“When I first started to work in the literacy field, I dreaded the time when a learner left the program. Then I realized that was how it is supposed to work - the literacy program helps the learner achieve his or her goals so that they can move on to the next step.” (A
Learners are supposed to leave literacy programs. In fact, the aim of
a training plan is to work toward the time when learners will leave. Therefore,
leaving is a planned-for event that takes learners to the next step towards
achieving a long-term goal, whether that goal be independence, further
education and training or employment.
Knowing when students are supposed
to leave the program can make it easier to collect exit
information. It allows you to start preparing a few weeks
(or even a month or two) before
the scheduled exit. During this time, you will probably:
a final demonstration
- conduct an exit interview
- review the next steps with the student and
Exit activities help the
program collect information, but they also help students
prepare for the next step by reinforcing learning successes
(through demonstrations) and by allowing them to provide
feedback on their experiences in the literacy
program (through the interview).
Knowing that you will be
collecting follow-up information in a few months' time
will encourage learners to provide contact information
so that you can get in touch. Knowing why you are collecting
this information will encourage
learners to be honest and to share challenges both at exit
and when you make the follow-up call. Also, learners will
be expecting your call and
will be prepared to give you the information you are looking
However, the reality is that, despite our best intentions,
leaving is all too often an unplanned event. A learner's
situation may change
causing him or her to stop attending the literacy program,
often without notice. For
example, the learner or a family member may experience
a sudden change in health. Children may run into difficulty
at school. People may suddenly
move or their employment situation may change. When this
happens and the learner exits unexpectedly, the program
may not have current contact
information and be unable to get in touch with the learner
which means that complete exit information cannot be gathered, and subsequent
follow-up might also be difficult.
But don't despair - there is always
something to be learned from any situation. Try to determine
why the student left. Talk to other students in the program
as well as to staff and volunteers. However, be sure they know you are not asking
them to break confidences or invade privacy, you are concerned about the absent
student and would like to make sure everything is okay. If you have a signed
release of information, you could also check with other agencies the student
is involved with. Perhaps someone will have some insight as to why the student
Over time you might identify some common reasons why learners leave without
notice, and you might decide to make changes in your program
to reduce the number of
these unplanned exits. For example, you might want to add an evening class. Or
you might review your intake procedures to ensure that learners are clear about
program expectations. If the learner left for a reason outside of the program's
control (personal difficulty, medical reasons, etc.) you might be able to use
that information to identify future "at risk" learners. In short, don't
simply discount the learners who left without notice as "lost contacts" - use
their leaving provides for program evaluation and future planning.
Too often in
literacy programs we spend a lot of time and energy on
intake but significantly less time planning for and implementing
exit. But it's important
to remember that the literacy program is usually just the first step towards
a student's goal and so we must develop and implement effective exit procedures.
important information at intake and again at exit is similar
in many respects. Both incorporate personal interviews
and a demonstration of skills.
The information you collect can be used to develop reports, make changes to program
delivery or plan for the future. The information can also help program staff
and volunteers learn more about and link with agencies, services and literacy
programs within the community. For example, if many of your learners are interested
in apprenticeship opportunities, you will probably spend some time learning more
about apprenticeships and making connections with agencies that work in that
area. You might make sure that you have a copy of brochures, a list of useful
websites or other informational material on hand. That way, you will be prepared
to help other learners who express a similar interest.
Just what information will
you be collecting from learners when they leave? Naturally,
you will want to assess the skills they have learned in
your program through demonstrations but you should also ask them to evaluate
their learning experience
with your program. For example, what did they like and not like? Were the hours
convenient? Were they provided with enough support? Would they recommend the
program to others?
Here are some sample questions to ask during the exit process.
- Your training
plan outlines your next steps. Do you need more information?
Do you clearly understand the next steps you need to
- Tell me three things about your literacy training
that you found most
- What three things did you like the least
about your literacy training?
- What suggestions do you have for making
the literacy program better?
- What can you do now that
you couldn't do when you started here?
- What other things
have you learned?
- How are you using the skills
you have learned here?
- Do you have any other comments?
- Would you recommend our program to
others? Why or why not?
- Are there other ways that
our program could have supported you?
- Provide extra tutoring to help learners achieve their
- Maintain ongoing communications with
other agencies and organizations in
- Think about exit from the time
the learner enrolls with the program! It shouldn't
come as a surprise.
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Questions for Reflection
- What strategies does your program use to help learners plan for
exit? Which are successful and which are not?
does the exit process compare to the intake process
at your program? How can you make them
- How does your agency currently track
student exit information? Are there ways you
could do this more effectively?
- How could
you use exit information to improve your program?
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