The Australian literacy and numeracy workforce: a literature review

By Joanne Medlin Occasional paper 9 December 2016

Description

The Foundation Skills Literature Review Project — a research capacity building project supported by NCVER, the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Council for Adult Literacy — provided scholarships to practitioners to develop their research skills through undertaking literature reviews focused on key topics relating to foundation skills. This review focuses on the development of the literacy and numeracy workforce and critically discusses the roles of qualified and unqualified workers, volunteers and students and the link between teacher qualifications, teacher characteristics and student outcomes. It also considers modes of training, useful professional development content and the efficacy of professional frameworks for the literacy and numeracy workforce.

Summary

About the research

Building the research capacity of the vocational education and training (VET) sector is of key interest to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). The Foundation Skills Literature Review Project, funded by NCVER, provided scholarships to practitioners to develop their research skills through undertaking literature reviews focused on key topics relating to foundation skills. Here ‘foundation skills’ refers to adult language, literacy (including digital literacy) and numeracy skills, as well as employability skills, such as problem-solving, collaboration and self-management.
The four main topic areas were:

  • perspectives on adult language, literacy and numeracy
  • policy contexts and measures of impact
  • context and sites — pedagogy and the learners
  • workforce development.

The literature reviews will form a key information source for the Foundation Skills Pod, a new resource hosted on VOCEDplus . The Foundation Skills Literature Review Project is a partnership between NCVER and the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Council for Adult Literacy.

In this review the focus is on workforce development. The continuing development of the adult language, literacy and numeracy, and employability skills workforce is critical. The National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults includes a specific priority focus on workforce development, with the aims of this priority focus being threefold:

  • to build the skills of specialist language, literacy and numeracy practitioners
  • to develop the workforce to enable the effective teaching of employability skills
  • to support vocational trainers to better integrate foundation skills with vocational training.

In undertaking a review of literature from the last 10 years, Medlin focuses on the literacy and numeracy workforce. She highlights the tensions for practice, professional development and the identity of the literacy and numeracy workforce that have arisen from the different perspectives on the contribution of adult literacy and numeracy to economic productivity, social cohesion and the development of the individual.

Dr Craig Fowler
Managing Director, NCVER

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