Week 2: Literacy and Numeracy

And lucky last. This is the course I haven’t gotten into as much yet, hopefully that can start to change. And today’s topic is “A Workplace Focus”.

Overview

Not off to a good start, am finding the duplication of having both a “Tutorial sheet” and a eStudyGuide apparently providing a learning sequence and the existence of differences between these sequences not helping the learner develop positive attitudes about the classroom environment and its tasks. Not to mention the fact that Topic 2 is apparently using the same Module in the study guide from last week, but I’m unsure where to start. If this is combined with some of the apparent fear and loathing surrounding the first assignment…..I’m also wondering whether the slight greater emphasis on vocational education that I pick up from some of the readings/comments is clashing with my traditional academic focus?

But then, given I’ve just read about the first Dimension of Learning I know that “attitudes and perceptions influence learning” and that there exist strategies to address this, first by “monitoring and attending to my own attitudes”. Though those are meant for the teacher, not the student. In terms of understanding that “attitudes and perceptions towards classroom tasks also influence learning” then I can use “positive talk” (I love this course, really, I do) and “believing that I can get help and resources needed”. But I am currently wondering how well this course would pass an evaluation based on the remaining strategies under DoL #1.

Okay, it seems we should start on page 19 of the study guide.

How adult literacy became a public issue in Australia

So, we start with this reading

Hodgens, J. (1994). How adult literacy became a public issue in Australia. Open Letter, 4(2), 13-24.

11 pages of reading. Looks like at least another 23 pages in another article plus other excerpts, who said education courses were easy?

From the mid-1970s the was an increase in concern about literacy in Australia. e.g. 10% of adults are functionally illiterate. COuld it be because a hidden social phenomenon was identified? Suggestion is that explanation ignores that increase in student numbers in education, especially secondary and tertiary. A trend that started in the 1950s and which lead to a doubling of post-compulsory secondary enrolments from 1976-1994.

The suggestion is that attending education did not meant that this huge and newly diverse population of students were successful. The article is a historical review and attempts to show how this diversity was seen in terms of deficit and deficiency and subsequently shaped literacy discussions.

The 70s and the context

1970s key period in construction of a literacy crisis in Oz. Both adult and school literacy mentioned in media. The late 1960s importation of ideas such as remedial education contributed. Whitlam from 72 places emphasis on equality and rectifying disadvantage. i.e. through unequal allocation of funds. HIghlighting a difference between conservative views of quality learning being sacrificed to achieve equality. Literacy argued as being related to shifts in the social order (by this author).

Literacy or morality

Illiteracy seen as an afflication, disease shame and leading to prison. Goes hand in hand with an increase in surveys and statistics to show scope of problem, but wild differences in results lead to a move to discussion of trends, rather than numbers.

The cause of illiteracy?

Multiple. There’s the biological/pyschological reason. A focus on lack.

Problems in the home. Over-watching of TV in the home etc.

“Most significant claim” is poor teaching in schools. A range of reasons, including adoption of “progressive” ideas.

Then there is teacher education institutions. i.e. trendy courses, that don’t focus on the basics.

The government.

Conclusions

The problem in all of the above is deficiency, in all of the above. The response being to focus on competence.

Mmm, but doesn’t go onto say much about what is wrong with this perspective. NOt a strong finish.

From training reform to training packages

And now this reading

Smith, E. & Keating, J. (2003). From training reform to training packages. Tuggerah, NSW: Social Science Press. pp. 16-39.

Okay, this is looking at the VET system, not sure how it connects with what we’re doing. Nothing in the tute/guide to tell me either. As it turns out, I’m not reading this, just noting the section headings.

Changes in the Australian economy

  • End of the post war boom
  • Changes in the structure of the economy
  • Changes in technology
  • Changes in the way work is organised
  • Changes in participation in the labour market in Oz
  • Change in jobs for the future

The response to these changes

  • Industry restructuring
  • Industrial relations response: Award restructuring
  • Implications of award restructuring for training

And corporatism and federalism as factors that shaped the form of training reform.

Changes from the late 1980s

  • Enterprise bargaining and Australian workplace agreements
  • The quality movement
  • Working nation: implementation and demise
  • The Karpin report
  • Turn of the century developments – i.e. globalisation etc.

Again a “so what” problem. Yes, all very interesting, but how does this connect with my study to be a high school teacher?

Making the connection

A pointer to an Oz government resource on Workplace literacy. It doesn’t seem that there is much here? No, it’s just the rather confusing user interface used by the government department.

Now a statement of what we will be expected to do (at a minimum)

  • Read competency standards and identify the specific communication skills embedded throughout
  • Relate those communications skills to specific tasks in the workplace (and/or its simulation)
  • Identify learners who may have difficulties with the demands of these tasks
  • Know when a specialist LLN teacher is required and be willing to work with that person
  • Check learning resources for their appropriateness to the abilities of your learners and the Performance Criteria of the Elements of competency (with due regard to the recommended Key Competency level/s, Evidence Guide and Register of Variables also)
  • Design assessment tasks that are also appropriate as above.

But little to no description of what any of this means. What is a LLN teacher? Learning, Literacy and numeracy? What competency standards? Couldn’t see them on the WELL site. Ahh the next section explains, LLN = Language Literacy and numeracy.

Occupational literacy audit

We’re meant to complete a occupational literacy audit for an occupation. It appears this will be related to the first assignment. In fact, it is exactly one of the tasks. Mmm, I can see some intelligent reuse happening here, it’s probably even intended in the course design.

That’s done. 1 of 5 elements for that assignment. I will need to revisit the rubric for the assignment to see how that early work went.

Capturing Key Elements in Multiliteracies Projects

The next bit quotes from key elements in multilteracies from the book “Multiliteracies and Diversity in Education” (Healy, 2008). We are meant to “consider them”. I’m going to interpret that as an excuse to riff, somewhat ill-informed, about them in the following.

They are

  • New learning pedagogy promotes student agency: a say in and control over learning.
    The multiliteracies stuff did talk about “agency” being a key part of its make up. But this seems to suggest something different? Either way, it seems to be sticking with the constructivist orthodoxy that now exists within schools, or at least universities teaching trainee teachers.
  • Learning by Design (Kalantzis & Cope 2005) enables productive text engagement for real purposes and audiences.
    My problem here is I wonder what they mean by “Learning by Design”. Okay, this book excerpt (Kalantzis & Cope 2005) offers this definition

    The Learning by Design approach is also an attempt to imagine and test innovative tools and learning environments in which the blackboard, textbook, exercise book and test are augmented and at times replaced by digital technologies. In the case of Learning by Design, this is not simply a case of ‘digital makeover’ of legacy teaching practices; it is a process of imagining how learning may be different and more effective

    That turns out to be the last of four components. It essentially appears to be a focus on designing learning experiences in which students participate (in a constructivist sense) and a significant consideration of the multiliteracies stuff and the role of technology as stated above. Hence the “real purposes and audiences”. To some extent, Learning Engagement theory might be slight connected as an example.

  • Texts, and the technologies through which they communicate, determine how we interact with phenomenon, idea, message and object – we learn from and contribute to the text environment according to our social and cultural orientations.
    I can agree with that.
  • Texts that exhibit multimodality are designed using collaborations between any of the visual, spatial, linguistic, audio, and gestural information (Kalantzis & Cope 2004b).
    i.e. multimodal media require multiple skills/literacies?
  • Multiliteracies projects provide the scope to bring community practices with text into the classroom.
    I can make some assumptions, but without knowing what is truly meant by “multiliteracies projects” I find it hard to consider this one.
  • Learning by Design has its agendas bound to processes of civic and private activity.
    Again, I need more of an idea of Learning by Design before I can consider that.
  • Student diversity is recognised and celebrated in a learning community ethos.
    yes, that’s good. But again context is missing.
  • Learners have capacities for engaging four knowledge processes: experiencing the known and the new; conceptualising by naming and theorising; analysing functionally and critically; and applying appropriately and creatively (Kalantzis and Cope 2004b). The degree to which these processes are utilised is highly dependent on the learning contexts that teachers design with and for students.
    Okay, that seems a reasonable framework of knowledge processes in terms of literacy, but how does it/is it meant to fit with the rest of the stuff we’re being introduced to?

I have the feeling that I could have done without 20/30 pages of reading about the historical changes that have contributed to literacies, multiliteracies and much more reading about these considerations.

Discussion

We’re now meant to

Consider the skills you listed in your Occupational Literacy Audit. Now think about students in a secondary school. From your practicum experience, what does secondary school have in place to prepare students for the workplace? How many students have part-time jobs? How many have traineeships? Does your school have Work Education courses? VET courses?

The topic for this week’s Discussion Forum is “What’s the gap between what students know, and what they need to know, to be competent in the workplace?”

Actually, I’m not going to engage. I haven’t been on practicum yet and any knowledge I have of school students and schools is based on very limited knowledge. I don’t think that’s an effective foundation on which to base this activity.

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