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NCTN Aspirations Toolkit

The Aspirations Toolkit is a set of counseling and instructional practices and tools contributed by adult educators around the country. Contributors implement these lessons and activities with adult learners in various class types (e.g. ESOL or GED) and at a range of skill levels to foster aspirations, goal setting habits and to inspire them to begin planning for next steps along their education and career pathway. The development of the Aspirations Toolkit is partially funded through a grant from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation with matching funds provided by World Education, Inc. We continue to add tools to this collection. To contribute, click here.

Many adult students think that postsecondary education is out of reach for them. They perceive barriers that are both real and surmountable, ranging from low self-efficacy (sense of competence to accomplish a task or goal) to lack of awareness of supports, such as financial aid. Many of these barriers can be addressed, but in order for adult learners to consider such steps adult education programs must also shift their paradigm and practice and develop specific strategies to heighten learners' aspirations and goals and raise awareness of opportunities, throughout all program phases, from enrollment and orientation to instruction, counseling, and planning for next steps.

The Aspirations Toolkit is a resource for practitioners to make this important paradigm shift in promoting learner aspirations early and often in their instruction and counseling interactions. Each tool is listed under one of the four areas of college and career readiness. Those that span multiple areas are cross-listed.


Personal Readiness

Keys to Success
Checklist that students and teachers can use to track progress towards development of college and career readiness skills.

Using Motivational Interviewing in a Goal Setting Process
Process for teachers or tutors to get to know students and their goals and aspirations.


Career Readiness

Keys to Success
Checklist that students and teachers can use to track progress towards development of college and career readiness skills.

Research and Writing about Health Careers
Series of five assignments to guide students through a process of research, reflection, and writing about career opportunities in health care.

Real World Occupational Exploration
Tools to expose students to firsthand information about occupations and careers of interest.

Tools for Career Self-Exploration
Tools for students to assess interests, skills, and values related to work and careers.


Academic Readiness

Advanced ABE Intensive Course
Pair of course syllabi that together make up an intensive ABE course that integrates college and career readiness instruction.

Keys to Success
Checklist that students and teachers can use to track progress towards development of college and career readiness skills.

Next Steps Academy
Student self-assessment tool to promote responsibility for progress and learning.

Term-by-Term Planner
Tool for tracking academic milestones and progress towards goals, mirroring tools used by academic advisors in postsecondary education.

Using Motivational Interviewing in a Goal Setting Process
Process for teachers or tutors to get to know students and their goals and aspirations.


College Knowledge Readiness

College Awareness-Readiness Curriculum
A series of four lessons that introduce students to the value, accessibility, terminology, and processes of postsecondary enrollment.

Keys to Success
Checklist that students and teachers can use to track progress towards development of college and career readiness skills.

Next Steps Academy
Board game to teach and review college terminology and norms.

Term-by-Term Planner
Tool for tracking academic milestones and progress towards goals, mirroring tools used by academic advisors in postsecondary education.

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