Using the Speak to Communicate Progression to Assess Confidence


speak to commThis is a bit rough and ready, but I wanted to get down some thoughts on using the Speak to Communicate Strand that have been rattling around in my head for a while now.

Here’s the problem

  • Lots of tutors and trainers notice an increase in the levels of learner confidence that they see over time with regards to speaking and communicating, but they don’t know how to measure this or talk about it in a robust way.

For example, from a classroom training point of view, if you’re working with a group, particularly if the group includes older adult students who don’t speak English as a first language, and you notice that many are withdrawn, shy, won’t make eye contact, struggle to participate and so on, you’re likely to make at least a mental note that they are lacking in confidence.

From an employer’s perspective, you might observe that some workers dislike making small talk on the factory floor, or actually hide behind pieces of machinery so that they don’t have to engage in any kind of interaction.

Another scenario, might be that a trainee cannot deliver a clear set of instructions or tell another person a procedure for how to do something.

Here’s a possible solution

The Learning Progressions that we work with in New Zealand for determining the literacy and numeracy demands and assessing learner proficiency provides a way to describe and work with learners’s abilities for speaking (just as it does for reading and numeracy).

Speaking is not part of the focus of the TEC’s Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool, so it tends to get sidelined. However, most trainers, tutors, and employers would agree that listening and speaking are critical in the classroom and workplace.

This is probably doubly important for employers as it’s something that is visible to them in terms of the sometimes limited interactions that they might have with workers and employees.

I think that we can look at the Speak to Communicate strand and incorporate our ideas of “confidence” in a way that makes sense for both trainers, learners, and employers (and the TEC).

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Start with the actual speaking and listening scenarios or tasks that people really have to do. Here’s a couple for starters below. Brainstorm some that are generic and some that are site or context specific:
    1. Introduce yourself to others
    2. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are familiar with.
    3. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are not familiar with.
    4. Deliver a short presentation to a manager outlining possible changes or improvements to workflow.
  2. Map the speaking demands using the Speak to Communicate strand and progressions. If you’re doing this work, you should have done the NCALNE (Voc) training and have a good idea on how to do this already. The image above is not meant to replace the actual strand, but I scribbled out some of the key words in each step as a way of getting a very rough and ready analysis of certain kinds of scenarios. Don’t take my word for it – go and look at the whole strand, but for example:
    1. introduce yourself to others: Step 1 – 2
    2. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are familiar with: Step 2 – 3
    3. Discuss a workplace issue or concern that relates to an area that you are not familiar with: Step 3 – 4
    4. Deliver a short presentation outlining possible changes or improvements to workflow: Step 5 – 6
  3. Come up with real samples and examples of the actual language you’d expect to hear for each scenario (like you would when creating a judgement statement for an assessment schedule for NZQA purposes). Create your own master guide for each scenario showing the kinds of language that you’re expecting and how much of it you need to hear before you can make a judgement that the learner is confident in relation to that particular aspect of the interaction.
  4. Use a “Confidence” traffic light system for each relevant step for each scenario that you’re assessing. Probably, I need to expand on this somewhere, but here’s what I mean in a nutshell: For each relevant step that relates to a particular scenario you can assess your learner as follows:
    1. Red: Not confident
    2. Amber: Developing confidence in this area
    3. Green: Can do this with confidence
  5. Summarise the results if you need to report to an employer or manager. You don’t need to give everyone all of the detail, but it is important to work from a system that is part of what we’re already using, i.e. the Learning Progressions. This avoids coming up with a new system based on flakier measures of confidence that aren’t tied to actual learner performance of specific tasks.And then when it comes to reporting to employers or managers you can say things like this:

“We measure speaking proficiency and confidence on a scale of 1 to 6 steps with 1 relating to simple, formulaic interactions like greetings and 6 relating to more extended, complex work-related interactions like a short presentation.

When Jones started our training he was only able to handle low level speaking tasks at steps 1 and 2 with any kind of confidence.

In the last 6 months we’ve seen him develop his knowledge of work related vocabulary, express his own point of view about different issues, and speak about less familiar topics including health and safety concerns.

This means he’s now between steps 3 and 4 and can handle some more complicated work-related speaking activities with confidence.

By the end of the training he should be able to deliver a short formal presentation as well as give verbal instructions relating to some of our key standard operating procedures (SOPs).

At this point he will have shifted to step 5 and 6.”

Hat tip: Dave Curtis

How do I get started on Assessment 5 of the NCALNE (Voc) and demonstrating that I’m actually embedding literacy and numeracy into my training?


embedding 02

If you’re up to this stage, you’re actually about, or even over, half way. This section is a big chunk… but it’s also the teaching component of the qualification.

Basically, after having mapped the literacy and numeracy demands, and diagnosed your learners literacy and numeracy needs, you actually need to get out there and do some embedded literacy and numeracy teaching.

These are your interventions, in other words. You have to come up with embedded literacy and numeracy focused learning outcomes, activities, and strategies. We’ve got a very specific format for doing this, so make sure you pay attention to what’s in your Assessment Guide or in Pathways Awarua in Assessment Module 5.

Here’s a list of various links and articles that might support you through this part of the training:

  1. As always, if you haven’t already, all of our course content is available for free in interactive modules on the Pathways Awarua literacy and numeracy learning platform. You can find the instructions on how to register here if you haven’t already. We have a unique ALEC join code so email us for it if you need it (assess@alec.ac.nz)
  2. I know I said it already, but don’t forget to check what’s already in your ALEC Study Guide and Assessment Guide for this part of the course.
  3. We’ve also got a great one-page handout that summarises the connections between assessments 4, 5, 6 – email us for a copy if you haven’t got it already.
  4. You can listen to an audio-only podcast of me talking through Assessment 5 here if you need a refresh on the requirements.
  5. There are video clips on Section 5 of the NCALNE (Voc) here on our Youtube channel.
  6. If you need ideas for activities for reading, writing, listening, speaking, and numeracy there is a wealth of material including teaching points, guided learning sequences, and resources in your ALEC Study Pack in the Learning Progressions support guides. Much of that is also online here if you want to go in and find it.
    • Unfortunately, this great content tends to be buried inside the other content so you have to click through a sequence like this to find an activity: Go to website >> Click Explore the learning progressions for Make Sense of Number to Solve Problems >> this takes you to a page from the learning progressions for multiplicative strategies where you can click on an activity like Multiplication Strategies where you get the actual activity or can download it as a PDF. The alternative is just to turn to page 39 in the Teaching Adults to Make Sense of Number book. I’m going to have a go a progressively dealing with this issue and liberating this material, but it might have to wait until another time.
  7. As well as the massive amount of content and ideas provided in the support materials to the Learning Progressions there is also a wealth of information on LN activities online. For this reason, I haven’t focused so much on the activities on my blog or in the ALEC Study Guide. However, I have posted a few bits and pieces here that are useful. First though you need to make sure that you understand how to write really focused embedded literacy and numeracy learning outcomes. If you need them, please refer to:
  8. Here are a few numeracy activities that, while they aren’t particularly contextualised, they are fun and they work:
  9. I did also start looking at some ideas for designing independent reading activities based on literacy unit standards 26622 and 26624 here if that’s of interest. There’s a downloadable cover sheet that you could adapt or cannibalise in any way you like here. Just a caution though, if you’re just doing a couple of embedded reading activities for your NCALNE (Voc) and you don’t care about US 26622 and 26624, you’d be well advised to strip back my suggestions to only what you think you really need.
  10. In terms of writing, I also started developing some ideas for a writing workshop here which I did flesh out in a bit more detail here. But again, just pick and choose what you want. If you’re just doing a couple of embedded writing activities for the NCALNE (Voc) you can be very selective here.
  11. Lastly:
    • Don’t forget to collect actual evidence of your learners actually doing the learning that you’ve designed. Think about using the digital camera on your phone. Scan copies of their completed work or drafts. Take a photo of what on the whiteboard at different stages. And send all of this together with your write up of Assessment 5 and copies of the activities that you used.
    • Don’t forget to make at least one of your embedded LN teaching interventions some kind of independent learning activity, i.e. where your learners do it without you (whether at home, in class, or wherever).
    • Don’t forget to think about where and when you will re-assess your learners using the contextualised LN tools you used earlier. You’ll need this for Assessment 6.
    • Don’t forget to build in some kind of evaluation component. You’ll need this for Assessment 7.
  12. If you’re working on this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, your employer will need to have paid your course fee in order to unlock assessment modules (3 – 7)
  13. And if you’re a paid up student and you’re not completing this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, you can email us (assess@alec.ac.nz) for the latest version of the template for assessment Task 5.
  14. Otherwise, give us a call to discuss (0800-ALEC-1-2) or email us anyway (assess@alec.ac.nz) and we’ll be in touch to help explain or clarify.

Group Observation Checklist for Listening & Speaking


This post carries on my collection of a few different diagnostic assessment tools for use with learners with literacy and numeracy issues. So far I’ve looked at:

The one below is a group observation checklist for discussion-based listening and speaking skills. This is also a stripped down, and now heavily modified version of some of the material that you can find in the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy and Numeracy.

Once again, just so it’s clear: this is an observation checklist for a tutor or trainer to use when observing a group of learners engaged in a discussion task of some kind.

Like the other one, it’s a simple checklist that allows you to check off whether you are observing different kinds of behaviours that may indicate that learners in a group need further training with regards to discussion-based listening and speaking skills.

Again, this checklist could be part of your needs analysis and diagnostic process. Use your findings to target explicit learner and group skill development in the required areas.

You can score the answers with this one as well so you can compare over time. The higher the score, the more likely that the group needs some work in these areas.

Here’s the download link. The PDF should be the same as the images below:

GroupLSP1 GroupLSP2