The Adult Literacy Core Skills List

In 1999, the Ontario Literacy Coalition (OLC) published a document entitled, Adult Literacy Educator Skills List. Written by Mary Ellen Belfiore in collaboration with the OLC task force on Literacy Worker Recognition, this document describes skills and knowledge that are reasonable and attainable for experienced educators working in adult literacy programs in Ontario.

The List was developed to be the touchstone in support of a number of next steps:

  • identifying skills that are required for experienced literacy educators,
  • setting standards for the profession,
  • planning professional development,
  • raising the profile of literacy educators and the status of the profession,
  • providing a basis for formal recognition (e.g., certification).

Following the publication of the List, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the National Literacy Secretariat introduced a multi-year Practitioner Training Strategy initiative. All literacy sectors and streams were asked to design a strategy that would meet the training needs of their own practitioners. In Phase I, they took the Adult Literacy Educator Skills List to their own literacy communities and worked to answer three questions:

  • What core skills are needed by literacy practitioners?
  • How do literacy practitioners acquire those skills?
  • How is the acquisition of those skills recognized?

The Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators (CESBA), hired consultant Mel MacLeod to lead Phase I on behalf of the school board sector. After extensive field research, and with valuable contributions from school board administrators, instructors and learners, MacLeod developed the Adult Literacy Educator Core Skills List – School Board Sector (ALECSL).

This document, approved unanimously by Ontario’s School Board LBS Managers and Administrators, contains the list of skills and knowledge that now sets the standard for quality literacy instruction in school board adult literacy programs. Here, below, is that document.

I. Approaches to Adult Learning and Learners

A. Creates a positive learning environment for learner groups in their diverse socio/economic/cultural contexts.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • accepts and affirms different social groups in their settings.
  • considers issues that affect learning (e.g. abuse, health, housing, disabilities).
  • uses strategies to foster understanding among diverse learner groups.
  • makes adaptations which respond to individual learning styles, goals, and behaviours.
  • establishes and promotes an atmosphere of mutual trust and partnership in the classroom.

II. General Teaching Methods and Strategies

A. Develops curriculum with learning objectives and outcomes based on learners’ goals.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • collaborates with learners in defining objectives, learning activities and outcomes based on ongoing assessment.
  • incorporates learner’s knowledge and experiences throughout the learning process.
  • develops appropriate curriculum along the continuum of LBS levels 1 to 5.
  • selects for training those skills sets specific to learner goal requirements.

B. Facilitates the learning process of planning, work, and growth for individuals in a classroom setting.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • encourages learners to share ideas, ask questions, make comments and cooperate with each other.
  • offers direction and responds to learners in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • fosters a cooperative, collaborative approach to classroom management issues.
  • accepts and gives constructive criticism.
  • shows sensitivity to different ways of participation based in individual and cultural factors, asking for feedback on the learning process and modifying procedures as necessary.
  • facilitates independent and self-directed learning through structured activities.
  • assists learners in developing a realistic vision for their optimum potential.  

C. Selects, adapts and creates appropriate learning materials and resources.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • designs activities to meet a variety of learning styles, experiences, expectations and skill levels.
  • uses clear language and design in adapting/creating materials.
  • critically examines tools and resources within the context of LBS learning levels.
  • supports the use of computers and information technology in the development of literacy and numeracy skills.

D. Communicates effectively in a learning environment.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • gathers, prepares and reports statistical and program information.
  • promotes and models effective interpersonal skills with active listening, open-ended questioning, and sensitivity to learner diversity.
  • presents information clearly with appropriate tone, style and pace.
  • encourages and responds to learner feedback.

III. Teaching Communications and Numeracy

A. Develops strategies for the teaching of reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • identifies the learner’s initial instructional level and needs in reading, writing speaking and listening.
  • determines the sequence or reading and writing skill sets required by the learner’s goals and the learning gaps.
  • plans and facilitates activities for reading, writing, speaking and listening outcomes in an integrated instructional context to support real life learning.
  • uses a variety of teaching methods to help learners develop specific communications skills i.e. decoding, comprehension, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary according to the learner’s needs.

B. Develops strategies for the teaching of numeracy.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • identifies the learner’s initial level and needs in numeracy.
  • organizes required numeracy concepts and skills into manageable and sequential units.
  • equips the learner to apply math concepts and skills to solve word problems.
  • plans and facilitates activities for goal required numeracy outcomes in an integrated instructional context to support real life learning.
  • helps learners transfer math skills to daily life situations.

IV. Assessment and Evaluation

A. Uses methods, tools and procedures appropriate to initial, on-going and final assessment and evaluation.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • ensures that assessment tools meet the criteria for valid results.
  • encourages regular evaluation in a collaborative process with the learner that is both confidential and meaningful.
  • provides opportunities to help learners assess their own strengths and needs.

B. Uses a goal-directed assessment process for initial assessments.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • gathers information on prior learning, education and employment experiences.
  • helps learners identify short and long-term goals that are measurable and realistic.
  • identifies communication and numeracy skills and knowledge required for those goals.
  • develops a learning/training plan that outlines the skills and knowledge needed to successfully meet learner goals.

C. Uses ongoing assessment and evaluation process.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • selects or designs appropriate demonstrations to reflect learner progress.
  • assesses and documents demonstrations of progress based on meaningful tasks.
  • involves the learner in modifying the training plan, clarifying goals and exploring options.
  • gives regular and frequent progress feedback to the learners in both formal and informal ways.

D. Uses final assessment and evaluation for exit.

Demonstrated in the following way:

  • relates exit assessment tool to the goals of the learner as developed in the training plan.

V. Participates in Professional Development

A. Assesses professional strengths/needs and improves knowledge and skills.

Demonstrated in the following ways:

  • Reflects critically on own practice.
  • Sets realistic and challenging goals for personal and professional development.
  • Engages in ongoing professional development activities.