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, There are also two universities (CSU and UTS) currently offering adult LN qualifications. ACAL calls on the Federal Government to lead action on renewal of a qualified workforce and professional pathways for adult literacy and numeracy teachers.

In 2023 we introduce a new section featuring students currently studying to be LN teachers.

    Students LLN profiles 

      Jodie Harris

      This month we introduce another student currently studying to be an LN teacher. Jodie Harris is enrolled in the TAE Grad Dip in Adult LLN and says:

      If you are patient, empathetic, have a genuine passion for helping people and are up for a challenge then LLND is a career for you. I love going to work knowing that I am going to make a difference to a person’s life. No day is ever the same in this industry and I love the diversity. I have taught students from 15 years of age to 95 years of age. We are never too old to learn.

      1. What motivated you to enrol in a course to become an LN teacher?
      I completed my TAE back in 2015 – 2016. I began working in an administrative role in the Career Pathways Aboriginal Languages Employability Skills section at TAFE in 2017. I have a genuine passion for helping others. In 2019, I was given the
      opportunity to teach digital literacy to group of students and I could see the positive impact this had on their lives. From here, I was given other opportunities in the section teaching employability skills, digital literacy at the local library, communication skills, working on the IPROWD program, coordinating the defence program and more recently teaching and coordinating the introduction to year 10 program. This is where my journey with LLND started. I really enjoy sharing my knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to help others.

      2. How did you choose a course and was it difficult to find out about a career in this
      To continue to teach in the CPALES section at TAFE, it is a requirement to have a graduate diploma in LLN. To find an RTO that delivers this course was extremely hard. I needed a course that was affordable, flexible with blended delivery. It hasn’t been difficult for me to find a career in this field, as I can see there is a need for LLN teachers across all TAFE sections.

      3. What’s your background? (eg other jobs, carer role etc)
      I left school after failing my HSC. I worked fulltime for 12 months for a Hand Specialist, as a medical secretary. After working for 12 months, I decided I wanted to join the NSW Police. Because I failed my HSC I had to complete a Certificate IV level
      course to be accepted into Charles Sturt University. I completed a 6 month Business Management Course with TAFE and this fulfilled my academic requirement to join the NSW Police. After spending 12 months at Goulbourn I graduated as a
      Probationary Constable, with a Diploma of Policing Practice. I was 20 and started working at Chatswood Police Station on Christmas Eve. I had a very successful career in the NSW Police working general duties policing, street level operative, a
      field training officer and education support officer. After 11 years, I left the NSW Police. I then had a short career break and stayed home to look after my 3 children under 3. I had a 2 year old then twins. This was by far, the hardest job I have had. I then had to reinvent myself, so I went back to TAFE to study a Diploma of Project Management followed by Cert IV in Leadership and Management. I then began work with Special Olympics Australia as a Community Coordinator. This was a fantastic and rewarding role organising sporting days for intellectual and physically disabled students. I networked with local schools and sporting organisations to engage the students into their sports of interest. After this role I began working with TAFE NSW. I started in the Learning and Development, then as an EAS and I’m still here now in a Teaching Role.

      4. What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned so far?
      Last year I was given the opportunity to work on a Foundation Skills For Your Future Project with a Local Council. This program was designed to upskill their field staff in digital literacy skills. Before the staff came to TAFE we completed a one on one LLND screen. During one of the interviews with a foreman, who had been employed with the company for 32 years, I leaned that this man had extremely low LLN skills. He screened at Level 1 for reading and writing. He was extremely nervous and embarrassed about this. After I explained that the screen was complexly confidential, he confided in me that he has always struggled with reading and writing. He had always talked his way around writing tasks and delegates tasks to others and gets his wife to complete any forms or written tasks for him. He left school in year 9 and began working as a trade assistant. The most interesting and surprising thing I have learned is that LLND issues are more common than I expected and how this can significantly impact on their daily lives. So many people face challenges in reading, writing and numeracy which can limit their employment opportunities and daily activities. Never presume knowledge.

      5. At this stage of your study, do you think a higher qualification is giving you
      knowledge that will be valuable?
      Yes, I am getting knowledge and information from the course I am completing. I can relate this back to the classroom when I work with the students. I do feel I have learned the most valuable skills in the classroom, working closely with other experienced LLN teachers and being mentored by experienced LLN teachers. I have a great network of staff I can always rely on.

      6. What do you hope to do when you graduate?
      Continue to work in the CPALES section within TAFE.

      7. What would you say to other people who are considering a career in adult LN?
      If you are patient, empathetic, have a genuine passion for helping people and up for a challenge then LLND is a career for you. I love going to work knowing that I am going to make a difference to a person’s life. No day is ever the same in this industry and I love the diversity. I have taught students from 15 years of age to 95 years of age. We
      are never too old to learn.

        Megan Buhagiar

        1. What motivated you to enrol in a course to become an LN teacher?
        I had just finished the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, which allowed me to teach a range of ages from 3 – 15 years old. I knew I wanted to pursue a career linked to TESOL, but also wanted to experience all facets of the industry. As I had really enjoyed teaching the younger children in preschool and primary school, and also had heard so much about teacher shortages, I was considering a Master’s in Teaching – Early Childhood and Primary Education. So, I was deliberating between TESOL, Applied Linguistics or Teaching as study options to further my career. While researching various courses, I was told about the SBS Programme Lost For Words. It was so uplifting to see the participants grow over the course of the show, and how improving their literacy and numeracy had made a real impact on their lives. It also hit close to home as a child of parents whose first language is not English, and who also face similar issues related to numeracy and literacy. Watching Jo and Adam teach and assess students, I thought to myself I wouldn’t mind doing that. So, I started to look more closely into LN courses.

        2. How did you choose a course and was it difficult to find out about a career in this field?
        It was a little difficult to find information about careers in the LN field. It’s not exactly teacher like in schools, but neither is it a tertiary or VET instructor. After watching Lost for Words, I decided to reach out to the Australian Council for Adult Literacy for further information about potential courses and qualifications needed through a general enquiry form on their website. I was surprised, amazed and delighted to receive a reply from the Jo Medlin who put me in touch with Keiko Yasukawa, the course coordinator of the TESOL and Applied Linguistics at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). After further research, a zoom meeting to answer queries and lots of weighing up of pros and cons, I decided to undertake the UTS course, which had a specific focus on Adult Literacy and Numeracy.

        3. What’s your background? (eg other jobs, carer role etc)
        I have always been interested in the world at large and love experiencingdifferent cultures. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I was working in the Tourism industry and found I was drawn ever more to connecting with people from other cultures. I was involved in running a university club that aimed to support international students on both study abroad and exchange programmes. We tried to build up students’ confidence by offering casual English conversation classes, teaching about Australian culture, organising excursions to explore Sydney, and acting as a support network, essentially becoming the students’ Australian Family, as one student said to me. My passion for this club was fuelled by my own experiences of study abroad, where I sadly found such a place lacking. Knowing how difficult it is to adjust to a different culture, especially when you are homesick and don’t confidently speak the language, I wanted to ensure students coming to Australia were able to find support and a place to call their own while studying here. My involvement and experiences within the club led me to complete a CELTA course which solidified my career choice within this industry.

        4. What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned so far?
        I feel I have only just started learning about adult LN in earnest and have much and more to learn. But I am delighted to know that there has been a small shift from economic focussed courses back towards more individualised and personalised courses that focus on learners’ actual needs rather than a set curriculum. Further, one of the most significant things I have learnt is the importance that a learner’s first (or subsequent) language(s) plays in the development of their English and how improvement in one language also supports supplementary development in the other(s). This has really helped me to change my mindset from an English only, full immersion point of view to one of embracing other languages to support and scaffold learning.

          LLN Profiles

            Lyndall Boulos


            How did you start your career in LN?
            As an early childhood trained teacher, I was “asked” by a friend to come to an “interview-discussion” (private RTO and not for profit) about working with adults learning literacy. I stayed there and did further education on the job  training. I found my way and lived it!

            What motivates you to work in this profession?
            I am motivated by the opportunity to assist people, students and learners in gaining life skills and literacy skills and education to enhance and have a better life.

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

            • Experience
            • Learn from learners
            • Workshops
            • Professional development
            • Research
            • Ongoing learning each day

            Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
            Audits at RTOs
            Conferences where we swap strategies

            How do you renew your ideas and practices?
            Put them into practice and access research.

            What professional development do you value?

            • Conferences
            • Online PD
            • Learning from colleagues

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

            • Research, use online technology
            • Be prepared
            • Learn from colleagues

            Kate Bailey

            How did you start your career?
            I have a background in paediatric nursing and midwifery and when I was teaching nursing to nurses and ante natal classes to parents I fell in love with adult education. I chose to study primary school teaching after two of my children were having difficulties learning and I wanted to understand why they weren’t learning in the classroom.
            Why did you change careers and focus on LLN?
            I realised the privilege an education had provided me, and decided I wanted to give other people that same opportunity. My education allowed me to attend university and what I learnt helped me support my own kids when they were struggling to learn at school to guide them to being able to finish school strongly and go to university. I began volunteering in some classes with Centacare WA and was offered a job teaching digital literacy.
            I am currently studying the Certificate IV TAE (TAE40122) and will add LLN units. I came to the WAACL conference 2023 hoping to find someone who would help me work out the best pathway for LLN… and then I heard Jo (from ACAL) talk about the disarray the pathway seems to be in! So, I am moving slowly and looking at options as they become available. I am enjoying the contemporary version of the ClV but I am truly open to LLN suggestions for the next step.
            Who inspires you?
            I am inspired by Rita Pearson and Brian Mender.
            How have you developed your professional skills?
            My curiosity has led me to do lots of reading and researching. I am very interested in high impact teaching strategies, and adult learning principles. Although a lot of information about high impact strategies talks about school education, I like to think of eight of them as learning strategies rather than teaching strategies and hoping I can finish a short book that is in editing stages suggesting the same. I believe we should teach learners explicitly how to use our prior knowledge/experiences to ease the burden of learning (cognition), we should know our learning goals, we should know how to collaborate to find the stronger answer to problems. I also like checking out new digital ideas which has helped me to teach.
            What is your favourite type of PD?
            I love coaching and mentoring styles of learning: they empower the learner.  I recently listened to Densie Cox talk about how to choose your PD, so with that in mind any topic that I believe in, but I don’t know very much about, is my new favourite PD. 

            Moe Pourkarim

            I’m thrilled to introduce myself as a dedicated LLND course designer and program manager, aiming to make a difference in people’s lives by empowering them to reach their full potential through education. I enjoy utilising technology to create interactive and practical task-based learning experiences. Additionally, I’m constantly researching new and innovative techniques to facilitate effective learning and training delivery.

            I have experience teaching international students and Indigenous students, as well as supporting teachers at various language training organisations in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. 

            In my current role, I’m managing the ALPA Regional University Study Hubs across four remote communities in the Northern Territory, where we offer language and learning support services to students and work closely with community stakeholders to upskill their team members through training and education. 

             Serving Indigenous people in remote communities has been one of the highlights of my career, and I’m honoured to be part of the ACAL committee to represent the Northern Territory and advocate for its LLND adult learners.

            Sharon Gilbert

            1. How do you describe yourself?
            I am motivated, driven and always look to challenge myself. I am an experienced adult education team leader and teacher with over 20 years’ experience working in the language and literacy field.
            2. How did you start your career in LN?
            My career developed in LLN following a number of years travelling overseas. I gained an interest in other cultures. The first 10 years of my career I spent working in science, returning to university to study for my Masters in Linguistics.
            3. What motivates you to work in this profession?
            I am passionate about my field. I am mostly motivated by the extraordinary students I get to meet, interact with and support to meet their work, personal and settlement goals. I am grateful to have had opportunities to make a difference and help students in their learning journey.
            When I was engaged in the AMEP I loved designing educational programs to meet the needs and interests of newly arrived migrants and refugees. Watching students succeed and move into other learning experiences and employment is very rewarding. I am committed to supporting and developing teachers in the field of language and literacy and those new to the vocational educational and training sector.
            4. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
            Learning and professional development are important to me. I have worked in different sectors, programs and with different learners. I stay connected to LLN programmes, research, government initiatives, LLN / ESL industry bodies, LLN curriculums and LLN frameworks.
            I have been fortunate to have had opportunities to work with knowledgeable and passionate professionals and be involved in projects and working groups to expand my knowledge base.
            5. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
            One aspect of my previous roles I found rewarding was collaborating with stakeholders to design educational programs to support the development of language and literacy skills in the workplace. Identifying the needs of learners, and designing training to meet the needs of stakeholders and seeing the positive outcomes these programs bring to people was extremely rewarding.
            6. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
            Engaging in PD and remaining current in the field. Being aware of initiatives, government strategies and practices of others in the industry.
            Being involved in government / programs creates opportunities to learn and develop in the field.
            7. What professional development do you value?
            Communities of practice, on the job collaborations, opportunities for growth and development through working on projects and being part of national working groups.
            8. How can vocational trainers prepare for LLN needs in their classroom?
            Some key tips would be:

            1.  Creating a positive and inclusive learning environment 
            2. Developing strong pedagogical skills
            3. Continuing professional development  
            4. Understanding pre-enrolment information 
            5. Understanding and knowing your learners
            6. Evaluating teaching strategies
            7. Understanding student support services
            8. Using plain English when designing learning and assessment material

            9. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
            I would recommend engaging and connecting with as many articles, webinars, research, professional development opportunities and professional bodies as possible to stay connected, current and well-read in the field of LLN and VET. There is a lot freely available PD that can be used to inform and improve on your practices. 

            Cassie Stanley

            1. How do you describe yourself?
            I am a passionate individual that believes that every human deserves an education and it’s up to us as educators to ignite the learning flame through fun, relevant and engaging learning activities.
            2. How did you start your career in LN?
            Working in Human Resources and Learning and Development roles I had witnessed many gaps in education.  I knew that I could only do so much within the Human Resources world, so I started to look for my next career move.  I did my TAE, still unsure of where it was going to take me.  I moved into the world of employment services, supporting people into employment and recognised the LLN Gaps in the community and how it was affecting them in their daily lives.   This was the moment my passion for LLN was ignited, I have not looked back.
            3. What motivates you to work in this profession?
            The Outcomes, I love seeing the grandfather who learns to read and is so excited about being able to read a story to their grandchild for the first time.
            I love seeing the pride in the learner’s face when they grasp a concept and practically apply the concept in their life.
            4. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
            The teachers and trainers around me are my biggest learning tool.  I am very blessed to work with people whose passion align with my own, this allows continuous development.   I love attending Teaching and learning events to increase my knowledge and skills levels including formal training.
            5. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
            Being the Training Manager of the Alternative Pathways team at Prestige Service Training had a massive impact on my teaching and learning practices and the way in which I look at building participants capacity through foundation skills.
            This led me to the National Indigenous Training Academy, where I was able to see the need for educators to understand the students learning needs including an educators cultural competence, their ability to engage the learners and provide foundational skills whilst teaching a Certificate III level course.
            I now work within the Skills for Education and Employment contracts and have created a supportive and engaging learning environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all students.  This has seen a massive increase in engagement in students attending the training.  The results have been amazing, and it all comes back to making the training, FUN, relative and practical.
            6. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
            Constant research into LLN practices and engagement strategies in teaching and learning practices and attendance of teaching and learning networking and learning events.
            7. What professional development do you value?
            Practical teaching and learning activities
            8. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
            Vocational trainers can provide a person-centred learning experience in the classroom by:

            •  Understanding the student’s needs, this can includes understanding their LLN needs, their learning styles, learning barriers.
            • Creating a personalised learning plan, based on the learners needs.
            • Provide varied training delivery by tailoring your teaching methods to accommodate the diverse needs of your students.
            • Offer additional support, be prepared to offer additional support for those who may need additional support.
            • Foster a supportive and engaging learning environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all students.   Encourage collaboration, communication, and respect among students to help them feel comfortable and motivated to learn.

            Jo Medlin

            1. How did you start your career in LN?
            I came to adult literacy and numeracy (LN) with a Bachelor in Special Education (early childhood to adult) and a Dip Primary Ed. I soon realised that although they gave me the basics of task analysing LN needs, working with adult LN learners was a different ballgame. I quickly enrolled in the ALT and ANT (Adult literacy Teaching
            and Adult Numeracy Teaching courses) and started to understand that adult learners cannot be treated like children who need to be ‘patched up’. I put aside my leader-to-learning approach from school ed and embraced the ideas of Knowles and Freire. I found that being a facilitator and working alongside learners was far more satisfying (for me and them).
            2. What other qualifications were needed?
            The ANT and ALT were fantastic, but I realised that I wanted to find out more about how adults read. I enrolled in a Masters of Education and Training where I was able to select my own research topics. I looked at adult basic ed (as it was called then) as a social movement, and then international research about adult reading. These combined perfectly with my Bachelor of Special Ed where the focus was a combination of a phonics and behavioural approaches: The international research and the social movement study revealed the value of starting from what adults already knew and their current real-world LN practices, and building from there. Some needed phonics, but others did not. I think it helped me become better at ‘diagnosing’ gaps and working out how to plan for individual assistance. Later I also did the TAE80113 Grad Dip in Adult LLN, which was focussed more on VET foundation skills.
            3. What concerns you?
            The more I know the less I feel know so I am always seeking new ideas. Taking on different projects and having a go has thrown me together with some incredible people who have been very generous in sharing their knowledge. In every job I have done over the last 30yrs, whether paid or volunteer, I can think of at least one person each time who I have learned from. It concerns me that those knowledge holders are nearing retirement (or already there) and that those coming behind them have been more constrained in the types of teaching they can deliver, and the range of qualifications they can access. I can’t possibly name all those who have taught and inspired me, but I do often ask myself will there be the Touts, Osmonds, Finches, Marrs, Iles, Norrises, Fords, Kileys and so on for the next generation? I sincerely hope so!
            4. What inspires you?
            Lost for Words sums up all that inspires me because it shows me again and again that there are good people in this space. I see it in the willingness of Jay to embrace adult literacy and become an articulate and persuasive spokesperson for learners; in the professionalism and passion of Adam who loves teaching; in the empathy and desire of Deb and her crew to bring the message of adult literacy to the community; and in the learners who worked so hard and who were willing to share their real stories. The response from the public also continues to be overwhelming and unexpected. To be contacted by hundreds of people who want to get involved or find out more shows there is so much good will to be harnessed!
            5. What advice do you have for other teachers?

            • Look beyond your current work or volunteer space and see what else you can
              dip your toe into. Volunteering for ACAL has been not just a career highlight
              for me, but also a life highlight.
            • Keep an open mind. Listen to students and don’t judge.
            • Don’t take yourself too seriously, and remember the wise words of my good
              friend Jay “Jo, if they are criticising you it means you got them to listen and
              think”. Easy for an actor with the mantra ‘there’s no bad publicity’, but I think
              he had a good point! Not everyone will love what you do and say, but if you
              can open the door to reading for just one person, it’s worth it.

            Cindy Davies

            Cindy Davies has been an electrical trades teacher and lead teacher at Melbourne Polytechnic for over 18 years. In various levels of education Cindy has worked closely with LN teachers in supporting students’ learning needs. Cindy has been involved in many changes from delivering paper based assessments to online assessments and the transitions of qualifications. One important factor in her educational journey has been the ever changing needs of learners. Working in collaboration with the classroom support team is always a number one priority.

            1. What motivates you to work in this profession?
            Being able to pass on the skills and knowledge I had the privilege of being taught by my mentors and teachers at school.
            2. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
            Attending workshops, conferences and then using that information to reflect and improve how and what I deliver in my classroom to support the ever-changing needs of my learners.
            3. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
            Talking with other teachers from different areas across my institute during in house conferences. The students also renew and refresh my ideas around teaching practices all time from their feedback.
            4. What professional development do you value?
            PD that is relevant and gives me the skills and knowledge to enhance the way I deliver to my learners so they stay engaged and the experience they have in the classroom results in positive outcomes and successful completion of their apprenticeship.
            5. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
            Be aware of the LN needs of the students in the classroom. Collaborate with the learning support staff to modify the delivery plan to allow all the learners the opportunity to experience a supportive learning environment.

            Betty Ofe-Grant

            1. Betty Ofe-GrantHow did you start your career in LN?
              I officially started my career in LN while working on a LN research project.

            2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
              I am motivated by tautua (service) and alofa (love) to help Pacific communities who live with low levels of LN in New Zealand. I grew up poor and know first-hand of the challenges and hardships that Pacific people face regarding low LN. So this is what pushes me to find out ways to improve their situation so that they prosper and benefit from having firmly established LN.

            3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
              Research, practical knowledge, education, multiple talanoa (discussions) and getting out in the field at the ‘grass-roots level’ have helped me develop professional skills and knowledge over time.

            4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
              I was part of a performance appraisal panel and witnessed a cross-cultural misunderstanding that led to a missed career promotion for a Pacific person. Where the panel (white professionals) misunderstood cultural practices as deviant behaviour. This was a pivotal moment in my career that led me to this point where I pursue and research cross-culture practices at the workplace that delay Pacific people from accessing higher careers.

            5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
              I get out into the field (outside of academia and the university) and find out what is happening in the real world.

            6. What professional development do you value?
              Cross-mentorship due to the strategic, cultural, and collegial benefits of mentor and mentee from different cultures.

            7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
              From my experience, trainers should know and understand the cultural backgrounds of their learners so that they can adapt or modify their teaching and content techniques to their learners. Too often I come across trainers that are culturally-incompetent and have ‘no-clue’ about how to engage their learners. Some trainers use outdated methods and styles that border on culturally offensive content that have no place in the classrooms.

            8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
              I would strongly recommend that vocational trainers whose learners come from a specific ethnic group should have ethnic-specific trainers. This is so that cultural competencies are met for example culturally safe module and environment for engaging learners. I do understand that it is not always possible to find a trainer who is indigenous, Pacific or ethnic minority.

             John Blake

            John Blake1. How did you start your career in LN?
            As strange as it sounds, the short answer to my career commencement in Literacy was the tragedy of the World Trade Centre in 2001. I had been a chef until that point, working in North Africa and had studied journalism as a side interest. Tourists stopped flying. I moved into teaching EAL and writing training material in a hospitality training college.

            2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
            As many teachers, I find immense intrinsic motivation in seeing learners grow and develop and supporting their move from fixed to growth mindsets. One of my favourite memories of this was teaching English in prison to an Aussie male who wanted to learn to read so that he could read to his three-year-old on release.

            3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
            I am a life-long learner. Upon returning to Australia in 2006 I got my TAA, then Dip VET, Grad Cert in Adult LLN, before going on to complete my M.Ed in Education (Literacy Education). 

            4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
            I see immediate results and a higher level of engagement with the activities that I develop or choose to use when introducing meta-language and getting learners familiar with English. Whether EAL or Foundation Skills units (FSK) I will use (social & emotional) affective strategies, along with a prolific amount of visual and tactile resources to underpin the terminology (jigsaw puzzles, magnetic laminated cards, flashcards, laminated photos/words for matchups, etc.) 

            5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
            I attend conferences and webinars, read websites, books, and journal articles, ask questions of students and inspirational teachers, and remain inquisitive. 

            6. What professional development do you value?
            I value high quality, inspiring, and up to date, Professional Development.

            7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
            Vocational educators can prepare for LN needs in their classroom by asking questions, reviewing intervention reports, getting to know their learners, diarising time for research and resource development contextualised to the nuances of the cohort or individual, and discussing with relevant professionals, whether that be PD, or experienced educators in that particular field. 

            8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs
            Teachers should have a working knowledge of the Universal Design for Learning, in addition to John Hattie’s Visible Learning strategies, and never stop learning – aim to pick up and/or continue the habit of reading journal articles and literacy education books. 

            John Blake combines more than 30 years of industry experience and teaching in Hospitality, EAL, Foundation Skills, and Training & Educational. 

            Working for TAFEs and private RTOs, industry organisations, and universities across 20 countries, John enjoys re-inventing vocational education and brings theory alive through creative delivery approaches and contextualised assessments to support, engage and enable learners from all walks of life. 

            Having designed training programs and learning resources used in more than a dozen countries, John is passionate about the opportunity to inspire teachers and trainers to excel and encourage learners in shaping the future workforce. 

            John Blake qr

            Christine Tully

            1. How did you start your career in LN?
            I worked as a secondary school teacher until I had children. I planned to take a break from teaching when my children were small but a friend dragged me kicking and screaming into TAFE and I haven’t looked back since.

            2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
            There are so many positives about working in this profession. I enjoy the interactions with adult students and all that I have learnt from them. They have significantly improved my teaching. I love when a student has an AH HA moment, when something clicks. I also get great pleasure from working with people who thought they couldn’t “do” maths but who discover that they have good numeracy skills that they have been using all along.

            3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?I have been fortunate to have many opportunities open up for me once I started working with adults. I have worked in close conjunction with people who have extensive skills and have been generous enough to share them. I have also been involved with the accreditation and re-accreditation of some foundation courses, creation of teacher resources and development of professional learning programs, which has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my own practices.

            4. 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 many including being asked early in my career to deliver some professional development and being part of a few committees that were writing curriculum or resources. However the biggest influence on how I deliver is the students. They constantly have me reflecting on my skills and changing my delivery.

            5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
            ● Collegial discussions
            ● Professional reading
            ● Professional learning
            ● Communities of practice

            6. What professional development do you value?
            Any professional development that helps me to reflect on my practices, gives me new strategies or creates new connections.

            7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
            By having LN Support in the class, discussing methodologies with LN teachers, unpacking the unit of competencies to look  at LN requirements.

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


              Karen Dymke

              Karen Dymke1. How did you start your career in LN?
              About 30 years ago I was an English/Drama secondary school teacher and then I moved into what are now called Learn Locals for 15 years as I had a child with a disability. (Morrison House and Donvale Living and learning Centre)

              2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
              Justice and equity

              3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
              Absolutely . I have been on the board of ACAL , VALBEC, co-written the original A-Frame, been on the professional learning team roll out of the VCAL over 3 years, and worked for professor John Hattie’s publishing company , Corwin, for 7 years travelling around Australia running workshops on his research.

              4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you
              work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
              I found a class of men at night who had limited Literacy skills although they all ran their own
              businesses and I was first confronted with this thing called Dyslexia . I then met Dr Daryl
              Greaves from Melbourne University who was the Head of Special Ed and explained that my
              students could not afford an assessment so I co-opted him into writing ‘Learning Differently’ with a team of others, and I have not looked back since then. I specialise in Specific Learning

              5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
              I am a member of ACAL, SPELD, ALA, etc and am always reading research into Literacy.

              6. What professional development do you value?
              Face to face definitely.

              7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
              By being Dyslexic friendly for a start.

              8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support
              vocational trainers meet these needs?
              Learning Differently – Assessing and Developing Literacy Skills with Adults and Young People.
              edited by Daryl Greaves
              What Really Works in Special and Inclusive Education – Using Evidence -Based Strategies by
              David Mitchell Published by Routledge

                Zoe Repse


                    1. How did you start your career in LN/Foundation?
                      I trained as a primary and secondary teacher, later completing a Grad. Dip. TESOL. In 1979 I began teaching as a primary school teacher and later as a high school teacher of maths and science and loved witnessing the progress and achievements of my students. After that, I worked with migrant adults and youth for AMES, Chisholm Institute and Swinburne University of Technology–PAVE, in workplace settings, community rooms and classrooms and met learners who were not literate in their first language, either in reading/writing or in numeracy. Also, I met with Aussies who had literacy barriers and were embarrassed, which humbled me and inspired me, as I showed learners how to hold a pencil to form letters and what the basic numerals meant. My primary training came in very useful indeed! I felt I was doing something worthwhile with my life, learning about their lives.

                    2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
                      My students motivate me! Literacy and migrant learners need to learn to interact with Australians, listen critically and speak and write with clarity and confidence as they develop their own ‘voice’. Being part of their journey to help them along the way towards more independence and dignity is a really good thing I think.

                    3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time? Through regularly attending PD sessions, workshops and industry conferences including those organised through ACAL, VET Development Centre, AMEP and VDC Development Centre. My students teach me knowledge about their cultures, backgrounds and also what they need or want to learn–so I research and hone my skills to help teach them what they request. I try to make it fun.

                    4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
                      Since 1995, the key points in my career that have helped shape my delivery of literacy and foundation studies were determined by listening to the needs of my students and thus: 
                    • suggesting to my manager that I introduce computer classes, which proved popular and became the norm.
                    • producing assessments for LLNP made me aware of required learning by the Dept. of Employment & Workplace Relations for VET learners.
                    • developing & sharing with colleagues, materials relevant and interesting to learners. ● mentoring teachers entering my sector to respect and focus on learner needs.
                    • organising a Beyond Blue charity concert empowering learners to reach out to those suffering from mental health and resulting in positive outcomes for all concerned.
                    • resulting in my personal ‘magnum opus’ of collating over a period of thirty years, 32 narratives for two published novels, followed by four textbooks, with answers, and some ACSF practice texts as resources for both teachers and learners.
                    •  (The novels were birthed from my concern for vulnerable literacy and migrant learners, who felt isolated or disenchanted with life in general, thus, prompting me to write true anecdotal narratives, according to the insight I had from my own migrant background. Learner readers, time and time again, relate to these stories and discuss issues common to the human experience, while class discussions ease their isolation, sense of suffering and problems. It is cathartic for them!) 
                    1. How do you renew your ideas and practices?

                      Besides participating in PD information sessions and workshops for new ideas, I seek to cross-pollinate with my colleagues as to practices that work well for them. I continue to learn new technology, knowledge and skills from YouTube videos and as a by-product I relate to my students as learners. 

                      Often learners ask me questions about language which I need to investigate, so that always produces a huge pile of new objectives for me. Further inspiration comes from my grandchildren as it thrills and refreshes me watching them going through the stages of grasping language and numeracy!

                    2. What professional development do you value?
                      Things I value the most are what directly relates to my cohort of learners that I can utilise immediately, which I usually glean from research regarding adult learning, colleagues, the Internet and PDs. 

                    1. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                      Vocational trainers should be familiar with the Australian Core Skills Framework and have the reference book on hand to discuss and validate tasks developed to be used by learners. Also, they should work as part of a team of LN/Foundation practitioners. 
                    1. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
                    • Google search 
                    • MS Word Thesaurus and Spelling and Grammar 
                    • YouTube
                    • online grammar quizzes and text models 
                    • 2 novels “Speak English like Australians!” and “A Walk in my Skin” by Zoe Lambreas for the experience of reading an actual novel in English. The stories are relatable and promote discussions and opinion sharing.
                    • 4 textbooks “Speak English like Australians! EAL/EFL Grammar & Activities” by Zoe Lambreas for ideas, variety and interesting activities for Literacy and Foundation leaners, including spelling rules and phonetics.
                    • “English Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy 
                    • “Collins Cobuild English Grammar” 
                    • “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language” by David Crystal 
                    • “Mosaic” and “Kaleidoscope Widening Horizens in Mathematics” by Lorraine Mottershead 
                    • ACSF reference book by the Australian Government, Dept. of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

                Simon Burrett

                Literacy Coordinator
                Glenorchy Library | Libraries Tasmania

                1. How did you start your career in LN?
                I was working full-time in the Sport and Recreation area. I enrolled in a Master of Teaching degree part-time because I thought I wanted to become a PE teacher. I specialised in Primary Education though and learnt a lot about Literacy and Numeracy. I applied for various jobs after graduation and the first job I was offered was working with adult and their literacy. I have now been in that role for over 8 years.

                2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
                I do a lot of my work one to one which is a very powerful, engaging, and inspiring way to work.
                The courage and growth I see in my learners is what motivates me to come to work.

                3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
                Luckily, I have had many opportunities to participate in professional development over the last 8 years. We are lucky enough to be part of the Department of Education, so I have attended courses intended for classroom teachers on Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Spelling, Phonics, early literacy development and phonemic awareness. However, because I work in the adult space, I have also attended multiple courses on the ACSF, Tutor Training, and completed a TAE, and further TAELLN units.

                4. 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 the key points have all been opportunities to learn, either from professional development, reading a new text, learning from peers and learning from my learners.

                5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
                Through regular professional development, reading new texts, learning from peers and learners, and reflecting on my practise.

                6. What professional development do you value?
                Any professional development opportunity that gives you extra tools that one can use with your learners straight away. This development can be from any source, including instructional textbooks.

                7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                Participate in your own professional development, learning and research, develop the tools you need to work with a diverse group of learners, use assistive technology and show your learners how to help themselves.

                8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
                I think assistive technology is the quickest and easiest way to assist others, so I recommend getting to know how to use these functionalities on your own device and others. I also recommend giving learners strategies to help themselves with their own needs. For example, I teach my learners Lyn Stone’s Spelling Formula from her text Spelling for Life, which gives them a tool to use when they’re not sure how to spell a multisyllabic word.

                  Max Lorenzin

                  TAFE SA

                  Max has been a practitioner in adult foundation skills and adult literacy and numeracy training field for nearly 30 years. He has delivered foundation skills programs in many diverse settings including in urban, regional and remote areas; with youth at risk and mature fragile learners and in community and workplace settings. Engagement and enrichment of the learner has been the cornerstone of his methodology. His recent work has focused on workforce development and the review and cultivation of core skills in vocational teaching and learning.

                  Max was awarded the 2013 South Australian Vocational Education and Training Teacher/ Trainer of the year.

                  1. How did you start your career in L&N?

                  I regard my career in L&N as an accidental career. In 1995, I was asked to teach Adult L&N in a regional campus of TAFE SA for a few months as they needed someone to help with the teaching load as there was a temporary vacancy due to staff being unavailable due to a serious accident. I have a teaching degree and was available and interested. I really enjoyed working with the students and helping them achieve their learning goals. So, I stayed, and my L&N career has just flowed on…

                  2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
                  Learning about learning fascinates me. Learning about how to facilitate learning is a key driver in my professional work. This has led me to endeavour to facilitate the engagement and enrichment of learners. 

                  3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
                  Learning from others – colleagues & students. Seeking and undertaking PD opportunities regularly. I have sought to attend L&N conferences every year. These have usually always included the annual SACAL conference.  Topics of interest include neuroplasticity, neuroscience of learning, adult learning, numeracy, reading, writing, song writing, presentations skills, NLP & digital literacy

                  4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
                  Having great mentors when I first started helped accelerate my learning. Working in regional centres with limited resources required me to create, improvise and adapt resources and methodology.

                  I transitioned to the city campus in 2008 and then my role changed. I joined the Workplace Education Services team which focused on WELL projects for industry in workplaces. Here I was stimulated to further creatively problem solve and provide dynamic customised and contextualised learning.

                  In 2013, I was awarded the South Australian Vocational Education & Training Teacher/ Trainer of the year.

                  Key projects included:
                  2011-13 – Department of Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
                  Coordinator/lead trainer of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) Resource Unit, focusing on building CDEP national workforce capability in LLN.  Including the design, assessment & reporting of Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF); in addition to 37 national workforce development courses/workshops and over 30 FS state-based initiatives    

                  2010 Australian Defence Force (ADF) and FaHCSIA
                  Coordinator and lead trainer for TAFE SA Workplace Education Services in the highly successful WELL Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) in 2010 in partnership with ADF and FaHCSIA in the delivery of the ‘Indigenous Employment Development Course (IEDC) for at risk Indigenous youth in Far West Coast, SA.

                  2008-10 TAFE SA Workplace Education Services
                  Lecturer delivering workplace WELL L&N programs including: GMH, Phoenix Society Inc, RM Williams & Precimax. 

                  5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
                  Striving to practice what I preach. Taking on new things to learn to remind myself what it’s like to be the learner.

                  6. What professional development do you value?Hands on practical sessions. Professional sharing of successes and challenges. Leading research on adult learning, neuroscience, literacy, numeracy, digital & financial literacy.

                   7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                  Learn about the ACSF and how it applies to vocational learning
                  Develop partnerships with L&N practitioners
                  Participate in projects with L&N trainers to deliver embedded L&N training in their vocational courses             

                  8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs
                  Soft-Wired by Michael Merzenich
                  Brain Rules by John Medina
                  Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
                  A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart

                    Jane Shepherd

                    Jane Shepherd1. How did you start your career in LN?
                    After a degree in human movement, my professional work was in community development at local government level and I’ve always recognised the potential for community education to empower and connect. I started in adult literacy as a volunteer in the mid-1990’s, when the literacy as social capital philosophy abounded and there was funding for delivery in a variety of modes and suit learners’ needs. With accredited training modules under my belt it was a “chuck her in the deep end” situation and I loved it. At the same time I was doing training to be a Lifeline phone counsellor and that helped my understanding of learners and how to connect. With great mentoring and doing one-to-one tutoring to start, I seemed to connect with learners in an authentic and empathetic way. I still maintain that this is the crux of our work; positive connection with teachers can, sadly, be a new experience for our learners and opens so many opportunities for them and us.
                    My focus now is teaching adult literacy tutors in our fully online, Tutoring Adult Literacy Learners (TALL), a skillset from the Community Services Training Package. With the shared passion of TasTAFE teachers, Nic Duffy and Melissa Wilson, and our Education Manager, Kirrily Loveday, we’re continually developing this course in the online space for a few years. The course gets great feedback, as well as suggested improvements, and I love that we are a part of building a compassionate understanding of our learners in our communities.
                    Within Tasmania’s public VET provider, TasTAFE, I’ve always been willing to have a go, not always with the outcomes we’d hoped for. So it’s keep learning, keep reflecting, apply the principles of adult learning and always connect with the learner where possible.

                    2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
                    The joy of learner achievement surely keeps us all in this game, especially when they recognise that they can learn and those cruel “dumb”, “won’t amount to anything” and “stupid” labels are challenged. While our industry is still poorly understood by many, including decision-makers, I’m hopeful we are on the up and
                    will be recognised as a worthwhile career that changes lives and has the potential to change the world we live in. I also thrive on learning and working with passionate people who question, make mistakes and laugh.

                    3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
                    I love learning, especially alongside other practitioners, including other VET teachers. This means “yes” to formalised professional development opportunities that fit my plan for my learners and myself. From these sessions there are often other learning trails to follow, practising new skills, further reading, watching videos or just chatting with others.
                    TasTAFE values capacity building of teaching staff and offers professional development on a regular basis. As a part-timer I’m grateful to be supported to attend these sessions in a way that suits me. These sessions can engender some great conversations and even shared learning and teaching.
                    In the last 5 years the relationship between Libraries Tasmania and TasTAFE has become very collegial and we have had some wonderful opportunities to learn alongside coordinators and managers of the Adult Literacy Service. This has given us all the same PD with some fantastic academics and practitioners, at the same time connecting us as VET practitioners in the adult literacy network. Our work in teaching volunteer tutors is continually evolving from this shared passion and commitment to a contemporary approach to teaching reading and spelling.
                    Belonging to professional organisations such as ACAL and TCAL gives access to contemporary online session and reading which leads off in other directions. I also subscribe to feeds from a number of different people and organisations and am kind in my expectations of self to read for detail. A quick scan is often enough to find some great information and ideas.
                    I follow some key organisations and people on social media (I’m a dinosaur so that means only Facebook and Instagram) and little nuggets, opportunities or fantastic graphics pop up that lead me in different directions or clarify and extend my thinking.
                    And of course the greatest way to learn is to have a crack and make a mistake. And I have many times, fortunately with some great colleagues to bail me out!

                    4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
                    My current teaching role, teaching adult literacy tutors, is the highlight of my career. Working in a small, courageous, innovative and focused team is a joy and brings
                    much of my experience together and there’s so much to learn!
                    The paper, Literacy in the New Millennium (Lonsdale and McCurry, 2004), was an eye-opener for me. As previously mentioned, I’ve always seen literacy and education
                    as critical to the health of people and their communities. Lonsdale and McCurry conclude that our complex, ever-changing and globalised world needs literacy to be “the genuinely transforming experience which current conceptions of literacy—as social practice, critical engagement, context-specific and multiple —suggest it should be” (p. 15) A complex read, I focus on the summarised parts of this paper but it explains so many of the broader implications of low literacy skills: poverty and unemployment, poor physical and mental health outcomes, connections with the justice system, the EAL experience (including ATSI people), exploitation, power and privilege…and so it goes on. As literacy practitioners we can only do so much; the broader community needs greater empathy to recognise the systemic barriers that entrench low literacy and learning skills and its consequences.
                    The professional development we shared with Libraries Tasmania has also been a key point for me. The Science of Reading is clear evidence that much of my past practice hasn’t been very useful for reading and spelling (writing). The Big Six (or Five from Five) has given me a systematic and explicit approach that I wish I’d known for many of the learners I’ve worked with in the past. The passionate work of people such as Janet McHugh, Anne Bayetto, Michelle Hutchison, Jennifer Buckingham and Pamela Snow, Lyn Stone continue to challenge and teach me.
                    And Dave Tout always offers numeracy sessions that explore new ways to support adults in relevant and fun numeracy practices. His academic and down-to-earth mix continues to keep me enthusiastic and learning.

                    5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
                    As mentioned above, I attend as much PD as possible and the advent of online learning is a game-changer. While NW Tasmania is a great place to live, there aren’t many literacy practitioners here and time and funds to travel are tight. So getting to regular professional gatherings, particularly out of work hours, is difficult.
                    The online environment provides so many options for informal connection and formal learning. Signing on to emails, newsletters and social media feeds from different organisations, researchers and practitioners in the literacy, numeracy or VET spaces provides varied learning opportunities. These are f2f or online, readings, podcasts, videos, demonstrations and I especially love the very clever graphics.
                    TasTAFE is also committed to the capability of teaching staff and we have regular professional development days. While these are often generic, relevant to all teachers, we’ve had some presenters whose strategies apply to all learning contexts. After these sessions I enjoy chatting with other teachers, literacy or other vocations, to explore our understanding of the learning and how we can implement new ideas and approaches.
                    And I love a chat … with anyone who will listen: keen-to-learn colleagues, friends and sharing “aha” moments with people in our tutoring course is so satisfying.

                    6. What professional development do you value?
                    My particular interest in the adult literacy space is in how we learn, including reading. We know that reading and critical thinking are key to further learning so I’ve been enjoying reading (not my preferred way to learn!) Stanislas Dehaene. His Four Pillars of Learning (Dehaene 2020) make so much sense to me and they apply so well to teaching reading.
                    While I value any learning that is relevant and evidence-based, I’m a social learner and need the opportunity to chat, make connections to practice, including questioning what we do and how we do it. I’m happy to be online or f2f and travelling is an opportunity to meet others in my statewide team and beyond. Learning alongside colleagues or other practitioners, rather than in isolation, helps me make best use of new ideas or to clarify, adjust or defend old ones. Recent team-based learning about trauma informed approaches using the Polyvagal Theory has been fascinating and empowering, even more so because it was shared.
                    Reading academic information is perhaps my least preferred way of learning and I need to have a specific purpose. In this case I’ll try and make sense of the reading and talk key issues through with colleagues to identify relevance and how we might apply new ideas into our practice.
                    Adult learning principles right there I reckon!

                    7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                    Lonsdale and McCurry (2004) say that “All teachers are teachers of literacy. Once seen to be the province of language teachers, literacy is now recognised as being cross-disciplinary” (p. 15) While there will always need to be literacy specialists, VET teachers can recognise that they have a role to understand literacy and identify key strategies that can support learners access text in their courses. Evidence-based reading and spelling strategies, contextualised to industry, includes developing oral language, vocabulary, phonological and phonemic awareness skills to enable fluency and comprehension.
                    Some years ago I worked with an adult apprentice who I now realise was dyslexic. While I didn’t know what I know now in the Science of Reading, I showed him how to break complex words into parts to say and read. His response, “Is that how you do it?”, resonated and I now know that he had never been taught the basics of phonological awareness. How I wish I could work with this learner again, to really make a difference in his life!
                    VET teachers have the opportunity to build awareness and skills in HOW to read, building confidence while diminishing shame and negative self-talk. This would lead to learners seeing themselves as capable of learning to read, fewer withdrawals from courses and maybe positively seeking other support to develop their literacy and learning skills.
                    The same principles apply to numeracy and digital technology: make the learning relevant and contextualised, teach underpinning maths concepts and make it fun! In-class support models, such as CAVSS, can be useful, where there is an expectation that the VET teacher will develop their own contextualised literacy and numeracy teaching strategies. I’ve been involved with in-class support and the best outcomes are when the VET and LLND teachers have respectful relationships and both are willing to learn about the other’s context and accept that “All teachers are literacy teachers.” (Lonsdale and McCurry, p. 15).
                    VET teachers’ understanding of LLND may be limited to TAELLN411. With a contemporary understanding of literacy, they can recognise the LLND challenges in their course/s and develop strategies to support learners. Initially they need to ensure that text-based learning resources and assessments, digital and hard copy, are no higher than the ACSF levels of the qualification and that they are written in plain English with graphics and video where possible. Digital resources can provide multi-sensory resources such as videos (short and specific to the task) and assistive technologies such as text to speech and speech to text.
                    As literacy practitioners we have a role to support VET teachers and our organisations to recognise that contextualised literacy is the most effective, including within VET courses.

                    8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
                    I can’t identify just one and we all have different starting points, learning preferences and goals. These are some recommendations:

                    1. TasTAFE’s Tutoring Adult Literacy Learners (CHCSS00101) and unfacilitated course, Understanding Adult Literacy Tutoring
                    2. The Tasmanian Council of Adult Literacy have recently produced short videos on evidence-based strategies for supporting reading and spelling. These are freely available on YouTube.
                    3. Ako Aotearoa’s Reading Toolbox, Teaching learners with dyslexia
                    4. Literacy in the New Millennium, Overview and Executive Summary, is key to understanding the complexity of contemporary literacy and the part we all play in developing skills.
                    5. For the basics of the evidence-based framework for reading and spelling,
                      The Big Six, readings and videos by Desley Konza and Anne Bayetto
                    6. Michelle Hutchison’s SMART Spelling can be f2f or online
                    7. Stanislas Dehaene’s How we learn and Reading in the brain

                    As teachers, tutors, managers, VET teachers or supporters we all have a role to play in building our own capacity. From a long career that is still evolving I strongly believe continually learning and advocating, acknowledging outdated ideas and sharing evidence-based approaches with honesty and enthusiasm are keys to making a difference in our sector.


                    Dehaene, S 2010, Reading in the brain: the new science of how we read, 1 edn, Penguin Books, UK.
                    Dehaene, S 2021, How we learn: the new science of education and the brain, 1 edn, Penguin Books, UK.
                    Lonsdale, M & McCurry, D 2004, Literacy in the New Millennium, NCVER, pdf, viewed 18 November 2022,

                      Vanessa Forrest

                      Vanessa Forrest1. How did you start your career in LN?
                      My undergraduate degree in Aboriginal Studies didn’t allow me to choose Indonesian language as my major (which I had been studying and loved) so I chose Pitjantjatjara language and a vocational major in TESOL. Later, while working for the Committee to Defend Black Rights, I was asked to collaborate with some of our membership on their speeches for a national speaking tour of families who had lost
                      a relative in custody. I realised I had an enormous amount to learn. Years later I enrolled in a Graduate Diploma, Adult Education, TESOL at UTS then worked at the Gadigal (academic skills support) Centre at the University of Sydney with undergraduate students and Aboriginal Education Assistants from throughout NSW.

                      2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
                      I am encouraged by those speaking up for broad and equitable learner-centred literacy education and especially, by those around me whose persistent advocacy will eventually turn the tables. At Reading Writing Hotline, we hear from people who muster the courage, sometimes after decades, to reach out for what should be readily available. Callers describe their strengths and their clear and nuanced understandings of the kinds of literacy and numeracy education which could be life-changing and the difficulties faced when this isn’t available. It’s a privilege to be able to support at least some people to work towards their goals and to help unpack myths that have led to feelings of shame.

                      3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
                      In part, by reading and by being lucky enough to have people around me, more skilled or experienced than myself in a range of different areas. Teaching on different courses and in different environments always allows chances to learn from the smorgasbord of highly skilled colleagues. It always means learning. When I was working with Timorese evacuees at the ‘Safe Haven’, for example, it was really helpful to study Tetun and attend de-brief sessions on working with torture and trauma survivors. I completed a Vocational Graduate Diploma in Language Literacy and Numeracy Practice some years ago by RPL and wherever possible, I attend LN related professional development conferences and workshops.

                      4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
                      I absolutely love creating learning materials. When I was co-ordinating the Migrant Youth Access Course, I found many of the so called  ‘disengaged’ refugee youth did not exactly enjoy sitting in a classroom and some student behaviours were challenging. This forced me to find ‘creative’ ways to make outcomes fit the learner, not the reverse. The curriculum evolved during chats with the students on walks to community services. I learned what they loved and also, how strong the desire to make friends was. Thanks to their exuberance, I was pushed to develop partnerships connecting local community to the young people and vice a versa and LLN activities and resources which supported this fundamental need, including activities which drew out the LLN in games of sport, music, projects and settlement focused visits.
                      I was also very fortunate in my career before teaching, to work with some strong and committed activists who were spokespeople for dispossessed and marginalised peoples. The importance of listening, and of working at a grass roots level was instilled; and this shaped I guess, a commitment to ensuring students have agency; and an understanding that the way things are, are not how they have to be.

                      5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
                      At TAFE there’s such a diversity of passionate and creative people teaching on different programs. I’m co-teaching on an individualised learning program at the moment. Supporting diverse student levels and interests involves developing our knowledge and applying our skills in new ways. Some learners for example, need LN to deal with Sorry Business and others, to study art and aviation. I love watching my colleague’s teaching style and practices. Planning together and all those corridor and staff room chats about the intricacies of what works or doesn’t, is where so much happens. I love attending conferences. The in-between conference and workshop sessions, and the drinks after can be as good for ideas as the sessions themselves.

                      6. What professional development do you value?
                      I really enjoy ACAL and ALA’s webinars and conferences but especially the face-to-face ones. The mix of sessions about international and local research and practice is stimulating. I also like working with colleagues on projects.

                      7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                      Pre-course LN assessment, conducted in person, by an LN teacher is critical to ensuring a student isn’t placed in an impossible situation and set up to fail. Trainers who establish a connection with an LN section and teacher can call on them for advice or support. If already enrolled, and found to be struggling, learners need options of either deferral (and referral to an LN class) or support from an LN specialist teacher. Where writing is involved, always use models and examples; and unpack assignment requirements, checking students know what to do when they read terms such as ‘explain’.

                      8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support
                      vocational trainers meet these needs?
                      Pam Osmond’s hot off the press, second edition of Literacy Face to Face is available on Reading Writing Hotline’s website:
                      Section 4, The Vocational Student is full of helpful strategies and explanations and there are great ideas throughout. I’m reading this again and each time I have a squiz, I learn something. Like anything Pam touches, it’s gold.

                      Vicki Hartman

                      1. How did you start your career in LN?
                      I was approached by the Executive Director of Tauondi Aboriginal College to see if I was interested in working in Vocational Education with a focus of LLN given I had been an Early Years teacher for over 15 years and had also during the time been a tutor for several years. The ED had known of my teaching background and knew that I had for a short time left teaching and had gone off and completed my Certificate IV in Frontline Management and was working as a Personal Assistant. I have also lived by the motto that when something is offered do not say no, have a go and see where it leads you. hence here I am  almost 13 years later being able to work between the LLN field, mentoring and cultural services at Tauondi.

                      2. What motivates you to work in this profession?
                      Seeing students who have previously struggled at or been disengaged in school succeed and move into other Vocational training. Also my mother who had not been permitted to complete past year 6 at school I wanted to encourage and share my experiences just as my mother had encouraged me with my schooling.

                      3. How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
                      I attend professional development opportunities that target the fields I work in from a trainers perspective to that of compliance requirements. I also network at every opportunity. I currently sit on SACAL which I have been a member of since completing both my  Cert IV TAE and Cert IV LLN in 2009/2010.

                      4. Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
                      Being honest with students. When a student opens up on their strengths and weaknesses I to share that numeracy was not also my strongest subject at school but I also acknowledged that I had a tutor to assist me in developing my weaknesses.

                      5. How do you renew your ideas and practices?
                      Networking; reading materials and looking to see what new resources might be around. Attending PD that covers a range of LLN topics. It’s amazing what you can find at workshops and conferences where other trainers share activities and ideas.

                      6. What professional development do you value?
                      All aspects whether it is targeting LLN/ Foundation Skills/ Assessments/ Compliance, etc. I am a stickler for maintaining up to date documents used in training.

                      7. How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                      If you know the learner cohort can be useful. For example if you are going to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people find our firstly about the local group and then explore other groups that you are likely to being working with. Here at Tauondi we work on Kaurna Country but our students come from all over Australia.

                      8. Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
                      I like the fact there are some amazing Aboriginal books out now. Resources which both trainers and learners would enjoy. Books which talk about our history, biographies. There is so much available. 

                      Dean Champ

                      How did you start your career in LN?
                      I started as an integration aide at Glamorgan campus of Geelong Grammar School in 1996. While there I also worked with the speech Pathologist Alison Lee in the Glamorgan Special Education Dept, delivering her LLN programs to students at Glamorgan and to students from other schools in conjunction with the private tutoring I did. I then moved to the VET sector in 2000, delivering pre-Cert I, Cert I and Cert II courses for students with an intellectual disability, which is what I am still doing today.

                       What motivates you to work in this profession?
                      I reflect on what motivates me regularly, especially when my work gets challenging, and I think it’s in my nature to want to help other people. Be it as a teacher or tenpin bowling coach, I enjoy helping people to develop their skills and knowledge, and seeing them improve over time justifies the time and effort required to achieve these positive outcomes.

                      How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?
                      For me it has been a combination of ongoing professional development and on the job experiential learning. I haven’t had any formal training as an LLN teacher, but having the opportunity to work with and learn from experts like Alison early in my career has proven to be invaluable. My time as an integration aide also allowed me to observe teachers in action, and I was able to take what I thought were their best traits and incorporate them into my own teaching persona when I started in VET. I have a love of learning and increasing my knowledge, and a personal focus on continuous improvement, so attending professional development sessions related to LLN, digital literacy, teaching best practice and teaching students with a disability is something that I like to do regularly. As there are so many great PDs available these days, where the majority of them are free and delivered online, there is always something new I can learn to bolster my skills and be a better teacher. I have also completed a variety of the micro-credentials being offered at Box Hill Institute (where I work), which I feel are a great initiative. Micro-credentials are like a mini-qualification, usually consisting of a few units from a Cert IV or Diploma level course focusing on a specialised area of learning, and BHI has been very proactive in offering these to their staff, along with providing an extensive online PD library. Teaching fulltime for 20 years now also provides first-hand experience in the classroom, and having an 800 hour annual teaching load means I have well surpassed the 10000 hours required to be considered an ‘expert’. Time spent teaching by itself though doesn’t automatically guarantee expertise and I always feel I so have much still to learn, where reflecting on my teaching practice and seeking feedback from my students, support workers, managers and peers all contributes to my development to be the most effective teacher I can be. I have also found it beneficial to present PD sessions, either in person or online, as they provide an opportunity to share ideas with other VET teachers and staff.

                      Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?
                      Not long after I started at Chisholm Institute in 2000, I remember there was a student that was late for class one day. He had taken the train to Dandenong station, and then got lost walking to the campus, which is on Stud Rd. This student had very low literacy skills, but as he knew the word ‘student,’ he was able to identify the Stud Rd street sign and eventually find his way to class. When he told me his story, which I have never forgotten, it made me realise how difficult and foreign the world can be for people with low LLN and that I can never assume the abilities that I take for granted are present in everyone. If I ever need to be reminded of what this might feel like, I think of my holiday to Japan in 2014 and trying to navigate the Tokyo train system without being able to read or speak a word of Japanese, where I couldn’t even ask for help as no one spoke English. Another key point for me was when I attended a talk in 2003 by psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, where he mentioned that one of the key roles a teacher can play is to be a ‘charismatic adult’ in the lives of their students, especially for students that have come from challenging backgrounds. In this context, the charismatic adult was someone that the students could identify with and gain strength from, someone who made them feel safe, special and capable. As I was working predominantly with teenagers with special needs at the time, I felt I could be this person for them and for my students ever since, where I could provide a safe and caring learning environment so the students could improve their LLN and life skills.

                      How do you renew your ideas and practices?
                      As mentioned, I am always looking for new PD opportunities and attending conferences that specialise in LLN, digital literacy and teaching students with a disability. I have always found the Critical Agendas conferences beneficial and I really enjoyed attending the last two EduTech conferences online. I also like to learn about what other teachers are doing that has been successful in the classroom and I do a lot of reading on coaching and skill development and often transfer these ideas to the classroom as well.

                      What professional development do you value?
                      I value professional development that is delivered by someone who is an expert in their field, either academically or through experience, where thought and effort has been put into the content and how it is being delivered. I also like learning new information and ideas, so sessions that are thought-provoking are always beneficial and often have the most impact as afterwards I will be reflecting on how I could utilise any new concepts into my teaching and delivery practices.

                      How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?
                      If possible, it is always useful to know a bit about the students from their enrolment information, especially if they have any special needs or any issues that may need to be accommodated in class. Also, if the students have completed a LLN diagnostic test, the results will offer further insight into where the students may need extra attention or help. Presenting your material in a way that is going to be as user-friendly as possible for the majority of the students, either through hard copies or digitally, is also beneficial and it is worthwhile spending some time refining how your resources look and the language being used before they are shared with the students.

                      Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?
                      I have become an advocate for the principles of universal design recently, and feel all teachers would benefit from incorporating these concepts if they aren’t already. NDCOP and ADCET are offering a free course on UDL here: UDL in Tertiary Education – Disability Awareness

                       Teaching and coaching related, I also enjoyed reading ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck, ‘Peak’ by Anders Ericksson, ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth, ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear and ‘The Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle.

                      Tina Berghella

                      You may know Tina from her 2012 NCVER report Seeking the N in LLN which has been a key piece of Australian numeracy research, but did you know that Tina started her full-time working life as an industrial chemist in the manufacturing industry? As a researcher, practitioner, WELL expert, and resource developer, Tina has a wealth of experience to share. 

                      New and experienced practitioners alike will be inspired by our first LLN Profile of 2022!

                      Read more about Tina here


                      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.