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: www.ncsall.net
Questions and Activities for Reflection
- Are there other possible signs that learners are at risk of leaving your program?
- How might you provide supports to learners who face one or more of the at-risk challenges?
- Can learners effectively learn while facing these challenges in their lives?
- Does your program work actively with other community programs and services to support at-risk learners? If so, how? If not, why not?
- 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?
- 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)?
- How do you determine a potential learner’s readiness to learn?