Here are the detailed descriptions for the four key understandings in this area:
Key understanding 2.1
Approaches to embedding literacy and numeracy are more likely to be successful where the links between literacy, numeracy and vocational learning are identified clearly and explicitly. In particular, vocational, literacy and numeracy tutors need to understand the ways in which literacy and numeracy are used in vocational tasks and the literacy and numeracy demands of the learning environment.
Research into effective embedded literacy and numeracy approaches emphasises the importance of the relative timing of literacy, numeracy and vocational instruction. To be effective, literacy and numeracy support needs to be delivered as it is required for the instructional or vocational task at hand. This ensures that the literacy and/or numeracy delivered is “wholly and immediately relevant” (Bates, 2005, p. 26) to learners and helps them to achieve success in the vocational area. Ideally, this support is provided as learners are engaged in a practical task, rather than in a separate classroom and a different time. However, separate provision can be effective if it is closely linked to the vocational learning and taught by tutors who clearly understand and articulate these links.
Once the connections between literacy, numeracy and vocational learning have been established, it is important for all aspects of the teaching and learning programmes to reflect these links. In particular, learning materials will be more relevant for learners where these links are clear, and differentiating these materials for learners’ varying literacy and numeracy needs will increase their accessibility.
Implications for practice
Vocational programmes will more effectively integrate literacy and numeracy learning where:
- there are clear and explicit links between vocational, literacy and numeracy content
- vocational, literacy and numeracy tutors understand the ways in which literacy and numeracy are used in specific vocational tasks and activities
- vocational, literacy and numeracy tutors understand the literacy and numeracy requirements of the learning environment
- literacy and numeracy instruction is delivered as it is required for vocational learning
- the connections between literacy, numeracy and vocational learning are clearly evident in teaching materials
- teaching and learning materials are differentiated for learners’ varying literacy and numeracy needs.
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Key understanding 2.2
Successful teacher teams are strongly motivated to provide embedded provision; they have time to plan and work together, and are willing to learn from each other (National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Development, 2006).
The implementation of a team approach by vocational, literacy, numeracy and learning support tutors is strongly linked to the effectiveness of embedded literacy and numeracy approaches. However, the ways in which tutors operate as a team vary according to their knowledge, skills and the constraints of the vocational course in which they work. Effective approaches in adult education may involve tutors working collaboratively by planning together, by sharing teaching time and space, team teaching or observing each other at work with learners. Because the relationship between vocational, literacy and numeracy learning is dynamic, tutors need to be able to work together flexibly and recognise the changing priorities at any one time during the vocational training. Regardless of the approach taken, common to all successful teams is the need for vocational, literacy, numeracy and learning support tutors to have sufficient time allocated to work together.
Team approaches are supported where literacy, numeracy and vocational tutors have opportunities to learn from each other. Studies investigating embedded approaches emphasise the “importance of teamwork, underpinned by a level of understanding, on the part of both LLN (literacy, language and numeracy) and vocational teachers, of one another’s work” (Casey, et al., 2006, p. 31). In particular, literacy and numeracy tutors need to understand how literacy and numeracy are used both in the classroom and in the workplace that learners are training for. Conversely, vocational tutors require an understanding of the importance of literacy and numeracy, and an ability to adapt vocational content and teaching approaches to reflect the key literacy and numeracy demands involved in each.
Effective teaching teams in adult education are learner focused and share responsibility for learner progress. In practice, this means tutors share vocational objectives for learners and regularly discuss learner progress using shared achievement information.
Implications for practice
Vocational programmes are more likely to effectively embed literacy and numeracy learning where tutors work as a team. Effective team approaches are those in which:
- vocational, literacy, numeracy and learning support tutors have time allocated to work together
- the model of delivery incorporates teamwork in a way that is appropriate for the tutors, students and vocational objectives of the course that they deliver
- joint planning, team teaching and opportunities for tutors to observe each other teaching are used flexibly within teaching and learning programmes
- vocational, literacy and numeracy tutors have opportunities to learn from each other and gain an understanding of each other’s areas, and
- tutors discuss learner progress using shared achievement information.
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Key understanding 2.3
A learning continuum, or progression, clearly describes the growth of knowledge and skills that occurs as learners develop their expertise in a particular area. Effective progressions focus on more than the acquisition of facts or isolated skills; they describe important aspects of learning that distinguish novice from expert. This includes a range of developing skills and abilities, the fluency and independence with which new skills can be applied and the range of situations they can be applied to. Where there are clearly described Learning Progressions that are consistent with the goals of the programme, these can be used to help ensure students’ developing knowledge is relevant to the vocation they are training for and useful in achieving their purposes.
Learning Progressions provide valuable direction for teaching programmes. Effective diagnostic assessment establishes where a learner is initially placed on the progression by identifying their current skills and understandings. Teaching can then be directed towards developing the knowledge required to move the learner along the progression. As teaching continues, formative assessment provides information about a learner’s progress towards learning goals.
Successful embedded literacy and numeracy provision makes use of diagnostic and formative assessment procedures to provide both formal and informal feedback to learners about their progress. Where learners have a clear picture of their current skills and next learning steps in relation to their learning goals, they are more likely to feel motivated and confident about their learning.
Researchers in adult literacy and numeracy education consider there to be a lack of effective assessment instruments available. They describe the need for the development of meaningful forms of assessment that focus on developing real skills rather than requiring respondents to answer formal types of test questions.
Implications for practice
Effective assessment procedures:
- make use of Learning Progressions that clearly describe how learners’ knowledge and skills will grow as they develop their expertise
- use diagnostic assessment information to establish where a learner is initially placed on the learning progression by identifying their current skills and understandings
- use formative assessment to monitor learners’ progress towards learning goals, and
- provide formal and informal information to learners about their progress.
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Key understanding 2.4
Embedded literacy and numeracy provision is more likely to be successful in organisations that adopt a whole-organisation approach to the development and support of embedded programmes. In particular, researchers agree on the importance of managerial support in the development of successful programmes.
Support for embedding from senior and middle managers through institution-wide policies makes it easier to direct resources in ways that will support embedded LLN (Casey, et al., 2006, p. 32).
The importance of aligning organisational policies, management structures, resourcing and working conditions with effective embedded provision is well recognised in the research literature. Research focused on the development of effective practices to support embedded provision provides examples of the practical ways organisations can support embedded literacy and numeracy learning. In particular, the importance has been identified of appropriate course documentation, organisational polices such as professional development and staff promotion policies, job descriptions and performance management systems. Additional practical constraints such as timetables, teaching spaces and teaching and learning resources have also been identified as factors that support the provision of embedded literacy and numeracy programmes.
Implications for practice
Organisations can support the effective provision of embedded literacy and numeracy programmes by ensuring:
- entry requirements for vocational courses clearly specify required literacy and numeracy
- course objectives and goals incorporate literacy, numeracy and vocational goals
- the professional development policy supports literacy and numeracy tutors to increase their understanding of the vocation, and vocational tutors to increase their understanding of literacy and numeracy
- the staff promotion policy incorporates aspects of literacy and numeracy learning
- job descriptions clearly define the different roles of teaching staff in delivering embedded programmes
- performance management systems reflect the importance of literacy and numeracy within vocational programmes
- timetabling allows for aspects of teamwork and sufficient contact time, and
- teaching facilities and equipment are distributed to support literacy, numeracy and vocational learning.