Author: Aoife McCormack

Numeracy Tuition Counts

I recently received a copy of the NALA publication ‘A Review of Adult Numeracy Policy and Practice in Ireland’. It was published by NALA in late 2017 and is a worthy read for any adult literacy practitioners. The publication starts with a set of definitions of adult numeracy. It is striking that in Ireland there is no one definition of adult numeracy but all the definitions outlined in the NALA document ring true for what learners state as needs and for the needs being met in the classroom. The publication sets out the international and national research, policy and practice context and then suggests some steps to be taken. The piece that resonated with me was the 2009 research that was carried out in England and which NALA documents as: Adults with poor numeracy were more likely than those with good numeracy to have parents with no qualifications, twice as likely to be early school leavers and twice as likely to have had parents who were unemployed or receive income support. They also found that numeracy skills have a strong impact on employment and earnings and those with poor numeracy skills were less likely to receive workplace training.  The findings of this research relate closely to the experiences of the adult literacy learners in Kerry. We hear the challenging experience learners had with education in the past, their current...

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Reflection – A Model Re-Shared

I am reposting a blog I wrote in December 2015 about reflection. I think it is important that we all take time to reflect on our work, our values, the changing environment and the changing learner. In that blog I shared a diagram that I found to be a helpful model in reflecting. I hope you find it useful too ……. As the year draws to a close it is, for me, a time of reflection. In the past few months I have reflected a lot on the reasons why I chose to work in Adult Literacy and Basic Education. It has been such a helpful process while there is a sea of change around and has helped me affirm the reasons why I came to this work and why it is important to me. A diagram that I came across was one that I found particularly interesting. I honestly don’t know where I found this so I can’t give anyone credit for it (so if anyone comes across this on line please let me know and I will give full credit to the creator!). It isn’t my own but has helped me greatly in my reflective process. What do I enjoy doing? What am I good at? What contribution does this make to the world around me? What fires me to work harder and longer? For me it...

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What is Dyslexia?

Many students tell us that they believe they have dyslexia. It affects about 10% of the population and is a specific learning difficulty that makes it more difficult to learn to read, write and spell accurately. For learners it can mean that they have had a lifetime of trying to decode text, understand materials and in many cases live with feeling inadequate or ‘stupid’. In a recent publication by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland called ‘What’s Good for Dyslexia is Good for All’ it is stated that ‘a lack of understanding and knowledge of dyslexia can pose barriers to individuals hoping to progress in further education and training’. The publication also states that ‘this lack of understanding is resulting in adults not accessing necessary supports, withdrawing from participating in state funded programmes and at worse causing alienation and discrimination’. The publication outlines clues to look out for including poor handwriting, a notable difference between spoken and written language and finding reading comprehension difficult. It also points out that it is only one part of a person’s learning profile and strengths can include ‘creative ability, lateral and diverse thinking, problem solving, good oral and interpersonal skills.’ The document provides some tips for tutors in the design and delivery of tuition which are in line with Adult Literacy tutors practice. The document is available is all 8 Adult Literacy and Basic...

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Head, Heart, Hand

Many years ago when I did the Microteaching module on the WIT Literacy Development Higher Certificate Dr Maeve O’Grady asked us to prepare lessons that considered each domain of learning. The language made us take stock, what exactly did she mean? Did she mean learning styles? Was she talking about Multiple Intelligences? Did we need to proof our lessons against Howard Gardner’s distinct intelligences (see my blog from November 2015) or was she talking about Blooms Taxonomy (see my blog from October 2015). Dr Maeve broke it down into a simple model that I have never forgotten. It was that every lesson plan should engage the head, the heart and the hands. The concept is that real learning and transformation can take place when the cognitive (Head), affective (Heart) and psychomotor (Hands) domains are engaged. By engaging the cognition of the student we share knowledge and skills and facilitate the development of critical reflection. The affective domain is where learning is deepened, where the person can relate and apply in their own lives, where instinctively they feel clarity or it ‘just makes sense’.  Engaging the psychomotor domain is not only about having hands-on activities but giving people a chance to try it for themselves or ‘give it a go’. Ensuring that our delivery is aimed at all 3 – Head, Heart, Hand – we can ensure that real learning...

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham H Maslow (1908 – 1970) observed human behaviour and developed what we now call Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As adult educators it is helpful to pause to consider the needs of learners within this context. All of us have basic needs which were neatly packed by Maslow into a pyramid divided into 5 distinct parts. Each of us is on a journey to what Maslow called ‘Self Actualisation’ which is when you are fulfilling your potential. That is as important for our learners as it is for us in our own lives. However according to Maslow there are 4 distinct levels that individuals most move through in order to fulfil their potential. At the bottom of the pyramid are physiological needs. It is obvious that we all must have basic human needs and rights met in terms of shelter, food, water and sleep. However we all can cite examples where learners have times in their lives that these basic needs are not being met and how this gap can make learning difficult. Once our physiological needs are met our next need is for safety. This is very evident in our adult literacy environment where people need to feel secure in their learning environment. They need to be sure that that they are treated with respect, that their experiences and knowledge are valued. They need to feel assured of...

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