Seeking guidance on "no progress"

Picture of Julia Ross
Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Julia Ross - Friday, 13 May 2016, 12:30 PM

Hi everyone ...

I'm an Adult Literacy and Numeracy Worker with South Lanarkshire Council's Community Learning and Home School Partnership Service.

My ALN colleagues and I are currently updating the documentation which we use with learners.  What we have found is that we don't have a robust means of recording when a learner is not making progress in ALN learning, meaning that we need to have a discussion with him/her about their options for another type of learning which might better meet their needs.

For example, we have some long-term learners in our current ALN provision and whilst it could be said that they are still making progress, this is usually extremely slow and any progress they make could almost be seen as "one step forward, two steps back."  As ALN Workers, we need to find a way of measuring learner progress so that it is clear, from any objective examination of learner work, that they are not making any headway in improving their literacy and numeracy skills and should probably move on.

To be clear, we have learner progress records which record learner activities from week to week.  We also use individual learning plans which we are going to start reviewing on a termly basis. 

What do ALN colleagues out there do to record "no progress" and provide a justification for moving a learner on to other, more appropriate provision?

Any advice or suggestions welcome!

Thanks for reading.


Picture of Graham MacLellan
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Graham MacLellan - Monday, 16 May 2016, 9:01 AM

HI Julia

For me there are several things I would consider before making the decision to move someone on who has been a long term service user. I would primarily look at:

1. The barriers that is preventing them moving forward, are they likely to change in the short term. If not then there is a case for supporting someone to move on to a more appropriate service.

2. What other services are they using? We have many people who are gaining multiple services support so often if this is not the right time for their learning their key worker should be informed if they have one rather than referral to another service. If they do not have any support services or an active network outside of the group then moving a learner on is difficult as you don't want the person to go 'five steps back' so finding the right service to ensure they are supported is key.

I know I haven't answered the no progress question but we have many long term service users across Adult Learning and Literacies and this is not always easy to move people on when the time is right. Often we find there is not another service to refer on to and this makes it difficult when we potentially could be socially excluding learners further.




Picture of Julia Ross
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Julia Ross - Monday, 16 May 2016, 6:29 PM

Hi Graham ... thanks for your reply.

I definitely agree that finding the right support service for a learner to move on to is vital; I don't want to see anyone, particularly someone who is vulnerable, finding themselves "cast adrift" as it were, and I wouldn't feel comfortable if this was the case.  I'm also conscious that whilst there may potentially be no other appropriate service to refer on to, this doesn't mean that the learner should just stay put in an adult literacies group because there's nowhere else for them to go.  This situation doesn't benefit anyone, least of all the learner. 

The issue of barriers is an interesting one.  A high proportion of our learners - just as in other areas, I imagine - have long term mental health issues or a lifelong learning disability.  If learners can't progress because they've reached the limits of their potential, i.e. being unable to retain more information in order to move further up the "levels" in learning - then that's the time to move on.  Evidencing that fact, and finding another appropriate learning opportunity, is another matter, though.  We don't just focus on quantitative outcomes for learners and I know that not many of us in the learning sector do because to us, the softer skills are often just as important.  We all want the best for everyone we work with, but in saying that, there do have to be parameters on the service we provide. 


Picture of Janet Weir
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Janet Weir - Tuesday, 17 May 2016, 12:18 PM

Hi Julia, it was lovely to speak to you yesterday.

Unfortunately, this is a problem we all have and here are some suggestions we have tried in Falkirk.

1)  We have created a writers group which meets monthly for people to move to when they have reached their limit (either getting to level four or can make no further progression). 

We have also in the past asked local community workers to set up groups or support the person to do activities in their local centres.  Our classes mainly run from one central community centre, which allows us to do this. 

We have also run personal development courses (with integrated core skills) and 10 hour units as exit strategies from literacies classes and again made it clear that this was part of moving from the provision.

Another suggestion would be partners from other organisations and social work, especially if people are vulnerable in the community. 

2)  We have implemented a strategy to avoid this happening in the future by making sure during assessment that they can 'on their own' identify a specific goal.  If they are just coming along for 'something to do', they do not get a place in a group.

When we get someone at assessment who has identified a goal but we are worried about memory retention, inability to progress etc. we give them one term to see how they get on.  This process is made clear to the learner (and any support workers, family etc.) from the start.  During that term the tutor records details of progression or not and a professional conclusion is drawn from that.

As a consequence of the above strategy, a complaint has been made but I have been supported by management in my decision not to allow a person back into provision.

Difficulties that arise for us as workers:

As workers we feel responsible for our learners and we do not want to see them leave groups especially if they are vulnerable (mental health, isolation etc.).  However, we have a responsibility to provide education for those in need, not a social group in order to fill people's time.  If learning is not appropriate for them, we need to refer them on to an appropriate provider and/or exit them and we need to be supported by management to do this.

I recently came across a record of work (attached) produced by colleagues in North Lanarkshire, that I quite like and hope to implement here in Falkirk.  I like this because:

1) It is broken down into weeks

2) Asks the learner to comment (with support) on their progress at the end of each session (we don't enforce this here but I want to implement it in order to gather more evidence of progression).

3) It makes their goal more visible each week

I hope something here helps, good luck and best wishes

Janet :)


Picture of susan stewart
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by susan stewart - Thursday, 19 May 2016, 11:26 AM

As a service, we can relate with a lot of what has been discussed in this forum, ie evidencing/recording, and also the frustrations encountered with moving learners on/exiting learners and lack of progression routes etc.  So rather than repeat what's already been discussed, or start up a new forum discussion, I thought it might be useful to share a couple of resources we have used with learners and workers, to support self assessment.  It has helped learners to recognise progression or non-progression within their actual learning and helps to build self awareness.  This resource may be useful for some, maybe not all learners, and can be adapted to suit needs.  They are quite simple resources and were developed with the learners and staff, whilst I was studying on the PGDE Adult Literacies (formerly TQual).  They have been used regularly throughout different sessions and both learners and workers have felt that it has helped support them. For instance, learners have recognised through reflection what they need to do within their learning and discuss the next steps.  I would imagine that there have been similar resources developed or being used throughout the CLD field.  I enjoy using this resource as it's simple to use (for me and learner), it can be referred back to and used as formative assessment, and also in particular because of its asset based approach.

Picture of Julia Ross
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Julia Ross - Thursday, 19 May 2016, 11:57 AM

Hi Susan ... you must have posted whilst I was mulling over my response to Janet - thanks for posting!

Those forms look really good.  Looking at my own stuff here, I can see elements of yours in the literacies evaluation form which we're using, but we don't have the depth and breadth of the effective questions so that's something I'm going to tap into and hopefully incorporate into our forms.  I don't think that we do enough with our learners to encourage them to reflect critically on their learning - we do talk about it as practitioners but I feel that we need to use this approach far more, and consistently across our service, to get more robust evidence of the impact which the leaner's learning is having on them.  Obviously that also helps us to reflect on the provision we're providing, to see if it's still fit for purpose or whether it's just ticking boxes (which hopefully it's not!)

Our work progress records provide a good chunk of formative assessment evidence, but there's room for tweaking.  We're currently looking at our ILP to see where it can be changed to better reflect both long-term and short-term learning goals, so the questions you're using could definitely act as a starting point for discussion at ILP review time and at other times whenever they're needed.

I'm attaching our evaluation form here just to show what we've been using - whilst I like it because it's fairly straightforward, I think it has a bigger role to play in terms of the critical reflection angle.  I've been tweaking it a bit but I'm still not convinced that it's doing the exact job I want.  I like the idea of chatting to learners about the asset-based approach and encouraging them to think of themselves as assets in their own right.  That's definitely a valuable life skill which could help them in more ways than they realise.

Julia :-)

Picture of susan stewart
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by susan stewart - Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 4:41 PM

Hi Julia, just had a look at the form and would agree with your critical comment about critical reflection.  You may wish to find out where they think they would use the learning ie can they think about transferability into other contexts (might be a job for worker to support them with this)?  If they return to the form at another date, can they describe where they used the learning and what was the result ie impact?


Picture of Julia Ross
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Julia Ross - Monday, 6 June 2016, 10:17 AM

Hi Susan ... sorry for very late reply - swamped in work last week and didn't get any chance to log on.

Completely agree with what you're saying about the importance of critical reflection for learners and how they can use it in other areas. It's actually something I find quite tricky to do with some of them because their confidence in their own abilities is so low - which is a real shame and again makes me thankful for stuff I take for granted. 

I think we might need to have a look at how we support learners on exit from learning programmes; sometimes this is straightforward when they have a planned leaving date and sometimes it's not so easy if they disappear from learning and are then nearly impossible to contact (unrecognised mobile phone numbers, mail going unanswered at their address, etc.)  It's an area where workers can definitely get more involved - we have tried post exit tracking of learners in the past with varying degrees of success.  We might need to revisit that one again. 

I like the whole idea of impact too.  In my ideal world (!) I want to be able to balance the focus on learner achievement with a focus on the softer skills which aren't always so easy to measure.  As workers, we're all well aware of the transformative power of literacies - it's just really important for others (looking at the impact of programmes) to remember that the learner is a human being, too.



Picture of Julia Ross
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Julia Ross - Thursday, 19 May 2016, 11:33 AM

Hi Janet ... yes, it was really good to speak to you too! 

When I came off the phone to you I felt so much better. This is an issue which I've been flagging up for a while and whilst I know that people are paying attention and agreeing that we need a solution, it's not reached the point where we have that solution and can move forward!

Thanks so much for attaching that work progress record - that's really helpful.  I'm collecting examples of forms which help map out learner progress and achievement and hoping to revamp some of our stuff to make it tighter. It's similar in its approach to our own work progress record, which works reasonably well but could still be tightened up to make it crystal clear about what exactly has been achieved and whether the learner is truly progressing in their learning, or not.  Maybe there's room in there for using some of the criteria from the Core Skills units to try to link up what the learner can do to one of the qualification levels.  I need to discuss that with my colleagues as a possibility!

I like the idea of the writers' group - we had a creative writing group here a while ago and produced a book of reminiscence from it, so that's always worth revisiting.  We run SQA Core Skills here but so far it's only been Communication and Numeracy, so I'd love to do some project work which could involve the other units, particularly Working with Others.  Some of my Home School Partnership Worker colleagues run ASDAN courses which would probably fit this model too, and could potentially act as a progression route for ALN learners.

We meet learners and carry out initial assessment before they start learning in a group, and we always take the view that the learner should be able to "articulate their own needs" (the phrase we use) so that it's clear that they're able to learn independently.  If they're coming along to the group because it's a social outlet or because someone else wants them to come, they are not given a place.

I also like setting the idea of setting a timescale on learning in terms of one term to check how a learner is progressing, if it's not absolutely clear if they'll make progress or not given their learning disability or other issues.  More credence should definitely be given to the tutor's professional judgement that a learner is not making progress if that's the case - and so long as there is robust evidence (work progress records, individual learning plans, whatever) then that should be good enough.  For example, I have been supported by my manager in my decision not to have a learner back in ALN provision when the limits of that individual's learning potential had been reached, and that situation is now resolved.  In another instance, a different learner was given the chance to return to ALN provision after a decision about "no progress" had been reached.  A new agreement was made, with the learner being given a specified timescale in which to show that they could make progress.  I don't think that this was the best solution, but that's an ongoing discussion which needs to happen. 

I completely agree with your point about the responsibility we have towards our learners.  As workers, we're keenly aware that we're working with some really vulnerable people - I think that definitely comes across nationally, right across the adult literacies and community learning and development sectors as a whole.  We have to get the balance right between negotiating what's best with our learners but also being clear when we (as an ALN service) can't do any more for a particular learner if they haven't shown that they can progress. 

Thanks again, Janet!

Julia :-)

Picture of Alison Russell
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Alison Russell - Friday, 25 November 2016, 1:50 PM

Hi Julia - it's your old colleague here.  We in North Lanarkshire,  along with the Record of Work (Learning Logs)  also use Learner Review paperwork to support the reflection and identification of progress made with learners.  I have attached a copy for you to look at.  We generally conduct a learner review on a 1:1 basis where appropriate. 

I'd be interested in anything else you or anyone else has come up with since the bulk of the conversations have taken place a while ago.

Picture of Julia Ross
Re: Seeking guidance on "no progress"
by Julia Ross - Monday, 12 December 2016, 3:37 PM

Hi Alison ... sorry for late reply - I've only just spotted your post!

I haven't come up with anything new since I last posted but we've tweaked our ILP paperwork and are now going to try reviewing learner progress four times a year - including a summer term.  Hopefully this will quickly flag up any issues which learners are having, and if a pattern of no progress against stated learning aims can be established, then we can step in and see what can be done for the best.  I don't think the issue of moving learners on has any easy answers!

Hope all is well in the North! :-)