Frequently Asked Questions
What led LCNV to envision a new program design?
How do these changes to LCNV’s programs affect the adult learners?
What happens to the tutoring programs and LCNV trained volunteer tutors?
How does this change volunteering for LCNV and volunteer training?
Will Destination Workforce® help immigrant adults get jobs?
What is the timeframe for these changes?
Creating a new program model was primarily driven by the learning needs of the growing population of immigrants with limited proficiency in English, a population that is likely to continue to grow with pending legislation around DAPA and comprehensive immigration reform. Other factors driving and supporting our change process include the new federal emphasis on workplace skills development in adult education programs and sustaining the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia's (LCNV) reputation for quality research-based educational programs. With our new program model the staff and board believe that LCNV will be a leader in providing a research-based academic program for beginning-level literacy and language adult learners.
LCNV's student population has changed considerably in the past ten years, with 95% of the adult learners now foreign born. Teaching non-native English speakers to read, write, speak and understand English is different than teaching primarily American-born adults, as we did 50 years ago. It is only logical that we should update our programs to meet the needs of today’s learners. While LCNV has always focused on meeting the personal goals of the adult learner, the research around student-centered instructional practices goes deeper than simply teaching toward personal goals . Student-centered instruction builds on the experience and cultural context the adults bring to the table, and teaches them to use specific learning strategies to succeed. Best practices in teaching English Language Learners (ELL’s) also encourages group work, project work, and task-based activities that mirror real-life situations . LCNV’s data, as well as published research, has long demonstrated that more intensive instruction, yields far better outcomes for adult ELLs. It is LCNV’s goal to not only stay relevant, but to be a leader in implementing best practices in teaching low-literacy adult ELLs.
Finally, the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia has survived and thrived for more than 50 years because of its ability to respond to environmental changes. It is critical to remain economically strong and sustainable into the next 50 years. Achieving better results in a shorter period of time with lower costs is the basic business model for sustainability. The practice of teaching ELLs one-on-one over the course of several years as they reach their personal learning goals, both leaves too many adults waiting for instruction, and results in few successful outcomes per year. In today’s competitive and growing market that is a costly model to sustain over many years.
First it must be stated that LCNV’s programs continue to target beginning-level literacy and language learners. The new approach is student-centered, taking into account that the existing population of LCNV learners are primarily foreign-born and need a strong English language foundation. The new model encourages more intensive instruction, promotes skills-development, and creates stronger pathways.
The first change we made was to allow adult learners to both attend class and request a tutor in order to promote as much learning as possible. (In the past a learner had to choose between classroom and tutoring options.) Another significant change entailed merging LCNV’s ESOL and BAL tutoring programs, since both programs were now serving primarily foreign-born, English language learners. Once these separate program distinctions were removed it made sense to move all programs under one academic umbrella the Department of Academic and Student Affairs.
Then we looked toward broadening the scope and deepening the content of our classes by developing additional tracks. Beginning-level English language classes, (formerly called the ESOL Learning Centers), and Family Learning classes will be joined by two new academic tracks, namely Skills-based Classes and Destination Workforce®. Both of these tracks are still under development, with courses being released as they are designed and pilot-tested. In our Beginning-level English classes we teach the foundational instruction in speaking, listening, reading and writing English that our target population requires. Family Learning classes continue to offer parents and their children English language education relevant to the unique needs of families. LCNV’s new Skills-based track will provide learners the option to strengthen skills in short, intensive courses for reading, writing, pronunciation, computers, and other topics. Destination Workforce, in turn will help the beginning-level English language learners develop the workplace language and literacy skills they need to get an entry level job, or advance in their current job.
We will limit the focus of one-to-one instruction as a primary method for teaching adults in favor of encouraging tutoring as supplemental instruction to classroom instruction. Adult learners will be interviewed and assessed at intake to determine the most appropriate academic track.
Tutoring is not going away. LCNV will continue to train volunteers to be tutors as well as classroom instructors. However, the way tutoring has been managed as a separate program will change, as will our intake process.
The new LCNV focus is on making sure the adult learner receives the most intensive instruction necessary to succeed. LCNV will encourage learners to start in the classroom setting with more intensive instruction, and have the option for supplemental one-to-one instruction outside the classroom. By shifting its emphasis LCNV is implementing industry best-practices, as well as providing learners with the option of receiving as much instruction as they would like.
However, if it is determined during the learner intake process that one-to-one tutoring is a better fit for a given individual, that learner will be matched with a one-to-one instructor. To produce stronger outcomes we will encourage additional hours of instruction per week than has been the case in the past: at a minimum two to three hours of instruction delivered in two sessions. As research has shown, more intensive instruction yields better and more timely results for learners.
Volunteers play a critical part in helping LCNV’s adult learners achieve their English learning goals. We are ever grateful to our new and long-standing volunteers for their dedicated service. In an effort to support our new vision and improve the volunteer experience, we are updating the way we engage our volunteers.
Potential volunteers first attend a Volunteer Orientation that provides information about LCNV’s mission, the population we serve, and the commitments our students expect. Each session also includes an updated picture of current volunteer opportunities based on current student geography and program needs, as well as cultural sensitivity exercises and remarks from a current volunteer.
With our programmatic changes, there will be more options for serving the adult learner and a greater need for volunteer support. LCNV needs more volunteers to serve as assessment specialists; class aides; tutors for classroom students before, during, and after class; and tutors for learners with special needs or circumstances that cannot be met in the classroom program. Eventually LCNV envisions that volunteers will also serve as admissions and transition counselors, guiding students toward the appropriate next steps in their learning.
After the Volunteer Orientation, volunteers who would like to deliver instruction are required to take LCNV Instructor Training, a 12 to 16 hour session that combines online and in-person learning. Completing the Instructor Training allows volunteers flexibility for engaging in service. These options include becoming: 1) a classroom teacher, 2) a class aide, 3) a tutor providing supplemental instruction to a classroom student, 4) a tutor taking a learner who needs one-to-one instruction and can agree to a more rigorous time commitment, or 5) switching among these options.
Destination Workforce® is an education program designed to teach adults with very limited English language proficiency the skills needed to succeed in jobs. Currently over one half of LCNV adult learners are working, many at more than one job. The goal is to help these adults improve their skills so they may advance in their jobs, such as moving from a custodial position to a cashier position. Destination Workforce® is not a job placement program. The success of the program will not be measured by job placement, nor will LCNV help find jobs for adult learners. This is a skill development program focused on strengthening literacy and language in a workplace context. The evaluation will be based on mastering the curriculum comprised of skills, not entering employment.
Initially the program will be developed in partnership with small businesses, where adults with limited literacy skills are employed. Working with local businesses to host Destination Workforce® at their workplace sites helps break down two major barriers for adult learners: their work schedule and transportation. A strong business partnership also promotes learner attendance, supervisor support, and a practical real-life context for learning English.
Change is a process. The programs will evolve and develop as opportunities are presented and as we learn from trying new things. Because volunteers play such an important role in LCNV’s service delivery, how we introduce volunteers into the organization and train them is a starting point for making adjustments. For the programs, developing strong curricula, looking carefully at assessment and evaluation tools, and training faculty on delivering instruction on the curricula will take more time and require pilot-testing. The LCNV board and staff have estimated a three to four year process before we realize the future vision. In the meantime, programs will continue in large part as they have for the past several years, as the staff begins to take steps toward the new vision. We will keep you posted and continue to answer your questions.
1. Peyton, J. K., Moore, S. C., & Young, S. (2010, April). Evidence-based, student-centered instructional practices. CAELA Network Brief. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
2. Adams, R. (2008). Do second language learners benefit from interacting with each other? In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational Interaction in Second Language Acquisition (pp 29 – 51). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.