Designing an In-House Basic Skills/Literacy Program

The design of basic skills/literacy programs varies widely from organization to organization. There are at least two common characteristics: (1) an aptitude test and (2) small-group and one-on-one instruction. An aptitude test is important for assessing the current ability level of each trainee. For example, a basic skills program developed by the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station begins with an assess- ment of each trainee’s learning ability before he or she is assigned to an intensive six-month study skills program.24 These data are essential for developing an individualized lesson plan that allows the trainer to pinpoint learning objectives and to select the best training methods, techniques, and materials for each trainee.

Small-group instruction and one-on-one tutoring are important for supplying feedback to the trainee, as well as for conducting remedial work in any areas of deficiency. Zaslow suggests using supervisors as writing coaches by training them to give feedback to employees on writing techniques. To supplement small- group instruction, some organizations are using self-paced, computer-interactive programs that provide opportunities for employees to practice basic concepts. Many organizations now offer these programs in CD-ROM format or through their intranet. Self-pacing allows a trainee to practice at his or her own rate, without the pressures of a classroom, and to repeat or skip steps or sequences in the program as necessary. Perhaps this is obvious, but this approach is best used for trainees who are highly motivated to learn.

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