Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

2011 Workshops

RaPAL 2011 Conference Workshops

Helen Oughton, University of Bolton

220 Fatal Accidents: A Literacies perspective on Adult Numeracy Classrooms

Delegates will not need any mathematical knowledge to participate in this workshop!
Drawing on ethnographic research in adult numeracy classrooms, audio-recordings of classroom discussions will be played to demonstrate how learners responded to two different texts as resources, both of which presented numeracy problems which might be supposed to have socio-critical significance. When working with the first text, a traditional worksheet of mathematical word-problems, the students appeared not to respond to the social “context” in which the problem was set. However, with the second text, of a very different nature and mediated by the teacher, they responded critically and playfully to the context presented to them.
In our discussion I hope to turn a social practice lens on the adult numeracy classroom, and interrogate what we mean by “context”. I suggest that the classroom should be regarded as a context in itself, and that genres of classroom materials are associated with specific sets of practices embedded in their own social purposes. In order to identify ways to make literacy and numeracy learning more relevant to adult learners’ lives, I want to consider which features of the second activity encouraged the students towards a socio-critical response. In particular, I would like to discuss whether the material nature of the text used, and its mediation by the teacher, can play a role in disrupting the normal expectations of classroom discourse. Delegates will be encouraged to interact “hands on” with the resources as they would be used in the classroom, and there will be opportunities to discuss implications for classroom practice.

Download Helen’s presentation slides (PowerPoint) and handout (Word doc)

Judith Rose, Independent Researcher

Is there a ‘special relationship’ between adult literacy and the development of education for adults with learning disabilities? Looking at the history and thinking of the future.

I believe that the early campaigners for adult literacy in England (eg BAS, BBC) were anxious to clarify a distinction between adults who had poor literacy skills and adults with cognitive learning disabilities, and that this tension has been a constant factor in a relationship which has often been close and productive for both parties, particularly at practitioner and pedagogic level. Participants will look at a timeline outlining the parallel development of the two fields and quotes illustrating key moments in the story. We will consider where we have now arrived in this area.

Claire Collins and Tara Furlong, Independent Researchers

RaPAL on Facebook: social networking

Sometimes life is complicated by technology – ‘Have I checked my e-mails?’ ‘Have I kept Facebook up to date?’ ‘Has anyone left me a voice message?’ But there are ways that meeting virtually is much simpler than the alternative face to face options. For example, the RaPAL regional advocates’ group gets people together from Northern Scotland, Ireland and England. We simply couldn’t hop on a train and have a one hour meeting without the internet. We aim to open up debate about these technologies and literacies/ learning. We will discuss themes such as social networking to help people feel part of a group (a community of practice) – using our advocate group and the wider RaPAL membership as examples. We will look at:

  • On-line ‘chatting’ and research/ practice support (real time and not) through Facebook and the RaPAL ‘JISClist’.
  • Tools like Skype and Webex for live discussions/ shared learning experiences.
  • Practices that can be developed in the classroom with learners.

Amy Burgess, University of Exeter

Functional Skills in England:
how do literacy educators interpret policy and translate it into practice?

My research focuses on the introduction of Functional Skills in England. Research in education has shown that practitioners are not the passive recipients of policy but active agents who creatively translate it into practice according to the opportunities and constraints of their local contexts (Ball 2006, Hamilton 2009). Policy is thus seen not just as texts, but as processes and practices (Burgess and Hamilton, under review) and issues of identity are seen as key to understanding these processes and practices (Hillier 2010). I have carried out interviews with practitioners who have a variety of roles and are currently involved in implementing Functional Skills in different contexts. People have talked about their understandings of what education policy is and how they make sense of their own identities within the process of implementing it. They have reflected on their views of the conceptualisation of literacy and learning which underpins Functional Skills, and how this relates to their own values and vision as educators. They have described a range of strategies and resources they have drawn on to help them interpret the policy on Functional Skills and translate it into practice. During the workshop I will facilitate small group and plenary discussions, enabling participants to share:

  • Responses to the themes emerging from the interviews
  • Reflections on their own experiences of translating policy into practice
  • The implications of this for enabling practitioners to influence policy
  • Ideas about how the research could be developed

View Amy’s presentation slides here (PowerPoint)

Jim Mullan and Shelley Tracey, Queens University Belfast

Scenes from an exhibition:
making meaning about literacy and numeracy in a museum

This workshop explores museums as sites for learning about literacy and numeracy. The focus of the workshop is on a guided activity in a tutor education programme for adult literacy and numeracy practitioners, in which participants explored literacy and numeracy practices in the Ulster Museum.
This activity, based on Buining’s concept of “Imagineering”, required students to choose an exhibit in the museum as a focus for exploring their understanding of literacy or numeracy.
We will present students’ reflections on their experiences, captured on film and in their assignments. These reflections suggest that the museum activity enabled practitioners to make makes connections between the social, personal and political aspects of literacy and numeracy. The exploration deepened their understanding of literacy and numeracy as social practices, and that meaning making is multimodal.
In the final part of the workshop, participants will explore how they can make use of local museums and galleries for learning about literacy and numeracy and the contexts in which they are practised and developed.

Bob Read, ACER and Victoria Horth, Norfolk Archives

Using documents from Norfolk Archives: Issues of language and power in society over the centuries

Participants will work in pairs to sequence a range of different documents in date order. These may include materials such the royal hunting warrant, the field service letter, the medieval ‘spell’, an example of a cross hatch letter, a letter by Nelson, a removal/settlement order. Documents will give insights into aspects of Norfolk’s history, culture or dialect.
This will lead to a discussion about the way literacy practices have radically changed in some ways but in other ways reflect the same key factors that still shape the writing process today in terms of our response to context, audience and purpose. We will discuss how our literacy practices, whilst ever changing, continue to reflect issues of ‘language and power’. We will also look at how society has moved from an oral to a literate culture and is now in the process of moving on to a digital culture. We also aim to discuss the way outreach work with family learning engages ‘vulnerable’ parent groups in researching their family history. It perhaps introduces them to aspects of their local heritage that they might not have the confidence or the opportunity to explore.

Julie Westrop and Bev Bird, Norfolk Family Learning

Norfolk Reading Cafés: approaches to family learning

The Norfolk Reading Cafés programme aims to enable all parents and carers to confidently support key aspects of their child’s learning and development. We do this through carefully designed, informal, enjoyable activities and opportunities for families which are provided by the setting or school. Learning outcomes are thus improved (especially in oracy, reading and numeracy), aspirational learning communities developed and strong partnerships created. The Café programme develops capacity within settings and schools. They provide family learning opportunities which are inclusive and widen participation and which also enable peer support amongst adults and children.

Helen Casey, Institute of Education, London

Ways to get funding to develop adult literacies projects

Practitioners and curriculum managers are becoming directly involved in bids for funding to develop learning and teaching projects. This workshop will focus on what makes bids successful and how and where they can be addressed.

Jane Mace, Independent Researcher

Literacy and discernment: Quaker ways of writing minutes

Quaker business meetings have several features that mark them out from secular committee meetings. First, they seek to make decisions through unity, rather than consensus. Second, priority is given to the use of listening between spoken contributions. Thirdly, the finished draft of the meeting’s minutes is produced during the meeting itself, rather than after it is over, with an expectation that while the clerk/s are drafting, the rest of the meeting is actively supporting them in so doing. Finally, the literacy employed has one other unusual aspect in terms of ‘formal’ writing: the texts produced are written in the active form and present tense.

In this session we will explore how Quaker clerks, ‘upheld’ in this way, draft, test and gain acceptance for minutes. We will consider the claim that the text of the minute plays a key part in the process of discerning the ‘will of God’ or the ‘spirit’ at work in the meeting. Using examples of process and text, we will then discuss the challenge for Quakers in ensuring that these literacy practices are as inclusive as they appear.
Jane Mace is an adult literacy researcher and trainer; she has been a member of the Religious Society of Friends for seven years, has served as a local meeting clerk, and is currently undertaking a one-year research project at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham on clerks and minute-writing. This session will draw on findings from the project.

Mary Jane Onnen, Maricopa Community College, Arizona USA

Integrating technology to strengthen reading instruction

I teach students at a community college who do not place into college level reading course work. In fact, the students are about three to six grade levels below the reading proficiency needed for college. Some students are second language learners while others are non-traditional students, who have been out of school for a few years and are re-entering. Ages range from eighteen to fifty years.
I have developed online material which is modelled on best practices in teaching reading. Reading selections taken from the textbook are digitized, recorded and made accessible through a wiki. Each selection has an open-ended pre-reading discussion question, which is designed to activate background knowledge. Once students begin reading the text, they are quizzed for comprehension and given immediate feedback on their responses. Last of all, students are asked to listen to the recording of the selection and produce their own recording. Student recordings are created through cell phones and sent to a website which can be accessed by the instructor. Furthermore, four discussion questions are assigned which require students to reflect on the reading selection.

Resources available from Mary Jane’s workshop include presentation slides (PowerPoint), handout 1 (Excel doc) and handout 2 (Excel doc).

Hazel Israel, Gower College, Swansea

Texting to improve literacy

We will explore a range of examples of brief articles expressing concerns about the impact on texting on the quality of English language use, identifying the main concerns. We will share findings to identify common theme, discuss and evaluate the validity of these concerns.
We will explore and consider a range of examples of historical and contemporary use of abbreviation in text and identify why the abbreviation has been used (save money, paper, assumed knowledge etc). What is the effect of these abbreviations?
We will analyse a range of examples of use of texting in English language classrooms and evaluate their application in the Adult Literacy context. We will also identify further examples of strategies to use texting to develop literacy skills in their professional contexts.
Photographs and findings of this workshop and recommendations will be collated and shared in a communal area of the conference.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: