SK Practitioner Reports

SK Practitioner Reports & Lessons Learned

Innovative Projects Completed by Literacy/Basic Education/Essential Skills Tutors, Instructors and Administrators since 2003, and “Lessons Learned,” a thematic synthesis of what we have learned on various topics and issues and how to address them.

Lessons Learned on Student Retention. Click here for a Retention Planning Framework explaining learner barriers along with the various strategies that Saskatchewan practitioners have successfully used during the “Beginnning, Middle and End” of programs:

  1. Part One: Promising practices from the Saskatchewan Action Research Network 
  2. Part Two: Barriers and Strategies
  3. Part Three: Retention in the “Middle Months”: Situational & Institutional Barriers 

Reports on successful strategies — following are the categories of the full reports written by practitioners on the promising practices they developed and have used in their classrooms. Click on the project titles to see what they did. Want to learn more about how you can ADAPT or ADOPT the innovative solutions you see here?  You can communicate direclty with the practitioners who have posted their reports  using the email information they have provided on their reports. Please also send a copy of your email to the SARN Director Dr. Allan Quigley at aquigley@stfx.ca.

Administrative inquiries on SARN can be directed to the Saskatchewan Literacy Network:

202 – 626 Broadway Avenue
Saskatoon, SK S7N 1A9
Phone: 306-651-7288
Toll-Free: 1-888-511-2111
Fax: 306-651-7287
saskliteracy@sk.literacy.ca

 Following are completed reports, organized as follows:

    1. Addressing Issues of Dropout, “Lates,” and Low Attendance
    2. Exploring Innovative Teaching and Counselling Strategies
    3. Increasing Learner Community Involvement
    4. Focus on Aboriginal Literacy Issues
    5. Focus on Adult Learners of English as an Additional Language Issues
    6. Practitioner Professional  

A. Addressing Issues of Dropout and Low Attendance

The ABE 10 instructors at Northwest College, North Battleford, were finding that students “were often sluggish, tired, and unable to focus most days.” They added: “Some of the students would stroll into class … minutes after arriving they would make their way out to the vending machines for breakfast. Breakfast would consist of a bag of chips, or even skittles sometimes, along with a pop or energy drink.”

The instructors asked: “Will providing healthier options promote an improvement in students’ in-class performance and a 10% increase in program retention?” A total of 31 students and all faculty bought, prepared and sold vegetables as well as bottled water for student purchase. They also conducted physical exercise outside for the break periods. These activities were integrated into the curriculum and this first cycle showed remarkable promise

Two Basic Education counsellors at SIAST Woodland campus in Prince Albert studied the following question with high levels of success: “How do we support students to stay motivated in the last months of school to improve retention and completion rates by, at least, 5% compared with previous years?  Would an intervention of inviting BE graduates as guest speakers, along with a workshop on post-secondary and career planning, improve completion rates.”

The Metis adults who attend level 3 and 4 Basic Education at Dumont Technical Institute in Prince Albert come from a number of northerly communities: from Rosthern to St. Louis; from Cumberland House, Pinehouse Lake, Ille-a-la-Crosse,  La Loche, Green Lake and Buffalo Narrows. However, they head home for the Easter break but many don’t return.  Before the learners went home, this group of instructors asked their level 3 and 4 students to re-think why they came into the Basic Ed program in the first place: “Why they want to complete, how graduation (in just a few weeks) is expected to help them into their future, what completion will mean to their families and home communities” (see assignment in the report). Then students were given a “holiday assignment” to come back with something that depicts, “Where I come from.” From interviews with elders, to photos, to artefacts, to written testimonies and descriptions…and present what graduation will mean both for themselves and their home communities. The results of this action research project were highly positive. DTI is considering using the student Power Point as developed for future DTI learner orientations and/or recruitment.

“Through two cycles of action research, it was first discovered that a ‘childcare/babysitting bank’ was not working for my Aboriginal students. Instead, providing a system of customized assistance to students raised the average attendance of learners  from 50%  to 75%, and proved to empower learners in the process.”

“Would the introducation of student interviews, along with a sharper focus on absenteeism, improve attendance after the Easter break–the end-of-term period when absenteeism is highest?”

“Would selecting and adding social activities in our BE classrooms improve attendance and retention between the Easter break and year end?”

“Would introducing decolonization interventions in my Adult 12 Native Studies 30 class help my Aboriginal adult students decolonize themselves? To what extent would such student-selected interventions make a difference?”

“If we implement a consistent process for monitoring and carry out a fair and reasonable follow-through process around student attendance and progress, can we affectively increase attendance and progress in ABE programs?”
    • Appendix A: Process for Reviewing Student Progress and Attendance
    • Appendix B: Stats Chart 2007 -2012

“How will encouraging students to reflect on their reasons for being late affect the frequency of arriving late for class?”

“Will a weekly Student Feedback card and journal give me warning signs to which I could respond with the appropriate intervention to help reduce this rate?”

“Would including food preparation and/or sharing food within the class keep students in class longer?”

“Would using e-mail to build a sense of community among BE students improve retention rates by 10%?”

“If I improve the social environment of the classroom, will the number of students who complete the first three weeks increase?”

Given that attendance usually falls mid-semester, would changing the order of the topics covered have a positive effect on learner achievement scores?”

“How might increased personal communication between instructor and students affect attendance in an Adult Basic Education program?”

“Would the use of a morning sign-in sheet change student lateness patterns?”

“Is it possible to establish an ‘early warning system’ within Basic Education that identifies at-risk clients Earlier than the system that currently exists at Wascana SIAST Campus?

 B. Exploring Innovative Teaching and Counselling Strategies

  • “Planning for Failure”: Managing Adult Basic Education student waitlists at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Prince Albert Campus. Lani Scragg, Karla Halcro, Carrie McCloy, Cathy Bendle: (2015).The counselling staff at the Prince Albert Polytechnic campus investigated better ways to manage the waitlist for Basic Education students. Among other interventions, they experimented with a follow-up orientation for those students who did not, or could not, attend the usual intake orientation. In other words, they “Planned for the failure” of the first intake orientation. They asked a number of questions on how they might improve the intake process overall, including:
    • “If we improved our communications with waitlisted students, would our attendance at orientation increase?”
    • “If attendance at orientation increases, will it affect the attrition rates in the early weeks of the program?”
    • “If we ‘plan to fail’ by getting the right numbers of students at our first orientation and then schedule a second “call-in” orientation, would it be easier to communicate among ourselves and also with the “call-in” students, so that optimal information is shared?”

“Would providing daily aerobic activities for SIAST Wascana Campus Basic Education (BE) learners enrolled in an individualized Adult 12 Learning Centre Improve Students Academic  Performance?” [And see other positive unintended outcomes)?”

 “What are the characteristics of tutor-tutee partnering that maximize the effectiveness of a student tutoring relationship?” (And see other positive unintended outcomes).

“If students were to keep an English Language Arts Portfolio, would they begin to be more aware of their progress and, therefore, would that not only assist them in developing their communication skills but enhance their motivation to learn in this  course? Would their progress in this course become more apparent to them and make a difference as a result?”

1.  “Will chapter quizzes of key concepts raise comprehension of reading material, develop   study skills, and improve writing skills?”
2.  “Will students use oral and written feedback on chapter quizzes to apply sociological language in essay assignments and exam questions?”
3.  “Will students attain a minimum of 70% after applying interventions?”     

“Could an independent modularized Wellness course be developed that would increase the rate of success for learners and increase both their understanding and marks in this subject area?”

“Would the use of appropriate, user friendly supplementary materials aid understanding and ultimately raise the scores of literacy level students with little or no exposure to science?”

“By using codes to help solve algebraic equations, will Adult 10 students’ overall performance improve on the unit exam?”

“How can I maximize the learning and retention of vocabulary?”  and  “What is a reasonable number of vocabulary words to present to Level 2 Communications students in a five week semester?”

If the work load for students struggling  at the three week point in a ten   week program is altered by offering them a choice of assignments (with a corresponding increasing or decreasing of mark potential guided by difficulty level), then will there will be a greater chance of more students successfully completing Biology 30?

“What is the effect of taking a Bridging Mathematics class on achievement, retention, attendance and student perception of readiness, competence, satisfaction with their mark and motivation for taking other 30 level Mathematics classes.”

 C.  Increasing Learner Community Involvement

 “Would using the group process in relation to the upcoming election result in individual growth of students?”

 D.    Focus on Aboriginal Literacy Issues

“Through two cycles of action research, it was first discovered that a ‘childcare/babysitting bank’ was not working for my Aboriginal students. Instead, providing a system of customized assistance to students raised the average attendance of learners  from 50%  to 75%, and proved to empower learners in the process.”

“Would introducing decolonization interventions in my Adult 12 Native Studies 30 class help my Aboriginal adult students decolonize themselves? To what extent would such student-selected interventions make a difference?”

“If I improve the social environment of the classroom, will the number of students who complete the first three weeks increase?”

“How might increased personal communication between instructor and students affect attendance in an Adult Basic Education program?”

E.  Adult Learners of English as an Additional Language Issues

 “Would the 15 students completing their journaling activities,  as instructed, for the full 24 day period:

1. Show a measurable increase in the individual students CLB level? (For pragmatic purposes only listening would be tested)?

2. How would the students feel about their journaling work? Would this be viewed as a positive step in their ESL development, or would it be viewed as a chore?”

 “Would attendance improve in our ESL course if we posted the upcoming week’s activities on the College Website,  and then sent an e-mail note about that posting to our students?”  

F. Practitioner Professional Development

“Would providing literacy discussion forums in the form of Literacy Cafes across the province improve collaboration among literacy practitioners by 10%?”

Because the research in Saskatchewan is on-going, updates on our progress will be regular. Reports of findings will appear on this Website as they are completed. 

REMEMBER…. if findings are written up and shared by individuals and programs, we can help each other build a better literacy and basic education system without continuous  “wheel reinvention.” No one needs to be alone in trying to work through an issue. Those who have posted their findings here are happy to discuss what they did and how they did it. Simply contact a member of the SARN Planning Committee (see above).

If  you are interested in being trained in action research and joining our movement–and making a contribution to knowledge on this Website–as of 2012, there are three trainers and five mentors all willing to help. For more information, go to the Training button on this Website.

Following are a few samples of materials we normally use in the training.

Action Research Reporting Sample 1

Action Research Reporting Sample 2