Bridging existing learners to Foundational Learning

Posted:24 April 2018

Author: Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network

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This year I have spent time exploring the idea of learner recruitment with CALPs in the South region. To begin we relied heavily on the Learner Support Services eLearning specifically the section on ‘Where to Look for Learners’ and Dyan Semple’s guest blog titled ‘Red Flags for Adult Literacy and Language Barriers in Service Delivery’. Following some great discussion and sharing, we wondered about those foundational learners who may already be attending programming. Are they aware of the vast number of ways their CALP can support their foundational learning? Could they benefit from different learning opportunities or modes of delivery? How do we as CALP staff set these learners up for a successful learning journey?

In addition to attracting new learners through partnership and word of mouth, it is often true that foundational learners attend CALP programs without self-identifying as foundational learners. It is important that CALP Staff (including instructors and volunteer tutors) are able to identify these learners and provide them with opportunities to scaffold into other Community Adult Learning Programs where appropriate.

It isn’t always easy to identify literacy and foundational learners.It may be as simple as a learner asking you to read a bus schedule or type out their resume. Other learners might forget their glasses, be terrible spellers or copy their address from a driver’s license onto your intake form. It becomes more difficult to tell if a learner struggles with literacy when they sit at the back of the room, do not take notes or contribute to the conversation. Other times a struggle with literacy and foundational learning is reflected in the way they speak, their body language or lack of confidence. Regardless of how you come to understand that a learner would benefit from literacy and foundational learning, you want to establish a relationship that allows you to support them on their learning journey.

There are many examples of how CALPs bridge learners into foundational learning programs. Here are a few scenarios. You may find that some sound similar to an experience you’ve had.

Do you have a learner who you see semi-frequently for Learner Support Services? How could you introduce the idea of attending a learning activity or course?

“Great to see you again Linda. I am happy to help you prep your resume this afternoon but really wish I had more time. I think with a little bit of help you could learn Microsoft Word. Would you be interested in trying that? If so, I could recommend a class to get you started.”

Alternatively, a learner enrolled in a course who could benefit from some extra review?

“John, did you know that we have volunteer tutors who are available to work with students once a week. I have a lot of people who say it is great to review their course work with someone after class. It can be especially helpful if you don’t quite understand a concept from class. Sometimes all you need is to have someone explain it differently or run through some extra practise with you. If you are interested, we do our small group tutoring after class on Tuesdays.”

Consider how you might accommodate learners interested in a class that does not meet the minimum participant requirements (i.e. cancelled). Could these learners be matched with a volunteer tutor?

“Hi again Isaac, I am calling to let you know that the Digital Skills class you registered for didn’t get enough participants to run this session. From our conversation last week, I know you are ready to get started, and we don’t want to keep you waiting another three months. We have a great volunteer who is available for one-on-one sessions here in our computer lab. Would you be interested in working with her once a week?”

What about a parent in your home visitation program who would benefit from some peer learning in addition to your one-on-one support?

“Maria, I love hearing you sing with Joaquin at home. This is great practice and he clearly enjoys it! We have another program that can help you practice your English speaking and listening skills with other moms. They meet on Friday mornings for some English Language Learning – you can bring Joaquin and he can play with the other children – and then all the moms and children share snack and a rhyme time together.”

There is also the possibility that you have foundational learners enrolled in Community Capacity Building programs. We know that these learners require more time and practice to successfully meet their learning goals.

How do you approach a learner enrolled in a GED Prep course who is clearly struggling with pre-GED math?

“Charles, I can see you are working so hard on this GED Prep course. We had so many learners get frustrated with the math that we have set up a different program. We use the same teacher you have on Tuesdays and Thursdays but she comes in on Wednesdays just to focus on the math you need to study for your GED.”

Have you noticed the same participant repeating a Community Capacity Building course with little success?

“William it is great to have you back in class this time around. I know it can be challenging to pack all this learning into one weekend especially all the reading. Did you know that the CALP could offer you one-on-one support to work through these materials? That way you can practice your reading, do some more sample tests and come back prepared when we run this course again in the fall. If you are interested, I know Sandra would be happy to set you up with a volunteer tutor once a week for a couple of hours.”

Could you comfortably move these literacy and foundational learners from a class into a small group tutoring opportunity?

“Hi Kathy, we had a few learners who participated in our Learner’s License prep course and found the vocabulary challenging. We thought it might help to start a small group to practice this vocabulary while learning the rules of the road. If you are interested, we have a volunteer tutor who is available to help on Saturday mornings from 10am – noon. We will be meeting in the Program Room at the Library and can start next week.”

As the start of many learners’ journey, CALPs have an opportunity to coach, guide and mentor learners on their path to learning. This all begins with an open door, safe welcoming space and establishing relationships. It is through an ongoing relationship with a learner that conversations like these ones can prompt learners to connect to foundational learning that helps them achieve their learning goals.

Emily Robinson Leclair
CLN South Regional Support Staff



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