June 2020

In this issue

1. From The President

2. The Foundation Skills for Your Future Program

3. Profiling literacy and numeracy specialists

  • Rose Colosi, Career Pathways Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills (CPALES), TAFENSW

4. Proposed ACAL survey

5. Have you read this?

  • Practice makes perfect: Practice engagement theory and the development of adult literacy and numeracy proficiency (2020)

6. Webinar review: Crisis and Denial

1. From The President

Jo MedlinThis month’s highlight for me was working with the ACAL committee and Adult Learning Australia (ALA) to express our concerns in a letter to the Prime Minister. Our aim was to advocate for improved Adult Literacy – Critical for the Regeneration of Australia. The Prime Minister has not deigned to reply at this point, but we have details of the response from Senator Cash. This followed a meeting with the Apprenticeships and Workforce Skills Division from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. At that meeting we talked about the essential role adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy development will play in revitalising the economy and supporting job creation and consolidation. Our message was that adult literacy, numeracy and digital skills (LND) do underpin job seeking, job retention, and ultimately national economic growth.

The response from Senator Cash is simultaneously hopeful and woeful. Hopeful because she notes that she looks forward to further input. Woeful because the yet untested Foundation Skills for Your Future Program is being offered up as the ultimate solution to all current national adult literacy, numeracy and digital (LND) needs. See the article in this newsletter for further thoughts about that program.

We will continue to advocate for adult literacy learners and their needs, both in the VET space and beyond. Over recent decades the government rhetoric around adult literacy and numeracy has positioned it in the skills for training and work sector – which is why Senator Cash has been the government respondent. We know that adult LND is more complicated than that. The past months have made it clear that these issues are relevant to more than the Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business portfolio. Investing in adult LND will have both short- and long-term benefits for the health sector and the financial sector. In fact, impacts could be felt across all portfolios. 2020 has shown the wider community that their level of personal literacy, numeracy and digital literacy not only impacts their work, but is directly relevant to isolation, mental health, family well-being, health and happiness.

Read the letters here:

Letter to the PM

Response from Senator Cash

Jo Medlin
ACAL President

2. The Foundation Skills for Your Future Program

Foundation-skills-logoSenator Cash notes in her letter (above) that the government responded to the Joyce Review by introducing this program, described on the website as follows:

The Australian Government is providing $62.4 million over four years, to 30 June 2023, to support eligible Australians develop their Language, Literacy, Numeracy and Digitalliteracy (LLND) skills to support them to undertake further education and training, remain in employment or change jobs.

ACAL welcomes the introduction of this program and congratulates the successful service providers. The removal of the WELL program has long been lamented by the field and we have been calling on the government to fill the gap. If you are unfamiliar with the WELL program, or would like a trip down memory lane, UNESCO has a summary worth reading.

At the development stage of The Foundation Skills for Your Future Program, ACAL provided suggestions and comments. Read some of our initial input here.

The program is now commencing and we look forward to having these outstanding questions answered:

  • Is the panel sufficient to meet demand? (There are 13 providers to cover the whole of Australia)
  • Will there be sufficient experienced foundation skills teachers to service the program?
  • Where is the definition of expertise and experience of personnel who would perform the services (including any subcontractors) and is there a plan for rolling out professional development to the workforce?
  • Will economies of scale impact viability, particularly in regional areas?
  • Will the program be expanded to meet needs as required?

3. Profiling literacy and numeracy specialists

In this section we profile LN specialists to demonstrate the range of qualifications and experience that lead to expertise in the field. We encourage all readers to refer to the National Framework as a reminder that the TAELLN411 unit is an awareness unit and is at the start of a journey in LN teaching. For those wishing to extend from awareness to developing teaching skills we encourage shadowing, mentoring and training –  several RTOs  are currently delivering the TAE80113 Graduate Diploma in LLN Practice and information can be found at training.gov.au

Rose ColosiRose Colosi

Career Pathways Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills (CPALES), TAFENSW

What was your memorable LLN moment!

Teaching basic computer skills to Ben L. a Kimberley region WA Indigenous 55 year old man – owner of a new laptop. For a period of three months, he drove weekly, 75km along a remote dirt bush track. He left his vehicle on the river bank, crossed the mighty Fitzroy River WA in a questionable dinghy to come to a three day weekly computer class (he stayed with family in our community for three nights). He mastered MS Word/email and typing. His computer skills were crucial for him to gain employment as the cattle station manager of his community. He still emails me, but now also messages me through LinkedIn!

More about Rose

4. Proposed ACAL survey

ACAL intends to invite e-News recipients to participate in a survey about their experience of online teaching and learning during the COVID-19 virus isolation period. The responses would then form the basis of a Conversation Starter.

We are particularly interested in the challenges experienced by both teachers and students, how they were met (or not), the overall responses to the online delivery, the digital resources that were especially useful, and what assistance might be helpful for  continuing and future online provision.

So, look out for the survey in a week or so.

5. Have you read this?

Practice makes perfect: Practice engagement theory and the development of adult literacy and numeracy proficiency (2020)

by Stephen Reder, Britta Gauly & Clemens Lechner

Tight rope balancePractice engagement theory (PET) posits that individuals’ literacy proficiencies develop as a by-product of their engagement in everyday reading and writing practices and, reciprocally, that literacy proficiencies affect levels of engagement in reading and writing practices. This suggests that literacy training which increases engagement in meaningful practices might generate proficiency growth. Research has shown that this approach does indeed seem to be effective in improving (adult) learners’ literacy proficiency.

A number of cross-sectional comparisons of participants’ and non-participants’ performance in various training activities, as well as quantitative modelling of adults’ proficiency growth in longitudinal studies have confirmed the theoretical assumptions of PET. The authors of this article describe the first application of PET to literacy and numeracy development in a longitudinal study of a nationally representative adult population. Their investigation followed a sample of adults initially interviewed and assessed in the German component of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), adding longitudinal data from three additional waves of the national extension study (PIAAC-L), which included repeated assessments of literacy and numeracy proficiency over a period of three years.

The authors’ quantitative modelling of the growth of literacy and numeracy profciency over time provides strong support for PET. Their comparisons of how various practice engagement indexes predict growth of literacy and numeracy proficiencies indicate that reading engagement is the strongest predictor of literacy growth and maths engagement is the strongest predictor of numeracy growth. The authors conclude their article by considering their findings’ implications for sustainable development, lifelong learning policy and future research into the development of adult literacy and numeracy proficiency.

Access the article

6. Webinar review: Crisis and Denial

YouTube link

Crisis, Denial and Misinformation

What do climate deniers, anti-vaccination activists and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists have in common? Why are they so resistant to ‘facts’? In this webinar research psychologist and former politician Dr Carmen Lawrence, social scientist Professor Julie Leask and cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky explore why myths and misinformation are so compelling, who benefits from spreading misinformation, and how we can change people’s minds. It’s facilitated by Misha Ketchell, Editor of The Conversation. Here, Liz Gunn reviews the webinar and reflects on its significance for the field of Adult Literacy and Numeracy.

Crisis and Denial is relevant to the topics of science and information literacy. Although it’s quite long I really recommend watching, particularly around the -21:20 mark (~21 mins before the end) when Misha Ketchell asks all the panellists about their thoughts on Media Literacy skills. The panellists identify an urgent need for media and science literacy education and for critical and analytic skills to help people filter the enormous amount of misinformation that floods the airwaves these days. The panellists particularly focus on this issue in the context of concerns around the spread of misinformation about vaccination and other global problems like climate change and global pollution. Stephan Lewandowsky talks about a really simple way to teach people how to assess the trustworthiness of websites which involves opening up a broad range of websites and comparing the sites’ reliability rather than trying to assess a particular website in isolation.

Information ‘illiteracy’ is a huge problem for governments and society. The webinar’s panel discussion provides valuable support for arguments in favour of access to quality lifelong and life wide learning in which science and media literacy and critical thinking skills are promoted. Also, there’s interesting discussion in the last section about cognitive science and different orders of cognition – system 1 and 2 thinking and the importance for people to discern the two and adopt the appropriate system for good decision-making practices.

We hope you enjoy the webinar which can be accessed via this link.

Liz Gunn
Academic literacies educator


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