Sunday 27 July 2014

A quick 'health check' of your organisations embedded literacy and numeracy process.

Here is a quick way to check on the health of your organisation's embedding of literacy and numeracy if you are not present during actual class time.  It is based on 'expectancy theory' and personally, it never fails to give an instant insight into the priorities of a course or wider institution.  

If you happen to meet a learner in the corridor or wherever, simply ask them this question:

"How well do you think you will do next time you complete the numeracy assessment?"

There are several categories of answers you will receive:

  1. "What assessment?"
  2. "Which one was that again?"  
  3. "Oh that, it was hard"
  4. "Good!  I think I've improved quite a bit since I've been here".
  5. "Awesome.  I can't wait to see how the new strategies I've learned are going to pay off".
Now, they may seem a little contrived (they are!) but you get the general idea.
If the response to your question is similar to the first three - it likely indicates that the learner has no awareness that their current course is designed to develop their numeracy skills.  This means it is either not happening or the tutor is struggling to implement new numeracy support into their practice.  There may be numeracy being taught but it likely not linked in to the learners own goals or the needs highlighted by the assessment.

Moreover, these types of responses suggest that there is not a coherent plan or system in place.  The learner may not realise that the assessment is a SUPPORT mechanism and part of a broader plan to develop their skills.  Rather, the assessment is viewed as a test.

Number four is okay, but not great.  It suggests that the learner understands why they sat the assessment and is feeling confident about their progress.  However, it also suggests that there has been no emphasis on actual progressive development.  Progress is made as a consequence of the normal content delivery, not targeted, explicit ELN.

Number six is fantastic.  The learner has a personal expectation of success and progress.  They have taken ownership, and perhaps are developing their own pro-active learning strategies.

To sum up:  The worst responses are when the learner barley remembers the assessment or has very negative associations with it.  This suggests it is done simply as a criteria of funding, and that there are no support systems in place around the assessment.  Responses in which the learner thinks they have improved due to the natural progression of learning course content are okay but not great.

What we want are learners who have sat the assessment, had the results used to identify priority areas of need, and then have implemented a plan to purposefully work on those areas.  A learner who has taken responsibility for this will be keen to repeat the assessment because they will be confident of improvement. The plan will be a combination of tutor interventions, a personal learning plan, and strategies.  Its a two part process - directly taught skills by the tutor and development of learning strategies by the learner (a tool box of strategies so to speak).

If your learners are not confident of improvement - perhaps think about what could help this situation at a systems level.

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