LBS Practitioner Training

Professional development support for Literacy and Basic Skills educators in Ontario

4.1 Laying the Foundation

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Introduction

With the launch of the Ontario Adult Literacy Curriculum Framework (OALCF), LBS programs across the province are implementing a new approach to literacy programming. Building on the good foundations of the past, the OALCF introduces some new concepts and practices that will enhance learner success. Naturally, these kinds of changes can affect how practitioners go about planning their literacy programs. This chapter provides a brief introduction to OALCF foundational concepts, and the chapters that follow show how each one affects a practitioner's program planning.

1.  Transition-Oriented Programming

The defining characteristic of LBS is the transition-oriented nature of the program.  “Transition-oriented” describes programming where the learners' end goal, and what it takes to be successful in that goal, becomes the primary consideration for program planning and service delivery. The expectation is that that learners at exit, i.e., readiness for transition, will be fully prepared to be successful whatever their chosen next step or destination may be.

Theory has it that adult learners are more motivated, more persistent and ultimately more successful when they:

  • are working towards a specific and achievable goal that they have set for themselves
  • participate in programming that clearly relates to the goal they have chosen
  • receive training that takes into consideration the unique contexts which make up their particular life circumstances
  • can access other necessary, non-academic supports and services that are needed
  • can recognize steady progress being made toward their ultimate goal

The affective elements, then, of OALCF transition-oriented programming include:

  • goal-directed assessment
  • a task-based approach
  • learner-centred programming that includes contextual considerations and coordinated learner supports
  • transition-oriented assessment


 

2. Goal-Directed Assessment

Establishing a goal is, of necessity, the critical starting point of transition-oriented programming because it is the nature of the goal that establishes the focus of the program in order to ensure successful transitions. A learner whose goal is to be accepted into an Adult Secondary School Credit program, for example, will need to focus on very specific academic content and learning activities in order to ensure successful transition. The program for a learner whose goal is to get a job as a cashier, on the other hand, would be quite different.  Because the goal choice defines program planning and program content, most practitioners are prepared to devote considerable time and effort helping learners choose a goal that is realistic and appropriate for them.

LBS learners select one of the following five goal paths:

  1. Employment
  2. Apprenticeship
  3. Postsecondary
  4. Secondary School Credit
  5. Independence

To assist learners in committing to a goal that is both realistic and appropriate, practitioners lead learners through a goal-directed assessment process. Of course, goal-directed assessment and goal-directed programming is not new to LBS.  We were introduced to goal-directed assessment in 1995 in the ministry's "teal" document entitled, Goal-Directed Assessment: An Initial Assessment Process. That publication outlined a process whereby practitioners and learners work together to establish a goal and develop an individualized training plan to guide the learner's day-to-day instruction, learning activity, ongoing assessment and goal achievement. Each learner's personal training plan contained the following information and each section played a role in the practitioner's program planning process:

  • personal information and educational and employment background
  • the learner’s long-term and short-term goals
  • the learner’s current skills and abilities, strengths and challenges
  • skills required for successful goal achievement
  • a plan of action to fill the gap
  • a record of progress

With the OALCF, the former "Training Plan" has become a "Learner Plan" or a "Client Service Plan". The key elements now include:

  • the learner’s personal information, and educational and employment background
  • the learner’s goal and goal path
  • initial assessment results
  • tasks and milestones that are necessary for successful goal completion
  • learning that is necessary for successful task performance
  • additional coordinated supports
  • learner outcomes (a record of progress) and exit and follow-up data

Although the content of the Learner Plan has been modified somewhat, the underlying purpose of the document remains the same. The Learner Plan is intended...

  • to assist the practitioner in the planning, execution and ongoing management of the learner's training
  • to guide the learner in discovering what is necessary in order to achieve his or her goal
  • to monitor and track learner achievement for program accountability

In LBS, establishing a goal through the goal-directed assessment process helps learners express their desire to engage in learning that will support them at work, in their homes and communities and in broader education and training settings. The goal-directed assessment process supports planning and program delivery that is directly shaped by the learner's next step environment - which is the learner's reason for attending LBS.  Goal-directed programming is directly linked to the transition-oriented nature of the program because the learner's specific goal defines what will be the end point of the learner's program and therefore, the point of transition.  How to conduct a goal-directed assessment process with learners is explored in the next chapter, 4.2: Goal-Directed Assessment


 

3.  A Task-Based Approach

Perhaps the most dramatic change brought about by the OALCF has been the shift in instructional methodology from a skill-based approach to task-based training.

In a nutshell, task-based programming is programming that begins and ends with tasks.  In a task-based approach, day-to-day programming focuses on those particular tasks that are required by individual learners for the performance of daily duties and responsibilities that are related to their particular goal. The hallmarks of task-based programming include the following:

  • the selection of specific tasks for program planning and curriculum development that are
    • important to individual learners,
    • necessary to success for a particular goal,
    • appropriate given the particular cultural and linguistic context of the learner
    • helpful in moving the learner along the path to goal completion
    • necessary to successful transition to the goal
  • the leveling of tasks according to established descriptors of task and task performance
  • the use of tasks for assessment purposes and for tracking and reporting learner progress
  • materials and resources that support the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes for successful task performance
  • instructional strategies, and assessment tools and methods that emphasize tasks

The OALCF curriculum framework provides a set of standards at three levels of complexity that describe tasks that are associated with particular competencies. This construct for the leveling of tasks is what supports program learning and assessment activities at various levels of complexity. The levels span a wide range of literacy development—as do learners in LBS programs—from emergent stages of literacy learning to very advanced stages e.g. for those approaching entry into postsecondary education. The learner's curriculum and daily learning activity is planned based on the learner's capacity to perform goal-related tasks that range from level 1 to level 3 in complexity.  In the past, the daily program was designed in accordance with the learner's knowledge and skill acquisition along a continuum of learning. The performance of tasks as the driving focus, however, as opposed to skill acquisition supports greater authenticity in programming and provides a more transparent way to understand a person's literacy development.  How to implement a task-based approach is explored further in chapter 4.3: A Task-Based Approach


 

4. Learner-Centred Program Planning

The learner-centred nature of LBS is already clearly manifested by a program design that is transition-oriented, goal-directed and task-based. Right from the start, the primary concern is to meet an individual learner's needs. Practitioners talk with learners individually to listen to their stories, and to discuss their hopes and dreams, their particular goals, what they can learn in the program and how the program will take them to their next step. LBS is all about the learner.

There are two other elements of program planning that we have not yet described, and they also illustrate the learner-centredness of LBS, i.e. contextualization and coordinated learner supports 

Contextualization:

The OALCF has a particular view of contextualization and contextualized learning that is important for practitioners to understand.

The OALCF glossary defines contextualization as:

...using the learner’s environment, prior experiences, culture, language, goals, and interests to link to literacy programming.

Context, then, is a significant consideration when planning and developing appropriate programming. The learner's particular contexts of culture, language and goal will influence a number of things including: the curriculum content, tasks the practitioner will select for the learner to work on, choice of tools and activities for monitoring progress and possibly, even instructional approaches. Ontario's LBS Program is designed to address the literacy needs of four distinct cultural and linguistic groups: Anglophone, Deaf, Francophone, and Native. Since it is a person's cultural and linguistic context that shapes his or her knowledge, experience, values, and norms, the individual learner's context must be taken into account in order to maximize the learner's chance of success.

Contextualized programming, then, means that in every decision practitioners make from selecting tasks, planning curriculum content, choosing resources, designing learning activities and carrying out assessment, a key contributing factor in those decisions is 1) a well-informed and intentional consideration of the context of learner’s life and 2) any necessary bridging from the learner's current context to the context of the learner's chosen goal. Because appropriate contextualization has such direct correlation to learner success, you can see how necessary and important it is to effective transition-oriented programming.

Coordinated Learner Supports

Most practitioners will tell you that many learners in LBS need additional help beyond the LBS mandate in order to achieve success.  Being familiar with the non-LBS-related services that are available for various purposes will help practitioners identify and coordinate other supports and services that learners need while in LBS or at the next step. There is quite a wide range of supports available - for example, financial aid and material supports, health supports, academic supports, employment-related supports and/or other social services. For more details on supports and services, view CESBA's PowerPoint video, Support Learners.

By researching and understanding information related to goal requirements and other available supports, practitioners and learners have all that is necessary to be full partners in achieving positive outcomes.

(PICTURE) Are practitioners expected to know everything there is to know about every goal and every Employment Ontario program and service?

No! Not at all!

While LBS practitioners may be experts in literacy training, they are not expected to be experts in all the goal requirement details for every goal. They do, however, need to understand the general scope of the goal and, more importantly, what questions need to be asked to whom within their community. They should be aware, for example, of the specialized services and actual contacts in their communities for obtaining information - such as educational counsellors at colleges, MTCU consultants for apprenticeship programs, school board principals for Adult Credit programming, and Employment Service personnel for career exploration and job search.

JOURNAL LINK:    What do you think?

Who in your community would you put on speed dial for answering questions related to employment, apprenticeship, postsecondary, adult credit and independence goals?

 

You will find more information and helps for contextualization and coordinated learners supports in chapter 4.4: Learner-Centred Programming.


 

5. Transition-Oriented Assessment

For programming that is transition-oriented, where transition readiness is clearly defined in terms of tasks a person may be expected to encounter at the next step, it is important for both the learner and the practitioner, that the learner's ongoing progress and developing capacity for task performance be recognized, monitored and documented. Task-based assessment, then, is an important component in transition-oriented programming - not only because it aligns so closely with the learner's daily work but also because the documentation provides a way for programs across the province to give evidence of program success. OALCF documents can provide considerable insight into assessment and task-based tools and methods for monitoring learner progress. Two key tools for assessment and reporting purposes are the milestones and the culminating tasks.

Milestones and Culminating Tasks

With the OALCF, milestones and culminating tasks are used by LBS programs as one means of marking and tracking achievement along the learner's chosen goal path toward transition and goal completion. Milestones and culminating tasks support transition-oriented programming in that they represent a) tasks that are typical for a specific goal and b) significant chunks of learning on the path to transition-readiness. Milestones and culminating tasks represent just one means of tracking learner progress but they are important tasks to include in the learner's program because they are used for reporting purposes to MTCU to show program accountability.

Milestones

The current collection of 60 milestones offers several tasks for each goal path, as well as for each competency, task group and level. Practitioners, therefore, have choices and should be able to select a few milestones that are appropriate for each learner as part of their overall assessment strategy.

To see an introduction to milestones and how practitioners will use them, view the PowerPoint video, Milestones.

Culminating Tasks

Like integrated tasks, culminating tasks are complex tasks that use a number of different competencies and task groups in combination. As the name suggests, culminating tasks are used as the learner nears the end of training and prepares for transition to his or her next step. Culminating tasks are valuable indicators because they require learners to apply their skills and knowledge across competencies in a way that reflects real-life situations.


Simple tasks, integrated tasks, skill-building activities, culminating tasks and milestones all play a role in demonstrating learner progress through an LBS/AU program. If the learner progresses all the way to the point of transition, then s/he should be well-equipped to successfully complete the culminating task for that particular goal. It is understood, however, that the culminating tasks currently available may not necessarily fit for a particular learner - and that is okay. There are many other indicators of progress  that may be more reliable indicators of transition-readiness.
It bears repeating that culminating tasks, like the milestones represent just one element in a practitioner’s overall assessment strategy, and i n and of themselves, they are not enough to predict transition success.  Using a variety of assessment tools and measures has always been (and remains) the only way practitioners can have true confidence in a learner's capacity for transition success. So, to underscore this one final time... learners who complete all the elements identified on their learner plan and appear to be ready for transition are expected to complete a culminating task - but only if that culminating task makes sense for that learner.

Check this link to see how the Ministry introduces Milestones and Culminating Tasks

More details, tips, strategies and links to OALCF milestones and culminating tasks are found in the LBS Program Planning unit 4.5: Transition-Oriented Assessment

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4.2 Goal-Directed Program Planning



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