It suggests that adult learners learn to cope, using people around them to help, and without a new opportunity to ‘re-appraise’ their own lives, they are unlikely to have an incentive to improve their skills.
It suggests that 150-200 hours of learning is required for adult learners to move up one skill level in one year, and that it is important to recognise that learners may dip in and out of programmes. ‘Learners’ motives are generally complex and lmultiple’ and that is can take a while for these to develop.
Benefits of improved literacy can be an increase in confidence, more independence, a shift in their attitudes to learning, autonomy, their literacy practices, aspirations, and has ‘the power to change who people think they are’.
From my experience in the classroom, I agree with many aspects of the article, although think it’s important to acknowledge the different types of literacy different people observe. Literacy to me is when someone successfully meets level descriptors, but to a learner, it may be the ability to send a text to ask someone to go to the shop, and we should try to marry both worlds into a new world for the learner which is going to be most useful to them short-term to increase the chances of long-term participation.
This can also work the other way though. I have had a learner who told me she couldn’t read when I first met her. We started on a phonics-based reading programme and we started from the beginning, as I wanted to try to empower her to see she already did have some skills there, but just needed to develop them if she was to achieve her goal of being able to read. She attended the first few sessions on time, but now has slipped in terms of her attendance, and the increase in confidence seems to have worked more than I intended it to have, and now the programme is more challenging for her, her motivations have gone down slightly.
From this article, I have reinforced some of my current beliefs and how I share these with my learners in practice, such as my efforts to build rapport, trust and honesty quite quickly. From experience, I have found that both the learners, and myself get somewhere a lot quicker this way. We are constrained by time, and I can’t always rely on a learner coming back (they’re not mandated!), so I need to develop relationships within the first few sessions. It is difficult to understand the motivations of learners quickly, and I think the only thing you can do is to speak to them openly, and make it clear they can ask you questions too. I’ve found that supporting low-level learners with their learning goals is difficult as it takes time, and is sometimes dependent on complex external factors, that we sometimes don’t get to learn about.
Things to take forward
On ILPs, be more transparent in asking about motivations, and ask learners how I can best support them.