Author: Aoife McCormack

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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The Green Ribbon

Each May ‘Wear the Green Ribbon’ is promoted to get people to talk more openly about mental health. It is really important that the stigma surrounding mental health problems is challenged. Having 8 Adult Literacy Centres and providing hundreds of Adult Literacy courses provides people with an opportunity to not only improve their literacy skills but also to make connections, develop friendships, be part of a group or activities. While we focus our work on the improvements in literacy and numeracy skills we can all cite examples of changes in a person’s demeanour and their social skills which are critical factors to supporting good mental health. There is always a challenge for us in education to manage our boundaries when students raise serious mental health issues and we support each other in this. A few months ago while on a walk I listened to (and later watched!) a Ted Talk by Guy Winch about called ‘Why we all Need to Practice Emotional First Aid’. He talks about how we all practice good personal hygiene and understand how important good physical care is but that we are slow to see a health professional when we feel emotional pain such as guilt, loss, loneliness or failure.  His podcast is worth listening to and is available at this link In this podcast he talks about the destructive effects of loneliness, failure,...

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Managing Professional Boundaries

Last September 2016 I attended a NALA event to celebrate International Literacy Day. At the event a speaker from Galway ETB gave a presentation entitled ‘Stay in your Hula Hoop’ … which was actually about managing professional boundaries! She outlined the many scenarios that adult educators can be in that can make it challenging for us to manage our professional boundaries. Her honest stories reminded me a lot of the work we all did together in 2014 when we developed the ‘Managing Professional Boundaries’ document. It was a real team effort with all staff contributing to it through meetings, workshops and written submissions. It is great to see, now 3 years on that the document is being used throughout Kerry ETB and was adapted for use in the schools and across Further Education and Training provision. We all had really constructive discussions when the document was being developed. We could all cite examples of when we felt ill at ease, when it was most difficult and strategies we used. It was through real sharing that we all learned so much. At the time we felt that it was important to develop a document that we could use as a guide to help us maintain our professionalism in a wide variety of situations. The aim was to clarify the boundaries between professional and personal relationships. This document is available on...

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