Te Arapiki Ako
"Towards better teaching & learning"

Summary of each key understanding

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Last updated 05 April 2013 15:19 by NZTecAdmin

1. How adults develop their literacy and numeracy expertise

1.1 Adults engage in learning for their own larger purposes. These purposes are associated with their roles in society as workers, family members and community members.

  • Learning programmes that are transparent allow adults to see how their learning links to their own particular purposes.
  • Adults need to be involved in setting learning goals and monitoring their progress towards these.
  • Motivation is a key factor in engagement and achievement. Learners are motivated when they can see the value of learning for their own goals.

1.2 Adult learners develop expertise by building on their existing knowledge, skills and experiences.

  • Effective teaching and learning focus on the development of learners’ conceptual understandings through meaningful learning experiences.
  • Teaching approaches, such as those that are based on constructivist theory, should build on learners’ existing knowledge, experiences and understandings, and support individuals to actively construct meaning for themselves.
  • As learners develop expertise in a field they become increasingly able to structure their knowledge and develop metacognitive strategies that allow them to monitor their own learning.
  • To support adults to learn by building on their existing knowledge, skills and experiences, tutors require a sound knowledge of their subject areas and how aspects of learning in those areas are interrelated.

1.3 Adult learners develop their literacy and numeracy most effectively in contexts that have meaning to them. As learners develop their expertise, their increasing awareness of their knowledge and skills allows them to apply them in a wide range of contexts.

  • Thinking and learning depend greatly on the social and cultural contexts in which they occur.
  • Learning can be transferred from instructional contexts to work or other everyday situations. Transfer is enabled when instruction is meaningful and learners can see that their learning will be of use to them in their everyday lives.
  • Learning is increased through interaction with more knowledgeable individuals who can scaffold developing understandings.

1.4 Adults who have experienced repeated failure are likely to feel anxious and reluctant to engage in further learning.

  • Where teaching approaches focus exclusively on correct answers and provide little cognitive support, adult learners who have experienced repeated failure may develop negative perceptions of their own ability.
  • Mathematics anxiety decreases the efficiency of the working memory and makes it difficult for individuals to think logically. Adults who have not learned to read or write may see themselves as unable to master literacy skills.
  • Educators who model positive attitudes towards literacy and/or numeracy and instruction focused on relevant content in meaningful contexts have been found to positively influence the attitudes of anxious learners.

2. The features of effective embedded literacy and numeracy provision

2.1 Successful approaches to embedding literacy and numeracy clearly link the literacy, numeracy and vocational components of the course.

  • Links between literacy and numeracy learning and vocational learning are clearly and explicitly identified.
  • Explicit literacy and numeracy instruction is provided as it is required for the vocational task at hand.
  • Teaching and learning materials reflect use of literacy and numeracy within the vocation, and are differentiated for learners’ varying literacy and numeracy needs.

2.2 Where tutors work as a team, learners are more likely to stay in training and complete literacy and/or numeracy qualifications in addition to vocational qualifications.

  • Successful team approaches may involve tutors in joint planning, observation and team teaching as appropriate. Regardless of the approach used, tutors require sufficient time to be allocated to enable them to work together.
  • Team approaches are supported where literacy, numeracy and vocational tutors have opportunities to learn from each other.
  • Effective teaching teams in adult education are learner focused and share responsibility for learner progress.

2.3 Effective assessment in programmes where literacy and numeracy are embedded makes use of Learning Progressions to provide direction for teaching programmes and to monitor progress toward learning goals.

  • Learning continuums describe the growth of knowledge and skills that occurs as learners develop their expertise in a particular area.
  • Diagnostic and formative assessment that maps student progress against Learning Progressions provides valuable direction for teaching programmes.
  • A range of successful assessment procedures provides both formal and informal feedback to learners about their progress.
  • Appropriate literacy and numeracy assessment instruments are useful in adult education.

2.4 Embedded literacy and numeracy provision is facilitated by appropriate organisational policies, management structures, resourcing and working conditions.

  • Institutions that adopt a whole-organisation approach to the development and support of embedded programmes are most likely to be effective.
  • It is important for administrative procedures and the allocation of practical resources to reflect the importance of literacy, numeracy and vocational learning.

3. The workplace as a context for strengthening literacy and numeracy

3.1 Changes in the nature of work mean that companies have to be more sophisticated if they are to compete effectively in a modern, global market.

  • Greater flexibility and higher skill levels are required as the nature of work changes.
  • The number of unskilled jobs is diminishing.
  • The increasing pace of technological change affects workers at all levels.
  • Flexible training opportunities are required to meet the needs of a wide range of employers and employees.

3.2 To participate successfully in new work processes, adults need to participate in workplace learning that is underpinned by literacy and numeracy skills.

  • Increasingly, employers seek workers with literacy skills.
  • Employees with low literacy skills are less likely to take part in any kind of industry training and may be less able to benefit from or participate in workplace learning.
  • Reducing literacy and numeracy demands is not an adequate long-term response.

3.3 There are benefits for employers and employees when employees increase their literacy and numeracy skills.

  • Increased literacy and numeracy skills may have direct bottom-line benefits.
  • There are often other less tangible benefits for companies.
  • Workplaces that support workplace literacy and numeracy learning share some common characteristics.

3.4 Employers need support to make and act upon the connections between literacy and numeracy, job performance and productivity.

  • Employers are often unaware of literacy and numeracy issues in their organisations.
  • Employers usually need support to analyse the literacy and numeracy demands of roles within an industry or business.
  • Employers usually need support to select appropriate literacy and numeracy interventions, which can often be incorporated into vocational training.

4. Managing and sustaining change to achieve effective long-term embedding of literacy and numeracy

4.1 Organisations are more likely to develop and maintain effective approaches to embedding literacy and numeracy when the value of literacy and numeracy is understood and literacy and numeracy are viewed as integral parts of vocational training.

  • Approaches are more likely to be sustained where managers understand that embedded literacy and numeracy are effective in increasing participation and raising achievement.
  • Literacy and numeracy teaching is more likely to be effective where it is regarded as an integral part of vocational training.
  • Tutors and employers play a key role in communicating the value of literacy and numeracy skills to learners.

4.2 Teaching materials are important tools that can substantially influence the content and enactment of instruction.

  • Teaching materials are tools used by tutors as they design instructional programmes. The ways in which tutors use teaching materials are dependent upon their own understandings, the understandings and characteristics of the learners they teach, and the contexts of instruction.
  • Because teaching materials directly influence the process of teaching they have been widely used as a tool in instructional reform.
  • Teaching materials need to be developed in ways that clearly anticipate the role of the tutor in implementation, and include important information that enables tutors to make decisions about how and when to use the material presented.

4.3 Professional development programmes can be effective in improving tutor practice and learner performance.

  • Effective professional development programmes focus directly on the link between learning and tutor practice.
  • Effective professional development programmes support tutors to identify and examine their current understandings and approaches as they develop their professional knowledge base.
  • Ongoing professional development programmes support tutors to take responsibility for student learning and this provides a sound basis for continuous improvements to knowledge and practice.

4.4 Assessment data provides valuable information that can be used systematically to improve programmes.

  • Continuous programme improvement requires organisations to clearly specify learning goals, systematically monitor the progress of all learners towards these goals and then revise teaching programmes on the basis of this information.
  • Individual and aggregate measures of achievement enable organisations to focus on improving the performance of both individual learners and the organisation as a whole.
  • Professional learning communities can successfully effect and sustain change by highlighting learner performance.

5. The role of assessment in strengthening the literacy and numeracy of adults

5.1 Assessment of adults’ literacy and numeracy is done for different purposes and in a variety of ways. The primary purpose of assessment should be to gather information about adults’ literacy- and numeracy-related knowledge and skills in order to support teaching and learning.

  • Assessment is a process for gathering information on which to base decisions about teaching and learning: it seeks to find out about the learner’s current literacy- and numeracy-related knowledge and skills.
  • The adult learner is at the centre of assessment. Learners are centrally involved in the decision-making about all aspects of their learning, including assessment.
  • Assessment tasks, tools and procedures are selected for particular purposes. However, a particular task, tool or procedure can be used for different purposes.
  • Outcomes for learners are improved when assessment is used to provide feedback.
  • Assessment supports and promotes lifelong learning by helping adult learners to become more self-regulating and independent.

5.2 Information from assessment is used for decision-making, accountability and reporting by educators, and at an organisational level.

  • Educators use information from assessment to make decisions about next steps for learning, and to monitor and report on learners’ progress.
  • Organisations use information from assessment to make decisions about programmes and resources, as well as to report on learners’ progress and achievement.
  • Assessment for qualifications purposes highlights the issue of accountability to a wider group of stakeholders.

5.3 Assessment recognises that adult learners have an extensive knowledge base and a wide range of experiences on which to base new learning.

  • Effective assessment practice identifies learners’ existing knowledge and skills as the basis for new learning. Instruction can build on prior knowledge.
  • Assessment based on a framework for learning that is relevant to adult literacy and numeracy diagnoses and measures information that is meaningful and purposeful.
  • No single assessment task or procedure will be able to provide all the information needed for instruction.

5.4 Assessment uses contexts that are familiar and meaningful. Such contexts give learners opportunities to demonstrate their literacy and numeracy knowledge and skills.

  • Assessment uses approaches and tasks that reflect the knowledge, skills and strategies that adults need and use in their daily lives in contexts that are familiar to them.
  • Assessment and instruction support learners’ ability to generalise from what they know and can do in a specific context, and apply their knowledge and skills in different contexts.


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