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.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

champions of complexity and cohesion

The comment has been made, at the ALKC symposium and elsewhere, that the literacy field is not cohesive, that the reason we do not get heard by policy makers is that we do not speak with one voice.

I think the reason we do not get heard by policy makers might have something to do with our lack of economic or electoral clout and that policy making is a political process not a social cohesion process. There is evidence that research has very little influence on policy decisions. But that is another debate for another time.

It seems to me that we are an incredibly cohesive field. I hear the same themes being repeated by literacy workers wherever I go in both cyberspace and meatspace. I think we are a field that recognizes the complexities involved in the learning process. The diversity of communities and individuals in which and with whom we work means that one-size fits all formulae are not workable. No amount of flow charts filled in, boxes ticked, percentages calculated or levels assessed will help anybody learn anything.

As a field, we recognize that literacy best practice (aaargh!) is practice that involves constant deep listening and observation. We know that our best work is done when we can be nimble enough to respond to changing and differing needs and contexts and, at the same time, reflective and engaged enough to provide transformative and relevant learning environments and opportunities.

We are a field that understands that teaching is about knowing how and when to seize the moments (teachable, empowering, reflective) as they arise. The leading at the root of education is about creating space for those moments to evolve and then supporting growth and change.

As a field, we know that the best response to practices that differ from ours is not, "That's wrong," but, "I wonder why they do that. Perhaps if I learn more about why, it will help me in my practice."

We manage to maintain and sustain this cohesive voice even though the shaky infrastructure that tries to support professional development, reflective practice, research & innovation, and dialogue & debate is being vigorously and systematically dismantled and defunded.

For another fantastic example of how the literacy field balances complexity and cohesiveness, check out Towards a Fully Literate Canada: Achieving National Goals through a Comprehensive Pan-Canadian Literacy Strategy. The key points are here.
You can also download the Logic Model (60kb).


Wendell Dryden said...

"There is evidence that research has very little influence on policy decisions."

I don't know about evidence, but this is certainly my perception. I also think that some so-called 'stakeholders' are absolutely uninterested in hearing from the field (facilitators, tutors, learners).

I think the gap between rhetoric and reality in terms of policy and funding choices would be a really interesting topic to explore using a range of experiences and evidence. (I'd contribute what I could, but I really don't know how decisions are getting made.)

That said, I'm still glad research happens - I use it a lot to improve or reflect on my practice.

literacies publisher said...

yes research is good!
more please!

i was thinking about climate change and research an policy. the research was there for along time and not taken too seriously in the us. then al gore - not the most popular guy - presented the research and it seemed a big shift happened. the power of powerpoint? the groundswell of public opinion? a millionaire finally said it? what?

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