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Tips From the Field

Sharing delivery approaches used in CL-funded programs that reflect best practices in adult foundational learning theory.

Part II – Outcome Measurements and Evaluation (OME’s): Why They Matter

In April’s issue of The Connector we looked at the practical value of the CALP Outcome Measurement and Evaluation (OME) tool. We explored how measuring three of the OME areas during the program (1 – learners’ using the learned skills, 2 – progress in their goals, and 3 – confidence), rather than at the end, benefits adults returning to learning at the foundational level. Measuring OMEs mid-program cues practitioners to pivot in response to what they learn from listening to learners. This is the heart of learner-centred programs.    

OMEs are more than a requirement of the Calgary Learns reporting process. OMEs are cornerstones in designing strong programs and, after the program is built, help practitioners to adapt during delivery to enhance the learning experience.

In this issue of Tips from the Field, we highlight the final three OMEs that our funded programs collect. Calgary Learns funded programs are oriented to relieving the weight of the obstacles that many adults returning to learning at the foundational level carry into the classroom. 

As you think about OMEs, consider the adults who choose to register for your program. The many strengths and challenges they have. The stress they may feel about returning to learning.

For adults learning at the foundational level, there is much at stake in the choice to return to the classroom. Past learning experiences can negatively affect confidence, and the result can be a self- defeating internal narrative about their ability to learn.  To ramp up the stress even higher, the need to improve life for themselves and their families can be highly anxiety-producing.  It is with this understanding, as practitioners, that you design and deliver learning opportunities suited to the needs of brave adults. Being learner-centred means putting ourselves in the shoes of adults who are taking the risk to learn.

How do we make it easier for people to walk through the door (or to turn on the Zoom camera?)  In this, our May issue of The Connector, we look at the second of the three of the six OME’s that attend to barriers and bravery:

4.Reducing Barriers  – cost of course and supplies, childcare, transportation

5.Using Program Relevance – learning materials that are relevant to the adults (reflective of their age, culture, interests)

6.Welcoming Space – creating a learning space is welcoming (i.e. anticipating what creates a positive group dynamic and alleviates the triggering of fight-flight-freeze nervous system responses)

How do we know if our efforts to reduce  barriers, develop relevant materials, and create a welcoming space are effective?

Let us take a close look at these OMEs:

OME #4 – Reduced Barriers

We know from research that many foundational learners face a broad range of barriers to learning. Where external supports are available, they can overcome these barriers and pursue their learning goals.

This OME information is often gathered at intake, in conversation with the learners.

100% of adults in Calgary Learns funded programs reported they were using foundational skills in their everyday lives as a result of participating in a CALP learning opportunity.

OME #5 – Program Relevance

Adult learning principles tell us that to effectively engage adults as learners, and for them to continue their learning journey and achieve their goals, our classroom opportunities need to b be relevant, engaging and respectful.

96% of adults in Calgary Learns funded programs reported they were making progress towards, or meeting, their learning goal as a result of participating in a CALP learning opportunity.

This OME  information should come directly from the learners in your program. They are the ones who can report on whether your program was relevant to their learning needs and goals. Collected in the same way as the Welcoming Space OMEs, you can ask learners  if the program helped them move towards or meet their learning goal, if they learned what you wanted/needed, and if the skills learned are useful in their everyday life?

OME #6 – Welcoming Space

 Many adult foundational learners have not had a positive experience in the traditional educational system. By creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for learners, we provide opportunities where adult learners can explore their unique learning needs, without fear of shame, stigma or judgement. Programs that build relationships with learners and foster trust see adult learns flourish.

97% of learners reported that their learning was in a safe and welcoming space as a result of participating in a CALP learning opportunity.  

You can collect this OME information as part of your program evaluation. You may choose to have learners fill out an evaluation form, or make time for an informal conversation or interview. You might ask a learner if they feel comfortable when they come to the class, and if they feel supported in the program?

“I have support from so many people who obviously care about me. They have made me believe I can be part of a classroom when before I felt incapable of learning.” (Adult Learner)


To translate these statistics into stories from practitioners, we invited Anna Mazur from CCIS.  Anna is the Program Coordinator for two CL funded programs, and her sharing here relates to the CCIS Computer Training for Integration for Refugees (CTIR).

Anna is focused on helping CCIS’s adult learners overcome the learning and integration barriers they face. Much of her works revolves around finding effective ways to meet their learning needs. She incorporates demographic data into the design, content and delivery of her programs. This means that she is attentive to culture, age, gender, and the specific interests and life situations of all who register for classes. 

Anna says “I recently ran virtual CTIR sessions for Afghan refugees. Considering the traumatic events that preceded their involuntary departure from their home country to Canada, I reckoned that if we were to record successful learning outcomes with this learner group, it was important to examine and identify the unique factors that could pose as barriers to their learning.

Before starting the sessions, I carefully researched the clients and determined their distinct learning, language and cultural needs. I discovered that they mostly spoke two languages — Dari and Pashto.  I then hosted virtual orientation sessions with interpreters fluent in each language.

The orientation sessions afforded me the opportunity to interact with the learners directly and gain useful insights into each learner’s unique learning needs and barriers. To deliver impactful sessions, it was critical to recruit instructors who were not just fluent in the learners’ languages, but instructors who would also be culturally sensitive and could connect with the learners at an emotional and empathetic level.”

From her virtual chats with her Afghani learners, Anna gained another valuable insight that would inform the composition of her classes:

“I figured out that I needed to group my learners not just by language variations but also by gender to create a welcoming space where the women could freely share their thoughts and ideas. This turned out to be an excellent decision as the first virtual class for the Afghani learners was for women only.” 

CCIS provided the women with the computers to participate.This was a completely new learning experience for some of the women and their enthusiasm was contagious. After concluding the first part of the sessions, they immediately registered for the second part. This led CCIS to organize a third class to encourage and solidify their disposition towards learning.”

Do you have tips from the field that you would be willing to share? We would love to hear them! Please get in touch with Heidi (hgrogan@calgarylearns.com).

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