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A Workplace Basic Skills Bibliography

by Jim Kargakos and Jane Schierloh

Are you thinking about setting up a basic skills program in a workplace setting? Here is some recommended reading that will help you plan an effective, successful program.

Workplace Literacy: A Guide to the Literature and Resources by Susan Imel and Sandra Kerka (1992). Copies can be obtained from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University, 1900 Kenny Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1090. Cost $7.00 ED No. 354 388.

This readable guide includes

  1. The major issues and emerging trends in the literature on workplace literacy
  2. An annotated bibliography of books and documents written within the last five years
  3. Short descriptions of seven work-place literacy programs as well as recommendations based on what was learned from these programs
  4. The addresses of resource organizations (such as the AFL-CIO Human Resources Development Institute and the American Society for Training and Development)
  5. Information on National Workplace Literacy Program Funded Projects that is available through ERIC

Workplace Education: Voices from the Field. U.S. Department of Education (1992). Free copies can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, Washington, D.C. 20202-7240.

One of the best ways of preparing to enter the field of workplace basic skills education is to find out what experienced providers have learned. This report is a summary of a conference of project directors of National Workplace Literacy Programs. The report contains chapters on building partnerships, developing curriculum, recruiting learners, staff development and assessment/evaluation. Each chapter has subsections on "Promising Strategies," "Obstacles to Success," and "Needed Action."

At the close of the conference, participants submitted a list of what they considered to be "the five most critical issues in workplace literacy today": (1) how to build effective partnerships among the varied interest groups involved in workplace basic skills programs, (2) effective methods of assessment and evaluation, (3) curriculum design: narrow or broad?, (4) professional development, and (5) funding. Participants' comments on these issues are included in the appendix.

The Bottom Line: Basic Skills in the Workplace. A joint publication of the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education (1988). Free while copies last from the Clearinghouse, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, U.S. Dept. of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202-7240.

This government publication is cited frequently. Parts I and II address the critical need for improved basic skills in the workplace. They provide information that can be useful in marketing the services of basic education providers. Part III is a user-friendly handbook that covers setting goals, assessing available resources, recruiting trainees, working with partners, building the curriculum, and evaluating the program. Examples from actual programs are used to illustrate each point.

A Guidebook for Developing Workplace Literacy Programs by Larry Mikulecky, Denise Henard, and Paul Lloyd (1992). Indiana University, Bloomington, ED No. 348-580. A copy can be obtained free from Patricia Moss, Office of Workforce Literacy, Department of Workforce Development, Indiana Government Center South, Indianapolis, IN. 46204-2277. Telephone: (317) 233-3354.

This is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for those who are new to the field of workplace basic skills education. A unique feature is that interspersed between each how-to section are examples from actual work-place basic skills programs. The appendixes include a sample time line for each strand of a program, a sample literacy task analysis and its application to instruction and assessment, a sample recruitment form, and two samples of custom designed curriculum.

Developing Literacy for the Workplace: Integrating Basic Skills with Occupational Training by Meg Keeley (1991). Paper presented at the National Conference of the American Vocational Association. ED No. 341-809.

This four-page paper summarizes the steps involved in developing a basic skills program in the workplace. The appendix includes the five competencies and three foundation skills of the SCANS Report for America 2000, which are often referred to in discussions of workplace education. It also includes an itemized list of reading skills used in the workplace. In addition, there are lists of writing skills, computation/ problem-solving skills, and communication/interpersonal skills often necessary in the workplace. These lists can be helpful in preparing staff to think about the importance of integrating basic skills into the workplace context.


Approaches to Assessment in Workplace Literacy Programs: Meeting the Needs of All the Clients by Eunice N. Askov. Journal of Reading, 36, (1993) 550-554.

This short article is a good place to start when planning the assessment of a work-place basic skills program. It analyzes the differing information needs of multiple stakeholders or clients -the learners, the unions, the management, and the basic skills providers. Secondly, it suggests some assessment tools that are appropriate for meeting the assessment information needs of each of these groups of clients. Note: The author gives a warning about using cloze tests as pre- and post-tests for program evaluation.

The Impact of Workplace Literacy Programs: A New Model for Evaluating the Impact of Workplace Literacy Programs by Larry Mikulecky (1993). Available for $12 from the National Center on Adult Literacy, Dissemination/Publications, 3910 Chestnut Street, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3111. All orders must be prepaid. Make check or money orders payable to "Kinko's Copy Center."

This 180-page report describes the evaluation instrumentsthey worked. For example, interview questions were more successful than questionnaire items in reflecting changes in self-image and changes in developed for two workplace basic skills programs and how well reading practices. Moreover, supervisors' ratings of workers' job-rated skills were sometimes careless.

The appendix includes questionnaires (e.g., reading practices and types of reading materials read), interview questions (e.g., learners' beliefs about reading, writing, and education; the processes they use when they read; and their future education plans), an ESL checklist, and a classroom observation form.

A Program Evaluation Handbook for Workplace Literacy by Kathryn Chang Barker (1991). ED No. 339-917. Available free from the National Literacy Secretariat, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1K5, Canada.

This short handbook (English version - 51 pages) was written for persons who are not experts in program evaluation or workplace basic skills education. It walks the new provider through and provides practical references for each step of the evaluation process. The outline of a typical evaluation report on page 15 may be particularly useful.

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