Practitioners Write Effective Practice
Thinking in your head is difficult because ideas leak away. Writing is
a way of pinning your thoughts down and holding them still in order to examine
them. (Clark and Ivanic 1997, p113)
To Fiona MacDonald of the Adult
Literacies Team of Communities Scotland, this book inspired her to think about
how practitioner writing could document and support effective practice. She
For me, this quote beautifully summed up the importance of recording in
order to effect positive changes to practice. I wanted to encourage
practitioners to record some of the excellent work that I know they are
carrying out. However, I also wanted to locate this type of
reflection in a research context, to show how action research methods can have
an impact not only on our practice, but in our ability to be considered as
professional in our approach to the delivery of adult
literacies. Furthermore, the results of this type of inquiry can be
useful in other contexts too and can be helpful as supporting evidence, for
example, when drawing down funding.
She developed an action-research project
in which practitioners reflected on their experiences while delivering a
course, Introductory Training in Adult Literacies Learning (ITALL). The aims of
the project were to explore how practitioners could use reflective diaries as
staff development, to evaluate ITALL using material from the diaries, and to
provide a tool that practitioners in the future could use to explore their own
Literacy work in Scotland is guided by seven principles that were outlined in the 2000
National Development Project. The principles, and how they apply to tutoring
learners' , are:
1 Promoting self-determination
Ensuring learners' work with as much self-direction and
independence as possible and take risks in tackling new tasks
2 Developing an understanding of literacies
Developing learners' awareness of literacy or numeracy
uses in context, their critical awareness of literacy and numeracy, and of learning
3 Recognizing and respecting difference and diversity
Developing learners' awareness of social and cultural
differences in literacy or numeracy practices
4 Developing informed practice
Acquiring the experience and expertise to offer learners' the most effective and efficient pathways to achieve their learning goals
5 Developing equitable and anti-discriminatory practice
Offering a curriculum that is inclusive and
anti-discriminatory in its content and process
6 Promoting participation
Involving learners' individually and
collectively in evaluation of learning and teaching to inform the design of
7 Drawing on partnerships
Working collaboratively with other agencies to deliver
joint courses and projects
These principles are meant to be
applicable in general, but some practitioners felt unclear about how they might
be put into practice. The researchers hoped that, through reflective writing,
practitioners could develop a framework for good practice. This framework would
be based on their perceptions and expressed as closely as possible in their
Practitioners discussed their best
experiences as tutors and as learners' . Best experiences were taken as examples
of good practice. The practitioners then decided what indicators, or examples,
could be used to recognize good practice. Here is the result:
| Good practice
| Have clear aims and objectives
|| Aims and objectives are clearly stated/displayed at
beginning of sessions and checked through evaluations at end of sessions.
Participants are able to ask questions on aims and objectives and to ensure
understanding of them through discussion.
| Content and delivery has to be stimulating
|| Content generates discussion, dialogue, questions and
positive evaluations. The drop out rate is low. Trainees interact. Activities
| Content and delivery has to be at appropriate level
|| Trainees appear satisfied, interested, and discussion is
relevant. Discussion and questions relate content to practice and personal
situations. Trainer checks/measures if level is appropriate and learners' are
learning. Trainers' actions include noting body language, levels of
participation and listening to trainees.
| Appropriate resources available
|| Resources are flexible and trainers make
good use of what is available. They plan ahead when resources need to be
shared. Resources include what contributes to a comfortable atmosphere and
layout is conducive to participation. Trainees' show interest in resources,
do not refer to missing anything and discussion shows reference to resources.
| Prepare well
|| Any adaptations to ITALL are the result
of active decision and extras such as inserts are provided. Sessions run
smoothly. No adverse comments, no crises due to lack of preparation. Trainees
have appropriate expectations.
| Be responsive to learners' and be prepared
|| Trainers allocate time for activities and
breaks and make changes according to participants' needs. Trainees are
comfortable asking questions and their questions are answered. Trainees
seem interested and are encouraged to participate in the curriculum.
layout is conducive to participation. Opportunity is provided for trainees
to make responses and give feedback.
| Respect trainees and build up morale
|| Trainees' own experiences are used and
their input is responded to. Positive experiences are highlighted. Trainees'
responses are observed and they are listened to. Everyone is given time and
encouragement. Humour is used. Challenges are courteous.
| Group dynamics and issues of equality
|| The trainer notes if anyone dominates discussions or
challenges aggressively. Individuals' levels of participation and group
dynamics are monitored. Experience and skills of the trainees are
acknowledged. People show each other respect.
The participants within this project worked extremely hard and will be
very pleased that their work might be of use to others. It is worth saying that
the whole process culminated in a presentation to adult literacies practitioners
in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, delivered by three of the participants.
Each of them had used different models for recording their reflections and they
discussed the positive and negative aspects of their own particular recording
methods. They also discussed their own anxieties of putting pen to paper and
the real benefits for both learners' and practitioners of writing down their
reflections as soon after the event as possible.
The full report of this project, New
Practice, Good Practice: the role of reflection in adult literacies tutor
training, by Ann Finlay with Moira Hamilton and Fiona Macdonald was
published by Literacies Scotland in September 2003. It is available online at: www.communitiesscotland.gov.uk/Web/Site/cl/al_research.asp.
Ivanic, Roz and Romy Clark (1997). The Politics of Writing.
London: Routledge 1997
Literacies in the Community: resources
for practitioners and managers. National Development
Project-Adult Literacies in Scotland. City of Edinburgh
Council and the Scottish Executive (2000).
Introductory Training in Adult
Literacies Learning, National Training Project for
Adult Literacies and Communities Scotland (2003).