Construction Zone Ahead: Helping Learner’s IMPROVE Their Skills

Tanis Harms, Community Learning Network

1 2 12 May 2020




Why the Tool?




I don’t know about you, but my memory Is not impressive…I’m surprised my phone hasn’t gone on strike due to the number of lists and reminders I enter into it! In a way, these are my digital “tying a string on my finger” – reminding me of things I want to remember to do. If you’re anything like me and struggle with remembering things, it’s great to have memory tools to help us out. 

Another word for a memory tool is a “mnemonic" (nem-on-ic). “Mnemonics are techniques for re-packaging information, helping your brain to store it safely – and find it again at the right moment….Think of mnemonics as ways to boost what your brain can do anyway. Often, the information you want is in there "somewhere" – you just need a tool to help you reach it quickly when it counts” (retrieved July 18, 2019 from:

This is the point of the IMPROVE tool. The goal is to have a simple, memorable, term that helps CALP Practitioners remember key steps used to help learners IMPROVE their learning while they are constructing new skills.

army knife



 What is the Tool?



The IMPROVE multi-tool includes a variety of learning strategy tools…

Instruct: How will the facilitator explicitly teach the skill?

Model: How will the facilitator model using the skill?

Practice: What activities will provide the learners opportunity to practice the skill?

Recognize: How will the facilitator recognize and encourage learners’ progress in their development and/or use of skill? 

Observe: How will the facilitator determine if the learners have developed the skill or if more instruction and/or practice is needed?

Verify: How will the facilitator verify with the learners that they understand the skill and are confident in using the skill?

Explore: How will the facilitator and the learners explore next steps together? What are alternate ways the facilitator could teach or practice the skill with the learners? What are skills that could build on the knowledge and use of this skill?

IMPROVE builds on the strategy of explicit instruction which can also be “referred to as ‘demonstration-prompt-practice,’ or ‘I do, we do, you do.’ In this type of instruction, learners are shown how to perform a task before being expected to do it on their own. Explicit instruction involves learning experiences that move learners from little or no knowledge to mastery where they can perform skills and strategies at high levels.” (Rising to the Reading Challenges of Adult Learners: Practitioners Toolkit page 45) ( Whether working with small groups or one-on-one with a learner, “explicit programs and instruction require instructors to model or show learners how to do something, provide learners with practice and feedback, and include independent activities for learners to practice on their own. Explicit instruction is more likely to use phrases such as “My turn,” “Watch as I show you,” “This is how you do _____” and “Let’s do some together.” (Rising to the Reading Challenges of Adult Learners: Practitioners Toolkit page 47) (

To learn more about the origins and application of this strategy, check out Shawn Killian’s blog (16.August.2015) “8 Ways to Use the I Do WE Do YOU Do Model to Boost Student Results.”

Similar to a multi-tool, we hope you find multiple uses for the IMPROVE learning tool, as it condenses these concepts into 7 key words that aim to help practitioners remember these important areas involved in constructing new skills.

construction workers



 Who could use the Tool, and How?



A CALP staff member, instructor, tutor, or facilitator could use the IMPROVE tool prior to meeting with learners as a planning aid.  The tool could help with intentionally planning for any mode of delivery to include these key CALP aspects of learning a skill. 

IMPROVE could also be used directly with learners (one-on-one or with a group).  Together, the CALP practitioner and learner(s) could explore and discuss the purpose of the activities or instruction as they navigate through the steps. The learner(s) could be involved in detailing what they would find helpful or what they are interested in doing for the various steps. During the learning process, IMPROVE can be used with the learner(s) to assess learning and plan for next steps.  At the end of a learning session, it could be used as an assessment tool to evaluate learning that was successful as well as to plan together how to scaffold the learning to reach the next steps towards the learner(s) goals.

“Different strokes for different folks” I often say to my children. We each have different preferences for how we do things. For some, the IMPROVE tool may be something that they find easy to remember and use it to mentally “walk” through the developmental learning process in their learning relationships. For others, they may choose to use a hardcopy or digital copy of the tool in order to fill in each section prior to or when meeting with the learner(s). Still for others, the tool could be adapted for other CALP purposes or embedded into tools your CALP is already using.

Please share below in the comments how you have used and/or adapted, or how you could use and/or adapt the IMPROVE tool for your CALP purposes.

IMPROVEClick on the image to download the Word version of IMPROVE. 

Tanis Harms
CLN RSS North Region



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