apple At-Risk Learners

Research shows that some learners are more likely to drop out than others. Identifying and providing enhanced support to at-risk learners can help reduce dropout rates.

In its “Reaching Out: Supporting Ontario Works Clients in LBS Programs” Project Read Literacy Network developed a list of warning signs that learners were at risk of dropping out. Learners might be at risk if they:

  • Have enrolled involuntarily or state a lack of interest in learning
  • Report financial, childcare or transportation problems
  • Report lack of support for learning from family and friends
  • Do not or cannot participate in tutorials or classroom discussion
  • Are frequently absent
  • Have a history of “stopping out” (e.g. a history of leaving and then returning again)
  • Are disruptive
  • Report serious problems that interfere with learning (e.g. health problems, legal issues, addictions, etc.)
  • Experience life changes (e.g. new baby, divorce, death in the family, new home, etc.)
  • Often complain about an instructor/classmate, class schedules, level of learning, learning materials/approach, etc.
  • Personally identify one or more of the above situations as serious

For more information about Project Read’s resources, please click here.

Ontario’s College Sector Committee for Adult Upgrading undertook a research study called “Retention through Redirection” (March 2002). This report found that the key indicators identifying at-risk learners were:

  • Poor attendance
  • Lack of progress
  • Inappropriate classroom behaviour

This report can be found online at:  Retention through Redirection

According to B. Allan Quigley, a well-known educator from St. Francis Xavier University, learners who are at-risk usually drop out of a literacy program within the first three weeks. His research encourages literacy agencies to identify at-risk learners and make sure that the needed supports are immediately available. You can read about this important research in an article called “The First Three Weeks: A Critical Time for Motivation” that can be found on the website of the National Centre for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy:

Questions and Activities for Reflection

  1. Are there other possible signs that learners are at risk of leaving your program?
  2. How might you provide supports to learners who face one or more of the at-risk challenges?
  3. Can learners effectively learn while facing these challenges in their lives?
  4. Does your program work actively with other community programs and services to support at-risk learners? If so, how? If not, why not?
  5. Are you fully aware of other community programs and services that might support at-risk students to stay in your program? If not, what steps might you take to increase your knowledge?
  6. How does your program work with learners who do not want to be in your program (i.e. those who are mandated by other agencies to attend)?
  7. How do you determine a potential learner’s readiness to learn?
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