Organisational factors that affect delivery of adult literacy, language and numeracy provision – literature review
This literature review focuses embedded literacy, language and numeracy (LLN) and the organisational factors that impact on embedded LLN provision.
- Linda Leach, College of Education, Massey University
- Nick Zepke, College of Education, Massey University
- Penny Haworth, College of Education, Massey University
- Peter Isaacs, independent consultant
- William Nepia, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
Date November 2009
This project was funded by the Ministry of Education.
This literature review drew on research, policy and theoretical papers, including literature reviews, primarily from the United Kingdom, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, the United States and Canada. It had two focal points: embedded literacy, language and numeracy (LLN) and the organisational factors that impact on embedded LLN provision. The Skills for Life Development Centre (2006, p. 8) gives the following definition of embedded literacy in vocational contexts, which underpins this literature review:
'Embedded teaching and learning combines the development of literacy, language, and numeracy with vocational and other skills. The skills acquired provide learners with the confidence, competence and motivation necessary for them to succeed in qualifications, in life and work.'
The review identified 4 major strands in the literature: vocational LLN, English as an Additional Language (EAL) and biliteracy, LLN practice, and critical literacy/New Literacy Studies (NLS).
Several findings relevant to vocational LLN were identified: there is no single, perfect model of embedded LLN; embedding can be done in a variety of ways; it is a complex process; a whole of organisation approach is needed; LLN provision should be ‘built in’ not ‘bolted on’ to existing courses; close collaboration and teamwork between the vocational teacher and literacy specialist is essential; and professional development for staff is necessary.
Key findings that emerged from the English as an Additional Language (EAL) and biliteracy strand included: there is a vital need for EAL and biliteracy provision for adults; there are significant differences between EAL and literacy provision for English native speakers, such that separate provision is advocated or, at least, teachers who are trained in both literacy and EAL are needed; the learning involved is not just about literacy but about cultural knowledge; EAL learners bring diverse levels of literacy knowledge and have diverse needs; there is a need for bilingual tutors and professional development for tutors; there is a danger that deep embedding could make LLN invisible to the students but embedding is still beneficial in terms of relevant and meaningful literacy learning.
The themes identified in the LLN practice strand were: there is no one ‘best’ model of practice; a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not ideal; learning needs to be contextualised and authentic; while the learner, their learning needs and interests will be central this should not produce an individualised approach as collaborative learning and group interactions result in improved outcomes; good practices are underpinned by adult education principles and constructivism; initial training and ongoing professional development for teachers is essential; adequate resourcing is necessary.
The strand on critical literacy/New Literacy Studies (NLS) identified a recent shift in theories of LLN variously described as different paradigms, ideologies, frameworks and discourses; the key differences are between what is referred to as a functional approach, which focuses on literacy skills development and contribution to the economy, and a critical/ participatory or New Literacy Studies (NLS) approach which emphasises social justice, equality, democracy and everyday life. Further, there are different understandings about benefits of LLN e.g. human or social capital perspectives, about a deficit approach and the use of power in LLN provision. Organisations need to develop a vision and state their position on these.
In the final section of the review findings from these four strands are synthesised into a set of quidelines for LLN development and delivery in organisations in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Guidelines for the development and delivery of embedded LLN
Embedded LLN development will:
- Be ‘built into’ vocational or community provision and not ‘bolted on’ to vocational or other activities.
- Be a partnership between industry, communities and literacy specialists who pursue a ‘whole organisation’ approach with common strategic visions and values, including being learner centred regardless of differences among learners.
- Be owned by vocational or community providers while sharing planning of delivery and quality assurance with literacy subject specialists.
- Develop strategies and approaches that meet organisations’ own special circumstance and needs.
- Establish policies, procedures and practices that orientate organisational managers, board members and other stakeholders to the requirements of embedded literacy.
- Fashion supportive structures that involve partners in strategic planning and inform stakeholders about the nature of embedded LLN provision.
- Plan programmes for specific and often unique purposes and contexts.
- Place the needs of learners centrally when developing programmes.
- Build LLN programmes on teaching and learning processes that embrace adult education principles.
- Use continuous quality assurance processes to identify critical points for timely interventions and so achieve continuous improvement.
- Ensure the notion of literacy as social practice is integrated.
- Balance provision between skills building, task mastery, critical thinking and democratic participation.
Embedded LLN delivery will:
- Emphasise authentic, contextual learning using a constructivist approach and learning in groups.
- Craft learning cultures that build trust, honour diversity and develop confident learners
- Employ vocational/community teachers, literacy specialists and EAL or biliteracy specialists where relevant, who work competently and well together.
- Develop and maintain an active professional development programme that offers initial training and ongoing opportunities for development.
- Employ appropriate technology to make LLN relevant to learners’ everyday working and social lives.
- Employ assessment methods that consider the readiness of learners, emphasise formative assessment and include assessment of soft outcomes.