Learner Profiles

After initial conversations with learners, an awareness of common learner profiles (i.e. learner contexts) may become evident. The Learner Profiles in this section provide a connection - through the SPO practitioner - between the learner and the overwhelming amount of material outlining adult education options. It is, however, impossible to fully know the goal and specific pathway of every learner as academic goals - and associated education & training options - are not the only considerations when trying to understand learner contexts. As such, the profile descriptions provided on this site are purposely broad and focus on academic needs.

The Learner Profiles outline four general contexts of learners with literacy and/or language training needs:

  1. The Newcomer Adult Learner
  2. The Settled Immigrant Adult Learner
  3. The Generation 1.5 Adult Learner
  4. The Adult Learner Requiring Upgrading (no ESL needs)

Each profile is differentiated based on learner English language proficiency, prior learning (including credentials), and citizenship eligibility descriptor (e.g. permanent resident, Canadian citizen, refugee etc.) - criteria that the researchers have identified as required in order to make a referral to any academic program. Note that caution must be taken in using the Learner Profiles in isolation; situational and motivational influences affect all profiles.


Despite sharing context (e.g. Newcomer, Settled Immigrant, Generation 1.5 learner, or Adult Learner with Upgrading Needs), all learners may or may not share the following situational/motivational mindsets (i.e. attitude that exists based on internal or external factors influencing a learner's return to school):

• A history of interrupted education - For the adult learner with a history of interrupted formal schooling (i.e. education and/or training that leads to credentials (Rubenson et al., 2007), something in the learning environment made it so that continuing in school was not possible. Behavioural disengagement, evident by lack of attendance and participation, may occur due to irrelevant learning environments or not doing well in a traditional school environment (Roussy & Hart, 2002; Trowler, 2010). Learners in this situation may have also left school due to illness, war in their home country, as well as other life situations (i.e. health, need for employment, and family obligations) (Rubenson et al., 2007; Roussy & Hart, 2002).

• A "second chance" mindset - Adult learners may find themselves in a life situation whereby they have come to recognize the value of education & training and would like to achieve a credential. Learners in this situation often state: "I shouldn't have left school", "I have kids now," "I want a better life for myself and family" (Hermann & Gris, 2012). Essentially, these learners are in a situation that compels them to seek a "second chance" at formal education such as a change in life situation (Roussy & Hart, 2002; Rubenson et al., 2007).

• A "testing the waters" mindset - Many learners come to the various adult education programs or a referring agency and are adults who are just trying out different programming for various reasons. Some learners are not sure why they are visiting a certain program (i.e. they've been referred and do not know why). Often, such learners have heard of programming via word-of-mouth and/or have simply walked through the door of a SPO because it is in the learner's neighbourhood (e.g. "walk-ins"). Finally, some learners are "consumers" of adult education programs – they've tried many services, start and exit, and are not sure which program they are going to stick with.

• A displaced worker mindset - Learners who have been in the workforce for many years may return to education & training programs to upgrade their skills either because they have lost jobs due to injury/illness or lay-offs. Such learners also may require upgrading to remain competitive in the workforce or to be able to change careers. Many may choose to upgrade their skills out of necessity to keep their employment – as new skills are continually necessary to remain competitive (Rubenson et al., 2007). Alternatively, many are referred to education & training programs as part of other initiatives (e.g. Second Careers).

• A focused, goal oriented mindset - Some learners know and are able to articulate realistic goals and may even specify a specific program in which they are interested. These learners come to a SPO informed and with a plan. In this case, learners already have an idea of which programs they need.

It is with these situational/motivational influences in mind that the Learner Profiles have been articulated.