Online Configurator for Embedded Learning Outcomes

This is an experiment and it’s far from perfect… But tell me what you think in the comments. I’ve designed an online configurator to help you write embedded learning outcomes.

There are two versions of it below. The first deals with the reading strand of the Learning Progressions. The second is much more specific and deals only with vocabulary, but still references the vocab progression in the reading strand..

I’ve added a couple of different contexts for embedding, but you’ll probably need to add your own specific context. If you tell me what you’re working on I’ll add it to the configurator.

I’ve also had to take a few liberties with the Progressions to make it work. If you like it please type your examples of completed learning outcomes into the comment box.

This is based on a survey app so when you click “Finish Survey”, it will disappear. Just reload your web page if you want to have another go.

Reading Learning Outcomes

Vocabulary Learning Outcomes










What’s the big picture for embedding literacy and numeracy via the new NZCALNE (Voc)?

Screenshot 2017-04-13 11.33.03

What’s the big picture?

Here’s the big picture for embedding literacy and numeracy and an update on our work at ALEC.

This is the big picture for our revised embedding process and pipeline. And it’s the big picture for the new NZCALNE (Voc) training and qualification that we’re feverishly working on.

New content for Collections 1 to 4 are complete. We’ve also finished the Portfolio+ assessments for 5 to 7. We’re still working on the regular content for Collections 5 to 7.

What does that mean?

That means that you or your tutors should be working on the new version of this qualification now.

If you’re an experienced tutor, that means that we are now set up to work with you using a portfolio approach for the practical work. Get in touch if this is you –

It also means that we’ll have this new content live on Pathways Awarua shortly. There’s a short video overview here on my blog in the meantime and all the new content is summarised here with links.

Also, stay tuned for new and revised content for Collections 5 to 7 covering diagnostic assessment, planning, facilitating, and assessing progress.

If you want to print out the new structure, just hit the link below for a PDF version:

Teach better – What is embedded literacy and numeracy?


What’s the definition?

Embedded literacy and numeracy means

Combining the development of literacy and numeracy with vocational and other skills (p.5).

Where does this definition come from?

Tertiary Education Commission (2013). Adult Literacy and Numeracy: An Overview of the Evidence, Annotated Bibliography’. Wellington: TEC

What are some key features?

Literacy and numeracy skills

  • Are contextualised to the programme. In other words, it’s not literacy and numeracy for everything. It’s literacy and numeracy for farming. Or agriculture. Or employment skills. Or whatever it is that you teach.
  • Provide learners with competence, confidence and motivation to success in the vocational or other training programme.
  • Are embedded at the level of the learner, programme and organisation.

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

This is relevant because it gets to the heart of what this professional development is about. In other words, how to mix in the kinds of literacy and numeracy learning that your learners need to really succeed at your course.

It’s also relevant because this is what the TEC wants and funds you to do. It’s just business as usual. But don’t forget that the motivation behind this is a good one. The embedded approach is backed up with research that says it works better for you and your learners.

Contextualising and integrating literacy and numeracy means your teaching becomes more relevant, more helpful for your learners. You’ll teach better. Learners are complex bundles of motivations. Much of the time you can’t control all the variables. But the idea here is that you can start with what you can control. That’s your approach to teaching.

Learners are complex bundles of motivations. Much of the time you can’t control all the variables. But the idea here is that you can start with what you can control. That’s your approach to teaching.

Your approach is internal to you. And you have complete access to yourself. There might be limitations in terms of resources you have to use or coursework that you have to get through. But you can choose how to approach these things.

And that’s powerful. Harness that power and you can teach better and in new ways.

You can’t know what state your learners will be in when they show up next week on Monday (or even if they will show up). But by taking an embedded approach you can set up the best conditions for learning to happen. That makes you a better teacher.

How do I teach better?

theres-a-better-way-to-teachThat’s my question for this year. And hopefully for you as well.

Stay tuned…

50 Things You Can Do To Embed Vocabulary Into Training


There are lots of ways to teach and learn new and unfamiliar words. Here’s a list of 50. None of these are new or any kind of rocket science.

All 50 are ways of explicitly teaching vocabulary.

It’s also possible to learn vocabulary through exposure to new vocabulary incidentally. But that’s another thing altogether.

For every item below, you can probably think of several variations. Feel free to post them here as well for others to see.

Also, for every item on the list you could apply it in the following ways:

  • It’s something you do as the teacher, trainer, or facilitator so it becomes part of a sequence of activities that you deliver in a training environment.
  • It’s something you make your learners do with you (or even independently of you) in a training context.
  • Something you do as you design content for yourself or others to use when they deliver training.

Here’s the list:

  1. Brainstorm a bank of technical or relevant high-frequency words for a given category.
  2. Adapt or select from an existing word bank or list of high-frequency words.
  3. Categorise and prioritise words using the Learning Progressions.
  4. Categorise and prioritise words using high-frequency word lists.
  5. Categorise words using semantic groups or categories.
  6. Create contextualised mini-assessments for pre and post testing.
  7. Brainstorm, mind map, and discuss to activate prior knowledge.
  8. Make flash cards.
  9. Make word + plain-English explanation matching activities.
  10. Make word +plain English explanation + example matching activities.
  11. Focus on spelling words people don’t know by using “look, cover, write.”
  12. Focus on decoding words people can’t read aloud by identifying syllables and intonation or word stress.
  13. Complete the word using only first few letters as a prompt.
  14. Complete the sentence using a cloze (gap fill), or partial cloze activity.
  15. Complete the sentence giving two possible correct but different answers.
  16. Write own example sentences using unfamiliar words.
  17. Write own definitions for new or unfamiliar words.
  18. Collaborate with others to write a paragraph using new words.
  19. Complete the definitions.
  20. Pull apart words and look at the meanings of the parts (etymology).
  21. Match synonyms (words that have the same meaning).
  22. Match antonyms (words that have the opposite meaning).
  23. Choose all the possible answers from a list or multiple choice.
  24. Match a word with a context or scenario.
  25. Give an incorrect sentence and ask others to correct the mistake.
  26. Label a picture or diagram.
  27. Cross out a word that doesn’t belong with others in a group.
  28. Create a diagram or a framework for a group of words, concepts or process.
  29. Sort words on a scale or cline.
  30. Identify pairs of words that are similar but different and explain.
  31. Identify which words are slang or not from a group of words.
  32. Discuss connotations for similar words.
  33. Learn strategies for using a dictionary.
  34. Guess an unfamiliar word meaning from context.
  35. Find the words in a text that match a set of given definitions.
  36. Look at different meanings for familiar words.
  37. Identify cause and effect in a text.
  38. Identify opposites or contrasts in a text.
  39. Identify word type (noun, verb, adjective).
  40. Identify synonyms or paraphrases.
  41. Identify examples.
  42. Ask people to “Look for words that mean X”.
  43. Act out the word and make others guess the meaning.
  44. Describe the word without using the word (or a given set of words) and make others guess the meaning.
  45. Draw a picture that represents the word and make others guess.
  46. Make a crossword.
  47. Make a word find.
  48. Adapt a well-known card game.
  49. Adapt a well-known board game.
  50. Dictate a passage to others and make them reconstruct it collaboratively.

Also, for anything on this list you’re going to want to encourage lots of discussion and talking about the process.

Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks (In Education)?

I just love this video… so had to share. But it’s particularly relevant if we think about education.

Negatively held beliefs about literacy, numeracy, and anything to do with education are very difficult to shift. Much easier if you can get to people before their beliefs become entrenched and fossilised.

Much easier if you can get to people before their beliefs become entrenched and fossilised.

I’m looking forward to hearing what my friend and colleague, Damon Whitten has to say about this. He’s nearing the end of his

He’s nearing the end of his PhD research and I know he’s just itching to tell us the answer.

Make sure you follow him on Google, like his blog, and check out his Youtube channel.


NCALNE (Voc) – TESOL option: Questions & Answers


The other day I mentioned that we’re investigating an NCALNE (Voc) option for trained and experienced TESOL teachers. We’re now ready to trial this.

Here are a few Q & A that I’ve tried to anticipate:

I’m already TESOL trained. Why do I have to have the NCALNE (Voc) qualification?

  • It depends on the funding that your organisation receives. In NZ, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is the government agency that funds most tertiary training. Different funds have different conditions attached. Some TEC funding contracts require teachers to have the National Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (Vocational). Most courses at level 2 and below require tutors to have the NCALNE (Voc) as a minimum qualification. There is more information here.

I feel frustrated that the TEC does not recognise my TESOL qualifications and experience. I don’t want to get another qualification. Why should I bother?

  • Graeme Smith from ALEC was an ESOL teacher before he started ALEC to deliver the NCALNE (Voc). He taught here and overseas for 10 years before switching to literacy and numeracy. Graeme’s aware of the issues. And this process is optional. We’ve tried to design a solution that works for TESOL teachers, the TEC, and NZQA.

Can I just send you a copy of my CV and qualifications? Can’t you just have a look at these and sign off the NCALNE?

  • Sorry, no. We need to make sure we follow a robust process for this. To meet NZQA criteria, we need you to supply evidence for each qualification outcome. This is to prove that you know and do the things specified in the outcomes. But we can help you interpret these outcomes from an ESOL perspective. And you’ll need to send us your brief CV and qualifications as part of your portfolio of evidence anyway.

How much does it cost to get the NCALNE (Voc)?

  • The TEC subsidises the cost of the NCALNE (Voc). But they don’t cover 100%. In 2015, ALEC is charging a per-candidate fee of $750 + GST. We don’t discount this. And this pricing will most likely increase in 2016. But we are offering the following: Because this is new for us, you can try the process out for free up until the point that we tell you we’re ready to request your credential from the NZQA. This means we will assess your evidence portfolio and work with you at no initial cost. If you’re not happy, you walk away at any stage. We’ll bill your organisation at the end of the process provided everyone is happy.

What’s the process for this?

  • Our process has two parts. One is a portfolio of evidence and attestation from you that meets the outcome requirements. To complete this you’ll need to have a manager or supervisor verify the evidence that you compile and submit.  We want you to supply ESOL specific evidence from your normal teaching practice wherever possible.

    The other thing is that you’ll need to complete two of our regular assessments. These are available on The portfolio evidence relates to outcomes 3 to 7 from the NCALNE (Voc). And the regular NCALNE assessments relate to outcomes 1 and 2. You can do these in any order, but we recommend that you complete assessments 1 and 2 first.

What are the seven NCALNE (Voc) outcomes?

  1. NZ context (Pathways Awarua NCALNE Assessment 1)
  2. Maori context (Pathways Awarua NCALNE Assessment 2)
  3. Knowing the demands (Portfolio)
  4. Knowing the learner (Portfolio)
  5. Knowing what to do (Portfolio)
  6. Assessing progress (Portfolio)
  7. Evaluating (Portfolio)

I don’t want to compile a portfolio of evidence. Can I just do the course the regular way

How do I access the NCALNE (Voc) content for assessments 1 and 2?

  • It’s online here: First, you need to register as an educator on the website. Contact us for our ALEC join code. Second, you need to complete the ENROL module. We’ll send you more info once you’re enrolled.

How do I put together my portfolio for outcomes 3 to 7

  • We have instructions and a template that we’ll send you. We’re committed to keeping this paperwork minimal. We’ve designed the shortest template for this we can. It’s four pages long. This one document combines your portfolio checklist, your candidate attestation, and your verifier sign-off. Your evidence is on top of that, of course.

What kind of evidence can I submit?

  • You are free to choose the kind of evidence that you submit as well as the format that you submit it in. This applies to each of outcomes 3 to 7. We’ve listed some possible sources of evidence in the checklist. We want you to choose evidence that relates to your ESOL context. We’re happy to discuss this with you as you need to.

What if I can’t supply the right kind of evidence? I’m worried there might be gaps?

  • We think that ESOL teachers routinely do many, if not all of the things required by Outcomes 3 to 7. If we think there is a gap in your portfolio evidence we’ll get in touch with you and talk about it. We might ask you to send additional material. or we might ask you to complete a particular task to generate the evidence we need. We’re on your side here and we want this process to work.

Where should I add comments or notes?

  • You can use any format you like for this. For example, you can email us or create a separate word document for any notes or commentary that you want to add. The main thing is that you label everything clearly so we can connect these to the correct outcomes. Also, please send supporting notes or commentary electronically to  

My supervisor or manager wants to add comments. How do they do this?

  • As above, any format is fine as long as it is clearly marked with the name of the supervisor or manager, as well as the outcome that it relates to. We would like to encourage you to seek this feedback from your managers and include them in the process as much as possible.

    Try and anticipate our questions. If a piece of evidence might seem unclear to us, comments from your manager may help us make the connection to the outcome more easily. This will speed up the process for all of us.