In order to increase student confidence, everyone involved in the agency should recognize and celebrate success on an ongoing basis. Since progress is so important to learner retention, agencies should try to give some deliberate thought and planning into how they recognize and celebrate student achievement. Practitioners may need to consider whether their efforts in this area need to be increased.
Progress can be celebrated and recognized in many ways. Both formal and informal recognition is important. For example, it is very easy to make certificates of achievement. These can be awarded when learners reach their goals, but they can also be awarded along the way as new skills are mastered or when a particular accomplishment is noticed.
You can reward or acknowledge progress in small, less formal ways too. For example, telling a learner that you noticed an improvement in his or her literacy skills might just make someone's day! If your agency has a newsletter, you can document learner achievements there. You could also give small gifts – dollar stores are wonderful places to shop for this type of thing!
Demonstrations, Portfolios and Self-Assessment
Demonstrations are used by Ontario literacy agencies to conduct both ongoing and exit assessment. Demonstrations are an effective way for learners to show that they have mastered the skills required for their stated goals and that they are making progress. You can find many examples of demonstrations at the “Demonstrations Ontario” website at http://demonstrations.alphaplus.ca.
Portfolios provide a way of gathering and organizing examples of learners' work to demonstrate progress. They are not simply a binder or a box full of everything the learner has done. Rather, they are a carefully chosen selection of examples of the skills the learner has mastered over time. This includes samples of actual work the learner has completed along with assessments and any other relevant material.
Learners should be encouraged to reflect on their own progress by engaging in self-assessment. They should be encouraged to identify and document their own progress, skills, abilities and achievements. Questions like “what made it easy or hard to learn today?” or “how have you used your new skills in the past week?” can help students reflect on their progress and identify areas of difficulty and achievement.
You can learn more about demonstrations, portfolios and self-assessment in Community Literacy of Ontario's “Assessment” training module at: www.nald.ca/literacybasics/initial/ongoing/02.htm. We also talk about these topics in CLO's module on “Self-Management” (under the section on self-assessment).
Laubach Literacy Ontario has just released an important study called “Factors Affecting Success.” This study provides first-of-its-kind research related to factors associated with success in Ontario community-based literacy programs.
Parkdale Project Read, in collaboration with Literacy for East Toronto and Action Read, has produced a valuable research report called "I've Opened Up: Exploring Learners' Perspectives on Progress." Copies of this report can be downloaded from their website at: www.nald.ca/library/research/openup/cover.htm.
Check out Community Literacy of Ontario's “My Progress Tracking Sheet” at www.nald.ca/literacybasics/initial/progress/01.htm.
“How Do Your Skills Measure Up?” is a free web-based tool developed by Skill Plan and TOWES (Test of Workplace Essential Skills) that can be used for self-assessment of the essential skills: http://measureup.towes.com/english/index.asp.
Questions for Reflection
- How do you show adults in concrete, meaningful ways that they are making progress?
- How can you help students to experience success early in the learning process?
- How does your agency recognize and celebrate progress? Are there ways to do this more regularly or more effectively?
- How can you help learners to talk about their progress in a meaningful way?
- How can you help learners set realistic attendance goals/commitments?
- Whose responsibility is it to develop and maintain the portfolio?
- How can you best support learners who can't readily set goals or don't yet have the skills to set goals?
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