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

Jenni Oldfield

Jenni Oldfield is well known in the Australian adult LN space and shares her experience and ideas with us this month. Jenni says: ‘New ideas and practices come from working on different projects, with different people. There’s always a new dilemma to think through, or a new job role in a new industry to challenge my way of thinking. The important thing for me is to be open to the challenges that new situations and new circumstances present’. 

Read more about Jenni and her experience and insights here.

Dean Champ

Dean Champ is a Finalist in the 2021 Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award.

Dean’s career in teaching language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) began in 1996, as an Integration Aide at Geelong Grammar where he helped to deliver the speech pathologist’s LLN programs. He then worked at the Chisholm Institute for 18 years delivering the Certificate I in Work Education and Certificate I in Transition Education before commencing at Box Hill Institute. For the last three years, Dean has worked at Box Hill Institute in the Disability Enterprises team. Box Hill Institute partners with a range of disability enterprises to provide employment preparation training for their clients.

Read more about Dean here: Dean Champ | Australian Training Awards

Camilla Portela

Camilla Portela is a Finalist in the 2021 Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award.

Camilla has taught Language, Literacy and Numeracy for five years. She is employed by Navitas English to teach a range of government-funded language programs including the Adult Migrant English Program, Skills for Education and Employment program, and Foundation Skills for your Future program. Read more about Camilla here: Camila Portela | Australian Training Awards

Liam Frost-Camilleri

Organisation: Federation University Australia
Role: Lecturer | FAST and Master of Teaching (Secondary)
Assistant Program Coordinator Master of Teaching (Secondary)School of Education

How did you start your career in LN?
I begun as a secondary school teacher, teaching in private and public schools and gaining an understanding of how to engage students in a variety of ways. Feeling that I had developed as much as I could in the secondary setting, I decided to move to a VCAL provider – Federation TAFE – to challenge myself professionally. From there, I became the Literacy and Numeracy coordinator for the entirety of the TAFE offering at Federation. This role required me to pre-test all prospective students and run staff professional development sessions on how to support students with low literacy and numeracy skills. I adapted the testing to meet the needs of each discipline area and tailored strategies to assist students of all backgrounds. Currently I work at Federation University as a lecturer in the enabling program FAST and the Masters of Secondary Education courses, but am still research active in the Literacy and Numeracy space.
What motivates you to work in this profession?
There are two things that motivate me to continue working in this area. The first is the people that I get to work with. The individuals in the adult education sector are some of the most passionate and highly skilled individuals that I have the pleasure of interacting with. The second reason is to help address what has become one of the biggest educational issues of our time. With the establishment of neo-liberalism, the gig-economy and industry 4.0, the daily demands and literary expectations on Australian adults has never been so high.
How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
I begun my research journey with my Masters of Education in 2018. In this study, I looked at the literacy and numeracy perceptions of VCAL teachers in a TAFE setting. From there, I have presented at various conferences in Australia as well as New Zealand. I believe that discussing ideas at conferences and continuing to research helps me to further develop my professional knowledge and skill. I am continuing this journey in my current PhD studies on student readiness in alternative educational institutions.
Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
The key principle of meeting students at their level has stuck with me throughout my teaching journey. Giving students control over their learning and using their experiences as a launching pad for discussion and learning have become the cornerstone of everything I do in my teaching. This development of agency is only possible by building a safe environment and a strong and honest rapport with the students.
How do you renew your ideas and practices?
Attending conferences, reading recent material and keeping an open mind concerning my teaching are the main ways that I continue to renew my ideas and practices in teaching. I like to learn from other lecturers and inspiring educators in different educational spaces and am always curious as to the techniques and skills they utilise and why. Open and honest conversation about teaching approaches and educational struggles are a great way to constantly develop my practice as well as remaining engaged in learning myself.
What professional development do you value? Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
I value conferences that showcase different ideas and approaches to teaching and learning. I have found that the VALBEC, ACDEVEG and NCVER to be particularly interesting in the past. But sometimes the best value to professional development can be found ‘in-house’, by interacting and working with the educators in your current institution. Having an open dialogue about teaching and learning is a fantastic way to develop your ability and meet the needs of trainers and students.

Emilia Biemmi Beurteaux

Organisation: North Regional TAFE
Role: adult educator of numeracy and literacy (and everything else in-between)

How did you start your career in LN?

I had two significant experiences that steered me in the direction of adult education. The first was when I was working for an Aboriginal newspaper in Geraldton and was asked to give a short presentation to prisoners at a local prison. After this presentation I found out that one of the prisoners (who was engaged in the topic and asked loads of questions) had for the first time produced a piece of written work and participated in class room discussions. The significance of this was not lost on me and I was shocked to have been part of such an amazing outcome. The second was when I approached Northern Territory University’s Indigenous Education Faculty for tutoring work and was instead asked to be a guest lecturer on Indigenous Media and Music. I had a small but enthusiastic group of students and loved every minute of sharing my knowledge and becoming part of the students’ learning journey. This lead to a short term contract where I was responsible for following up a list of students who were about to fail a unit of study unless they handed in missing work for assessment. Hearing these students’ stories and learning how valuable their education was to them, inspired me. I was hooked. I wanted to completed NTU’s Graduate Diploma of Adult and Vocational Education. There was one catch – I needed to be working in the industry. I approached the local prison where I lived and asked if I could volunteer, they eagerly agreed and hence my uni application was accepted. I was fortunate to gain practical skills from experienced teachers that would inform my practice as an adult educator and paved the way to a more permanent role in Fitzroy Crossing where I worked for an Aboriginal Registered Training Organisation for 11 years. Eventually I moved 260kms down the road to Derby to work for North Regional TAFE continuing my role as an adult educator of numeracy and literacy (and everything else in-between).

What motivates you to work in this profession?
Being part of someone’s growth and development to succeed – in whatever challenge they’ve set themselves. I also love hearing people’s stories, so working with students and learning about their lives, backgrounds and future aspirations.  I’ve had some amazing conversations that have branched from a sessions’ tasks.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
Living in the remote town of Fitzroy Crossing, I had to find ways to develop networks and share ideas with colleagues within the region and across the state.  Making contact with other professionals during state-driven professional development activities like CAVSS training for educators (Course in Applied Vocational Study Skills), CGEA moderations, professional development activities, attending the WAALC annual conferences and assessment tool reviews (what we now call pre-validation) helped me to develop my skills and knowledge over time. At some point I joined WAALC as a member and then by 2013 I joined the committee. Being remote with poor electronic facilities for meetings, I left the committee but then re-joined in 2018.  By 2019 I became the WAALC’s ACAL representative and this involvement has been the most ongoing and current professional development I’ve participated in.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
I think my time in Fitzroy Crossing taught me a lot about the expectations we may hold of our students, and accepting the reality where it differs. In Fitzroy Crossing I was working with elderly students who had English as their fourth or fifth language, younger students whose first language was Kimberley Kriol, a physical location prone to seasonal flooding causing interruptions to teaching and a community that wasn’t interested in learning for the sake of learning – but would come to classes that helped people get driver’s licences, write resumes, sort out fine payment plans, write funeral pamphlets or write letters requesting boarding school support for their children.  I also learned that sometimes it was extremely difficult to map these needs to the assessments for competency-based training students were enrolled in. This experience highlighted for me the importance of project based learning and challenges of meeting assessment requirements where gaps presented.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?
I think the best way to do this is to talk to other practitioners, try new ideas and watch how others teach. Providing LN support to vocational courses has allowed me to view many different styles of teaching – we have some amazing vocational teachers out there who demonstrate an intrinsic understanding of students’ LN needs and how to support those needs in their delivery. I have picked up some fantastic learning review games, activity ideas and classroom management strategies.  I also love seeing what other practitioners do from the varied electronic newsletters I receive.

What professional development do you value?
My committee experiences in both WAALC and ACAL. My membership to Adult Learning Australia. Webinars, newsletters and updates from these groups and others.

However, I most value face-to-face conferences where I get the chance to talk to new people, learn about their teaching areas and student needs and bring home a swag of ideas from the presenters and stalls. And ask lots of questions. These experiences are especially important when living remote where colleagues are few and far between.  The recent shift to online collaboration and webinars has greatly improved the huge gap between remote teaching access to ongoing and relevant professional development.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
Where possible, learn about your student cohort. What are their challenges and needs? Think carefully about using PowerPoints and talking for too long. These are great tools for sharing essential information, but can become a trap when overused guaranteed to put your students to sleep! Instead, get students engaging with each other, create group activities, get out the scissors and glue for real kinaesthetic learning, find an excuse to get out of the classroom and connect with your industry professionals in real workplaces to help make theoretical learning a relevant workplace skill.  Take part in some LN webinars and read up about different adult learning theories to spark a different approach to your teaching.  Probably most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask an LN practitioner for ideas or help – we are truly passionate about supporting all learners.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
Both ACAL and ALA have great resources on their websites to get you started.  The Reading Writing Hotline website also has some great practical tips and ideas for tutors working with people needing LN support.

This website has great links to a range of resources and reading material –
The ALA’s Australian Journal of Adult Learning provides a range of articles that range between examples of LN practice to academic reading on national and international LN issues.
This is my favourite website for making wordsleuths and crosswords, but also has a range of other puzzles that can be contextualised for any learning situation –

Jo Hart

Organisation: Synsols
Role: Consultant/Tutor – Foundation Skills, LLN, Online/E-learning Development and Integration.

How did you start your career in LN?

Long story – cut short. I was an adult educator (dual badged quals in Training and Assessment and Post Grad Adult Ed Teaching) in the UK working in TAFE equivalent colleges teaching Environmental Science/Biology. I also delivered the UK Key skills set (similar to the old Aus Key Competencies). When we moved to Perth I didn’t feel I had enough local/Australian environmental knowledge to go straight into that area, so focussed on my Key skills experience, enjoyed it immensely and stayed with the area.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

My own love of learning makes me want to open those doors for others! The doors to learning are the literacies in all their manifestations – reading, writing, numeracy, information and Internet literacy, media literacy, critical thinking, research, evaluation and analytical skills.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

Mostly through independent pathways – reading, networking, observing others etc. Although also attending and presenting at conferences both face to face and online. And attending relevant workshops – again some face-to-face others online. I don’t find formal learning pathways and structures work well for me, because once I learned how to learn effectively for me personally, these became largely redundant. My degree (BSc Environmental Biology (Hons)) was the last formal course/qualification I attended in my late 20’s. I completed most of my UK teaching and training qualifications as an independent learner, attending occasional workshops and tutorials.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

Not so much key career points but milestones in my own learning and development resulting from my own disparate experiences with the various literacies. I think these have combined to help me develop some of the qualities (for example empathy, a capacity to ‘think outside the box’ and ability to utilise a learner’s own experience and individual strengths to help them learn) that contribute to competence in teaching others.

• Reading came easily to me. I can’t remember learning to read and I have always been a voracious reader. Reading has been my solace and my window on the world for my entire life. So I actually find teaching in this area challenging because ‘I don’t know how I do what I do as a fluent and rapid reader’. This also impacts on my ability to teach grammar in a formal way – I missed out on learning formal grammar at school because of a teaching trend at the time, but because I read so much I absorbed reasonable grammar without knowing the terminology.• Writing was hugely difficult for me because I am a bit dysgraphic/dyspraxic which impacted on my ability to handwrite – I found it almost impossible to think and write at the same time and also to listen and take notes at the same time in class. Any notes I did manage to take were virtually illegible. At uni I had to go home and immediately type them up on a typewriter. When keyboards came into my life as an adult this was a huge milestone for me because suddenly I could think and write. As a consequence I am very aware that problems with understanding in class and with written expression are not necessarily a straight literacy issue. I always provide handouts/weblinks to minimise need for note-taking, encourage technology use to aid writing, encourage the use of colours and mind-maps if students need to take notes.
• Number/maths was a huge struggle for me until I was in my early twenties – when (with the help of my husband and a brilliant Maths teacher) it suddenly became easy, because I learned how to work from first principles, so if I don’t remember a method I can work it out. Those early struggles have meant that I teach number/maths far better than reading because I remember my own difficulties and try to pass on the basis for mathematical reasoning rather than just a formula.
• Information is both the bane and the blessing of 21st century life. For me the Internet opened many new doors – but the problem now faced is the need to everyone to be able to evaluate the quality of information. I see teaching others how to do this as essential for the survival of humanity. This has impacted on the way I teach because anyone can say anything on a website (and they usually do) so being able to apply appropriate strategies to check reliability and validity of content is now (in my opinion) a critical component of any teaching.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

Keep aware of what is new in LLN/Foundation Skills, literacies generally – largely online these days. Explore those that interest me – I am less focussed than I used to be because I don’t have specific tasks/roles to fulfil. I also keep in contact with my networks – especially relevant social media groups like FS Teach.

What professional development do you value?

Anything that makes me think and explore new ideas. Particularly the huge opportunities presented by the amount of online content now available across so many disciplines.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

• Talk to LLN/Foundation Skill trainers about the sorts of issues they (vocational trainers) encounter with their learners, and seek suggestions.
• Discuss assessments strategies and ask LLN people for input. Common issues that occur in my experience are: written questions that are too complex and are above the literacy level required for the course; using written questions and expecting written answers that require high level literacy; using written assessments when practical with associated guided discussion would be more appropriate.
• Be sure their own depth of understanding is sufficient for them to teach a topic – this is a common problem with vocational maths in trades. In my personal experience many trades trainers don’t understand the first principles of the maths they use so they simply teach a formula which means that errors are far less easy to see than if the first principles are embedded, it also means the learners can’t extend their knowledge to a need that doesn’t ‘fit’ the formula.
• If your state has the potential for in class LLN/Foundation Skills support for your learners (eg Course in Applied Vocational Study Skills) then embrace it – your CAVSS partner is probably your best resource.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

Nothing specific, except to use the LLN/Foundation Skills specialists in their own organisation both as a resource in their own right, and also for suggestions on appropriate material to support them in their own particular vocational area. LLN/Foundation Skills needs are incredibly diverse – there is no ‘one size fits all’ possibility.


Dale Pobega

EAL teacher at Wyndham Community Education Centre and consultant

Dale PobegaHow did you start your career in LN?

I returned to Australia in 1990 after living and working overseas for most of the preceding decade. I taught English and worked in journalism and publishing mainly in Latin America. While I was completing a second degree in Melbourne I taught Adult Literacy night-classes at a local Community Centre. I knew straight away that this was the field for me as there was a very pressing demand in the community at the time for classes and a real need for dedicated teachers to work with adults. I then went to work at the Duke Street Community House in Melbourne’s West which was a very forward-thinking organisation at the time and where I taught for the next 25 years with a couple of interesting ”sabbaticals”. There was a stint with the Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council (VALBEC) in the mid-90s as editor of their journal “Fine Print” and as the writer/producer of “The World Times”, a VALBEC / Oxfam “simple-English” newspaper on development issues funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.  That work provided me with an entree into a new-fangled thing at the time called the “internet” and I immediately saw its potential for teaching and learning. I secured a position as Manager of an Online Learning Networking that operated out of the then TAFE Virtual Campus in the early 2000s. The rest is history – I continue to do work that straddles language teaching and E-learning. I currently teach EAL at Wyndham Community Education Centre for part of the week and do E-learning consultancy, teacher training and educational project work the rest of the time.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

The adult students I teach – they’re the ones who motivate and inspire me. Their struggles negotiating an increasingly complex world that demands a great deal in terms of a spoken additional language, literacy, numeracy and digital skill is very real to me. My own parents had very few opportunities to learn due to the dislocating factors associated with war, poverty, migration and disability. In my own students today I see reflections of them. That inspires me to stay where I am needed and do the best I possibly can as a teacher. I also find my work endless fascinating. There is a lot to learn about language. I’m a keen learner of languages other than English myself and have lived for a long period overseas so like my students,  I have some idea what it is like to be at a linguistic and cultural disadvantage.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

I’ve kept a blog (on and off) for about the last ten years dedicated to documenting my work and I think that kind of reflection is important. It helps me to focus on what I could possibly do better and moves me in new directions. Stepping back and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t is important to me. I’ve always been an active member of language and literacy communities, particularly online ones, from the early days of subscribing to mailing lists to nowadays regularly contributing to Wyndham CEC’s Digital Learning Centre.  I also joined LinkdIn last year. I’ve joined a range of ALLN and E Learning groups from across the globe. I always thought LinkdIn was just a type of Facebook for Corporates in search of greener pastures – I’m surprised at how useful it has been in terms of making contacts, discovering new networks and accessing resources.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

I think my long engagement with technology to facilitate learning going right back to 1990 has been central to my approach. I have always incorporated some form of online learning into LLN classes. With the emergence of the Internet I immediately understood how crucial Digital literacies would become for all of us. And the pace of change in terms of key skills and literacies relating to technology shows no sign of abating. Many Adult Community providers – at least here in Victoria –  were very well placed in the 90s to be leaders in the field of online and blended delivery but somehow did not manage to build upon that success – during the late 90s and early 2000s the few community based learning networks operating out of the TAFEVC were, in my opinion, the most outstanding.

It’s interesting that the health emergency prompted by COVID has forced us back into that online space through necessity and what I think the experience showed was that many of us were not really set up or adequately prepared to meet the challenge, though there were islands of great creativity and skill amongst some providers. I just hope we don’t drop the baton this time round and that we take the opportunity to re-think our traditional models of provision and develop some new ways of moving forward as a sector.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

Last year I became a mentor in the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Professional Development Program (ALNPP) funded through the division of Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE). It is an ambitious program promoting ALLN practice within the preaccredited education sector  and was delivered entirely online. It was interesting being the facilitator working with a range of participants – some new, many seasoned and highly skilled – who were drawn from across the field and the state. We met weekly online and worked through modules based on Theory, Frameworks, Practice and Reflection – it became a really valuable forum for learning and reassessing some of my own positions and assumptions about literacy, numeracy, teaching and learning in general. Being a facilitator or teacher always makes me realise what others can and do teach me. I’m always learning. I’m a student as much as I am a teacher.

I think too that as practitioners we all  need to be aware of the changing demands of our work — ie. understanding there are new things to teach adults and new ways of teaching. The Digital world with its own sets of skills and literacies, are now a very important part of what we need to know as teachers of language, literacy and numeracy more generally. Knowing the potential and limitations of technology, being open but remaining critical of these advances – while always keeping the interests of adult students struggling with language in mind – is really important.

What professional development do you value?

Like everyone else I’m strapped for time. I am often too busy to attend formal, face to face PD and I actually don’t like losing time with my classes or having someone else substituting when there is so much work to cover. So the PD has to be online and preferably bite size. During the first phase of COVID using Zoom for meeting with colleagues to do required validation and moderation was very convenient and I found more tends to get done than if you meet face to face. My only regret is that a lot of PD  – apart from participation in accredited course work of some kind –  is not captured and recognised professionally. I’d like to see a system of  micro-credentialling operating where all of the PD we do is officially recognised and becomes a part of a bigger whole that has actual currency. I also read a lot and keep abreast of developments through a range of online networks, including peak bodies like ACAL, ACTA and ALA.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

Mmm …”vocational trainers” – what are they? I’m not sure we should consider any teaching work as being something that can stand  outside its obvious connection to language, literacy and numeracy.  I don’t think you can separate content from the form of presentation or technique in anything you teach. By that I mean all teachers are, in a sense, LLN teachers because how can you facilitate learning if you aren’t able to assess your students’ English language, literacy and numeracy for yourself – in effect, to know who they are and what they are capable of as learners? How can you teach any subject unless you have knowledge of LLN and the skills to break it down and support learners ? This was something I discussed at length with the participants of the recent ALNNP program I taught for ACFE. It is all about breaking down complexity, recognising the particular literacy and numeracy difficulties of individuals in your classes and hopefully not throwing up your hands when you encounter problems.

During the first phase of COVID I was freed up to spend much more time than usual working with each student in my class on their individual learning plans. Rather than just eliciting glib responses from students about goals, challenges, needs and the like, I had a lot more time to genuinely find out about them and to assess in a meaningful way what they could and couldn’t do, to find out what their broader long term goals were and to set some tasks we could work on together – just me and that particular student. Students have particular goals and needs that have been articulated but then they are referred to LLN classes with a standardised curriculum and a standard set of assessments. It’s a systemic problem and it’s a contradiction of sorts. You wonder about issues of relevance for that individual and the time wasted – sometimes years – spent in classes where they don’t learn the particular literacies they actually need to realise those vocational goals.

Changing the current model would involve a lot more time being made available to teachers to work with individual students, many more resources – in fact, probably having more than one teacher – and it would also mean developing a more nuanced curricula approach that genuinely takes individually articulated goals, needs and facilitated learning into account. I don’t see that happening very easily, certainly not in the accredited education space.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

I designed a Digital Literacies Unit for my delivery of ALNPP and relied heavily on the ideas of Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis’ in the theory section. Their works “Literacies” (2016) and “E Learning Ecologies (2017)” are invaluable and have deeply resonated with me. In fact, they have established a very interesting space for learning communities on their CGScholar site and on their own website, “Works and Days” have linked many extra resources and companion readings to their books that are freely available.

Kalantzis and Cope actually discuss the future of education and offer five theses about the ideal directions they feel school, tertiary and vocational education need to take including the most controversial thesis : #1 There will be no pedagogical differences between learning in person and learning online.  It is a thesis I personally – to the surprise of some – do not accept when it comes to adult literacy and numeracy learners but is a part of a broader and timely discussion that ACAL has so bravely entered into about the advantages and disadvantages of online provision during the initial lockdown phases of COVID.

Literacies (2nd Edition) 2016
by Mary Kalantzis  (Author), Bill Cope (Author), Eveline Chan (Author), Leanne Dalley-Trim (Author)
Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (5 July 2016)

E-Learning Ecologies: Principles for New Learning and Assessment
by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis | 17 February 2017
Routledge; 1st edition (17 February 2017)

Dale’s blogs

Adam Nobilia

BSI Learning, TAFE NSW and Corrections NSW

Adam NobiliaHow did you start your career in LN?

I studied a Bachelor of Education back in 2000. At the time my goal was to work in the Disability sector with students with behavioural challenges. I worked in many areas of the disability sector including group homes and day programs and found a love of developing behaviour management programs.

After working for over ten years in the sector, I saw an ad for a Special Needs Teacher at Long Bay Jail. It was the perfect opportunity for me to continue to work with adults with challenging behaviour, to develop my skills as a teacher and to utilise my recently acquired Certificate IV in training and Assessment.

I loved the new job working with students in custody and quickly learned how their numerous gaps in literacy and numeracy skills contributed to their limited job choices, reliance on drugs and alcohol and eventually to incarceration. I saw the direct link to limited skills and a lack of confidence and found that the students learned really fast and were extremely appreciative of the opportunity once engaged.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

My motivations to work in adult education have developed over the years. I began with the lofty desire to “make a difference and change the world one person at a time.” I used words like “help” to describe my practice although if I’m honest, my kid-gloves approach was less than helpful. While I still have this desire to support students to achieve their goals, maturity has brought me a renewed understanding of what is required to truly support someone.

I am motivated by seeing students uncover their potential and open other doors to their passions. I believe it’s important that as a teacher I see the potential in a learner beyond the skills with which they present.

I love witnessing students grow in confidence and to see them apply their skills in other areas, especially when it comes to maintaining relationships, developing career prospects and pursuing new hobbies.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

In 2020 I completed my graduate Diploma in Counselling. This study opened my eyes to Trauma informed education and helped me understand the devastating effects that trauma has on a person’s ability to engage with learning. I have since improved my teaching practices to better ensure each student’s emotional safety in each class and make sure to create a harmonious learning environment free of stress, undue noise, and intimidation.

I upgraded my Certificate IV in workplace Training and Assessment to the TAE40116 In 2020 and in addition completed the TAESS00009 Address Foundation Skills in Vocational Practice Skill Set. This helps me to map adult literacy skills in a vocational setting and learn new ways to embed literacy components to workplace tasks.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

After I completed my Bachelor of Education, I took an interest in behaviour studies. I studied with Institute of Applied Behaviour Analysis (IABA) and learned the skills required to understand the function and the communicative intentions of a person’s behaviour. This skillset gave me a lens in which to view my students and to further understand their reasoning for non-attendance, low participation and also engagement. Knowing this helps me to tailor learning to suit each individual and map it to their motivations, values and interests. This is especially important in adult learning as understanding the function of my students’ behaviour allows me to be a more successful teacher.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

As part of my commitments to BSI Learning and TAFE I am required to complete professional development each year. Most recently I completed the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid training which I found to be extremely beneficial, especially in my work in the prison.

I currently work in three different jobs. BSI Learning allows me to work in jail, TAFE allows me to teach in the Community Services sector, and working with Corrections NSW affords me the opportunity to work in behaviour change groups such as The Sober Driver Program and the Domestic and Family Abuse Programs.

Working three jobs keep me on my toes and relevant in the industries I teach.

In my personal life, I am an avid songwriter and performer (Adam Blacksmith). I am inspired by lyricists, especially the works of Glen Richards (Augie March), and in the moments I have to myself, I write and craft poetry into songs. I find honing my own craft keeps the fire alive and makes me more enthusiastic and authentic in my delivery to students.

What professional development do you value?

I enjoy furthering my skills in areas that complement my work. For example, learning about counselling made me be more effective teacher as I learned how to listen more intently, ask more thoughtful questions and empathise with my students’ journeys.

As much as I value professional development that maintains teaching currency, I think of equal importance are courses that connect us teachers with art, culture, science and music so that we can be personally inspired, avoid burn-out and to share these passions with our students.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading that you value/would recommend?

Not off the top of my head.

I think that as teachers, it is important to pursue our own passions. For me, keeping up to date with surfing, writing music and following the football help me engage with students on a level other than literacy alone.

I encourage my students to pursue their interests and in doing so, this allows me to tailor lessons to their interests.

Ros Bauer

Ros BauerHead of Department – Career Pathways, Aboriginal Languages & Employability Skills at TAFE NSW, Albury

How did you start your career in LN?

I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Aboriginal and Intercultural Studies which led to an offer of work from Debbie Evans, a Bakkandji woman, working on a program known as Vocational Educational Guidance for Aboriginal Students. From there I did a Graduate Diploma in Vocational Education and landed in the Foundation Skills dept at TAFE, and then straight into a range of professional development and post graduate qualifications in adult LLN to support my teaching practise.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

I often say that it is a teaching role that means your range of delivery can be so many different things, at one end of the continuum classes that are explicitly about LLN and at the other end programs that have another overt focus but are essentially about developing the underpinning LLN; and of course it’s everything in between. I am so lucky to work in this sector and think it’s the best job in the world.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

I am a life-long learner and was totally addicted to my university studies for years. Each new learning package send from the uni, I opened with great enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to get to my desk and start drawing up a new glossary and checking the readings and assessment tasks. In a busy household, meeting the demands of raising four children and supporting my husband, studying was something that was exclusively mine and something I valued as very precious.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

This is an easy question for me as it always goes back to the heart of what I think is the most powerful learning and that is mentoring. I was incredibly privileged to be mentored by two experienced and excellent teachers – Leonie Francis and Noelene Milliken. I absolutely respected the way that Leonie and Noelene approached their teaching and the respect and attitude they had towards their learners. They both managed to bring this integrity of the adult literacy discipline to the learning space and they also taught me about valuing every individual learner. Also key in shaping my delivery was working and learning with the Warlpiri people of Yuendumu; particularly the senior women who were incredibly generous with their time in teaching me the intricacies of working “Yapa way’.

 How do you renew your ideas and practices?

Time is a bit of a challenge for me at the present time so the best I can do is some extra reading. Adult Learning Australia has an excellent webinar series that has asynchronous viewing which I find really useful. I also find that you cannot beat a good conversation with another colleague sharing some teaching strategies to solve an LLN challenge in real time.

What professional development do you value?

I really love attending a face-to-face conference. There is something really special about reading a conference agenda, choosing sessions that pique my interest, dipping in and out of conversations with other professionals and catching up with colleagues that I haven’t seen in a long time. We have such a gap in this country in terms of providing PD and my ultimate goal is to work in a space that is committed to creating meaningful professional development opportunities for practitioners new to the LLN field.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

This is such an important question because completing the LLN unit in a Cert IV TAE delivery which is jam packed with assessments, often means the LLN doesn’t receive the priority or focus it needs. Vocational trainers really need to be involved in some sort of professional development beyond the LLN unit and establishing a connection with an LLN specialist they can call on for advice and support.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading?

Learning Spaces by Inge Kral I recall reading Learning Spaces several years ago when I was working for the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation, and I was absolutely captivated by the very first page. I was sitting at my desk in the office on a very hot day, with quite a lot of tasks on my ‘to do list’, but I simply could not stop reading this book. Inge had managed perfectly to put into print everything that was in my heart and mind at that time about the inseparable nature of literacy, learning and social practise in a remote Indigenous setting. Everything that I had learned in my time in central Australia had been captured by this amazing woman and committed to paper in a way that can be read and understood by anyone at all, not just the linguistically elite. Although it is context specific, it is worth a read to either remind us of the integrity of the adult literacy discipline, or maybe to learn for the first time about how adult literacy is situated in the real world; rather than the reductionist notion of skills and jobs and ACSF measurements, that are such a small part of a much bigger picture.

Dave Tout

Senior Research Fellow, Numeracy and Mathematics, ACER

Dave ToutHow did you start your career in LN?

It was one of those serendipitous events that changed my career completely. I was trained as a maths teacher and after initially teaching in Victoria, I went and taught maths in England, and when I returned to Oz, I could not get a job back teaching in high schools. When I left Oz, the acronym TAFE did not exist, but on my return there were new jobs being created in TAFE Colleges, and I applied and was successful, and that started my career in adult education and VET, and to the critical field of L&N. This move made me much more passionate and knowledgeable about the importance, value and workings of mathematics for ALL learners, which would not have happened if I had stayed as a secondary school maths teacher.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

The evidence and knowledge learnt from my long career working in LLN with a focus on numeracy/maths education for youth and adults, has made me increasingly passionate about the need to make maths accessible to all students and adults, so that they have successful experiences, and not be disengaged from the world of mathematics. Everyone is capable of being numerate as children and adults, but I believe our system encourages way too many students to feel unsuccessful and to hence disengage. We need to promote and teach numeracy in parallel with maths (and in parallel with language and literacy). Improving numeracy education is about empowerment and opening up opportunities.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

The main reason I have this interest, knowledge and passion is entirely due to my adult numeracy and maths students. It was my adult students in those formative years in the late 1970s and into the 1980s that made me wake up to the realities of how badly we teach maths! They challenged my perceptions and attitudes about maths and how to teach it. It was through them and their questioning that I learnt how to better teach maths and that it was numeracy that counts most – how you use and apply maths.

They also taught me that language was critical to the understanding and learning (and teaching) of maths/numeracy. Once my eyes were opened by my students, you then look for research and esp. kindred spirits. There were two critical colleagues/friends who helped guide me and develop me further professionally – Beth Marr and Betty Johnston. I also learnt much from my L&L colleagues and was privileged to team teach literacy and numeracy at two providers, again a big and significant learning experience.  This is in parallel with many others who I have collaborated and worked with since the mid 1980s, on a local, state, national and international level. You never stop learning!

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

Apart from what my students taught me, and my team teaching, I think the key period in my career that solidified my thoughts, and shaped and supported my classroom practices and beliefs about numeracy and mathematics was working closely with Betty Johnston from UTS in the mid-1990s to write and trial the Adult Numeracy Teaching: Making meaning in mathematics (ANT) course. This has since morphed into other courses and is still really the foundation behind the numeracy unit in the TAE Graduate Diploma of Adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice. Working with Betty, as the “academic”, alongside me as an experienced practitioner, was an eye-opening experience and made me learn a lot and realise that writing down your thoughts and approaches is a wonderful and powerful professional learning tool. When I re-read parts of ANT ( I still have a copy of most of it in MS Word!), I am still amazed at how relevant and pertinent it is today.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

Nowadays, most of this is through collaborations with colleagues across Australia and the globe, reading research papers – I still aim to write at least one article per year in professional journals. Plus I am always writing a new numeracy/maths teaching materials and resources (or curriculum) for adults, youth and even younger school children, and their teachers. Plus I run workshops across Australia or overseas for teachers, and that keeps me challenged, engaged and on my toes for new ideas and approaches. I keep my fingers in many pies!.

What professional development do you value?

All of the opportunities as outlined above – there are many different ways of learning. Take any opportunities you can. But one of the things that saddens me the most about LLN in the last decade plus, is the lack of opportunity for teachers and trainers to experience longer, substantial PD about teaching adult numeracy. Ever since ANT was stopped being supported and delivered, with participation often subsidised, there has been minimal opportunities for new teachers/trainers to be substantially upskilled in teaching numeracy. The odd workshop here and there, or conference session, is not the same as a sustained 84 hour program such as we developed in ANT, which always created a strong community of practice for the teachers involved.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

That’s a big challenge in numeracy as part of LLN. As I mentioned above, there is minimal opportunities for substantial, sustained PD. So it’s about listening to your learners, first and foremost, answering their questions and their challenges, and not teaching maths in its traditional ways through rote learning and following standard algorithms. And collaborate with your LLN colleagues – learn with and from each other. Numeracy (and maths) need to be taught in context, situated, at least initially, within the learner’s environments and experiences – and teach the maths that is needed to solve those practical problems. The maths itself needs to be taught explicitly, through understanding how the maths works and why, often using hands on materials.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

Once upon a time, in the days when the states had their ALIO’s or ARIS’s of the world, there were many resources and materials that were available, but many are no longer available or easily accessible. I try to maintain an updated listing of some suitable numeracy resources, materials and websites that I give out at my workshops. Please email me at and I will send that through to you.

Yvette Terpstra

2020 Finalist Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award<

Employer: Centacare Employment and Training

Yvette TerpstraHow did you start your career in LN?

Kind of by accident. I trained as a high school English teacher and did ESL as my minor as our church sponsored Refugee families and I developed an interest in that type of teaching. I taught for two years in mainstream high school and then stopped work to raise my four kids. We shifted to remote NT (Tiwi) where I did School of the Air with the forementioned 4 children, one with a learning disability. After that we spent four years in Yirrkala and I thought with my kids back in school I wanted to work and applied for a job as school secretary at Yirrkala Bilingual Community school. I ended up tutoring in upper school and then 6 months later worked there as a teacher. I also worked as a mentor to Yolngu teachers at Bachelor University and small, short courses for upskilling.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

I am so blessed to have been born into a loving, educated family that I know I have a responsibility to share that blessing with those who are marginalised for many different reasons. The work I have done over the past 10 years and the resilience and courage I have seen in the students I have worked with just humbles me and motivates me. The company I work for also shares the same ethos and my colleagues all work hard to help fight social injustice by providing good learning experiences for our students.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

Mainly through theft. I am a bower bird of education. I listen, watch, ask, google, and then squish it into something that works for me.

I did have six months, working as a tutor, where I could observe best practice. Working in remote NT also opens so many more possibilities for PD than mainstream Perth.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

I attended a 2 week Guiding Circles Workshop. While it is mainly about Career planning, what I learned about hope-filled engagement, shaped my teaching and relationship with students. I was a minority non-Indigenous person there which is always a good learning experience and the knowledge I learned by listening to discussions from Indigenous teachers was inspiring.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

I love looking at other people’s ideas. I like to wander around places that I, or my students, move in and work out what things form barriers for my students; what literacy and numeracy needs they need to move in those places, and now most recently after the big divide was seen firsthand during COVID the digital literacy needs. I like to take photos and make learning material relevant to the city and suburb. For example, having children at school I look at the vocabulary of letters, emails, reports, camp forms etc. Catching the train to Perth (I counted 15 different signs and billboards in one carriage). Facebook and fake news.

What professional development do you value?

I value listening to what other practitioners are doing, either here in Perth or interstate. I value when you walk out of a workshop with something concrete to work with or work on. I really learn a great deal form “the old salts” of the industry especially as they are familiar with how the wheel of education moves and how to cope with that.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

I reckon it would be great for all vocational trainers to do a few days a year “work experience” in different industries to stay current. It is quite easy for us to get stuck in our comfortable bubble and use our safe and predictable resources without always knowing exactly what our students need.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs.

My two favourites are Guiding Circles: An Aboriginal Guide to finding Career Paths and The VALBEC Building Strength through Numeracy. The creative teaching tools they use are easily adaptable to any type of group learning.

Jenny Byatt

South Regional TAFE, Bunbury (WA) part-time CSWE lecturer since 2013

Jenny ByattHow did you start your career in LN?

While at high school I hosted an exchange student in a large group from Japan. As I wanted to keep in touch with my Japanese friends afterwards, I studied Japanese at university, and to see if I would like a career in teaching, moved to Japan to teach English after graduation. After 25 years of teaching English, the rest is history!

What motivates you to work in this profession?

I understand from experience how difficult it is to learn a language very different from your own native language (especially starting as an adult) and, after living overseas for many years, I can also relate to the settlement challenges and culture shock that is a part of adjusting to life in a new country.  I enjoy using my experience and training to help others through their difficulties, make friends, communicate effectively, and love their new life.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

Definitely. Every time I deliver a unit, I improve on it, refine it, and adapt it to the needs of my particular group of students.  Part of what I enjoy is coming up with new and innovative ways to present information so that it is memorable, enjoyable and useful.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

When I created my own ELICOS college in 2006, it was an all-consuming opportunity to cherry-pick what I found to be the best methods, resources and approaches to language learning. I still have the arsenal of resources I developed then, and I am always aiming to learn about best practice. Language is creative and dynamic and our delivery should also be so.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

Life is full of new ideas and practices and I am a magpie, constantly picking up ideas and resources from here and there. I have 3 jobs – working in high school and business alongside TAFE give me a broad perspective of the language needs our students have to excel in Australian society.

What professional development do you value?

I think the best way to learn is to observe the lessons of other lecturers and to exchange ideas about what lessons went well– and we need to maximise our opportunities to do this.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

Read the curriculum documents very carefully, make sure everything is covered in the timeframe provided, scaffold the assessments so they are a natural extension of the course work and not a surprise, and try to ensure the students don’t feel rushed or stressed – class time should be a chance to grow and have fun.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

Each other!  We are all highly qualified and experienced individuals with a wealth of knowledge and skills to share.

Cross-over between students

There is a lot of cross-over between EAL students and native language learners, and many EAL resources can help low-literacy and special needs (SEN) students. EAL resources tend to be very simply and logically presented with simple words and explanations – no idioms or lengthy theories. EAL textbooks, worksheets, videos and simplified readers are often pitched at adults, so there are resources for mature students, including teenagers, which is a big help for many high school teachers who would otherwise be forced to delve into primary school resources that are not age-appropriate and can seem patronising.

I love the Good Better Best AMES textbooks by Jenni Guilfoyle and Elsie Hill because they are culturally inclusive and very simply and logically presented – I have used them in mainstream English classes at high school as well as in EAL. I also love pronunciation and spelling resources that are etymological as well as phonetic – if we teach English students that they are really learning four languages in one (old Greek, Latin, French and English/Celtic mix) and that each language has its own spelling and pronunciation rules, it adds another layer of accessibility to sight and sound-based phonetics, which can disadvantage dyslexic, sight and hearing impaired students. For many years I’ve been working towards publishing an etymological phonics guide but I’m too time-poor to get it finished right now – perhaps a retirement project?

Stephen Goldberg

Teacher Educational Pathways, Career Pathways, Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills

 Stephen GoldbergHow did you start your career in LN?

By accident. In the mid-1980s I had been spending time as a failed hippy up the NSW North Coast. Back in Sydney, a family friend suggested that my Dip Teach with subjects in Music and Drama might be useful in getting me some work as a sessional adult literacy teacher. She had seen an ad in her local newspaper advertising a position at a college in western Sydney. I rang up and went for an interview the next day. By evening, I was in front of a class. I was the only applicant for the job. Six months after that, that initial baptism by fire experience was instrumental in landing me a job teaching literacy and numeracy at Silverwater Jail. That was the best of challenges – motivating learners in an unpredictable challenging environment.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

What got me hooked from the beginning – having a job that has a social justice imperative and one that lets me explore language and what it can do. Language, and that includes numeracy is a political institution – look how governments, businesses, pundits and spin doctors use it to further their agendas. In spite of all the changes to our work over the years, I haven’t shied away from regarding language, literacy and numeracy education as a means of getting one’s slice of democracy.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

Looking back over my career I can see that just about anything I have done, whether it is learning a new skill in digital technology that I can bring to the learning environment, learning a new language or, visiting a place for the first time, I have found ways to integrate those experiences into my teaching and other work . I’m self-taught in a lot of areas, especially technology and I read a lot, mainly nonfiction. I think the key to successful  teaching  is to always be a learner.

Not so long ago I completed post-graduate studies in Learning Sciences and Technology. This really helped me understand learning in the present where we are confronted with a changing and sometimes confusing clash of the human and the digital worlds.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

Many instances come to mind. One especially valuable experience was managing my home renovation which was a stressful and steep learning curve. It also coincided with me working extensively with Building and Construction trades to deliver  LLN support to trainees and apprentices. I used my day to day experiences and a portfolio of photos to develop a hands on teaching style.

If you want your learners to be able to calculate the volume of concrete in a concrete slab, text-book examples of prisms with given lengths, widths and depths won’t guarantee your learners can apply the process to the physical world. It’s far better to go outside to the concrete driveways and measure them up to determine the amount of concrete needed to make them. Same when calculating brick orders or purchasing floorboards. Measure the areas of real walls and calculate the number of bricks you need; use chalk to draw a square metre over a section of flooring to show the relationship between square and lineal metres. Work backwards from real structures.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

I don’t necessarily have a straightforward approach. Often it happens when I’m outside my comfort zone and have to adapt to the environment I’m in. One time, I worked on a commercial program teaching scientists in a government agency how to write both research and expert witness reports. To get a my head around what my clients needed to be able to do, I spent time researching and analysing what good examples of such texts looked. I also kept asking a lot of questions to a lot of people.

It also pays to be really observant of what is happening out in the world in terms of LLN social and workplace practices. LLN practices  and human computer interactions are changing so quickly it is hard to keep up sometimes. I keep up to date  on the newest apps out there and think about how they can augment student learning. Siri and Google can be used to assist with pronunciation. Flight Radar24 and Google Maps can be used to limit the time you spend on airport parking fees. Snap Send Solve will alert your local council to illegal dumping of rubbish quicker than an e-mail or a phone call.  Seeing students becoming aware of, empowered and adept at using technology tools such as these is very satisfying.

Likewise, in everyday classroom practice, old-style personal reflection on teaching practice  never goes out of date.

What professional development do you value?

Learning experiences that have a real world application that I can apply to teaching practice immediately. Not so long ago, someone showed me how to use MS Forms. Digital form filling on hand held devices is the new normal. You can use them to make surveys, gauge learner understanding of concepts and present numerical data back to students.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

Never assume that your learners will come to classes equipped with the requisite  LLN and learning skills in order to learn the content . Likewise, never assume that your learners don’t know very much. Some of the youngest learners I have taught have demonstrated amazing life skills and wisdom.  Every vocational teacher has to see themselves as an LLN teacher. How you present and introduce content  can enhance both vocational skills and LLN skills and better engage your students. Think about the resources you’re using and your approach. Reading alone is not always the best way to impart content. Need to teach food safety to Commercial Cookery students? Before you introduce food safety charts, or deliver a monologue, find some episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on You Tube and get students to name and count the number of food hygiene transgressions. Need to teach Work Health and Safety to Construction trade  students? Get them to find  videos on their phones of funny construction accidents and name the hazard in each example and the control that should have been in place.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

Google and You Tube for starters. It is also really helpful for teachers to reacquaint themselves with the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) and reflect on what skills and capabilities  each of the levels is describing.

Justin Hayes

Teacher – Learning Skills Centre, Holmesglen Institute (Victoria)

How did you start your career in LN?

At the beginning of my career, I was ridiculously incompetent. I had moved to Tokyo to teach conversational English to adults, with the company providing me with just three days of training. I was in a new country, extremely shy and completely out of my depth. Fortunately, I had both especially talented colleagues and the skills of a gifted copycat. After six months, the training methodology sunk in, I had stolen all the teaching secrets of my workmates and the fog of shyness slowly started lifting, kicking off six years of fun.

I returned to Melbourne in 2005, made the easy decision to keep teaching, got qualified and began working at Holmesglen Institute as an EAL teacher. This time with larger class sizes, a mix of cultures and a broader set of skills to teach, I had to reinvent myself. Again, it took me a little while, but I eventually got the hang of it.

In 2017, I was asked to join the Learning Skills Centre at Holmesglen, supporting vocational students with the foundation skills of their courses and future careers. Once more, I found myself in unfamiliar territory and in need of a quick injection of practitioner skills, knowledge and confidence. It’s been three years already and I’ve been slowly building my understanding of my role and the larger context of VET foundation skills support in Australia. No quick injection, but fortunately I work with a great team to support me and have the freedom to pursue my own development.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

First of all, how important are foundation skills in society? When I started looking into this question, I quickly understood it was an honour to do my part to help people develop their skills. I’ve taken a lot from this world (being a self-centred, even selfish, younger man) and I now know this is how I can pay society back.

Besides, many of my needs are satisfied – the constant anticipation of what’s coming next, the large variety of people I interact with, the creativity that spontaneously occurs and the curiosity to explore (that so often gets me into trouble).

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

A few ways …

1 Being a copycat – I observe other people and see what resonates with me, I talk with them about what they do, I copy what they do and paste it into my identity. Isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

2 Getting ordered – There’s nothing like being told to do something, getting thrown in the deep end. Sometimes I swim, sometimes I sink, but learning from trial and error after I’ve been told to do something usually gets me through … so many trials, so many errors.

3 Silently exploring – I read when I want to know something, I write to organise my thoughts and I reflect. It may look like I spend a lot of time doing nothing, but I’m just reflecting.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

There are two in particular, although I can’t remember exactly when they occurred, but both of them relate to the idea of me getting out of the way of my students.

The first was when I started to incorporate the principles of student-centred learning. Here I discovered the importance of student-to-student interaction, and when I made that a central part of my teaching, the benefits of relationship-building and confidence-building for students became obvious.

The second was when I learnt that my role wasn’t to impart knowledge onto students, like vomiting my knowledge into their ears, but rather to create the context for students to learn for themselves. I’m quite comfortable with the idea of being called a ‘facilitator’ instead of a ‘teacher’.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

This year I started a Master of Education, focusing on the position of foundation skills support services. There is a lot of researching and reading involved, so to help me collect my thoughts, I’ve started a blog-type website: I’ve made it public both to share what I discover and to encourage discussion, which, in turn, further renews my ideas and practices.

What professional development do you value?

In terms of content, at the moment, I’m focusing on big picture / macro topics to increase my understanding of the context of foundation skills across Australia, including historical development, government policy and parts of education theory. Later, I’ll look into the finer/micro details.

In terms of events, ones where relationships are developed. There’s always something to be taken away from professional development, but there are often so many questions, points, issues that can be discussed after the event, and having contacts to communicate with can greatly enhance development.

Personally, I prefer one-on-one chats with people, even just by sitting down at a café and picking their brains.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

  • Become aware of the importance of foundation skills in society and the particular industry
  • Learn the foundation skills embedded in units of competency / a program
  • Make a conscious decision at the beginning of a unit/program to incorporate foundation skills development into delivery planning
  • Identify the foundation skills needs and abilities of the students – analyse results of an initial assessment, get to know the students and allow them to practise
  • Get to know foundation skills support services – who they are, where they are, how they can assist, how they can be contacted
  • Engage with foundation skills support specialists for advice on any of the above

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these neeed

Anything (Everything) by Australian researchers, such as Louise Wignall, Dave Tout, Stephen Black and Keiko Yasukawa. Ultimately, though, we can all find resources to meet our needs, whether they are websites, newsletters, academic papers or personal contacts, but to do that we must identify what our needs are and … allow ourselves to learn.

Gregor Mackenzie

Head Teacher Western Sydney Region RUReady Team, Career Pathways, Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills

Gregor MackenzieHow did you start your career in LN?

I first started my career in TAFE the late nineties teaching Reading and Writing for Adults (RAWFA) of an evening at Macquarie Fields TAFE in South Western Sydney. I had previously taught in the school system in this area and had developed a love of that community, which in many instances was disadvantaged from a socio-economic perspective. Around this time, government funding became available under the “Youth at Risk” strategy and having a background in working with disengaged youth, I was given the opportunity to develop and deliver on campus programs designed to re-engage young people of the Mac Fields community in study and career research. This was the beginning of my fulltime career with TAFE and I continued with these programs for some 12 years.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

I think that there has always been an element of social justice that’s guided me. This was a major force when I started with the Youth at Risk programs and saw the outcomes young people could achieve when given the opportunity to have positive educational experiences. Now some 20 years on I currently work with the Western Sydney Region RUReady Team, whose core business is to screen and identify students who may require support to complete their vocational studies. We work with vocational sections, Educational pathways and of course the student to develop support strategies that will best suit the needs of the individual and securing positive outcomes for these students is always a motivating factor.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

Right from the beginning of my TAFE career I was blessed by having a very experienced and knowledgeable mentor by the name of Liz Renshaw. At the time she was the Head Teacher of Foundation Studies and took it upon herself to give a beginning PT teacher the tools required to make his way in a new career. She instilled in me, not only the value of ongoing further study but the capacity to work with and learn off my fellow practitioners. As a result, my ongoing professional development has been a combination of formalised study, both within and external to TAFE and working collaboratively with highly experienced colleagues.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

There are a number of points in my career that have had an impact on how I deliver or view the importance of access to these types of programs, however one in particular stays with me. There was a young Aboriginal girl who came to the Mac. Fields Youth Programs in the early days. Her home life was anything but stable, often finding herself couch surfing and exposing herself to dangerous situations, coupled with this was alcohol and substance abuse.

Her first engagements with the program were sporadic, however with time she fully engaged and began to understand her own potential. By working with other support networks we managed to work through many of her issues with her moving forward to further vocational study within TAFE. Fast forward some 17 years and I ran into this student in the street. We instantly recognised each other. She looked at me and said “I’ve been waiting to see you again, I need to tell you something. What you did for me all those years ago, saved my life.” I smiled and possibly gave a slightly dismissive look, as she paused, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “No, you really saved my life.”

I have always believed that LN practitioners can have a profound impact on students’ lives, it was not until this encounter, did I realise that you may never know how much of an impact you have had.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

In my current capacity within the Western Sydney Region RUReady Team, I have the unique opportunity as an LN practitioner of working with all the different vocational sections across the region. I often will attend their Head Teacher meetings and am able to experience first-hand the varied LLN issues related to specific course requirements. I have always found that by engaging directly with vocational teachers and developing an understanding of precise student requirements, this enables me to share and reflect with my fellow LN practitioners, thus developing fresh practices, better suited to students within that vocational area. Of course engaging in ongoing, formal professional development and engaging in reflection in respect to these always helps keep the mind ticking over.

What professional development do you value?

For me any professional development where I get to engage with fellow practitioners and share thoughts and ideas based on an initial stimulus. One of the most valuable for me is the annual TAFE NSW Engage Conference it consistently has a variety of speakers from varied backgrounds, who always promote forward thinking and reflection on teaching practice in the future. There is always opportunity to discuss the concepts put forward with colleagues which, I believe is a very important part of professional development.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

I believe the single most important thing vocational trainers can do to prepare for LN needs in their classroom is to know where their students are at in respect to their foundation skills. Knowing who will, who won’t and who might need support is essential in planning effective delivery. This can be done through a range of methods whether utilising online or paper based screens however the earlier it can be done in the learner’s journey the better. Secondly touch base with an LN specialist. Utilise their knowledge and experience to assist with the development of your vocational delivery. Finally if a student or students require additional support, look within your organisation to see who can provide this and discuss with the appropriate person the specific student needs and vocational requirements in order to ensure the most effective form of support is provided.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

I don’t really want to choose one particular resource or reading for vocational trainers because an individual’s interests and teaching requirements are so varied. Instead I’ll list my four go to organisations in this area which should provide teachers with a much broader variety of options.

These organisations in no order of preference are:

ACAL The Australian Council for Adult Literacy

NCVER National Centre for Vocational Educational Research

AVETRA Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association

ACER Australian Council for Educational Research

Simone Campbell

Part Time Teacher, Career Pathways, Aboriginal Languages & Employability Skills, TAFENSW

Simone CampbellHow did you start your career in LN?

I started my career in Language, Literacy and Numeracy teaching in 2001. I had just completed my undergraduate degree in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the Australian National University in Canberra. During my this time, I volunteered at the Canberra Migrant Resource Centre as an after school tutor for newly arrived migrants and refugees. I thought If I’m going to be an ESL teacher, I’d better see if I can tutor 1-1 first!

After graduating from the ANU, I enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in TESOL through Wollongong University, by distance education. I was living near Taree on the mid-north coast of NSW, and completed my practical experience in LLN teaching at Taree Community College. Soon after graduating with my teaching qualification in 2002, I started working as a LLN teacher at TAFE NSW Taree Campus. I have worked at various TAFE locations since then and currently teach on the English Language (CSWE) courses at TAFE.

What motivates you to work in this profession?

I have always believed in ‘second chance’ learning and the old saying ‘you’re never too old to learn’. During my career, I have taught students of all ages and from diverse cultural backgrounds, from early school leavers to retirees 80-90 years and all ages in between. I feel my role is to support learners to gain their confidence and self-belief which creates and drives their motivation to succeed. It’s about filling gaps in their learning and giving them the best opportunity to achieve their personal goals, however big or small. I am motivated by their success and seeing them thrive and overcome obstacles along the way.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

Early in my career I was like a sponge, learning as much as I could on the job from the amazing colleagues around me. I was lucky to be working in a Literacy/Numeracy team teaching environment when I first started working at TAFE NSW. I also attended many conferences, regional forums, workshops and local assessment validation sessions which continuously helped to develop my teaching and assessing skills over time. I think as teachers we are always looking to do better, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our delivery style, content and methods.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

In my first year of teaching, I worked with a mature-aged woman who wore a beautiful gold watch. When doing time problems in a numeracy lesson, I asked her to look at her watch to see if she could work out the answer. She told me she couldn’t read the watch and only wore it because it was a gift to her. From this moment forward, I have never assumed anything! Just because someone wears a watch, I don’t assume they know how to read it! Needless to say the activity we were trying to complete was pushed aside and I taught her how to read her watch.

Also early in my career, I worked with LLN learners on various Digital Storytelling projects. I enjoyed helping them tell their stories and life experiences while integrating the literacy and technology skills in a project-based form of learning. Their final products were amazing and the students had a real sense of pride in their achievement. I continue to implement integrated projects where possible in my teaching.

I’ve learnt over time that the essential principles for my teaching are establishing rapport and trust as early as possible. This is key to success. Continuing to build on this by being approachable and meeting the their needs is equally important, while being flexible and adaptable. 2020 has tested this flexibility and adaptability to a new level, by requiring us to move our teaching to remote mix-mode delivery. I have been amazed by how seamlessly our English language learners, who are usually resistant to change, have embraced learning by MS Teams on their home computers. 

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

I have always enjoyed the opportunity to participate in workshops and conferences, many of these are online now. I come away from these experiences with new information and ideas that can be implemented into my classroom and shared with my team of colleagues. Sometimes, it can be as simple as an informal conversation with a colleague and the sharing of ideas and resources. I enjoy working in a collaborative team environment and have been fortunate to work with so many wonderful teachers along the way.

What professional development do you value?

I value learning about innovative practices and new technologies that can be implemented in the classroom. I have always enjoyed attending both large and small scale conferences and workshops. I enjoy the feeling of learning new things and coming away feeling inspired. Recently, during this period of lockdown and remote teaching /learning, I have participated in a wide variety of online training, some mandatory and others through interest. I have embraced webinars and sessions delivered via MS Teams – learning new things from the comfort of home.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

Vocational teachers need to be aware of the difficulties faced by LLN learners in terms of their skills and often their low self-confidence. They should have additional strategies to put into place to support these learners to succeed in a vocational classroom, such as explaining technical terms, providing simple written glossaries, visual supports to text and providing time and space for the learners to ask questions and seek additional support when required. This involves patience and a high degree of empathy for the learner. Their past experience with education may have been interrupted or negative and their vocational experience is a chance to learn in a more supported way.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

I subscribe to ACAL’s newsletter to keep informed of the big picture issues in our field, and for a time I was involved with the NSWALNC and also enjoyed their forums. Vocational teachers need to be aware of the ACSF framework and its principles to properly assist LLN leaners within their vocational field. Some online resources I find useful are BBC skills wise for literacy/numeracy skill development and for my ESL learners I have introduced them to Emma from Mmm English (Youtube) for English Language practise at home.

Rose Colosi

Career Pathways Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills (CPALES)

Rose ColosiHow did you start your career in LLN?

All by accident. In 2008, my TAFE NSW Business Services Head Teacher asked me to assist one of her students, a mature age Afghanistan female refugee student with below average English language skills who was struggling with the theory. However, she kept saying ‘yes’ to all my questions. This baffled me so one day I organised her son to translate for me. He told me she kept saying ‘yes’ because in their culture you never say ‘no’ to a teacher! It resonated immediately to the stories of my parents LLN issues and experiences on arriving to a new country, language and culture when they immigrated as young adults to Australia in the late 1940’s. The light bulb moment for me was that I would love to change teaching pathway and become an LLN facilitator!

What motivates you to work in this profession?

Firstly, my diverse students’ shared stories and resilience in the face of adversity, it is a humbling experience.

I find it rewarding to make them feel welcome at TAFE NSW and I find it interesting to explore/create the individual learning journey for each student and how to assist learners with their diverse skills, needs and aspirations. Over time, I get to watch where it leads them into their academic, employment and/or social practice future.

I never give up on finding what makes a student engage with study and work. Every adult learner has differing degrees of skills and interests, I haven’t yet met one that doesn’t. Adult learners have so much life skills-even though they don’t realise it at times, but I remind them that they do.

Genuinely seeing the students smile and understanding what they are learning – when they say ‘aha, I get it!’

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

I believe life experience and interpersonal skills are extremely important, and equally balanced with academic qualifications and professional development. I feel I connect with students when I try to view their learning journey through their lens. I learn just as much when I teach them. I have learnt innovative ideas and versatility to adapt myself to the shifting learning and social environment and demographics

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

  • Knowing that learning is a two way sharing knowledge process-you can learn from students as well.
  • Having excellent communication and people-person skills.
  • Understanding and acknowledging the diverse cultures and their expectations in each class.
  • Building the communities trust and relationships.
  • Working in the LLN space across Australia in cities, regional and remote (NSW & WA) areas has taught me LLN is so diverse in height, width and depth – learning has no borders and no boundaries.
  • Contextualising the work for the student as compliantly possible. The key is finding what works for the student while maintaining academic standards and outcomes.
  • Accomplishing my Bachelor degree in Adult Vocational Education LLN.
  • National, International (USA & Cuba) LLN networking/sharing docs, Skype experiences, innovative practices/trends and information with other passionate LLN practitioners and stakeholders.
  • Sharing LLN facilitation discussions and receiving feedback from VET teachers, industries, local community groups and organisations.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

  • Constant reading /viewing/discussions of any LLN materials academic papers, conferences, education documentaries both high school and adult education and the www. (I’m a research tragic-always looking for something interesting/new for student learning/participation/engagement).
  • Consultations/discussions with experienced peers.
  • Regularly ask for colleagues and student feedback. Refresh lessons with a new approach/activity.
  • I enrol in a different short course (not LLN related) class every couple of years as a student, just so that I can recap a learner’s experience and note navigation process of a course (assessments, deadlines, text formats, digital course and hardcopy resources etc.), through a learner’s lens.
  • Visit LLN websites and read LLN related blogs.

What professional development do you value?

Networking with other LLN peers/practitioners and their LLN practices and experiences both formally and informally. Any IT training that will benefit me and the students e.g. MS Teams for remote students (a great challenge for all involved!). Formal LLN courses /workshops. Attending LLN conferences that offer interesting group breakout practical sessions. Listening to great industry guest speakers.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LLN needs in their classroom?

I have generally five rules I follow in classroom:

  • Know my students. Know each person’s name, one thing that is their interest and their learning style.
  • Know the community. Whether teaching in a city, metropolitan area, regional town or out in the desert, understand the community’s idiosyncrasies of transport, cultural issues etc.
  • Be flexible, negotiate and use exceptional communication and interpersonal skills. Strong doses of respect, trust, humour, empathy and patience is a must. It can produce amazing results.
  • Know the product, course and resources. Being organised and yet know how to quickly change direction and tactics when something isn’t working. Being prepared generally maintains an acceptable learning and engaging environment and productive day for all.
  • Share and swap resources, constructive feedback and experiences (negative and positive ones) with colleagues in a genuine and professional manner. It’s no use reinventing ‘new wheels for the LLN bus’ if a colleague can assist you and vice versa.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs

  • Readings: (Links) No More Excuses, What Works.
  • Books: Teaching Adult Literacy Principles and Practice-Norah Hughes Irene Schwab. ACSF manual.
  • LLN subscription and web sites: ACAL, NCVER, VALBEC, WAALC, ACSF and Skills Wise UK.

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!

Laura Chapman

Reconnect Facilitator & Volunteer Program Manager, Carringbush Adult Education, Victoria

Laura Chapman and Elizabeth Deng

Laura Chapman and student Elizabeth Deng

How did you start your career in LN?

I ventured into literacy and numeracy teaching from EAL teaching, but had originally studied fine art with the aim of being an art teacher. I began teaching newly arrived refugees, which opened my eyes to the importance of LLN skills in giving people agency to engage in community activities and access opportunities. The resilience and determination of the students got me hooked! Working with adults who had minimal prior formal education and no prior foundation literacy skills in any language piqued my interest in language acquisition and how adults learn literacy. At the time there wasn’t much specialist knowledge available for low literacy EAL learners, so I figured things out as I went – to this day I cringe when I think of my early lessons! 19 years later I’m still figuring out this teaching thing!

What motivates you to work in this profession?

OK, cliché warning: I am motivated by the learners – their unique stories and strengths that can be harnessed to overcome significant barriers to learning. Like most teachers who are in this industry for the long haul,  I aim to support individuals along their learning pathways, but am also driven from an access and equity perspective: too many people fall through the gaps in the education system. Structural failures and inadequate adult LLN resourcing propel me to work through a lens of social justice and find ways to engage people who face entrenched disadvantage. From a family literacy perspective, I think we have a responsibility to work together as a community to break intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and build the capacity of families to increase their literacy skills. I’m also inspired by highly dedicated colleagues who go above and beyond to deliver engaging learning programs.

How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?

I have been very fortunate to learn on-the-job from skilled colleagues who have patiently pointed me in the right direction for approaches to program delivery, teaching strategies and professional development. Communities of practice have been invaluable to enable pooling of resources and sharing expertise. Action research, more recently in ACFE-funded Capacity and Innovation Fund (CAIF) projects, has enabled our staff at Carringbush to design and trial new models of delivery and develop learning resources. Funded initiatives for action research, fellowships and research partnerships are vital to enable educators to maintain currency and develop an evidence-base for their teaching.

Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?

Working with people with disabilities or chronic physical and mental health conditions that impact significantly upon their daily lives has taught me about individual resourcefulness, to focus on abilities and think creatively. I have learned a lot from community development projects, particularly incorporating strengths-based and participatory approaches,  and collaborating with other support services outside the education sector. Professional development in counselling and trauma-informed approaches helps me to better understand the needs of learners and create a safe learning environment – and assists with my own emotional regulation! When I started investigating unconscious bias, white privilege and white fragility, I realised that I had been unconsciously complicit in some patronising and assimilationist practices, so that has led me to another meta-level of reflective practice.

How do you renew your ideas and practices?

I try to attend regular professional development through local and national conferences, forums and training. Sector newsletters and email updates are a great way to get regular small doses of professional reading. We’re often multi-tasking and don’t have time to really observe, listen and respond to each learner. I find it very energising when I can take time for truly reflective practice or engage in small scale action research. Teacher-to-teacher observation can push you out of your comfort zone, but it is invaluable to have input and feedback from peers. Similarly, team-teaching and co-delivering programs gets me out of the rut of doing things the same way through sharing expertise and co-developing new teaching strategies or resources. I’m fortunate to manage a skilled and committed team of volunteers who constantly contribute new ideas – they spark many “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments!

What professional development do you value?

I value practical evidence-based approaches specifically aimed at adults with LLN needs, which are not easy to come by! We need to reach out to professionals in other fields to develop cross-sectoral partnerships where we can access experts in speech pathology, specific learning disorders, disability, trauma etc. Funding teachers to trial new modes of delivery or teaching strategies demonstrates how highly your organisation values staff development, with the ultimate aim of improving outcomes for learners. Whole-of-organisation approaches take time to implement, but provide consistency for learners and structured professional learning for teachers, who can help induct new staff as they come on board.

I hope that one silver lining of social distancing and lockdown is that educators can access free professional development on digital learning platforms that cater to adults with low levels of language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills.

How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?

The challenging and most rewarding aspect of LLN teaching is that it is never one size fits all, but all learning must be individualised. I try to invest time, particularly early on in a training program, to collaborate with learners on needs analyses and learner plans. I also try to apply the principles of universal design to learning resources – how can I design my resources to be accessible to all learners in diverse settings? With disparate learner groups I rely heavily on volunteers to provide individualised support or small group learning.

My advice would be to seek expertise where you don’t have the knowledge and skills – whether that’s for a student with dyslexia, an intellectual disability, a traumatic backgrounds – and build relationships between your organisation and services that can at least give you some key strategies.

Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?

For your own professional learning, I recommend signing up to the newsletters of ACAL and peak LLN bodies to receive information on the latest developments in the LLN sector and upcoming professional development opportunities. VALBEC’s Fine Print magazine has some excellent articles that provide a great summary of innovations in current practices. Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA), and the VET Development Centre (VDC) provide articles on the latest developments in specific learning difficulties and professional development opportunities. Head to the Reading Writing Hotline website for resources and keep your eyes peeled for the new Adult Literacy Connect online resource portal, which will be launched in 2020.

Wendy Kennedy

Wendy Kennedy

VET Lecturer / Workplace Assessor - Adult Literacy & Numeracy, Charles Darwin University

Wendy has over thirty years’ experience in Adult General Education, focussing on the design, management and implementation of high quality, customised, adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) programs for organisations and communities. Seventeen years of this experience was gained working in remote Indigenous education in Gunbalanya, a community in Western Arnhemland in the Northern Territory (NT).

There, Wendy developed a high level of skill and understanding of the cross-cultural issues associated with the delivery of accredited and non-accredited adult LLN programs in community environments. She was instrumental in establishing the highly successful Injalak Arts and Crafts Association, through which Gunbalanya’s Indigenous artists have been able to acquire skills, develop their local industry and control the commercialisation of their artwork.

When Wendy relocated to Darwin, initially employed at the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE and later at Charles Darwin University (CDU), she continued her commitment to adult education, through management and implementation of adult LLN programs for local organisations, regional and remote communities and involvement in offshore projects.  She has established and maintained extensive professional networks throughout the NT and beyond, liaising with industry representatives and government departments to identify workforce training needs and coordinating training in consultation with employers. The breadth of her work includes curriculum writing, delivering training from Certificate I to Graduate Diploma level and the TAE.

Wendy provides leadership in specialist areas of literacy and numeracy within her work role at CDU, providing professional development sessions to staff on the Australian Core Skills Framework. Other contributions to the field include acting as NT Representative for the National Access Education Leaders Network since 2011 and as the NT Representative for the Reading Writing Hotline Steering Group. Over time, Wendy has developed and demonstrated a deep understanding of the complexities of LLN policy and practice, remaining committed to improving the literacy and numeracy levels of adults so they can reach their full potential, just as the over 300 local artists at Injalak have done.

Deb Guntrip

Deb Guntrip

Debra Guntrip is a finalist in the Australian Training Awards for the Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award. Her role delivering workplace literacy with TasTAFE has led her to work in a range of workplaces supporting employers and members of their workforces to strengthen language, literacy and numeracy skills on the job.

Deb moved to Tasmania with her family about 20 years ago. After a successful career running her own hairdressing business, she saw the move as an opportunity to start a new career that wasn’t as tiring on her arms. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Adult and Vocational Education and volunteered with Adult Literacy and Basic Education Tasmania. After graduating, she moved into paid work establishing community projects using accredited training. She loved the role of tailoring projects for community groups.

Since beginning work with TasTAFE, Deb has focussed on work-based literacy projects using funding from 26TEN, the previous WELL program, and other fee-for-service sources. She works with employers to explore their context, design a program with them and develop the application for funding. She then delivers the program and completes the reporting requirements. She seems to thrive on the project-based nature of her work.

The program content generally centres around workplace procedures. Deb will often assist in developing accessible procedural documentation using Plain English and the inclusion of graphics. She then trains staff to interpret as well as write procedures. This fits well with the broad approach to workplace literacy promoted by 26TEN. That is, where possible, bring the complexity of workplace documents closer to ACSF level 3 at the same time as learners/workers are trained to strengthen their skills to meet this level. 26TEN does not require the use of accredited training, but learner progress is mapped against the ACSF using the finer gradations approach identified by Escalier McLean (2013)[1].

The training Deb conducts sees her working all hours of the day and in all areas of the business. This has included regularly doing training in a grader cab, working in the production and hatchery areas at salmon farms, on apiary sites with beekeepers, and working at an abattoir. When working one-on-one with learners, she has a maxim of “what do you need right now?” This might be directly related to work or specific to other aspects of the person’s life. One of the stories she shared, which exemplifies her approach, was working with a young man employed as a boner at the abattoir. He had ambitions of becoming a drover, so Deb worked with him to develop his vocabulary and numeracy specific to that role. He went on to successfully apply for the new role.

[1] Escalier McLean Consulting. (2013). ‘Exploration project on reporting Language Literacy and Numeracy outcomes using finer gradations of the Australian Core Skills Framework, ACSF’. Skills Tasmania. Available from

Jill Finch

Jill Finch

Jill Finch has taught literacy and numeracy to adults for more than 30 years. A Head Teacher for 25 years, Jill has broad experience across many programs, locations and learners, from beginner literacy and numeracy through to graduate level programs, and delivery of professional development.  She has worked with volunteers, in trades, in community-based and indigenous programs, and in the workplace.  She has had roles in curriculum development, LLN policy review, and teacher practicums.

With initial qualifications in high school English and ESL teaching, Jill was attracted into adult literacy straight from university, with the expectation that she would undertake further specialist study. She subsequently completed postgraduate/Masters qualifications in Adult Ed, Special Ed, Adult LLN, and Applied Linguistics/TESOL.  This gives a thorough academic underpinning to her work, but she feels that her early experience learning from other ABE teachers with a strong grounding in adult education has given her a lifelong commitment to student-centred, needs-based learning.

Jill’s areas of LLN interest include team teaching in vocational Learner Support, and working with Indigenous learners. For many years Jill coordinated VET learner support at one of the largest TAFE Colleges in Australia and worked to build successful relationships with vocational sections, via LN screening programs, customizing resources, and ongoing team-teaching.

Jill has a long involvement in the development of the adult LLN field through active roles in union and professional organisations.  She was President of the NSW Adult Literacy & Numeracy Council for many years, planning and running regular seminars to develop and share teaching expertise.  She feels a great sense of loss that systems and compliance matters are now the sole focus of PD in VET currently.

More recently, Jill has been working as a project officer for the national Reading Writing Hotline, liaising with government, community organisations, industry, and LLN providers on policy issues, adult literacy promotion and LLN resources.  Jill is also teaching by distance on the Graduate Diploma in Adult LLN Practice, drawing on her broad background to deliver LLN teacher education. She also continues with a long-standing customized workplace program for local government, teaching digital literacy to outdoor workers.

Dalia Kaldas

Dalia Kaldas

As a Language, Literacy and Numeracy teacher Dalia’s aim is to ensure that her students experience success in their learning. Many students in this area have experienced difficulties in their life or in their learning so it is vital for her as a teacher to plan lessons aimed at their skill level. Once a student experiences success in learning, self confidence improves and students are then willing to take more risks in learning and broaden their goals for further study or employment.

Dalia’s expertise has developed through her diverse teaching experiences and her qualifications. Beginning with a Diploma of Teaching and Bachelor of Education (Primary), Dalia refined adult LN teaching expertise through completing a Graduate Diploma in Adult Basic Education.

Dalia has been involved in many areas of teaching Adult Basic Education. She has taught face to face adult literacy and numeracy classes since 1994. Classes taught have ranged from beginner to advanced levels, Energy Australia (now AUSGRID) and Railcorp  Indigenous pre-apprenticeship programs to WELL programs working with workers at Sydney Day Nurseries and Columbia Nursing Homes, Jemena Gas Company and Uniting Care as well as teaching on LLNP funded classes. Some classes had a literacy focus while other classes were mainly numeracy focussed. At Barangaroo Skills Exchange, Dalia assessed all new workers for language, literacy and numeracy needs and provided 1:1 support to students who needed assistance in rigging, dogging and other workcover tickets. Dalia’s hint to new teachers is to understand that all teaching, whether group, 1:1 or a team teaching situation, requires forethought of the essential skills, preparation and a consideration of how to teach the content.

Since 2012 Dalia has also taught adult basic literacy and numeracy by distance, through post and increasingly online. Other cohorts Dalia has worked with to develop LN include youth at risk, vocational learners requiring support, migrants, and learners with a disability.

Dalia was the coordinator of a volunteer tutor program involving training members of the community in how to assist adults in reading, writing, oracy and computer skills. She matched volunteers to adults in the community who required assistance in language and literacy skills and supported volunteers by providing resources for them to use with their students.

In addition to teaching, Dalia has also developed expertise through other roles, including mapping training package units against the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) for skills service organisations and to inform the writing of literacy and numeracy Indicator tools. She has also worked as a Literacy Numeracy Consultant for the Board of Studies in NSW. This involved taking part in the standards setting process for the Board’s Literacy test for school leavers, the ROSA.

Dalia is a member of NSWALNC and ACAL.