Research in Practice in Adult Literacy - RiPAL
by Mary Norton
The Alberta RiPAL Network was initiated in 2000
as a project. Its aim was to support adult literacy
educators linking research with practice and doing
research themselves. The Literacy Coordinators of
Alberta (now Alberta Learning) sponsored the project,
in partnership with The Learning Centre Literacy
Association and the University of Albertaís
Centre for Research on Literacy. The project
was funded by the National Literacy
Secretariat, with Alberta Learning.
The Network project grew out of various
research in practice initiatives, including
a 1997 survey of interest in literacy
research in practice in Canada, a
seminar about research in practice,
and an Alberta-based research in
practice project about participatory
approaches in adult literacy education
(Norton and Malicky 2000). As well as
providing insights about participatory
approaches, this project demonstrated the
value and importance of collaborations
between programs and universities. It also
provided recommendations about how to
support research in practice efforts. These
recommendations, along with Horsman and
Nortonís (1999) framework for supporting literacy
research in practice, were springboards for the RiPAL
In the first phase of the project, ten literacy and ABE
educators participated in an on-line graduate course
sponsored by the University of Alberta. Course
participants learned about research and practice,
clarified their questions or areas of interest, and
developed research proposals. Those who participated in
the second phase of the project used various methods to
carry out research and met in inquiry sessions to share
their learnings. Discussion during these sessions helped
all participants to dig deeper, push at the edges, and
depart with more questions. Most participants were also
able to attend the 2001 Gathering about literacy
research in practice in Edmonton, which was organized
through the RiPAL Network.
Despite challenges, such as perceptions about research, confidence about doing research and
writing, and lack of time for writing, five participants completed
studies and wrote reports about their learnings. These
reports are now available on the RiPAL website. As well,
participants made various presentations about the
project and about their research at the 2001 Provincial
Literacy Conference (Alberta), the 2002 RaPAL
conference in England and at the 2002 Portraits of
Literacy Conference in Vancouver.
While no longer funded as a
project, the RiPAL Network continues as a concept.
Projects offered under the Network
umbrella include Violence and
Learning: Taking Action (VALTA) and
the Professional Development Project
(PDP). Through the VALTA project,
educators in Alberta participated in an
online course and are currently exploring
ways to address impacts of violence on
learning. The PDP is investigating what
desires and possibilities exist for professional
development among coordinators of
community adult literacy programs.
In 2002, the RiPAL Network web site
(www.nald.ca/RiPAL) was launched. It provides
information and links about research in practice
networks and projects, events, databases and on-line
resources. Initially an Alberta-based site, it is being
expanded and updated through the collaboration of
interested people in five provinces. The updated site
will be launched in June 2003.
For more information about the RiPAL Network,
contact mary_norton@eLit.ca. Copies of research in
practice reports can be downloaded at
www.nald.ca/RiPAL or ordered for $5.00 each, plus
shipping, from The Learning Centre, 10116 105
Avenue, Edmonton, AB. T5H 0K2.
Horsman, Jenny and Mary Norton (1999). A Framework to Encourage
and Support Practitioner Involvement in Adult Literacy Research in
Ottawa: National Literacy Secretariat.
Norton, Mary and Grace Malicky (2000).
Learning about participatory approaches in adult literacy education.
Six research in practice studies. Edmonton: Learning at
the Centre Press.
Available online at