For years, literacy practitioners have known that there is more to becoming
a successful literacy student than simply learning to read, write and do
mathematical calculations. Whatever our goals in life we all need to solve
decisions, assess our own progress, be on time for appointments, and the
list goes on. Self-management skills support and enhance everything we
learning, our work, our volunteering and our personal lives whether we
are literacy students, practitioners or anyone else.
agencies often work with learners who may lack self-management skills
including (but not limited to) self-esteem, goal-setting and time management.
have extensive experience and knowledge of self-management issues as
well as a strong belief in the need for this domain in overall literacy
Because of its importance to the literacy community, Community Literacy of Ontario (CLO) has received numerous
requests for assistance with finding resources and learning tools to
help agencies incorporate self-management/self-direction skills in their
programming. This module will provide you with new ideas, tools and resources
that are sure to benefit your literacy agency. We have also included
many samples that you can use or adapt in your own program.
skills help with learning but also with life in general. They are sometimes
called "soft skills" because they deal with understanding
and behaviour rather than the direct acquisition of knowledge (also
skills"). However, there is nothing soft about self-management skills;
they are embedded in and support everything we do throughout our lives.
Problem-solving and decision-making, for example, are considered soft
skills whereas knowing how to change a tire is a hard skill.
people seem to be born with strong self-management skills, others
have to work to develop those skills. Some people have had more opportunities
to use these skills while others have had to rely on help from teachers,
family and friends.
Adults who have always been told what to do – by
a teacher, a parent, a spouse or someone else – may find the
idea of self-management somewhat overwhelming at first. They may
even show some initial resistance to the introduction of self-management/self-direction
skills. Some adults may feel that it is not their "job" to
direct their own learning – that is what literacy instructors
are for! They may also resent the suggestion that they don't
know how to manage their own lives. Literacy programs can play
an important role by providing a safe environment where learners
can discover, practice and become comfortable with self-management/self-direction
skills and recognize their importance in our personal lives as
as our lives as learners.
not a new concept in literacy, in the broader education field
or even in the work world. We talk about life skills, non-academic
outcomes, affective skills, essential skills, non-academic outcomes,
soft skills, critical-thinking skills and the list goes on. What
we call this area of learning isn't as important as recognizing
and documenting its impact. It is the formal measuring and recording
of these skills and their impact on the lives of literacy learners
that may be new for many of us in the literacy field. However,
learning how to do this and taking the time to do it is important
of us. Measuring and recording these skills can help learners
measure and talk about their own successes. It can help with
recruitment and retention. It can help literacy programs demonstrate
the difference we can make in the community. It can help our
communities understand what we do.
But just what is self-management/self-direction?
Is it a set of skills or a collection of attitudes and beliefs?
Is it life skills under a different name? In Ontario,
the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has chosen to identify self-management
and self-direction as a
learning outcomes domain because the skills involved apply
to all learners, whether their goal is independence, education
employment. Later in this module, we will take a closer look
at how MTCU describes self-management and self-direction. The
government also recognizes the importance of these skills:
the Essential Skills include many of the same criteria that are described in MTCU's
learning domain of self-management/self-direction.
Literacy Basics module, Community Literacy of Ontario explores
what these skills are and how they relate to learning. We'll
also share some of the research about self-management/self-direction
and some of the tools and resources CLO has found to be useful
for literacy practitioners.
What does the research say?
Studies and research in education clearly show the connection between self-management/self-direction
skills and learning. One example of the research in this area is called Discerning the Contexts of Adult Literacy Education that appeared in a special literacy
issue of the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education (November 2001).
You can link to it at http://www.nald.ca/library/research/george/discern/cover.htm.
This study showed that positive attitudes and good self-esteem, the ability
to problem solve, and other skills of this nature are all key factors in achieving
educational success. Literacy practitioners have known this for a long time
and have always striven to provide supportive environments, encouraged self-esteem,
Another interesting study is Naming the Magic: Non-Academic Outcomes in Basic Literacy, written by Evelyn Battell from Malaspina University-College that
was the result of a group of 40 American literacy instructors getting together
and attempting to discover and document what this type of outcome is and how
it happens. You can find the full report at http://www.nald.ca/library/research/magic/cover.htm.
You can find out more about the theories and research linking learning to
self-management/self-direction skills thanks to Katrina Grieve's excellent
literature review in the Ontario Literacy Coalition's publication Supporting
Learning, Supporting Change (Project Report).
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