Intake and Initial Assessment
The intake process and initial assessment provide us with the information we need to make a number of decisions:
- Is your program the right one for the learner, given his or her current skills, stated goal and commitment to learning?
- Does the learner meet eligibility criteria set out by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), your literacy services plan (LSP) or other stakeholder requirements?
- Do you have the information you need to begin to develop a learner plan?
- Can you meet this learner’s needs based on your program’s structure, capacity and mission and your community’s literacy services plan?
The initial interview and assessment are basically information gathering sessions. Some programs do the interview in a separate appointment, leaving the assessment for a later meeting. Some programs start with the first page of the LBS Participant Registration Form or other agency-developed intake interview forms. A sample of an agency-developed pre-assessment form (from North Bay Literacy Council) is available in the Sample Forms section at the end of this module. A copy of the LBS Participant Registration form can be downloaded from Service Ontario’s Forms Home by searching for Form 3006E. These forms can be helpful in gathering all the required information to set up a new learner profile. Note: An assessment for LBS eligibility (assessed as being less than Level 3 of IALSS or OALCF) needs to be completed before registration, therefore the LBS Participant Registration form is not required and should not be signed until after the initial eligibility assessment is completed.
Here are some tips offered by LBS workers to help you get the information you need during the initial interview and assessment, without causing your client (potential learner) too much stress:
- Work with the client in an area that is private, comfortable and away from interruptions.
- Don’t jump right into the assessment. Taking the time to chat or offer refreshments will help the client relax.
- Clearly explain the process:
- how long each step in the intake/assessment process will take
- what you can or can’t help with
- what the learner needs to do on his/her own
- What other options are available (for example, you might identify at the outset of the telephone call or interview that the person is looking for a different type of program than you offer.)
- Start with a “fact-gathering” interview (name, address, eligibility criteria and so on) before moving into skills assessment.
- Choose the appropriate assessment material based on the information the learner provided in the interview.
- Explain the purpose of the assessment tasks you select. This can help reduce “test anxiety” and show the learner how the task relates to his or her goal.
- Be sure to provide opportunities for the client to ask questions.
- During the initial interview and assessment help the learner answer, or at least start to think about, these questions:
- What are my goals?
- What is my goal path?
- What skills, knowledge and abilities do I already have?
- What do I need to learn and do to transition to the next step towards achieving my goals?
During a survey of a number of LBS programs in December 2018, CLO found that a many different methods were used for the initial assessment. Generally, programs used the briefest method possible to determine that the potential learner was eligible for LBS services. That “being less than the end of level 3 of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALLS) or the OALCF” (LBS Service Provider Guidelines), which is also the equivalent of Level 3 of the Essential Skills.
Some examples of the initial tools used were:
- Quick screen tools
- The Initial Skills Assessment found in CESBA’s (Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators) Embedded Skills, Knowledge and Attitudes Reference Guide for Ontario (ESKARGO).
- LLEO’s Common Assessment of Basic Skills (CABS) quick screen that we have included in the Sample Forms section at the end of this module.
- PTP’s CAMERA Placement Tool for reading and math
- Literacy Link Niagara developed a quick screen during their Project Ontario Works (2012) called the POW Quick-Screen
- OALCF examples of tasks learners can do at the end of level Assessors ask the client if they are able to complete the example tasks of the various levels of a task group appropriate to what the learner wishes to improve. This method is often used to determine Digital Technology (OALCF Competency D). The OALCF Curriculum Framework describes these example tasks as “Example tasks illustrate what learners can do at the end of a level. Each example task indicates the goal paths in which learners are likely to be expected to perform similar tasks once they have transitioned. They also clarify how the Framework applies to all learners, regardless of their goals.”
- Online tools
- Ontario Skills Passport Assess and Build Your Skills self-assessments (in the For Learners section help to get information on the client’s Essential Skills and work habits and compare those results to occupation(s) of interest to the client. It looks at three areas: “Tasks I do in everyday life”, “Tasks I do or have done at work” and “Workplace tasks I think I can do”.
- SkillPlan Measure-up has sample task-based, real workplace Essential Skills level assessments that can be printed or completed online. Please note that you may need to enter the URL (skillplan.ca/measure-up) in your browser to access these assessments.
- Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment is an online assessment of the basic skills needed to use a computer and the internet in daily life, employment, and higher education. Online, self-guided modules assess the ability of adults to perform these tasks. There are assessments for Essential Computer Skills (Basic Computers, Internet Basics a, Using Email, Windows 10 and Mac OS X), Essential Software Skills ( MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and Using Technology in Basic Life (Social Media and Information Technology). After discussing the client’s perception of their skills, choosing an appropriate assessment from this site may provide documentation of their skills and gaps.
- Essential Skills Online Indicators Although these are based on the Essential Skills the levels equate to the OALCF. Each indicator has less than 10 questions and allows the learner to print out their score and correct answers and explanations to the problems. There are indicator tests for three levels each of Numeracy, Document Use and Reading.
Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Tool
As all assessments, initial assessments should be:
- Contextual – Let’s say, for example, the learner’s goal is independence. You might choose an assessment task that includes grocery shopping or reading a community event poster.
- Level appropriate – Assessment should determine what the learner can comfortably do, rather than focus solely on their shortfalls. It should be encouraging rather than overwhelming. During your initial interview, listen to what the client says and watch how they fill out any forms you provide. Allow learners to communicate what they already can do and what they know. Often you can get clues to the level of difficulty at which you should start assessing the learner through the interview.
- Task-based – Remember that, during the assessment, the client is also assessing your program. Assessment activities should not be skills assessments that are not connected to client needs. Instead, use tasks relevant to the client’s stated interests and goal path.
- Common Assessment – When possible, use assessment tools that are understood by the Ontario LBS community and key referral partners. Using language and tools that are commonly understood helps build a coordinated support service for the learner and makes assessment results transferable. For examples of assessment tools commonly used in Ontario LBS programs and assessments that have been articulated to the OALCF and Essential Skills, see the Resource List at the end of this module.
During the initial assessment we, of course, assess the learner’s skills, knowledge and abilities. As we have mentioned, the intake and initial assessment process also involves determining the learners’ goals and their LBS Goal Path. Once these have been identified, practitioners need to look into the requirements of the goal path and goal. For example, we should find out:
- the type of tasks people with this goal need to perform
- which OALCF Competencies and Task Groups will they need to do to successfully complete these tasks and at what competency level
- what other prerequisites are necessary for this goal, such as further education or training
- are there other considerations or supports that might be needed to reach the goal, for instance, relocation, financial supports or accessibility supports
Once we know the goal/goal path requirements, we can compare these to the learners’ skills and their ability to complete sample tasks. This enables us to assess if there are gaps between the learner’s current situation and the tasks, etc. required to successfully meet the goal.
The following are some useful resources on goal path requirements:
- Links to the goal path description documents for each of the OALCF’s five goal paths: Apprenticeship, Employment, Postsecondary Education, Secondary School Credit and Independence. Each of these documents provides good leads on where to find information about the goal path and its prerequisites.
- You may also find the Essential Skills for Ontario’s Tradespeople website useful for information and assessment for learners on the apprenticeship goal path.
- For the employment goal path, the following three sites are often used:
- Literacy Link Eastern Ontario created OALCF Goal Path summaries for ease of use. The apprenticeship goal path has been split into two documents (Skills Training and Apprenticeship).
The OALCF has a learner-centred approach. In order to respect learners and their goals, it is important that we encourage learners to participate in all phases of their LBS learning. Once prospective learners have completed the assessment activities, review the assessment results with them. Let the learners know what skills they have and include them in the exploration of their goals and goal path. Help them to realize what steps they will need to take to reach goals. Briefly discuss the OALCF competencies, task groups, level indicators, task and performance descriptors and levels in terms the learner can understand. Provide details and, to illustrate, use the example tasks provided in the OALCF Curriculum Framework. Focus on the positive.
Clearly explain the next step(s), e.g., will learners be enrolled in a small group or a class? Will they have to wait to be matched with a tutor? When can they start?
Introduce the concept of a learner plan to prospective learners. Explain how you will work together to develop a plan that is individualized, designed especially for them and their personal goals and goal path. Learners who understand their learning plan and participate in its development have a greater ownership which leads to more enthusiastic learning.
Talk about expectations, the learner’s and the agency’s, with regard to time commitment, progress, etc. Some programs have a signed agreement with the learner. Take them on a tour, show them where the various facilities are and introduce them to other staff.
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