Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

literacies everywhere

One of the most exciting things I observed in Scotland last month was that literacy work is...everywhere! Groups that define community in various ways offer adult literacies. This means that some tutoring happens in the community where a person lives, and other support is integrated in programs that link to other ideas of community.

For example, the Glasgow Women's Library offers adult literacy tutoring but also works hard to make all of their programs accessible to women, no matter their formal education. Another example is the Glasgow Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre, which aims to be a truly inclusive space that recognizes and meets "varied needs in a climate of trust and respect". Learning is one of its basic services and the literacy project recently completed a book of student writing.

Offering literacy in community sites is one way of ensuring that what adult students learn is "relevant to their own context and everyday literacy practices." How does this work in practice?

As in many parts of Canada, literacy workers are hired for part-time, contract positions and are not paid for preparation time. Most literacy practitioners work in isolation and have few chances to get together with others to share what they are doing and what their questions are.

In this photo, Gerry Green and Anne Strain admire woven accordion books we made together. Anne volunteers as a tutor assistant at the Glasgow Women's Library while Gerry is a literacies tutor who works, on contract, at several sites.

The current campaign in Scotland is the first time in 20 years that adult literacies work has been supported in any significant way. One of the biggest challenges of the campaign was finding people to do the work.

The development coordinator at Learning Connections, Fiona MacDonald, wrote in Literacy Today that "Training opportunities had been rare, often unaccredited and with few routes for progression." In conjunction with the Scottish Qualifications Agency, Learning Connections developed accreditation for tutor assistants.

Here are the objectives for the unit called "Preparing to work with adult literacies learners." Tutors should be able to:
  • Explain and reflect on the social practice approach to adult literacies learning.
  • Explain and reflect on the roles and responsibilities of learner and tutor.
  • Explain and reflect on approaches to building confidence and motivation in adult literacies learners.
  • Explain and reflect on approaches to supporting the learning process with adult literacies learners.

Learning Connections has also developed a qualification for tutors of English for speakers of other languages with a focus on literacies. They are working on a post-secondary program for adult literacies tutors in Scotland.

But what does all of this accreditation mean? Work in adult literacies continues to mean part-time, contract work. Sound familiar?

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