Ktaamgwedaagwad Gindaaswin-Adult Learning Centre – Literacy and Basic Skills Program
Literacy and Basic Skills is an Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities Program. 5 paths: employment, post-secondary education, secondary school program, trades (apprenticeships), or being more prepared for the above. Literacy and Basic Skills serves as a bridge program for future employment or education.
Our approach to delivering the program is focused on kindling an interest in learning, giving learners a meaningful program experience, and drawing from strengths-based learning. We provide opportunities to explore the education and employment options that exist locally – we had a Mentorship in horticulture that allowed students to learn more about the industry, which is active in our region.
To show the learners what’s available in their community, we have to take a look at the jobs, trades, and agreements in our territory. We have to be a part of the existing economic and financial conversations that are happening and be aware of the emerging trends in our area to successfully pull off an ecosystem approach to literacy and basic skills. The program is a community-led initiative of nation-building in our own First Nation.
LBS program is delivered on reserve with a targeted culturally sensitive approach. We take into account the 5 goal pathways and dismantle approaches that haven’t been successful for our clients’ education or employment. We tailor LES development to be successful for clients whether they are on or off reserve – we want people to buy in and champion their own learning.
The program services 19+ year-olds. We focus on members of our own nation, but everyone is welcome.
Joss Ann Russell-Taylor, Ktaamgwedaagwad Gindaaswin-Adult Learning Centre
67 Community Centre Road Neyaashiinigmiing, ON N0h 2T0
As a Ministry-funded program, we measure educational outcomes by whether a milestone is accomplished or not – but we also challenge those outcomes, and want to recognize the work that goes into that milestone.
We also measure outcomes through community feedback – We do feedback forms and test different workshops or programming. We look at how the programming relates to clients’ pathways (e.g., becoming independent, life skills such as learning to read nutritional facts or budgeting, or connecting gardening to the natural world) and the opportunities it gives to apply knowledge (e.g. connecting learning about the natural world to roles as a field technician with Parks Canada). We monitor clientele and our ability to build rapport with them.
Our clients’ ability to grow independence is an important measure– are we igniting self-learning, motivation, and exploration of opportunities in them?
Biggest challenge from the program side is recruitment & retention of employees. Factors into this challenge include:
– Employee’s suitability for job
– Time needed to properly train staff staying with program
– Wage parity for a rural isolated area
– Demands of working with high needs clientele
– Operating at less capacity
We haven’t had a full team in over a year – this is a challenge for us to be able to meet the expectations for the program set by the Ministry.
We work through this challenge by managing our obligatory agreements and trying to work 1-on-1 with staff to meet their targets. We focus on quality over quantity with our learners – it’s about making meaningful impacts.
• Stay vocal about the things that are happening. Know what you can do/can’t do
• Literacy is a complex industry
• It’s difficult to reconcile the past and promote self-determination while running a provincial program. We need to understand our history and cultural differences – to further these meaningful conversations, we need more supports
• Literacy isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach
• Allow for different evaluations of client’s skills – A revised Milestone approach and changing the forms we recorded revised how we show concrete examples of skills, and the work the program has done for the community. Recognize smaller steps that lead to the milestone.
• Keep in mind a Surviving mode vs Thriving mode – how can we expect people to have goals for education with limited economic opportunity? Area is an employment desert – the main opportunities are labour jobs, and the closest urban centre (Owen Sound) is a 1 hr drive away
Incorporation of Essential Skills
We’ve integrated essential skills through a few different activities, for example:
• Oral communication – we invited storytellers. After the stories, we did roundtable talking with the learners to see what they took away from or learned from the story. We want to see their perspective and progress – that they can listen, identify with, and take something away from a story
• Reading text – we hosted a book club where we read Indigenous authors and literature (e.g., 21 Things You Didn’t Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph, Moon of the Crusted by Waubgeshig Rice). Then we’d ask the learners questions about their interest in or understanding of the books.
• Computer use – we use computers during the winter curriculum, and will take the learning out on the land
We have mentors & mentees for cultural components of the program
How we integrate essential skills comes first from building rapport and trust with clients – it can take some coaching to get people out of their shells. We approach literacy knowing the trauma that people have previously experienced from education.
We keep a positive note of lifelong learning and what is learning throughout all activities – you don’t have to be in classroom to be learning.
Our activities focus on knowledge sharing that can be promoted or shared in the community
We take note of institutional undertones and think about how we can make a more accommodating space.
We organize the space for creativity to flow (e.g. focus on workspace comfort, have easy access to snacks) – learners need to be comfortable in a place where they want to learn. We need to remove the strained relationship they’ve had with an educational institution.
We take a trauma informed approach to all our programming.
We offer offsite and on the land programming – we use laptops to be more mobile with learning.
We make opportunities for language and culture to be the host of the program, and focus on language revitalization. We invite and include Elders to share their knowledge.
We encourage our learners to be critical of Western way of learning, and to recognize that course material or ideas may not agree with your worldview – and that’s fine. There is a reciprocity of acknowledging/learning, but still holding true to your core values.
Indigenize our own individual ways of learning.
– Safe space starts with yourself – you need to be open, be able to receive clients without preconceived opinions, and provide support
– Lifelong learning is with everyone no matter where you are (this is a core part of traditional learning) – learning is not a linear, but a circular process. Your perceptions change over time.
Community partners – elders, role models with experience from the community (e.g. line cooks will share their experience with programs about cooking).
Encourage collaboration with different local programs – see how we can fit with other programs around maternal child health, internet safety, etc.