In the five years of the programs existence, end-of-course evaluations focusing on the workshop and the instructor are completed by participants but an assessment of what and how participants are learning or accomplishing is not carried out. Thus, the catalyst of this action research project was the desire to identify and articulate evidence of learning as a result of the Skills Improvement Program.
Finding a Starting Point
Historically, authentic assessment of learners progress and development in literacy-based programs is not rigorously conducted. Learner assessment in workplace literacy programs is characterized by a multitude of interpretations and is still a point of deliberation in the area of workplace education. A pre-post test or a standardized literacy test are administered on occasion in some programs however, the SIP program is flexible in accommodating worker needs. This has resulted in continuous intake and consequently variable length of time in the program. The open entry/open exit nature and time constraints make it difficult and complex to conduct traditional learner assessment. Although some programs perform an entry level screening test, testing in this program is not a mandated component because much of the educational development is geared to interest learning and does not have to be aligned with specific workplace goals. Both employees and family members enroll, show up, participate and go without any thought about or discernible awareness of the learning process.
Questions arose out of this absence of evaluation as well as the need to bring to light an understanding of the learning development that occurs for the participants. For example, over two part-time years, one learner logged in 115 hours of class participation in computer courses, math upgrading and General Education Development. If learning is defined as the knowledge or skills acquired by instruction and study, then it would make sense that this should have transpired. But where is the evidence that participants are gaining knowledge, skills and an understanding of the learning process? What and how much are participants learning? Has there been a transfer of learning both on a personal or professional level? How, then, can learners progress be assessed or estimated? The intention of conducting this action research project was that by answering these questions it may lead to more purposeful and meaningful learning experience for the participants and more effective instruction.
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