LBS Practitioner Training

Professional development support for Literacy and Basic Skills educators in Ontario

4.2 Goal-Directed Program Planning

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Introduction

Goal-directed program planning is a well-established component of LBS that takes shape through a goal-directed assessment process. As learners come into the program, they participate in a comprehensive, goal-directed assessment process that leads to the identification of a goal and the development of an individualized plan for learning. In order to provide goal-directed programming, practitioners must first have a clearly stipulated learner goal for which meaningful and appropriate tasks can be identified and relevant curriculum developed. If a learner does not understand goal-setting or, for whatever other reason, is unable to identify a goal, then goal-setting itself becomes the learner’s first task within the program.

As we read previously, adult learners are more motivated, more persistent and ultimately more successful if 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

1. Goal-Directed Assessment

Goal-directed assessment in LBS is the process whereby practitioners gather all the information they need to know about a learner in order to provide appropriate, individualized training. It is the means by which both the learner and the practitioner identify and come to a clear and mutual understanding of the following:

  • what the learner's past experience has been in the areas of education and work (background information)
  • where the learner wants to go after exiting the literacy program (the learner’s goal)
  • what the focus of the learner’s program will be (the learner’s goal path)
  • how the learner will know when he or she is ready to transition to the next step (goal completion)
  • tasks the learner will focus on in the program as well as embedded skills, knowledge, and attitudes/behaviours necessary for successful task performance
  • gaps that exist in skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are needed by the learner for goal-related tasks
  • differences that may exist between the learner’s cultural and linguistic strengths and the cultural and linguistic environment of the learner’s chosen goal path (cultural considerations).

As we know, goal-directed assessment is not new to us; it has been around for a long time and is already firmly rooted in LBS practice.

SIDEBAR:
The first chapter of the
Ministry document, Goal Directed Assessment begins with the etymology of “assessment”, and an image that beautifully illustrates what we hope occurs when practitioners conduct goal setting activities with learners. “The word “assess” comes from the Latin term “assidere”, which means, “to sit beside”. Santopietro, (1991) describes the assessment process as educators

“sitting beside’ learners to get information about their proficiencies, backgrounds and goals and, in doing so, to immerse themselves in the lives and views of their students.”
(Ontario Literacy 1997)


Ideally, the LBS goal-directed assessment process provides this same kind of supportive, “sitting beside” and “immersing” experience while keeping the conversation focused on the learner’s goal. For example:

  • why the learner has come into the program,
  • what he or she wants for the future,
  • what kinds of duties, responsibilities and obligations are associated with that goal and
  • what tasks are performed in the course of carrying them out
  • what kinds of duties, responsibilities and obligations currently claim the learner’s time and attention
  • what additional supports could help ensure the learner's eventual success

The LBS goal-directed assessment process has five steps:

Step 1: Gather background information
Step 2: Determine learner’s goal and goal path
Step 3: Identify goal requirements and goal-related tasks
Step 4: Assess learner’s current capacity
Step 5: Create a Learner Plan (or Client Service Plan)

At each step, key information is recorded either by hand or electronically on forms provided by the agency. In the past, LBS agencies all developed their own forms and documents for this purpose but that produced a number of challenges when learners moved from one program to another. It meant the learner was often asked to repeat the lengthy assessment process so the information could be entered into the new agency's preferred forms. With the OALCF, this does not happen. Agencies now have

  • a common Participant Registration form for learner information at intake
  • an Employment Ontario Information System and Case Management System (EOIS/CaMS) for creating, updating, managing and sharing individual learner files online
  • a common Learner Plan Template that programs can use to plan each learner's program and monitor progress
  • question-by-question and step-by-step instructions for the above-mentioned tools for consistency purposes.

Having a common online information management system ensures that programs across the province gather and record information in a consistent manner, and important program information for learners in the system, including learner plans and learner achievement can be reviewed when necessary by approved Employment Ontario stakeholders.

Actual procedures for gathering and recording learner information, i.e., who does what and when and how, will no doubt vary program to program. Depending on the agency and available staff, for example, the participant registration form might be filled out by the program manager, by an administrative assistant, a program assessor, a practitioner or any combination of the above. Creating the Learner Plan or Client Service Plan might be carried out by a practitioner or an assessor and the learner sitting at a computer, or it may be completed in sections over the course of several days involving different people, with and/or without the learner close at hand.


SIDEBAR about the Learner Plan Template and EOIS/CaMS...
The sample OALCF Learner Plan Template, developed by MTCU, is created in PDF and in MS Word and can be downloaded from the OALCF website. This electronic file contains drop-down menus that expedite the recording of information. The Instructions for the Learner Plan Template, also available online, provides step-by-step, question-by-question instructions for filling in each section. The instructions document is so useful and easy-to-follow, that many practitioners are printing it off for quick reference.

Every learner in the LBS program must be registered as a client in Employment Ontario's EOIS/CaMS system. Each LBS agency will have its own designated person or persons who will be responsible for client registration, service plan data entry and ongoing file management. A print-based copy of the Participant Registration Form can be used to capture the registration information at intake and the information can be transferred into EOIS/CaMS at a later time. The Learner Plan Template can be used to record information related to the learner's

  • Goal Path and OALCF Competencies,
  • Learning Activities
  • Learner Program Supports and Referrals
  • Other Supports the Learner is Accessing

At the moment, best practice seems to recommend that programs gather learner information using these tools as a first step thereby reducing the risk of error working directly in EOIS/CaMS. Also, these forms can serve as print-based back-up files. This approach also gives agencies the option of having someone other than the practitioner be responsible for EOIS/CaMS data entry.


CAUTION:

Goal-directed assessment is a time-and-labour-intensive process that, usually, cannot be completed at one sitting. The work can, in fact, extend over several days, weeks, or even a couple of months - especially in the case of night school classes where programs may run for only six hours a week. As you read though the steps that follow, don’t be overwhelmed by the apparent work involved. There are strategies for orchestrating these tasks efficiently and effectively, and we will explore those ideas later on in this course. Set aside the “how to” concerns and simply focus on getting a grasp of what’s involved.

Conducting the Goal-Directed Assessment Process:

There are things to know and skills to acquire for working with learners at each step of the goal-directed assessment process. In the links below, the first link describes the task at hand and gives general insights; the second link provides more details, step-by-step approaches, frequently asked questions, tools, examples, and links to useful resources.

Step ONE: Gathering Information

Step TWO: Determining Goal and Goal Path

Step THREE: Identifying Goal Requirements

Step FOUR: Assessing Current Capacity

Step FIVE: Creating the Learner Plan

JOURNAL LINK What do you think?

What were the best insights you received from reading about the 5-Step Goal Directed Assessment Process?

Q&A

Q: What do learners think about the goal-directed assessment process?

Most learners are very positive. For many learners, knowing that their literacy program is linked to a specific goal or outcome is highly motivating. Once they see it, learners value the fact that a goal-directed assessment process will result in a program that will make the most of their time spent in LBS.

Another positive by-product of the goal-directed assessment process is the beginning of a good working relationship that can develop between learner and practitioner. After spending quality time one-to-one, sharing stories and background information, and working collaboratively to plan out the steps for training, sometimes learners comment that for the first time in their lives, they feel like a person.  Someone respects them and listens; someone understands and, for them, that is enough to motivate them to commit to the program and want to be accountable to someone.


Q:  Couldn’t that become problematic? What about learners who form such strong emotional bonds with the practitioner that they come to the class only because of the relationship that has developed? Are we really OK with that? Is that a good enough reason for learners to come to LBS?

While we recognize that motivation for learning that is based on a desire to please someone else is, at best, second best, for some learners, this can be an appropriate starting point. There are learners who need to trust in someone else’s belief in them before they can begin to trust in themselves.  For them, it’s a first step to healthier self-esteem.
Practitioners who are both experienced and wise recognize when this kind of attachment develops and know how to help learners move from dependency on the approval of others to finding pride and approval within themselves.


Q: What about learners who don’t respond so well to the assessment process?

Learners who are not all that happy about the goal-directed assessment process are often the ones that get stuck when it comes to goal setting. As experiences tells us, not all learners are ready to engage in goal-setting when they first enter the program, and they can be pretty vocal in their objections.

“All this personal stuff doesn’t belong in school. My life is nobody’s else’s business. I came here to learn to read and write better not talk about my life.”

“I’ve been coming to this program for days already and the practitioner hasn’t taught me anything yet. All we do is talk.”

“How am I supposed to know what my training plan should be? It’s not my job to figure it out; that’s the teacher’s job. That’s what she gets paid for – to know what to teach and stuff.”


Comments like these are often strong indications that the learners do not understand the LBS program. Explicit instruction about the program, how it operates and the many services it provides is often necessary
in order to gain learner buy-in.

Learners who are not all that happy about the goal-directed assessment process are often the ones that get stuck when it comes to goal setting. As experiences tells us, not all learners are ready to engage in goal-setting when they first enter the program, and they can be pretty vocal in their objections.

“All this personal stuff doesn’t belong in school. My life is nobody else’s business. I came here to learn to read and write better not talk about my life.”

“I’ve been coming to this program for days already and the practitioner hasn’t taught me anything yet. All we do is talk.”

“How am I supposed to know what my training plan should be? It’s not my job to figure it out; that’s the teacher’s job. That’s what she gets paid for – to know what to teach and stuff.”


Comments like these are often strong indications that the learners do not understand the LBS program. Explicit instruction about the program, how it operates and the many services it provides is often necessary
in order to gain learner buy-in.



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