Have you read it?

A review of documents relating to adult literacy

The date for each refers to when it appeared in the ACAL newsletter.

June 2023

‘Patient public involvement (PPI) in health literacy research:  Engagement of adults with literacy needs  in the co-creation of a hospital-based health literacy plan’ by Verna B. McKenna, Jane Sixsmith and NIki Byrne. Published in Health Expectations, 26(3), 1213-1220.
This paper reports on a process of patient and public involvement (PPI) with participants in an adult program acting as PPI contributors to identify priority areas for a local hospital health literacy action plan and to develop a protocol  for a PPI process with other groups. A qualitative community-based participatory research study design informed by principles of PPI was undertaken, drawing on the tools of participatory and visual methods, open discussion and workshop format m xto facilitate a process of co-creation. Three workshops with six PPI contributors took place to identify issues to be included in the hospital action plan. PPI contributors identified issues and grouped these into priority procedures.
The whole article can be accessed from: https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.13736

June 2023

Listen: Literacy Quebec Podcast: What’s literacy got to do with it? Episode 55: Celebrating Adult Learners with Lost for Words (23 April 2022) hosted by Chris Shee and Jaimie Cudmore What’s Literacy Got to do With It? Podcast – Literacy Quebec

Read: Reflection by Jo Medlin originally published in Fine Print, the journal of the Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council. 

In 2022, the Canadian literacy organisation Literacy Quebec ran three podcasts about the 2021 SBS television production Lost for Words (Cuell, 2021) as part of their series called What’s Literacy got to do with it? (Now known as What’s Literacy?) The first podcast (Episode 50) featured host Jay Laga’aia, the second was with teachers Adam Nobilia and Jo Medlin (Episode 51), and the third saw the return of Jo and Adam, along with two of the students, Makere and Mike (Episode 55). In this article Jo reflects on the third podcast titled “Celebrating Adult Learners with Lost for Words”.
Read the article here

May 2023

JSA Foundation Skills Study Discussion Paper –  April 2023 published by Jobs and Skills Australia, Australian Government

The purpose of this discussion paper is to support JSA in developing and delivering the survey and feasibility study. Getting the design right is critical to ensuring the study delivers on the promise of building an evidence base for foundation skills in Australia.  
While the responses to this paper closed on 23 April, it remains an important document for the future of the adult literacy field.

Available here 

April 2023

Teaching about climate change: Possibilities and challenges in Australian adult literacy programs (2022) by Keiko Yasukawa. Published in Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 66(4), 218-228.


Australia’s natural environment poses challenges for human inhabitants and will continue to pose novel challenges in an era of climate change. However, the resources that people can access to respond to climate change are diverse and unequally distributed. While this suggests a role for education, especially for those who are most socially and economically vulnerable, integrating climate change literacy into educational programs is not straightforward in all sectors. Studies have shown that increased standardization of curricula constrain teacher autonomy and pose dilemmas for teachers faced with tensions between curricular requirements and their professional judgment about appropriate pedagogy and curricula. This article considers the possibility of educational intervention for socially and economically disadvantaged adults with limited English language and literacy skills by investigating how a group of teachers in accredited literacy courses viewed their role in addressing climate change and environmental literacy in their literacy classes.
You can access the complete article at: https://ila.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jaal.1267 

A 2020 Perspective on Research Findings on Alphabetics (Phoneme Awareness and Phonics): Implications for Instruction (Expanded Version) by Suan Brady, Emeritus Professor, University of Rhode Island. Posted on The Reading League website: https://www.thereadingleague.org/journal 

You can access the complete article at: Microsoft Word – Brady Expanded Version of Alphabetics TRLJ.docx (thereadingleague.org) or view her presentation on her research findings at Reading Simplified Phoneme Awareness Research Updated by Dr. Susan Brady – Bing video 

March 2023

Community-based adult learning: A Scottish case study in the time of COVID-19 by Lyn Tett. Published in Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language and Numeracy, 5(1), 2023. 

Community-based adult learning (CBAL) focuses on improving the quality of life for the most disadvantaged and has a different ideology, methods and curriculum from mainstream education. This Scottish case study investigated  the main changes that had impacted CBAL provision in the preceding three years. These were a reduction in funding for CBAL and its undervaluing by other professions, the impact of COVID-19 on learning and teaching and the importance of CBAL in promoting wellbeing.

You can read the complete article at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/367766312_Community-Based_Adult_Learning_a_Scottish_Case_Study_in_the_Time_of_COVID-19

January/February 2023

A Journey through the digital world: Fostering digital problem-solving among adult learners by Tyler H.J. Frank and published in Adult Literacy Education, 4(3), 41-74.


To meet the demands of the 21st century, adult learners must display a range of sophisticated strategies for dealing with the digital world. With the switch to online instruction over the last months this need is only greater. In this article, I describe specific activities I implement with adult learners in a math and science class to help them develop these essential abilities while also enhancing their learning toward the content outcomes.

Available at: https://www.proliteracy.org/Portals/0/pdf/Research/ALE%20Journal/Fall%202022-%20Vol%204%20Issue%203/2022-08_ALE%20Research%20Journal_Vol%204-No%203-1671.pdf?ver=2022-09-26-154801-347

November 2022

“It’s Better That She Sees Me:” Digital Visual Literacy Narratives of Women Immigrants in Chile and Implications for Adult Literacy by Sondra Cuban and Jo Ann Arinder. Published in Adult Literacy Education, Winter 2022, pp. 6-19.

Narratives drawn from a Fulbright study of immigrant women in Chile communicating with their families at-a-distance through information and communication technologies show that they utilized digital visual literacy practices. Digital visual literacy is a combination of digital literacy and visual literacy and even goes beyond these conceptualizations. By manipulating their levels of visibility through platforms on smartphone devices, immigrant women strove to create a sense of co-presence with their families abroad. This paper demonstrates the complexity and relevance of combining visuality with multi-literacies, voice, and gendered narratives of digital communication for immigrants inside and outside of adult literacy classrooms.
Available at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1344723.pdf

October 2022

Reconfiguring Knowledge Ecosystems: Librarians and Adult Literacy Educators in Knowledge Exchange Work (2022) by Heather L. O’Brien, Heather De Forest, Aleha McCauley, Luanne S. Sinnamon, and Suzanne Smythe. Published in Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 26(2), 29-46.
Knowledge exchange, also called knowledge translation, mobilization, or transfer, increasingly factors in university strategic plans and funding agency mandates.  The growing emphasis on research that includes community engagement and making research knowledge more accessible and useful  for nonacademic constituents often brings in knowledge brokers, whose activities promote sharing of research knowledge among different actors.  In this article, we consider how librarians and adult literacy educators engage in this work as professionals uniquely positioned to advance knowledge exchange initiatives.  Three initiatives in British Columbia, Canada, involve academic librarians and adult literacy educators engaging in knowledge exchange work in transformative ways.  We describe how they are reconfiguring knowledge making, sharing, and use with constituents and bridging nonacademic and university communities. This approach disrupts traditional notions of who produces and consumes knowledge and who is an expert while acknowledging how place-based approaches are essential for advancing knowledge exchange initiatives.

Available at: https://openjournals.libs.uga.edu/jheoe/article/view/2471/2745

September 2022

Editorial by Stephen Brookfield, Robin Neustaeter and J. Adam Perry published in the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult  Education, 34(1), xi-xx.

In this interview with the editors-in-chief of the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult  Education,  Professor  Stephen  Brookfield  reflects  on  what  it  means  to  be  an  anti-racist adult educator.

Available at here 

August 2022

Effectiveness of Literacy Teaching Design Integrating Local Culture Discourse and Activities to Enhance Reading Skills by Daris Hadianto, Vismaia S. Damaianti, Yeti Mulyati & Andoyo Sastromihario with Yaser Khajavi as reviewing editor. (2022). Cogent education 9(1).

While research exists on literacy focused on children in formal school, there is little evidence of how adult literacy is depicted in social practice from the perspective of what adults do in daily life. This study investigates the effectiveness of literacy teaching design integrating local culture discourse and practice to enhance the reading skills of adults in Indonesia. One hundred participants from underdeveloped areas aged 25–50 contributed to the learning process for twelve lesson units. We elicited data by using two instruments, namely multiple-choice questions and interviews. The statistical analysis showed that instructional design profoundly affected the improvement of reading skills. The thematic analysis showed how participants evaluated the literacy teaching design as enriching knowledge, sharing understanding among participants and motivating them to improve their life skills. This study will be useful to teachers who are seeking cognitive and practical instructions to promote reading skills in the classroom.

This article can be downloaded here

July 2022

‘“What’s Going on Here?” Reflections on Brian Street’s Contribution to Literacy Education’
(2022) by Anna Robinson-Pant published in Teaching Anthropology, 11(1), pp. 11-21

As a teacher and researcher of literacy, Brian Street introduced ethnographic inquiry to two quite different communities: adult literacy practitioners in India, Ethiopia and Uganda, and university students in the UK and USA. Through re-visiting his teaching materials and approaches, the article explores how he mediated key concepts within anthropology – such as ‘context’ and an ‘ethnographic frame of mind’ through practical activities with university students and adult educators. Within higher education, Street’s research on academic literacies both emerged from and built on engagement with students and colleagues around the notion of literacy as a social practice shaped by institutional hierarchies and cultures. In development projects, Street extended his early (1984) research in Iran on multiple literacies, including what he termed UNESCO “essay-text literacy”, into a hands-on programme for literacy trainers to investigate everyday literacies often overlooked by formal adult literacy initiatives. Street’s active engagement in literacy teaching and learning resulted in methodological innovation, particularly the development of ‘ethnographic style’ methods. Arguing that applied anthropology was often seen as having a one-directional relationship with education, Street demonstrated that education could also make an intellectual contribution to anthropology in terms of deepening understanding of literacy, language and learning within the discipline.

To read the whole article, go to:

June 2022

An intelligent tutoring system for improving adult literacy skills in digital environments  by John Hollander , John Sabatini and Art Graesser


Twenty-first century literacy includes a mixture of digital and print literacy skills and strategies. AutoTutor for Adult Reading Comprehension is a web-based intelligent tutoring system that is designed to help adult learners develop effective reading comprehension strategies. Lessons span basic reading skills (vocabulary, word parts), comprehension of sentences and texts in different text genres and rhetorical structures, including digital documents and media. The AutoTutor system features an accessible interface, conversational trialogues with helpful and engaging computer agents, and material and scenarios that were developed specifically for adult learners. Studies suggest that this system significantly improves learning outcomes when used in conjunction with classroom instruction. Materials described in this article are free and readily available to adult educators and their students.

To read the complete article, go to EasyChair-Preprint-7412.pdf

May 2022

Shame: An avoidable barrier to adult literacy learning by Holly Armstrong


This article outlines how shame can be a debilitating impediment to learning for anyone, and especially when it comes to literacy learning for adults. The author focuses first on shame in general, describing the basics of shame, how it can affect the body and brain, and its implications for learning. Next follows a discussion of how some of the cognitive processes needed for reading may not be easily accessible while learners experience shame. The article concludes with research-based, practical suggestions to help adult literacy learners identify and navigate their shame, and thus better manage their own learning.

Available on request from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research at https://www.voced.edu.au

April 2022

The Power of the Positive: Enhancing Online Student Engagement for Adult Literacy Learners (2022) by Ellen N. Beattie. Published in Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, 14(1). 

The evolving neurobiological and psychological understanding of emotions, specifically positive emotions, provides fascinating insights into how learners’ emotions can be evoked, and online learning environments can be crafted to maximize student engagement. Engaged online learners are more active, self-directed, and responsible; they persist and find academic success at higher rates. This article aims to maximize learner outcomes by combining the research and frameworks of online student engagement with the neuroscience and psychology of positive emotions. This research suggests that positive psychology interventions, which have been consistently correlated to positive organizational outcomes when similarly used in business initiatives, also apply to the online adult literacy classroom. The infusion of practical positive psychology principles and the purposeful use of positive emotions in the online setting are presented from three distinct perspectives: creating a positive culture, facilitation, and academic content.

To read the complete article, go to: https://www.proliteracy.org/Portals/0/pdf/Research/ALE%20Journal/ALE_ResearchJournal-v004_01-2022-20_Beattie.pdf

March 2022

Boughton, B., Williamson, F., Lin, S., Taylor, R., Beetson, J., Bartlett, B., . . . Morrell, S. (2022). Measuring adult English literacy improvements in First Nations communities in Australia. International Journal of Training Research, 1-16. doi:10.1080/14480220.2022.2032268

The prevalence of low to very low adult English literacy levels in First Nations communities in Australia continues to be an issue, despite ten years of government-supported Foundation Skills training provided through the national vocational education and training system. This study examines an innovative First Nations community-controlled approach to improving adult literacy training, utilising an internationally recognised mass campaign model. Literacy improvements were assessed for 63 participants in 6 communities, using validated pre- and post-tests aligned to the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF). Overall, 73% of participants improved their literacy, defined as moving up at least one level on one or more of six ACSF indicators. The number of lessons completed and entry ACSF literacy levels were significantly associated with literacy progression, with previous school education positively associated but not statistically significant. The minimum number of lessons associated with literacy improvement is estimated as 47–49 (80–83% of lessons).

Read the whole paper here: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/76N8INMJXFJUQBPCG5PN/full?target=10.1080/14480220.2022.2032268 

March 2022

Effectiveness of Literacy Teaching Design Integrating Local Culture Discourse and Activities to Enhance Reading Skills by by Daris Hadianto, Vismaia S. Damaianti , Yeti Mulyati and Andoyo Sastromiharjo.

While research exists on literacy focused on children in formal school, there is little evidence of how adult literacy is depicted in social practice from the perspective of what adults do in daily life. This study investigates the effectiveness of literacy teaching design integrating local culture discourse and practice to enhance the reading skills of adults in Indonesia. One hundred participants from underdeveloped areas aged 25–50 contributed to the learning process for twelve lesson units. We elicited data by using two instruments, namely multiple-choice questions and interviews. The statistical analysis showed that instructional design profoundly affected the improvement of reading skills. The thematic analysis showed how participants evaluated the literacy teaching design as enriching knowledge, sharing understanding among participants and motivating them to improve their life skills. This study will be useful to teachers who are seeking cognitive and practical instructions to promote reading skills in the classroom.

To read the whole article, go to: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/2331186X.2021.2016040

February 2022

You actually can teach an old dog new tricks, which is why many of us keep learning after retirement

Darryl Dymock, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in Education, Griffith University has published a piece in The Conversation: You actually can teach an old dog new tricks, which is why many of us keep learning after retirement. It is a short but informative read on lifelong learning, with links to further information. 

Link: You actually can teach an old dog new tricks, which is why many of us keep learning after retirement (theconversation.com)

December 2021

Shifting the Gaze: From the Numerate Individual to Their Numerate Environment by Jeff Evans, Keiko Yasukawa, David Mallows, and Jana Kubascikova

Drawing on the concept of the ‘literate environment’; the authors conceptualise the numerate environment to explore the development of adults’ numeracy. Numerate environments provide opportunities, supports, and demands for numeracy practices. Case studies of domestic energy bills in the UK and of the currency conversion process to the Euro in the Slovak Republic from 2009 illustrate opportunities, supports, and demands on adults. We use the idea of affordances to understand inter-relations among these three key aspects. We show the importance of considering affordances at different levels of the environment, which we call here individual, mid-level, and societal or national levels. Implications for numeracy policy and learning are explored.

Read the complete article here.

November 2021

A Portrait of the Adult Learner: Pluralistic Interpretations of Literacy Learning Outcomes over the Years (2021) by Maurice Taylor & David Trumpower

In Canada, various studies investigating literacy learning have contributed to our understanding of the lives of the adult student. Through a consolidation of empirical evidence, a portrait of the adult learner is sketched, drawing upon pluralistic interpretations of the important life changes that have resulted from their participation in literacy education. This portrait highlights the significance of a variety of learning outcomes that go beyond traditional measures of knowledge and skills acquisition, with an emphasis on the relevance of such outcomes for different types of literacy learners, in various settings, and along three diverse learning pathways. International implications are highlighted in the discussion.

To read the whole article, go to: https://www.proliteracy.org/Portals/0/pdf/Research/ALE%20Journal/ALE_ResearchJournal-v003_01-2021-04_Taylor.pdf

October 2021

Literacy and numeracy support in vocational education

Literacy and numeracy support in vocational education: Perceptions from engineering apprentices in Victoria  (2021) by Stuart Levy, Michelle Briede and Liam Frost-Camilleri, Federation University, Australia
Thanks Liam for this summary:
Surveying 56 and interviewing nine engineering apprentices at an TAFE institution, this article explores how the participants acquired and perceived their literacy and numeracy skills and supports. The study found that many students struggle to articulate their learning as well as agitation with the self paced nature of the thier classroom. Literacy and Numeracy Support teachers were seen as helpful to ‘other’ students while a mismatch between the demands of the classroom and the workplace was reported. A focus on how students learn is a recommendation of this study.
To read the article, go to: IIER 31(3): Levy, Briede and Frost-Camilleri (2021) – Literacy and numeracy support in vocational education: Perceptions from engineering apprentices in Victoria

Linking Root Words and Derived Forms for Adult Struggling Readers: A Pilot Study (2019) by Susan H Gray. 


The goal of this pilot study was to investigate the effects of morphological instruction on component literacy skills of adult struggling readers. Sixteen adults, most with decoding and encoding deficits, were randomly assigned to tutoring in either morpheme or syllable analysis to learn academic vocabulary and increase component literacy skills. Those taught semantic connections between Latin and Greek root words and their derived forms outperformed those taught syllable types on a standardized test of word recognition, though both groups demonstrated large gains for learning target words. Results support connectionist theories that promote teaching morphological links in literacy instruction.

September 2021

Probing the Interface Between Learning Theory and Practice in Adult Basic Education

George Demetrion and 1199
New England Training and Upgrading Fund

This essay tracks and expands upon critical exchanges with graduate students in a course for adult educators, highlighting conflicting perspectives among participants on the relative value of theory in enhancing practice. An underlying focus of the course consisted of comparing constructivist and cognitive perspectives on learning theory and their relationship to corresponding models of instructional design. To gain further insight on the theory/practice dynamic, the essay also highlights Dewey’s functional theory of learning underlying his pragmatic philosophy of inquiry.
Participants implicitly embraced practitioner research frames of reference, drawing out the insider perspective—a topic explicitly discussed below—as an essential counterpoint to an outsider stance, that typically orients academic research. The essay calls for critical intermingling of research traditions to facilitate collaborative approaches to problem solving in adult basic education.

August 2021

Adult Literacy and its importance

In its recent inquiry into Adult Literacy and its importance, the Australian Government received one hundred submissions from a range of individuals and organisations across Australia. They provide a range of viewpoints from people with particular interests in the field. The ACAL submission is listed at number 66, with the full complement available on the Inquiry website here.
Bringing together both the inquiry above and the promotion of plain English
article is a piece that was published this week in The Conversation.

July 2021

Understanding and Responding to Health Literacy as a Social Determinant of Health

Don Nutbeam and Jane E. Lloyd

Evidence of a social gradient in health literacy has been found in all reported national population surveys. Health literacy is a midstream determinant of health but not a panacea for addressing health inequities created by the maldistribution of opportunity and resources. It is possible to optimize the contribution health literacy makes in mediating the causes and effects of established social determinants of health. Existing interventions demonstrate the feasibility of improving health literacy among higher-risk populations, but research remains underdeveloped and effects on health inequity are largely untested. Future health literacy intervention research should focus on (a) improving the quality of health communication that reaches a diversity of populations, especially by improving frontline professional skills and support; (b) enabling people to develop transferable skills in accessing, understanding, analyzing, and applying health information; and (c) ensuring that priority is proportionate to need by reaching and engaging the population groups who are disproportionately affected by low health literacy.

May 2021

Sociology 2259: Asocial Behaviour and Technology – What does this mean for Adult Literacy Programs? (2020)

by Niki Jafari and Paige Noble

Although existing literature consists of a diverse set of opinions, most research acknowledges that although the population is not necessarily becoming more asocial, they are interacting in different ways, which is evident in the increasing prevalence of online communities. While some individuals are socially withdrawn to the extent that professional intervention is required, others are simply shy or prefer solitude. In either case, this research recommends integrating collaborative technologies into educational programs to offer alternative learning opportunities and accommodate students who struggle to participate in face-to-face discussions. (p. 19)

… This research has serious implications for adult literacy programs and suggests that educational programs must adapt to meet the population’s evolving needs. This research recommends that adult literacy programs integrate technology into their classrooms, such as interactive learning games and shared technologies to adapt to the population’s increasing reliance on technology. Moreover, collaborative communication software can be beneficial for asocial individuals that are hesitant to participate face-to-face, or adult students that require flexibility due to time or location constraints brought on by their professional or family responsibilities. (p. 19)

March 2021

The learning country: Digital transformation skills strategy by Digital Transformation Expert Panel.

Excerpt from the Executive Summary

“In late 2019, the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) established the Digital Transformation Expert Panel to: ‘… provide advice on how Australia’s VET system can most effectively respond to digital change underway across industry and its impact on the nation’s workforce’.”

… “The Strategy has been approached through the lens of the learning ecosystem. It comprises five Focus Areas and a series of underpinning Action Points which the Panel believes are essential to Australia’s VET system being able to successfully upskill and reskill the workforce in response to the impact of digital transformation, and to position Australia as one of the world’s leading digital economies. [These comprise: ‘System settings’, Industry leadership, Learning support services, teaching and learning and training products.”

… “The Panel believes that the practical achievement of this Strategy will require unprecedented collaboration between federal and state governments, industry, unions and the VET system.”

February 2021

What Counts as Literacy in Health Literacy: Applying the Autonomous and Ideological Models of Literacy by Anne Marie Liebe published in LiCS 8.2 / January 2021

Excerpt from introduction

In this essay, I show how health literacy definitions currently reflect an autonomous model of literacy and its drawbacks. I share some of what I have learned from reading, observation, and participation in the health literacy field that suggests health literacy in practice is more complex than definitions reflect or support.

I explore the contributions that perspectives from New Literacy Studies (NLS) have made to the field of health literacy by summarizing health literacy writing that is grounded in the ideological model of literacy and utilizes NLS concepts. I then argue an ideological approach to health literacy can support positive health outcomes by increasing available empirical tools and data, and by providing clarity in correctly identifying factors that contribute to health outcomes.

January 2021

Numeracy, adult education, and vulnerable adults: a critical view of a neglected field (2020) by Iddo Gal, Anke Grotlüschen, Dave Tout and Gabriele Kaiser.


This survey paper examines selected issues related to the intersection of three broad scholarly areas: numeracy, adult education, and vulnerability. Numeracy encompasses the ways in which people cope with the mathematical, quantitative, and statistical demands of adult life, and is viewed as an important outcome of schooling and as a foundational skill for all adults. The focus on vulnerability stems from the realization that concerns of policy makers and educators alike often center on populations seen as vulnerable. The paper is organized in five sections.

After a brief introduction, Section 2 examines adult numeracy, focusing on five numeracy domains (health, financial, digital, civic, and workplace numeracy), literacy– numeracy linkages, functional and critical aspects of numeracy, and the centrality of numeracy practices, and notes sources of vulnerability for each of these. Section 3 sketches formal, non-formal and informal contexts in which adults learn or develop their numeracy, and examines factors that may be potential sources of vulnerability, including systemic factors and dispositional and affect factors. Section 4 reflects more broadly on the concept of vulnerability, introduces selected aspects of the papers published in this issue of ZDM Mathematics Education, and points to findings regarding adult learners who may be deemed vulnerable.

The closing section summarizes conclusions and research directions regarding the intersection of the three core domains. Overall, the paper points to emerging research needs and educational challenges that are relevant to scholars, practitioners, and policy makers interested in developing the numeracy of adults as well as in the mathematics education of younger learners.

December 2020

The Rise and Fall of Adult Literacy: Policy Lessons from Canada

February 2020, European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults 11(1):109-125

There was a period of time, from the late 1980s until the early/mid-2000s, when interest in adult literacy in Canada was strong among the public, in the media, and with policymakers, and a policy window opened for the mainstreaming of literacy. Against this background, it is surprising that the Canadian literacy infrastructure was subsequently largely dismantled. Drawing on theories of policy formation, and recent and previous research, including interviews with key stakeholders, we argue that mainstreaming literacy has failed and explore the reasons for this failure.

November 2020

Critical Connections Between Numeracy and Mathematics: Issues in the Teaching of Mathematics (2020) by Dave Tout

Increasingly research is showing that life and work in the 21st century is requiring higher levels of mathematics and numeracy of its citizens. Numeracy and mathematics are intrinsically connected and BOTH are needed in our ever changing, globalised and technological world. This paper looks at the implications of this for the skills we want our students to develop and leave school with, and how we can better address these in our teaching and learning.

October 2020

The Changing Dynamics of Online Education: Five Theses on the Future of Learning by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis (2020) (preprint)


Reaching beyond the immediate pedagogical affordances of online learning, we explore possible futures for education in a larger institutional sense. Two possibilities arise: we can “hack” online learning technologies, subverting the anachronistic constraints built into their designs. Or we can create new designs for online learning. This second path is the one we have taken in our Common Ground Scholar (CGScholar) research and development program. Our guiding research question has been: if a first generation of online learning technologies replicated and fossilized old pedagogical processes, how might we create a new generation of these technologies and deploy them as a medium for reform? (p. 2)

You will need to register (free) with ResearchGate first.

September 2020

Building capability and quality in VET teaching: Opportunities and challenges (2020) by Josie Misko

New research suggests there are key issues affecting the quality of vocational education and training (VET) teaching that need to be addressed, such as entry level requirements, limited career pathways, workforce casualisation, and lack of support for professional development.

The report Building capability and quality in VET teaching: opportunities and challenges reveals that these issues affect the recruitment of capable VET trainers with industry expertise in high demand skills, particularly in regional areas, and impact on the quality of VET teaching.

August 2020

Foundation Level Workplace Training Programmes by Anne Alkema published in Journal of Learning for Development, 7(2), pp. 218-232, 2020.

Abstract: This paper outlines the scale of the adult literacy and numeracy issue in New Zealand and describes a policy intervention designed to upskill employees in Workplaces to help resolve the issue for them. This is the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (WLN) Fund, which enables around 7000 employees a year to complete a 25 to 80 hour learning programme, usually in their workplace and during work time. The paper also describes what happens in workplaces while programmes are underway and the short-term wellbeing, social, and economic outcomes that occur for individual employees.

 In this context, literacy and numeracy relates to the way in which adults use skills that involve reading, writing, speaking, listening, and mathematics in everyday life. It also includes digital skills in relation to how adults engage and interact with information and communication technologies (ICT). These skills are those that individuals need for learning, life, and work in the 21st century.

July 2020

Narrative Inquiry as Relational Research Methodology and Andragogy: Adult Literacy, Identities and Identity Shifting by Sandra Jack-Malik & Janet Lynne Kuhnke (2020)

Abstract: Using narrative inquiry as a relational methodology and as andragogy, the research puzzle was to deepen understanding of the experiences of women, living with limited literacies and as they engaged in tutoring. This work animates the temporal, curriculum and life making experiences of a tutee and tutor within the context of adult literacy with a focus on learning to write. As the study progressed and as trust developed, tension filled stories were experienced, shared and reimagined.  Thinking through the lens of Dewey’s continuity of experience we demonstrate the links between literacies, curriculum making, and efforts to shift identities. Field texts provided textured and nuanced descriptions of narrative inquiry as andragogy, while supporting the tutee to expand her literate identity and the tutor to become more relational. This work invites readers to reimagine the ways in which educators practice alongside adults who are described as struggling readers and writers.

June 2020

Practice makes perfect: Practice engagement theory and the development of adult literacy and numeracy proficiency (2020) by Stephen Reder, Britta Gauly & Clemens Lechner

Practice 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.

May 2020

PIAAC and the South: Is Southering the new Othering? Global Expansion of dominant Discourses on Adult Literacy by Anke Grotlüsch and Klaus Buddeberg, 2020

Large-scale studies such as Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) are currently the most influential variant of literacy research. PIAAC is undergoing a process of regional expansion towards countries located in the geographical south.

Based on the finding that large-scale studies can create stereotypes about social groups, this contribution examines the extent to which this danger also exists with regard to countries and regions. For doing so we suggest the term ‘southering’. ‘Southering’ brings together the discourses about the South with the concept of othering, introduced by Said (1978).

The presentation of the results as tables and world maps can result in exposing countries of the South to a pronounced deficit perspective. The contribution does not pursue the goal of questioning the legitimacy of international studies. Rather, we would like to point out the necessity of exercising due care in the interpretation of corresponding study results. 

March 2020

Literacy-as-event: accounting for relationality in literacy research by Cathy Burnett and Guy Merchant

Research in New Literacy Studies has demonstrated how literacy consists of multiple socially and culturally situated practices illuminated through a focus on literacy events. Recently, this sociocultural perspective has been complemented by relational thinking that views literacy as an ongoing reassembling of the human and more-than-human.

This conceptual article proposes that, in exploring how relational thinking might be deployed in literacy research and practice, it is helpful to re-visit conceptualisations of literacy events. Specifically it proposes the notion of ‘literacy-as-event’ as a heuristic for thinking with the fluid and elusive nature of meaning-making, elaborating on three propositions: 1. event is generated as people and things come into relation; 2. what happens always exceeds what can be conceived and perceived; 3. implicit in the event are multiple potentialities.

Approaching literacy research through engaging with literacy-as-event promotes an expansive, reflective, and imaginative engagement with literacy practices that aligns with relational thinking.

February 2020

Supporting disadvantaged people through education and training: An International Specialised Skills Institute Fellowship by Karen Dymke and Cate Thompson (2019).

This report resulted from a fellowship awarded to the authors to research practice overseas ‘to identify effective strategies that assist disadvantaged and disengaged learners to move from unemployment and associated disadvantages into employment and positive life options’.

The key question guiding the investigation was how to ‘engage vulnerable people to commence a learning journey? Furthermore, having engaged them into programs, how do we ensure through quality teaching and learning that they continue the journey and build confidence and skills, to pathway on to employment and/or, better life opportunities?’

An additional question investigated was: ‘… to professionalise the practice of educators working in this field with the aim of recognising the specialist skills required in teaching vulnerable learners’.

December 2019

International handbook of health literacy research, practice and policy across the lifespan, edited by Orkan Okan, Ullrich Bauer, Diane Levin-Zamir, Paulo Pinheiro and Kristine Sørensen (2019).

This handbook is a collation of recent work focusing on health literacy research.  It is divided into three parts.

Part 1 is titled ‘Research into health literacy: An overview of recent developments’ and is itself subdivided into the following topics: (a) The many facets of health literacy: Scoping the current research of theories, concepts and models, (b) Measuring health literacy: What, why and how? And (c) Health literacy, health outcomes and health inequalities: Some empirical findings.

Part 2 deals with programs and interventions to promote health literacy and begins with an overview of these health literacy aspects. This is followed by more details about working with a range of groups, including adults.

In the final section, three chapters directed towards policy to promote health literacy are detailed. 

A PDF version of this publication can be found by typing in the title into your search window and then scanning down to the oapen.org entry.

September 2019

Adult literacy practitioners and employability skills: Resisting neo-liberalism? By Gwyneth Allatt & Lyn Tett (2019)

The authors of this report, present a ‘complex picture’ of the literacy skills needs and trends in Canada. They suggest there is no ‘quick fix’; rather, a range of diverse strategies must be implemented to address these issues. Recommendations include: investigating the ‘market’ for skills, ‘especially literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills’ and the embedding of ‘literacy in all workforce education and training initiatives for both youth and working-aged adults’.

June 2019

New Canadian Report: Literacy Lost: Canada’s Basic Skills Shortfall by Janet lane and T. Scott Murray, published by Canada West Foundation, December 2018.

The authors of this report, present a ‘complex picture’ of the literacy skills needs and trends in Canada. They suggest there is no ‘quick fix’; rather, a range of diverse strategies must be implemented to address these issues. Recommendations include: investigating the ‘market’ for skills, ‘especially literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills’ and the embedding of ‘literacy in all workforce education and training initiatives for both youth and working-aged adults’.

April 2019

This month Jo Medlin has reviewed one paper of interest to adult literacy and numeracy educators:

  • The effect of psychological factors on Syrian refugees’ participation in lifelong education by Mehmet Fatih Karacabey and Kivanc Bozkus, March 2019

Feb 2019

This month Jo Medlin has reviewed two documents:

  • Literacy and Numeracy Studies: An international journal in the education and training of adults

  • The very recent VET review

Dec 2018

This month Jo Medlin has reviewed two new papers:

  • The capable country: Cultivating capabilities in Australian education (Mitchell Report no. 03/2018, Lucas & Smith)

  • Mission Australia Youth Survey report 2018

  • In addition, there’s a look back at 2013 and the introduction of the Foundation Skills Training Package.

Sept 2018

A review of documents relating to adult literacy and numeracy

Jo Medlin has reviewed three papers of interest to adult literacy and numeracy educators and provided the links to access them:

  • Ai Group 2018 Survey report on Workforce Development needs Skilling: A national imperative (Sept 2018)

  • ALA: Re-imagining WELL in the 21st Century (June 2018)

  • ACTA: Problems in the Adult Migrant English and SEE Programs (May 2018