I-CANS GraphicI-CANS -- Integrated Curriculum for Achieving Necessary SkillsTable of ContentsIntroductionTen Ways to Tell It's WorkingI-CANS Participants
Ordering Information

Integrated Components
in the Classroom


Factors and Influences
Beyond the Classroom



In 1990, a legislatively appointed committee studying workforce training in Washington State recommended that the state create a single basic skills delivery system for adults which would utilize a single curriculum to define learner outcomes and approaches to instruction. In response, the new created Office of Adult Literacy at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the Employment Security Department entered into a collaborative agreement to integrate their existing basic skills curricula and include newer skills recently identified as workplace basic skills by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). The project was supported by a combination of Adult Education Act and Job Training Partnership Act funds.

Project development was overseen by an advisory committee of representatives of business and industry, employment and training programs, and basic skills providers. A technical work group of basic skills practitioners was also organized. The Integrated Curriculum for Achieving Necessary Skills (I-CANS) project is coordinated by the ABLE Network, the program and staff development resource center for the Office of Adult Literacy.


Definition and Project Goals

I-CANS was developed as a skills-based instructional system for all providers of basic skills instruction to youth and adults. It assists learners to achieve the skills necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve their personal goals, and to increase their knowledge and develop their full potential. The advisory committee established the following goals for the project:

  • Establish a common instructional system which combines the curriculum used by adult basic education programs with the competency system employed by JTPA-funded basic skills programs.

  • Expand basic skills services to include workplace basic skills identified by the ASTD Workplace Basics and SCANS.

  • Maximize student learning outcomes and motivation through the use of a contextual approach to instruction which emphasizes the skills necessary for improved self-sufficiency.

  • Maximize integration and coordination of programs to allow for improved referrals across systems and institutions, particularly between employment and training programs and basic skills providers.

The first three of these goals were met; however the fourth goal was only initiated. In working together to create the I-CANS project, the various systems began the process of creating an integrated, coordinated system. It continues to be a goal of the Adult Education Advisory Council and of the Regional Staff Development Systems project sponsored by a grant for the National Institute for Literacy.


Project Activities

During the initial phase of the project, staff worked closely with the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Portland, Oregon, to develop a set of learner competencies which were based on the model developed by the ASTD. The skills were then validated by over 400 business people, government employees, job trainers, and educators in both Oregon and Washington.

In the next phase, the technical work group developed instructional approaches designed to effectively teach the new skills. Most of the approaches involved group instruction organized around themes or projects which allowed for the integration of skills from many areas. Several curriculum developers designed sample themes which demonstrated how to integrate skills.

In phase three, the project focused on assessment. The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory developed a wide range of instruments designed to pre and post test the new skills. While these instruments were useful for instructional purposes, they proved difficult to use for objective assessment. The project chose to recommend the use of currently available testing materials for reading, writing, and math, and to emphasize learner-centered methods for on-going assessment.

In the final development phase, the project selected six pilot sites to train instructors in the I-CANS approaches. Teachers were given an initial two-day workshop and three follow-up, day long trainings. During one academic quarter, the participating teachers attempted to implement the skills and the teaching approaches. While the pilot projects initiated a lot of excitement, it was concluded that a much greater training effort would be required to implement I-CANS within basic skills programs.


Implementation and Components

In FY 94, the project received additional funds to conduct full-scale implementation training at six new programs sites over a full academic year. Each site received stipends for participating teachers, the services of a coach to conduct training, and additional training on instructional innovations such as cooperative learning and critical thinking. Participating project sites agreed to full implementation by the fall of 1994. The fully implementedI-CANS system consists of the following components:

I-CANS Skills
Teachers must integrate skills from two or more areas of the I-CANS Skills List. More effective instruction will integrate a broader range of skills. Many of the workplace skills such as influence or thinking skills cannot be taught in isolation but must be taught with content such as the basic skills of math, communication, reading, etc.

Group Instruction
Small and large group instruction is required. A group consists of two or more learners working interactively with a teacher as a facilitator. Specific cooperative learning strategies are utilized to make group instruction most effective.

Meaningful Context
All instruction must be organized around a context which is meaningful to the learners. In many employment and training-related basic skills programs the existing context is preparation for the workplace. If no context exists, the learners themselves should develop a theme or project based on issues that affect their lives.

emphasizes the use of both standardized rests to baseline 3-R's and a variety of learner-
centered approaches to determine needs in the new skill areas. It also requires the use of on-going, learner-centered assessment to provide learners with continual feedback about their performance. Tools from the Northwest Basics project are useful in assessing learner skills in areas such as problem solving or group effectiveness, and learner-centered assessment tools such as portfolios, peer evaluation, self reporting, etc. may be more relevant to a learner than traditional assessment instruments.

During this implementation phase, the project also created a video to assist teachers in determining or utilizing a context for instruction that is meaningful to learners. This 10-minute video entitled " Making Learning Meaningful: The Student Role in Choosing Context," demonstrates creating student-generated topics of study. It is available for loan through the Northwest Regional Literacy Resource Center Library.


Project Continuation and Integration

Funding has been allocated from the state's staff development (353) funds to continue implementation support and to add three new sites to the project. It is expected that I-CANS implementation will continue to be a thrust of program and staff development activities at the ABLE Network. As programs complete their implementation and staff become trained and proficiency with I-CANS strategies, those staff will become the on-site coaches for other staff or other program sires. The ABLE Network will continue to provide training and support as needed. As funding becomes available, potential activities include developing a video with an overview of the I-CANS process, holding state or regional meetings of those who are attempting to implement I-CANS and creating a module for the Professional Development Series introducingI-CANS to basic skills professionals.


Scope and Limitations of this Notebook

The I-CANS Notebook is intended only as an overview of the I-CANS project. Project staff expect that this notebook will serve to familiarize instructors with the components of the I-CANS process and will provide them with some tools that can be used effectively in a variety of settings. Users should recognize, however, that using these tools or implementing one or more of the I-CANS components does nor constitute a full I-CANS implementation.