Manitoba Research in Practice Initiatives
by Robin Millar
Research in practice in Manitoba is in its
infancy. We are just starting to build a research
agenda which will be responsive to literacy
programs, students and practitioners.
The Centre for Education and Work
(CEW), a not-for-profit organization, has
been a leader on this issue.
Last winter the CEW started the
process. We conducted focus groups in
five different regions of Manitoba to
find out whether community-based
programs were interested in and able
to conduct literacy research. We
compiled a report from these
interviews. The report includes
recommendations about how
developmental work in research
should develop. In brief, literacy
practitioners targeted three areas:
- increasing access to research
- finding a variety of ways to circulate
information about research
- developing research skills
Feedback from the field
Literacy practitioners felt they didnít have the
time or energy to seek out literacy research.
Therefore, they wanted a variety of ways to find
out about literacy research. Although most are
comfortable using the internet, they often read
only urgent e-mails. Thus, programs are not
ready for electronic-only
communications. Sharing research
should include print, electronic and
in-person information. Practitioners
wanted brief summaries of a range of
research literature. Instructors wanted a
focus on teaching practice and coordinators
and working groups wanted information
about program development and expansions.
All practitioners said that unless research
projects included them as researchers and showed
them the benefits of the research, they were not
interested in participating. Clearly, traditional
academic research will not work in this climate. Thus,
new research agendas should integrate participatory
approaches and professional development. At the same
time, literacy practitioners are unsure of their own expertise. They worry that they do not have adequate
skills to conduct a research project.
the CEW research project
To meet the needs identified by practitioners, the
CEW developed a project for 2002-2003, which was
supported by the National Literacy Secretariat. The
project has three main goals.
Goal # 1: Produce literacyNOW!
We developed a short, easy to read, research journal which is mailed to literacy
programs. As of March 2003, we had produced four issues.
literacyNOW! is available on the CEW web site and
easily links to other web sites. The project also gave
honoraria to a number of Research Leads who
distribute literacyNOW! and get feedback about
content, format and future needs.
Goal # 2: Find out what skills and knowledge
people need to do literacy research
We conducted an occupational analysis
(DACUM) with literacy researchers. The Adult Literacy and
Learning branch for the province of Manitoba will
use this data to develop further training. As well, literacy
practitioners can use it to assess their own capacities. It is one
them identify what
they need to learn.
The DACUM Committee included literacy
researchers from Manitoba and across Canada. Our
report on the process and outcomes, You Know
More Than You Think You Know, is available on the
CEW web site.
Goal #3: Offer workshops at provincial
conferences and learning events
The CEW developed a number of workshops
to raise awareness of current research in literacy and develop research skills in literacy
Further debate: Where
are we going?
When we analysed the original interviews and
focus groups, we developed a number of
recommendations for future work in literacy
research. These are relevant not only for Manitoba,
but other provinces as well. Perhaps these
recommendations could be the beginning of a
debate about the roles of both federal and
provincial literacy funders.
Here are our recommendations:
- Federal and provincial funders should
make their expectations clear to literacy programs.
This includes funding objectives for
- All partners of research initiatives
should be funded. Research projects that expect in-kind
contributions from programs should check with
participating programs or build in extra costs
- Research should be participatory
- Research capabilities that already exist in programs
and practitioners should be highlighted
- The literacy community should build
a longterm research strategy.
The full report, including these recommendations,
is available on the CEW web site (www.cewca.org).
Dr. Robin Millar is the Executive Director of the
Centre for Education and Work. Robin worked for the Province of
Manitoba in adult literacy for ten years. She has presented at conferences
and workshops in workplace education, adult literacy, adult education
and learning disabilities, and more recently prior learning assessment.