “Sticht’s Law,” the oracy-to-literacy approach has been implemented by the Core Knowledge Foundation in its early childhood educational curriculum.

From 1979 through 2003, he served as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) International Literacy Prize Jury. He has helped review more than 600 applications for literacy prizes and has participated in the awarding of numerous prizes for adult literacy programs. For this work, he was awarded UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Medal.  In his career, Dr. Sticht has published more than 170 books, book chapters, journal articles, curriculum material books, and reports. Since retiring in 1999 as President and Senior Scientist at Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc., he has served as an International Consultant in Adult Education, offering more than 200 free professional development workshops and lectures on adult education around the world.