From Advanced Education: Strengthening Family Literacy

Posted:13 March 2018

Author: Amanda Giang, Advanced Education

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This week's blog comes to you from the CALP Team at Alberta Advanced Education.

Literacy is indeed a Family Affair!


Literacy is an integral part of everything we do in life and not just a set of tasks that are used at certain times. Family literacy can be viewed as a way that parents, caregivers, children, and extended family members use literacy at home and in their communities. It is a means for creating opportunities and choices for families. Many different family literacy approaches to building adult literacy and foundational learning skills foster the achievement of further learning and/or employment goals.

The needs of families shape family literacy programs in CALP: the goals, interests, strengths, and concerns of participating families influence program design, including curriculum and instruction methods. These factors are also the key considerations by which we evaluate the success of programs. The design, delivery, and evaluation of CALP family literacy programs use a whole-family approach, but with a clear focus on the adult learner.

Advanced Education sees the strengths of family literacy as a non-threatening way to support adults to acquire foundational skills. Together, we can leverage these strengths and change the lives of adult learners.

Why focus on the adult?

Did you know that parental educational attainment and that of their children are strongly linked? There is also a strong correlation between literacy, educational attainment, employment, and other social/economic outcomes, such as poverty.

  • Parents who do not complete high school are more likely to have children who do not complete high school.
  • High school non-completers often find themselves in low wage jobs. They are also more likely to be unemployed, and for longer periods of time, than are high school completers.
  • Unstable, low-wage employment and long periods of unemployment can lead to living in persistent poverty.
  • When families live in persistent poverty, the children experience many negative consequences.
  • The longer that a child lives in persistent poverty, the less positive are their adult outcomes. Such children are more likely to drop out of high school and have unstable employment as young adults.
  • . . . . And the cycle continues. . . .

Family literacy has the potential to break this cycle when programs are of sufficient intensity in terms of hours, and of sufficient duration in terms of length of program in order to make lasting changes in a family. One example is outlined in this study on Family Literacy, which focuses on adult achievement and family well-being. The program integrates the following activities with the goal of family growth and development:

  • Adult education: focus on intentionally improving literacy and foundational learning skills to enhance economic self-sufficiency; 
  • Parent time: development of effective life skills, parenting skills, and work-readiness;
  • Parent and child time: interactive literacy activities between parent and child
  • Child education: engaging parents to promote the growth, development, and education of young children

What are the changes to reporting?

Beginning in the 2018/2019 grant term, Family Literacy will no longer be one of the Literacy and Foundational Learning (LFL) categories. Because Family Literacy programs support the development of Adult Literacy, Numeracy, English Language, Basic Computer, and Foundational Life Skills, they will now
be reported within an existing LFL category as a mode of delivery.

CALP Grant App Programming Table

Modes of delivery are the ways in which your organizations may choose to deliver LFL content, such as Learning Activities and Courses, and now Family Literacy. See the 3-Year CALP Application Form here.

Categorizing programs using Family Literacy as a mode of delivery

While we recognize that Family Literacy programs, like many other CALP programs, take a holistic approach and may support skills development in a number of LFL categories, we ask you to identify the primary intended learning objective of your program. This will help you determine the category in which your program should be placed. For example:

Categories for Family Literacy Programs

Why are we making these changes?

Over the past several years, Advanced Education has observed that some CALPs have struggled to focus on the adult learner in their family literacy programs. Since adult learning is the mandate of our department, we are exploring new approaches to reporting on family literacy and providing professional development in a way that will support CALPs to be successful in addressing the needs of adult learners in a family literacy context.

We believe this change will better support funded organizations to plan and deliver CALP Family Literacy programming that intentionally helps adult learners acquire specific foundational skills, thus supporting them not only as learners, but as future employees, parents, family decision-makers, and community members. As a mode of delivery, Family Literacy principles and best practices (see below) will be integrated directly into learning opportunities in Adult Literacy, Numeracy, English Language Learning, Basic Computer Skills, and Foundational Life Skills.

What professional development will be required?

As of July 1, 2018, there will be two professional development requirements for all CALP staff who work with adult learners in CALP Family Literacy programs:

  1. Introduction to Adult Foundational Learning
  2. Introduction to Family Literacy*

While Family Literacy models will no longer be required training, they will be strongly recommended for all organizations, and participation in models training will continue to be supported through the CALP grant as an eligible expense. It would not be possible, for example, to do a Building Blocks home visitation Family Literacy program, without having been trained in the Building Blocks model. Family Literacy models will still be available to the system, whether offered through the Community Learning Network regionally or in Edmonton at the Literacy and Learning Symposium, or offered directly through a Family Literacy professional development provider. If you are offering, or plan to offer, a Family Literacy program that uses a model developed by a specific Family Literacy training provider, please consult with that training provider to identify intellectual property considerations or any training requirements before offering the program.

We are making this change because Advanced Education does not have a mechanism or the capacity to approve new Family Literacy models, and we are aware that the current list of eight models in the CALP Guidelines is too restrictive. There are other Family Literacy models that can help CALPs to meet the needs of adult learners using Family Literacy. We do not want to restrict CALPs from trying out different models. We also do not wish to stymie innovation from professional development providers should they want to develop and offer training in a new model.

Another reason for Family Literacy models no longer being required is that Advanced Education does not have the capacity to monitor the implementation of models in the delivery of Family Literacy programs. Since the implementation of the CALP Logic Model, Advanced Education will assess the extent to which Family Literacy programs are successful based on the outcomes measures you report to the department.

*As we mentioned in our system email in early February 2018, we will be developing a new required training for Family Literacy that will replace Introduction to Family Literacy, with the following intended learning objectives:

  • Maintain the integrity of CALP Family Literacy programs in the province by identifying Family Literacy theory, principles and best practices;
  • Build on the lessons from Introduction to Adult Foundational Learning;
  • Help CALPs to plan and deliver Family Literacy programs that focus on the achievement of adult literacy and foundational learning outcomes, in alignment with the CALP Guidelines.

We will also want to hear from Family Literacy practitioners and trainers in the province about the content of this new training to ensure that it will respond to needs and align with other Family Literacy training. Stay tuned for more information.

Are there any other changes CALPs should be aware of?

Advanced Education will release revisions to the CALP Guidelines, which will elaborate on Family Literacy as a mode of delivery for Literacy and Foundational Learning, including the eleven themes in the best practices of Family Literacy programs:

                                             Intergenerational                       Focus on adult learning
                                             Collaborative                             Sound methods
                                             Build on strengths                     Staff qualifications
                                             Responsive                               Access
                                             Culturally sensitive                    Evaluation
                                             Essence

The existing requirements for the delivery of Family Literacy programs will remain in effect, and will continue to be reflected in revisions to the CALP Guidelines. Programs offered through a Family Literacy mode of delivery:

  • Target learners with social and/or economic barriers;
  • Continue to be offered free of charge; and
  • Should be designed for committed participants and require attendance at multiple sessions over a number of weeks.

Some of your programs may not currently fit in a Literacy and Foundational Learning category, however, through conversations and planning with your Regional Support Staff and grant manager, or Granting Council, we can work together to adapt your existing programs so they focus on adult Literacy and Foundational Learning.

Guest blog posts

In the coming weeks, we will be profiling family literacy programs across the province that are currently modeling best practices for aligning their programs to the CALP mandate, and meeting adult literacy and foundational outcomes. Stay tuned!

CALP Team
Advanced Education

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