Hailey D. Barry
Vancouver Community College
Professor: Jacquie Harrison
“Adult learners already come to class equipped with Essential Skills. It is not the role of the instructor to teach anything outside of the subject matter.”
I chose this statement to reflect on because when I read it, I immediately felt I disagreed with it. Although the second sentence of the statement is technically true, there is a much deeper and more complex human responsibility involved when appointed as an instructor.
Although I disagree with both sentences, it is the second sentence in this statement that bothers me the most. After reflecting a bit as to why I reacted the way I did when I read it, I realized that it is not about the basic labels and expected roles carried out by instructor and student. I think about how we as human beings, have a responsibility to teach other human beings Essential Skills. I am not declaring that we are all responsible to sit down and teach a coworker to read or write when we see their skill level may not be as high as others. But we are responsible for setting examples when we are strong in an Essential Skill so that others may choose to adapt to reach their own potential, or in some cases, fit into a social norm.
For example, if an adult student is returning to the workforce after a break, or changing occupations, they may not have the same level of technological skills as their classmates or what may be expected when they start their new occupation. It isn’t so much about requirements, but social expectations. If there is an understood expectation at a company or in a certain occupation that everyone will be able to use Microsoft programs, Apple products and the Internet there may be gaps for someone who has not had access to these tools on the regular. They may be able to even grasp the basics just to get the job, but struggle keeping up to coworkers afterwards.
Fellow students can assist their peers, but I do feel it is the responsibility of the instructor to pick up on ques that a student may be learning a lot of new material but lacking in some of the foundational Essential Skills that will really enable them to utilize the knowledge they came to the instructor to learn.
I chose this because I see such obvious ranges of Essential Skills in my own students. The mining program I instruct is obviously industry and skilled trades based and students are anywhere from 20-45 years of age. Some also haven’t fully completed high school, and some have not had jobs that required them to engage in much conversation, either with the public or co-workers. Some have never had a computer in their home and some don’t even own cell phones. These basic skills, especially the technology based ones that help build the skill strength for document use, numeracy, working with computer programs, different texts and determining what is important or requires further attention can be lacking. Most of the time, my students know each other due to the small population in their communities, and they feel quite comfortable offering assistance to those who may need it. But sometimes there is a humbleness, or hesitation to help and I find myself feeling obligated to ensure that the students work on and gain these skills so that I feel better about them entering the workforce upon completion of the program.
I hadn’t given much thought to the extras that I do in the classroom for students who need a bit of extra help grasping basics such as using Word to generate their resume, or navigating the Internet to use for research. I suppose when I really think about it, I realize that these things are not my responsibility as an instructor, and they certainly are not in the curriculum. But I feel the students will gain confidence when they hone their Essential Skills and it actually makes my job easier when they start to develop those higher levels of comprehension for these skills.
Reflecting on this has not changed my mind about the fact that we as instructors need to lead by example, and that we can actually expose the potential of a student by assisting them with their Essential Skills. It may be a bit of a work in the beginning, but I know that in the end it benefits the student as well as myself. I will continue to assist my students with these Essential Skills but perhaps I can develop something that will really encourage students who are stronger at something to assist those in the classroom that aren’t.
Essential Skills are really important, and clearly some of us are naturally more gifted at some of them than others. But once we find ourselves in work or social situations that require them, being exposed to people who have higher strengths in some areas naturally creates a drive to do better ourselves.
Vancouver Community College. (2016). Explicit and implicit curriculum development. In Provincial Instructor Diploma 3210 course manual.
Vancouver Community College. (2016). What are BC Employers Looking For? In 2010 Biennial Skills and Attributes Survey Report. Retrieved from: http://moodle.vcc.ca/pluginfile.php/650593/mod_resource/content/4/Employability%20skills%20report.pdf