E-Literacy for the Workforce: Designing Effective Instruction
The goal of this research was to design and assess an e-learning instructional context aimed at facilitating the development of skills for writing in electronic spaces. This study involves the development of an instructional approach designed to teach adults strategies for writing effectively in an electronic context through a combination of face-to-face and electronic tutorial sessions. The instructional approach was developed based on a reciprocal teaching framework and the goal was to situate the learning within a meaningful, work-related context through electronic discussions. The objectives of the study include the following: to understand the experiences of participants enrolled in workforce literacy programs; to assess the impact of an instructional protocol (developed to teach how to express or explain a viewpoint, ask pertinent questions, and write effective responses) on the quality of writing and; to examine if changes occurred in participant attitudes toward writing using computers.
Twenty-two participants (ages 18-48, mean 29.8) from the Annapolis Valley Work Centre took part in this study. All participants had some form of barrier to employment; further, all had been either out of employment for a significant period of time or had never been employed and were receiving social assistance. In all cases, participants felt they would be better prepared for employment if they could improve their ability to communicate electronically.
Basic computer instruction was provided to the participants using IBM Thinkpads, which they used throughout the study. When participants felt comfortable using the laptop computers, they completed an introductory session prior to instruction, which involved making an entry into the electronic discussion group after examining a case study.
Instruction was based on a reciprocal model of instruction and consisted of eleven forty-minute sessions, summarized in Table 1, which focused on three specific writing strategies used when making electronic discussion entries. Instruction was also founded in context pertinent to workforce preparation. Strategy modeling tutorials were primarily grounded in face-to-face interaction. Guided practice sessions involved both face-to-face and electronic instruction and strategy use. Independent practice tutorials consisted of electronic instruction and strategy implementation. Session 10 entailed face-to-face guidance in addition to electronic strategy use while session 11 involved electronic, independent strategy use.
During the instructional phase, participants worked in heterogeneous small groups with a research assistant during their regular class hours at the Annapolis Valley Work Centre. Throughout this time, participants received a protocol for instruction for the three writing strategies. The gradual shifting of responsibility in reciprocal teaching (Palinscar & Brown, 1984) was embedded in the nature of the sessions. Participants used worksheets and study guides prior to making their electronic discussion group entries throughout the tutorial sessions.
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