Hosted by: Literacy Alberta
Contact: Janet Lane, Executive Director
Address: #320, 1300 - 8 Street SW Calgary, Alberta T2R 1B2
Phone:(403) 410-6994 Fax: (403) 410-9024
Partners: National Adult Literacy Database & Canadian Council on Learning - Adult Learning Knowledge Centre
The Essential Skills Forum was a six-week project that ran from March 26 - May 6, 2006 (pre-project preparation & outlines started March 20). In May, there were 41 Registered Participants (5 of whom were out-of-province). The forum had 2,153 web page hits, or people accessing and responding to information.
Participants from Alberta, Manitoba, BC and the Northwest Territories joined Dr. Millar “live” online Thursdays from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm MST. Questions were welcome and answered outside of office hours as well.
The following research and resources were shared:
Over the five-week period, participants initiated 52 discussions. Topics ranged from “how do we incorporate essential skills into our programs given time and money constraints to the importance of including essential skills.” “[Essential Skills] is another way to connect with resources that may have been closed to you before because they did not see themselves as fitting the traditional definitions.” B. Gowan.
Significant impact ... many participants felt that the current model of program delivery needs to be changed in order to support more development in this area. Essential Skills are used in the community if, after a community assessment, they are one of the three top priorities that a community needs. But if they are not a community priority then given time, and capacity constraints, “essential skills information is just another load on our work”. Though all participants recognized that essential skills are important, they are continuing to struggle with how essential skills and literacy “fit together”, for example: “sometimes we try to ignore Essential Skills because we're afraid that the focus is more on the skills than the learner, while literacy programs focus more on the learners. Then someone talks about Essential Skills in a way that makes sense and we think we should pay more attention to them.”
Practitioners are struggling with how much they can load on volunteer tutors (and themselves!) despite the fact that essential skills are helpful in setting up a framework for tutors and students. Essential skills is seen as one of the issues surrounding the problem of balancing greater expectations, limited funding, and the sometimes conflicting mandates of literacy, community, and educational programs. Look for needed changes to our current system of program delivery from this and other forums that echo the preceding statements.
Networking and partnerships…the additional resources shared are valuable. We granted access to the Essential Skills Forum in May-June (after the project ended) to six participants who learned about this forum from their colleagues.
All participants were emailed an Essential Skills Feedback Survey. The results:
This was a good beginning to Essential Skills. We've opened up the topic for discussion on the network, have had some insight into the barriers preventing essential skills from being adopted in some communities, and have been able to share many resources.
Though this forum has ended, it had a significant impact on participants. They are sharing the information with their colleagues, they are using some of the resources and they are discussing ways that essential skills can and should be added to their practice. Though many participants were “lurkers” or participants that have read and used the resources without asking questions or sharing their opinions; they too benefit from the contacts they have made and the network of expertise they can access. When the participants are ready to encompass Essential Skills within their programs they already have a number of resources they can use, and a team of experts willing and able to help them.