“With the rise of the individual has come the primacy of the consumer” (Naisbitt and Aburdene, 1990: 333).
There is an enormous demonstrable need for effective adult education and training. Considerable resources are devoted to meet this need. Yet it is undeniable that many adults still face systemic barriers to educational opportunities. Why?
It is encouraging that significant documents including the report, Vision 2000, use terms such as “lifelong learning,” “learner-centred education,” “equitable access,” and “quality education/training.” This language corresponds to important principles of adult education. Yet, the fact remains that too little has been done to put these ideas into practice. As Vision 2000 acknowledges: “Systemic barriers frequently have at least as much to do with what is not in place, as they do with what is.”
The task can only be accomplished through the development of a system which values and implements adult learning principles in its every action and ensures that they are implicit in its very structure. The goal of the Adult Preparatory Programs Articulation and Standards Project (ASP) is to lead an articulation process that will result in a flexible framework for adult learners to obtain a recognized transferable and marketable provincial certificate or document. The process will: (1) articulate college preparatory programs at all levels and for all subjects across the college system; (2) develop standard learning outcomes for all levels and subjects of college preparatory programs; (3) recommend a system to provide accreditation to trainees at all levels.
In June, 1992, representatives from the Literacy Branch and Ontario Basic Skills met with resource people from British Columbia's Adult Basic Education articulation project. Discussion regarding student needs, benefits of articulation, frameworks, planning and implementation strategies, and the feasibility and desirability of a similar system for Ontario took place. The Heads of Access Committee of the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario gave general endorsement of ASP in October, 1992. The Literacy Branch established a Steering Committee made up of a representative from each community college (administration and faculty), the Independent Learning Centre, the Council of Regents and two representatives from the Literacy Branch (community literacy and apprenticeship backgrounds).
The Literacy Branch also designated La Cit? collegiale as the lead college for the French language stream of ASP, Le projet d'articulation des programmes pr?paratoires coll?giaux (PAPPC). Although the goals and objectives of the PAPPC project are identical to the goals and objectives of the ASP project, the process followed is slightly different due not only to the fact that fewer colleges offer the program in French but, more importantly, to the different cultural background and learning styles of the adult francophone population. The PAPPC Steering Committee is composed of representatives from the Council of Regents, the Literacy Branch and each of the nine colleges offering Formation de base de l'Ontario.
One of the critical tasks of the project was to determine a framework that would support a provincial achievement recognition system. An Ad Hoc Framework Committee was struck and given the direction that the system must take into account that many adult learners required greater flexibility to move in and out of the system because of uncertain funding, family obligations and employment opportunities or changes. Recognition, based on the completion of large blocks of curriculum or time, does not facilitate many adults' need for education services. The Framework Committee has proposed a data base system of learning outcomes that will be identified as reportable units of achievement.
On October 4-5, 1993 the Subject Working Groups met in Toronto for project orientation with the Steering Committee. The job of the Subject Working Groups is to define preparatory learning outcomes for adult learners, assist in recommending a system to provide accreditation to trainees at all levels, and articulate college preparatory programs across the college system. Subject areas that are being reviewed and defined include mathematics, science, communications and interpersonal/analytical skills. Subject Working Groups will meet during the winter and, in addition to committee work, ASP information sessions and focus group discussions are being planned for 1994, following the approval of the preliminary presentation of outcomes and framework.
As recommended by the College Standards and Accreditation Council, an outcomes-based approach was established. An operational definition of a learning outcome and a template for organizing the writing process was established by ASP representatives with the understanding that changes could be made based on additional research and consultation. It was agreed that “learning outcomes are clear statements of the essential knowledge, skills and behaviours that a learner is expected to demonstrate at the end of the learning process.” The ASP template is made up of three components: (1) The Learning Outcome (the statement of the knowledge, skills and behaviours to be demonstrated); (2) Examples of Demonstrations (How will the learning be demonstrated?); (3) Examples of Evaluation (How is the demonstration evaluated?).
In addition, suggested guidelines for reviewing learning outcomes have been put forward. These learning outcomes should:
- be stated clearly and understandable by the public
- be verifiable
- state learning that is essential and significant
- state learning that is transferable
- state learning that is demonstrated at the end of the learning process and are respectful of diverse learning environments
- state learning that is critical for successful entry into further education, skills training, job entry and life rolesbe free of cultural or gender bias
- be manageable in number
- be considerate of regional, provincial, national and international needs/standards.
The project has many tasks to complete and critical issues to resolve over its two year mandate, but the process has started. Opportunities to work and learn with college administrators, faculty, support staff, students, employers and other partners in education is rare and this overshadows the enormity of the work. It is time to remove barriers, respect the needs of adults, follow adult learning principles, and facilitate lifelong learning in Ontario. As Naisbitt and Aburdene put it: “The new responsibility of society is to reward the initiative of the individual” (1990: 334).
Naisbitt, J. and Aburdene, P. . Megatrends 2000. New York: Avon Books.
Norma-Jean Nielsen is the ASP Coordinator at Canadore College in North Bay.