Workplace Literacy

The RWC recently completed a two-year collaboration with Boston University Dining Services in an innovative program to provide literacy instruction for employees. The program served employees who were committed to improving their English literacy and language skills, and by so doing, improve the quality of their work and the quality of their life outside the workplace.

Classes were modeled after the highly successful Intergenerational Literacy Program, a family literacy initiative initiated in 1989 as part of the BU/Chelsea Partnership.  The Workplace Literacy Program was co-planned by a team of three literacy experts (Jeanne Paratore, SED Professor, Barbara Krol-Sinclair, Director, Intergenerational Literacy Program, and Kristen Bock, a literacy teacher and researcher). Kristen Bock leads the classes, and she was assisted by three literacy tutors who were Boston University undergraduate or graduate students. Classes meet twice weekly (MW, 4 Р6 p.m.) for ten weeks. Instruction focused on grammar, vocabulary, reading and oral comprehension, pronunciation, and writing.

During the 2010-2011 academic year, the Workplace Literacy Program served 27 separate individuals. Twenty-one people completed at least one 10-week module, and of these, 12 completed both modules. Based on the results of written and oral assessments administered at the beginning and end of the instruction, participants achieved notable gains in literacy proficiency:

  1. On a writing measure (REEP), participants who completed both modules (20 instructional weeks) achieved an average learning gain of more than double the established benchmark for one full year of classroom instruction (1.0 vs. .4); and participants who completed only one module (10 instructional weeks) almost met the benchmark (.38 vs. .4).
  2. On a test of oral English language proficiency, all learners who, on entry, scored below the established benchmark, achieved gains at post-test.
  3. On a written survey, workplace supervisors consistently noted improvements in work-related skills and interactions, including increased ability to communicate in English; increased confidence in communicating in English; and a positive change in customer service skills (e.g., smiling, making eye contact).

On the basis of the results of written and oral assessments administered at the beginning and end of the instruction, the program continued to be supported through the 2011-2012 academic year with 16 learners enrolled. Twelve of these learners were continuing from last year’s course.

If you have interest in exploring a workplace literacy program for your employees, please contact Evelyn Ford-Connors  at