Learning from Practitioner Research: Engaging Adult Literacy Tutors in Northern Ireland in Communities of Participation and Practice

By Shelley Tracey.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The results of the International Adult Literacy Survey in the late 1990s revealed that approximately 24% of people over the age of sixteen in Northern Ireland lacked functional literacy skills. The Department for Employment and Learning responded with a policy aimed at raising the literacy and numeracy levels of the adult population, the Essential Skills for Living Strategy. A primary strand of the strategy was the development of a tutor qualifications framework for Essential Skills (literacy and numeracy) teachers. This paper describes how Queen’s University Belfast, charged with setting up an appropriate tutor education programme, identified practitioner research as a means of engaging tutors and learners in collaborative processes of developing knowledge and practice. The paper outlines the theoretical frameworks underpinning the tutor education programme and the practitioner research component, locating the work within Lave and Wenger’s notions of communities of practice and participation. The paper presents an analysis of the papers and process evaluations of the 86 adult literacy tutors who have been involved in the practitioner research programme; this analysis highlights the nature of the contribution which the programme has made to tutor participation and the development of a new community of practice.

Keywords: Adult Literacy, Teacher Education, Community of Practice, Practitioner Research

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp.171-180. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 773.312KB).

Shelley Tracey

Essential Skills Coordinator, School of Education, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Shelley Tracey is responsible for the the design, development and delivery of a tutor education programme for adult literacy and numeracy tutors at Queen's University Belfast. She began her work in adult literacy and numeracy in the 1980s in South Africa, where she completed an MA in Zulu literature and an MEd in developing training for adult numeracy tutors. She supports her current work with a mentoring programme and the practitioner research work described in this paper. Shelley is currently engaged in researching the notion of teacher creativity and the application of creative methodologies to literacy teaching.

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