Stephen Black is a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Research in Learning and Change. His research and teaching interests for more than thirty years have been mainly in the area of adult literacy and numeracy.
Beginning his professional career as a high school teacher in Basildon (UK) and Melbourne, he has taught and managed educational programs in New South Wales prisons (1980-1987) and the TAFE system (1988 to 2009). He lectured part time at UTS for a number of years on the Research Approaches subject in the MA Applied Linguistics/TESOL. He completed his PhD in 2001, and his research interests focus mainly on critical studies of literacy and numeracy as social practices. He has published studies of the role of literacy and numeracy practices in the lives of many groups, including prisoners, local council workers, TAFE students, community groups from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, vocational teachers, production workers, and patients at a diabetes centre.
Cruickshank, K, Black, S, Chen, H, Tsung, L & Wright, J 2020, Language Education in the School Curriculum Issues of Access and Equity, Bloomsbury Publishing.
This book explores the reasons for and solutions to this decline. More importantly, it looks at how these trends have been reversed in successful school programs and the implications of this for language education policy makers.
Critical Perspectives in Adult Literacy and Numeracy in a Globalised World
Current dominant discourses of adult literacy and numeracy in many OECD
countries foreground the economic interests of industry and nations and the
benefits to ...
Black, S 2019, 'Languages study and class privilege: The neoliberal effect in Australian schools', Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 170-209.
In Australia’s highly multicultural and multilingual society the number of students studying languages in secondary schools has declined markedly in recent decades, but not for all students. For students from high socio-economic status (SES) families who attend elite private schools and academically selective high schools, studying traditional languages such as French or German remains a strong curriculum choice and languages continue to confer linguistic and cultural capital. Not so, however, for the majority of students in low SES government comprehensive high schools. For these students, the choice of studying languages is very limited, and for the languages courses that are available, participation rates are poor. Moreover, this social class disparity in the study of languages is ever widening as the result of neoliberal reforms to Australian schooling. In New South Wales, the focus of this paper, school choice and selective schooling policies have ensured that most students in low SES comprehensive high schools are unlikely to study languages beyond the mandatory state minimum of 100 hours in Year 7 or 8. This paper demonstrates the social class inequalities of differentiated languages provision by examining four government high schools in two urban areas in NSW. In each area, languages provision and its associated discourses in the local comprehensive high school are contrasted with the academically selective high school located just a few kilometres away. Recent neoliberal education policies in NSW indicate that school and languages education segregation based on social class will continue unabated.
Black, SR 2018, 'From 'empowerment' to 'compliance': Neoliberalism and adult literacy provision in Australia', Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 104-144.
This article contrasts educational discourses and their associated policy and practice in the field of adult literacy in two sociopolitical eras in Australia: firstly, the social-democratic era that describes the beginnings of adult literacy as a distinct educational field from the late 1970s, and in particular the 1980s; and secondly, the neoliberal era that first strongly influenced the field from the early 1990s, and has reached its zenith in the contemporary state of the field. The terms ‘empowerment’ and ‘compliance’ are used in a reductionist way to describe the key discourses underpinning adult literacy provision in these two eras. The language of empowerment was popular with policy makers and literacy educators in the social-democratic era of free courses in a public education system. In the subsequent neoliberal era, while ‘compliance’ may not feature much in the language of policy makers and literacy educators, it nevertheless accurately describes the overarching process of what contemporary adult literacy provision does to teachers and students. In working towards nationally accredited curriculum outcomes, adult literacy educators and their students can be seen primarily to comply with the dominant industry and productivity agendas that underpin the curriculum. There are now few spaces for an empowering adult literacy education.
Black, SR & Bee, B 2018, 'Adult literacy and liberal-progressive pedagogy: Australian contexts', Research in Post-Compulsory Education, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 181-201.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This article explores adult literacy pedagogy in the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector which has long provided most adult literacy programmes. We draw on semistructured interviews with a small group of eight teachers undertaken in 2005 as part of a project on the social capital outcomes of adult literacy programmes. Through highlighting various elements of student-centred pedagogy, the aim is to demonstrate what is commonly referred to as liberalprogressive pedagogy. We discuss how some educators in this pedagogical tradition have incorporated critical literacy, while others have critiqued it as largely accommodating the status quo. Since the mid-1990s however, the field of adult literacy in VET has been increasingly colonised by neo-liberal ideology which sees literacy equated with human capital. Consequently, adult literacy pedagogy in VET in recent times fits within an industry-dominated, competency-based and nationally accredited VET system in which, we argue, the curriculum provides few spaces for liberal-progressive pedagogy. As teachers express their concerns at the possible demise of liberal-progressive pedagogy in adult literacy in VET, it is timely to reflect on its key elements and its value for social justice.
Adult literacy provision began in Australia during a radical education
era in the 1970s, and yet in recent decades, social class as a
construct has been largely absent in the academic literature on
adult literacy. We argue however that social class is essential to
understanding adult literacy provision and furthermore that working
class people have not been well served by this provision since
the time literacy assumed enhanced status as human capital from
the 1990s. We make our case through asking and responding to
questions relating to the social class backgrounds of students and
their teachers, how people are assessed to need literacy, what is
taught, who undertakes research and who influences adult literacy
policy. At the macro, structural level of analysis, we discuss the
influence on adult literacy provision of the ruling class agendas of
international agencies (i.e. the OECD) and national agencies representing
capital. At the meso level, we discuss how the main adult
literacy provider, technical and further education (TAFE) has failed
to meet the adult literacy needs of working class students due to
neo-liberal reforms. And at the micro, classroom level, we discuss
some implications of class disparities between adult literacy teachers
and their students.
Black, SR, Wright, J & Cruickshank, K 2018, 'The struggle for legitimacy: language provision in two 'residual' comprehensive high schools in Australia', Critical Studies in Education, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 348-363.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Despite the contemporary policy rhetoric of global citizenry and the importance of languages and intercultural capabilities, language learning in Australian schools struggles for recognition and support. The curriculum marginalisation of languages, however, is uneven, affecting some school sectors more than others. In this paper we examine the provision of languages in two government comprehensive high schools, both low socio-economic status (SES), located in urban areas in New South Wales, Australia’s largest state. They are termed ‘residual’ high schools because they cater for the students remaining in the local schools while others attend either private or selective government high schools. We provide a qualitative picture of language provision in these two schools from the perspectives of key stakeholders - school principals, teachers, students and parents. We also draw on observational data of language classes. The aim is to provide, within a largely social class framework, an understanding of the state of language provision in these schools. We argue that currently students in these schools are experiencing unequal access to the linguistic and cultural capital associated with language learning relative to students in more privileged communities and schools.
Wright, J, Cruickshank, K & Black, S 2018, 'Languages discourses in Australian middle-class schools: parent and student perspectives', Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 98-112.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Much of the literature on social class and language study in schools
argues that for middle-class parents and their children, languages
are chosen for their capacity to offer forms of distinction that
provide an edge in the global labour market. In this paper, we
draw on data collected from interviews with parents and children
in middle-class schools in Australia to demonstrate how a
complex amalgam of elite, cultural identity and/or trade language
discourses came into play to explain the choice (or not) to study a
language and the choice of specific languages. For many of the
parents languages provided a limited form of ‘civic
multiculturalism’, as a means of better understanding and
respecting the ‘other’. We argue that the value attributed to high
status languages via this discourse, means their continued
presence in schools hoping to attract middle-class parents, but
their relative absence in schools with largely working-class
populations, where more ‘practical’ concerns dominate.
Black, S, Maitland, C, Hilbers, J & Orinuela, K 2017, 'Diabetes literacy and informal social support: A qualitative study of patients at a diabetes centre.', Journal of Clinical Nursing, vol. 26, no. 1-2, pp. 248-257.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The research project aimed to explore the resources that patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes drew upon to manage the disease in their daily lives BACKGROUND: Type 2 diabetes is a disease affecting Australian adults at a rate described as an 'epidemic'. Treatment usually focuses on patient self-management, which may require daily blood sugar monitoring, oral medications or injectable therapies, and regulating diet and exercise. Health research studies of patient self-management, including those involving type 2 diabetes, have focused largely on individual-centred definitions, though a number of studies, in particular qualitative studies, have indicated the positive role of social relationships and informal social networks.Exploratory, qualitative.The project focused on 26 patients attending a diabetes centre for clinical consultations with centre staff including doctors, diabetes educators, podiatrists and dietitians. The consultations were observed and audio recorded, followed by semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews with the patients and separate interviews with the consulting professional staff.Overwhelmingly the patients drew on informal social networks of support to manage the disease. Spouses were significant, sometimes presenting with the patient as a 'team' approach to managing the disease. Sons and daughters also played a significant support role, especially interpreting during consultations and explaining health information. In some cases neighbours and also local community organisations provided informal support. Only 2 patients claimed not to use informal social support.Informal social support in patients' self-management of type 2 diabetes was found to be an important factor to be considered by clinicians. The study suggested the need for a more deliberate or pro-active policy to involve patients' family and other informal social networks in treatment programs. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Black, SR 2016, 'Challenging a statistic: Why should we accept that 60 percent of adult Australians have low health literacy?', Literacy and Numeracy Studies, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 66-74.
This paper briefly considers Australia’s only national health survey published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2008 which has been widely referenced within the health sector. The main issue discussed is the use of a criterion level (level 3) to determine the point below which nearly 60 percent of Australian adults can be considered to have inadequate health literacy. The argument is made that this criterion level is arbitrary and statistically unjustified, yet it serves the purpose of presenting health literacy as a ‘crisis’ demanding action, which in turn represents the interests of dominant groups in this globalised, neo-liberal era.
Black, SR & Yasukawa, K 2016, 'Research that counts: OECD statistics and 'policy entrepreneurs' impacting on Australian adult literacy and numeracy policy', Research in Post-Compulsory Education, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 165-180.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This paper analyses research that has impacted on Australia’s most recent national policy document on adult literacy and numeracy – the National Foundation Skills Strategy (NFSS). The paper draws in part on Lingard’s 2013 paper entitled ‘The impact of research on education policy in an era of evidence-based policy’ in which he outlines the distinction between research for and of policy. The former is privileged in education policy formation and comprises largely statistical evidence (i.e. ‘policy as numbers’) often drawing on the globalised authority of organisations such as the OECD, along with research commissioned by policy makers and undertaken by ‘policy entrepreneurs’. Research of policy represents academically oriented research, which is often qualitative, seeks new knowledge, and may challenge the status quo. Through an analysis of studies cited in and thus impacting on the NFSS, we detail the main authors of research for policy and indicate their ideological commitment to the neoliberal agenda that now dominates the adult literacy and numeracy field in Australia and other OECD countries. Research of policy in this context has had little policy impact, but is nevertheless promoted by the authors as a means of countering the current reductionist discourses of adult literacy and numeracy reflected in national policy.
Black, S, Yasukawa, K & Brown, T 2015, 'The literacy and numeracy ‘crisis’ in Australian workplaces: discursive rhetoric vs. production floor realities', Journal of Education and Work, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 607-630.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2013 Taylor & Francis. The dominant discourse on adult literacy and numeracy in Australia sees the federal government, industry, workforce skills agencies and the media speaking with one voice on the ‘crisis’ involving workers’ low literacy and numeracy skills. Underpinning this discourse are the Australian results of the international Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) which are used to model correlations between low literacy/numeracy levels and productivity. In turn, these correlations are deemed to have implications for the competitiveness of individual enterprises and the prosperity of the nation. In the ALLS, approximately half of manufacturing workers are found at the lowest two levels. Adopting an ethnographic perspective, and viewing literacy and numeracy as social practices, this paper investigates this ‘crisis’ from the situated perspectives of managers, trainers and workers in three manufacturing companies. Multiple observations of production work and semi-structured interviews with over 50 company personnel reveal a contradiction between the crisis discourse rhetoric on workplace literacy and numeracy and the realities of production work. Literacy and numeracy are found not to have a negative influence on production work in the three companies. This raises questions about the basis for the crisis discourse, and government policy and programmes that flow from it.
In reporting the Australian results of the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, Adult literacy and life skills survey, summary results, Australia, 2008a, p. 5) stated that of the five internationally identified levels of literacy and numeracy in the survey, Level 3 is regarded by the survey developers as the `minimum required for individuals to meet the complex demands of everyday life in the emerging knowledge-based economy+. In effect, this Level 3 criterion, in the wake of traditional functional literacy/illiteracy dichotomies, creates yet another `single measure+ through which to distinguish those who can from those who cannot function in society. The Level 3 criterion and the accompanying verbatim quote have since been cited extensively by powerful institutions, including government, industry and skills in their promotion of a crisis discourse in adult literacy and numeracy. This has led in turn to national policy responses on `foundation skills+ and nationally agreed performance targets (by the Council of Australian Governments) for skills and workforce development based on the ALLS Level 3. In this paper we question the validity, origin and significance of the Level 3 criterion and contend that highlighting this aspect in the reporting of the ALLS has resulted in a narrow and unbalanced perspective on the role of literacy and numeracy in society
Black, SR & Yasukawa, K 2014, 'The literacy myth continues: Adapting Graff's thesis to contemporary discourses on adult 'foundations skills' in Australia', Critical Studies in Education, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 213-228.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Black, SR, Yasukawa, K & Brown, T 2014, 'Changing conceptualisations of literacy and numeracy in lean production training: Two case studies of manufacturing companies', Studies in the Education of Adults, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 58-73.
Brown, T, Yasukawa, K & Black, SR 2014, 'Seeing and hearing: Examining production workers' literacy and numeracy practices in a context of crisis', Studies in Continuing Education, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 188-200.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The purpose of this paper is to explore the possibilities for expansive learning during organizational change. It considers the introduction of `lean production as a disturbance to the existing work practices. The paper considers two case studies of `lean production training with production workers in manufacturing firms. Data for the study consisted of semi-structured interviews, observations of workers during work and training. Engeströms third generation Cultural Historical Activity Theory was used as the key theoretical tool for analysis. The study found that the introduction of and training for `lean production did not lead to expansive learning. The training did not afford spaces to address the fundamental contradictions between the `earning a living and `productivity motives of work. Further research on the different kinds of `spaces for learning could lead to greater insights into the affordances of expansive learning in workplaces. In particular, the concept of `third space is useful in such an endeavor. Training designed to increase productivity could integrate more discussions about what workers themselves should expect to gain from increased productivity. The paper presents a critical perspective on recent case studies of workplace training at a time when workforce development and `lean production are uncritically promulgated as beneficial. It highlights the opportunities that exist for critical educators to make interventions in the interests of the workers.
In light of the perceived new significance to the Australian economy of adult language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills, this paper presents a broad picture of how LLN is being integrated in Australian vocational education and training (VET) and, through reference to selected programmes, indicates some future directions. Based on a national environmental scan of LLN providers and in-depth interviews with over 50 VET teachers and managers, we conclude that integrated LLN in Australian VET largely fits a deficit paradigm. In the main, students are assessed at the beginning of their course to identify the LLN skills they lack and then provided with assistance from a specialist LLN teacher, which may be in the form of individual support in a study centre, tuition in a separate LLN programme, or assistance within a team teaching structure in the vocational classroom. We focus mainly on the latter in this paper, explaining that often the LLN teacher assumes a secondary, `hovering role in the vocational classroom, helping primarily those students identified to be `in need of LLN support, while the vocational teacher delivers the vocational content. We provide examples of alternative models of integrated LLN which feature a shared or equal role for the LLN teacher, and we examine these using a theoretical framework developed from the work of Lea and Street (1998, 2006) on academic writing. Based on Lea and Streets work, we refer to these models as: `study skills, `vocational socialisation and `vocational literacies and numeracies.
Black, SR & Yasukawa, K 2013, 'Disturbing the pedagogical status quo: LLN and vocational teachers working together', Pedagogies: An International Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 44-59.View/Download from: Publisher's site
When language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) teachers work together with vocational teachers as a team, not only do students improve their course outcomes in terms of completions and employment, but the pedagogical practices of both teachers can change and improve. In this article, we begin to explore some of the issues and provide examples of pedagogical changes, linking them with research on interdisciplinary teacher teams in other education sectors that draw on activity theory, and higher education studies of academic literacies. This article draws on a recent national study of the integration of LLN in the delivery of vocational education and training (VET) courses in Australia in which interviews with over 50 VET teachers and managers provided insights into the pedagogies that emerge when LLN teachers and vocational teachers work as a team. Particularly significant is the relative status of the teachers working together and the cultural and historical practices that enforce or challenge this. Pedagogical changes are encouraged in situations where teachers have equal status and their respective specialist disciplinary expertise is in a relationship of horizontal diversity to each other.
Black, SR, Balatti, J & Falk, I 2013, 'Health literacy and social capital: What role for adult literacy partnerships and pedagogy?', Studies in Continuing Education, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 146-164.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This paper makes the case for adult literacy (including numeracy) practitioners to play a greater role in health literacy initiatives in Australia. The paper draws on data from a national research project that investigated adult literacy partnerships and pedagogy viewed from a social capital perspective. The primary purpose of the project was to produce guidelines on how to deliver integrated adult literacy and numeracy programmes using a social capital approach. Prior experience of partnerships was explored through a review of the literature and an environmental scan of adult literacy providers using an email survey and follow-up interviews. An in-depth case study of a health literacy partnership was trialled using action research. Partnerships between adult literacy and health organisations in Australia were found to be largely ad hoc and rarely documented. To enable sustainable health literacy programmes, partnerships are needed across the three interlinked organisational levels micro, meso and macro, and in particular the latter, which is currently almost completely absent. The conceptual frameworks outlined for health literacy partnerships and social capital pedagogy in this paper are new and potentially of value to policy makers, researchers and practitioners in the fields of health and literacy.
Yasukawa, K, Brown, T & Black, SR 2013, 'Production Workers' literacy and numeracy practices: using cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) as an analytical tool', Journal of Vocational Education and Training, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 369-384.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Public policy discourses claim that there is a 'crisis' in the literacy and numeracy levels of the Australian workforce. In this paper, we propose a methodology for examining this 'crisis' from a critical perspective. We draw on findings from an ongoing research project by the authors which investigates production workers' literacy and numeracy in lean manufacturing firms. We focus on how language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) practices are embedded in production work, and investigate various perspectives, including those of management, trainers and workers, on LLN problems and issues in the workplace. We adopt a critical perspective that analyses the way work, learning in work, and literacy and numeracy in the workplace are shaped and reshaped by social relations and culture, values and the histories of the industry and the local workplaces. This perspective examines literacy and numeracy as social practices and, using the theoretical analysis of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), we indicate some of the complexities surrounding literacy and numeracy issues in workplaces, which have implications for the dominant `crisis discourse.
Black, SR 2012, 'Diabetes Literacy: Health and adult literacy practitioners in partnership', Australian Journal of Adult Learning, vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 89-113.
This paper describes pedagogy in a series of 'diabetes literacy' programs involving culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. The programs were jointly delivered in local community sites, including neighbourhood centres and public housing halls, by qualified nutritionists from a public health service and adult literacy teachers from a technical and further education (TAFE) institute. The programs were funded by the Australian Government as an adult literacy innovative project, and they were considered innovative because the concept of 'diabetes literacy' is relatively new, and in the Australian health literacy context, the work of health professionals in a team with adult literacy teachers and other organisational partners is undeveloped and rarely documented. The main focus of the paper is on how these two partners managed to work together effectively within an integrated literacy approach focusing on the situated health needs of selected CALD communities.
This paper describes how ESOL and vocational teachers in an Australian technical and further education (TAFE) institute work together to prepare students to complete their vocational courses and obtain employment. Students are concurrently enrolled in an ESOL and a vocational course, and the teachers of these courses work closely together, jointly planning their respective courses and taking equal responsibility for the student groups. Drawing on theoretical concepts from 'academic literacies' studies in higher education, we explain how shared delivery can shift the pedagogy from deficit models, which maintain the disciplinary status quo, to social practice models that open the way to challenge established disciplinary pedagogies and practices. This is accomplished largely due to the equal sharing of the 'ownership' of the programme by the two teachers. We propose that such a model better prepares students for a changing world of work.
Black, SR, Ndaba, A, Kerr, C & Doyle, B 2012, 'Methadone, counselling and literacy: A health literacy partnership for Aboriginal clients', Literacy & Numeracy Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 45-62.
This paper describes a literacy program delivered at the Kirketon Road Centre (KRC), a primary health centre located at Kings Cross, Sydney. KRC was established to meet the health needs of 'at risk' young people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs. The literacy program was initiated from within an Aboriginal health group at KRC, following a request from clients in the group. A teacher from Tranby Aboriginal College delivered the literacy program once afternoon every fortnight over a period over approximately one year. This paper is based on recorded and transcribed 'reflection' discussion undertaken over several months between the literacy teacher, a KRC counsellor and the researcher immediately following the literacy sessions.
Yasukawa, K, Brown, T & Black, SR 2012, 'Workplace literacy and numeracy learning: An opportunity for trade union renewal in Australia?', International Journal of Training Research, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 94-104.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This paper first examines the current literacy and numeracy 'crisis' in Australian workplaces where loss of productivity, lack of take-up in training, and skills shortages are being blamed on workers' lack of literacy and numeracy skills. Literacy and numeracy in workplaces are more complex and require alternative understandings of literacy and numeracy as well as the perspectives of workers themselves. Secondly, this paper discusses the opportunity for unions to demonstrate their stake in the education and training of workers. We ask what possibilities are there for this to happen; and what models exist from which Australian trade unions can draw? In the UK the Trade Union Congress (TUC) successfully negotiated with the Labour Government, to establish a Union Learning Fund (ULF) and give recognition to union learning representatives (ULRs), to facilitate learning for workers. The paper considers what new directions Australian unions might explore in the emerging VET policy environment.
Black, SR & Yasukawa, K 2011, 'A tale of two councils: Alternative discourses on the 'literacy crisis' in Australian workplaces', International Journal of Training Research, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 218-233.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Australia appears to be in the grip of a `literacy crisis in workplaces. Media reports and industry/skills organisations are decrying the low literacy and numeracy levels of workers and the negative effects these have on productivity. As a consequence, the Australian government has increased funding for workplace literacy and numeracy programs and is poised to do more with a National Foundation Skills Strategy. This paper challenges the crisis discourse. It indicates that similar arguments about low literacy and numeracy in workplaces abounded 20 years ago, and there is unlikely to be a change in this dominant discourse position in the future unless the discourse itself changes. By drawing on data from two accounts of literacy and numeracy in different local government councils, the paper shows how markedly different perspectives on workplace literacy and numeracy can result from researchers adopting an alternative `social practice approach, which draws heavily on the perspectives of workers.
Black, SR 2010, 'Working the interstices: Adult basic education teachers respond to the audit culture', Literacy and Numeracy Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 6-25.
This paper provides the perspectives of adult basic education (ABE) teachers on how they are responding to curriculum changes which form part of the regulatory regime referred to as the audit culture. The focus is on ABE programs conducted in the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia where most accredited ABE courses are delivered. The paper indicates the many tensions ABE teachers experience between the compliance requirements of audits and their professional judgements as experienced ABE teachers. While responses vary, many teachers adopt an approach where they can comply with the prescriptive demands of audits, though often in a minimal fashion, and at the same time teach in a way that fits within their philosophy and practices as ABE teachers. In the classroom these teachers are seen to be `working the interstices (the small `spaces) in the official curriculum. Concern was expressed, however, that future ABE teachers may not adopt such an approac
In this paper we highlight four dimensions of the adult literacy and numeracy field which we consider should be incorporated in a new strategy. We draw on recent work on social capital which has direct implications for social inclusion, but also for complementing the human capital rationale for adult literacy and numeracy. We link this work to calls for more cross-sectoral partnerships, and we then highlight an area of VET that should receive greater prominence in a national strategy, the integration of literacy and numeracy in the delivery of VET courses. Finally, we consider professional learning and partnerships with universities in adult literacy and numeracy, and how the field can be revitalised.
Black, SR, Balatti, J & Falk, I 2010, 'Reconnecting young people with learning: A social capital approach in VET', International Journal of Training Research, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 103-115.
This paper contributes to pedagogical debates on how to meet the learning needs o/young people who are disconnected from school It presents a case study 0/ a program which aimed to prepare students for their Year 10 equivalent school leaving qualification in a basic education section 0/ a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) college in Australia. Most 0/ the students were between 15 and 17 years 0/ age, had experienced literacy and numeracy difficulties in forma/learning, and for various reasons were disconnected from the school system. The paper explains how an approach to learning in VET led to important human and social capital outcomes, and in particular, a changed sense o/4ficacy on the part o/students in the program. The two key elements 0/ this VET pedagogy were: individualised, self-paced learning within a flexible program structure; and the fostering o/social capital including mutual trust and respect, through the course-related learning network 0/ teachers and students and other influential networks, including peer networks. Analysis 0/ interview transcript data with students and teachers revealed the mutuaUy reinforcing role 0/ these elements of VET pedagogy.
Balatti, J, Black, SR & Falk, I 2007, 'Teaching for social capital outcomes: The case of adult literacy and numeracy courses', Australian Journal of Adult Learning, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 245-263.
There is strong evidence that participation in education and training can produce social capital outcomes. There is also strong evidence that such outcomes are useful outcomes; they can enhance the development of other outcomes often called human capital and they can contribute to the social-economic wellbeing of the learners and the communities in which they live. Yet, little research has been done on the pedagogy and other conditions that produce social capital outcomes in education and training. This paper reports on a research project that investigated what teachers do to produce social capital outcomes in adult literacy and numeracy courses
Black, SR, Balatti, J & Falk, I 2006, 'Social capital outcomes: The new focus for adult literacy and numeracy courses', Australian Journal of Adult Learning, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 317-336.
Since the early 1990s in Australia, adult literacy and numeracy courses in vocational education and training (VET) have been focused on human capital outcomes, that is, on developing the literacy and numeracy skills believed to improve the economic performance of individuals, enterprises and the national generally. However, some researchers have expressed the concern that these outcomes are insufficient in explaining the socio-economic impacts of these courses. This paper reports on a recent study of the social capital outcomes of adult literacy and numeracy courses (Balatti, Black & Falk, 2006). The finding indicate that it is a complex mix of both human and social capital outcomes from these courses that results in socio-economic impacts. The authors contend that social capital outcomes should be recognized, and accounted for, along with human capital skills, in a reframing of adult literacy and numeracy policy and practice.
Black, SR 2004, 'Whose economic wellbeing? A challenge to dominant discourses on the relationshiop between literacy/numeracy skills and (un)employment', Literacy and Numeracy Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 7-17.
Yasukawa, K & Black, S 2016, 'Introduction: Critical Perspectives in Adult Literacy and Numeracy in a Globalised World' in Beyond Economic Interests: Critical Perspectives on Adult Literacy and Numeracy in a Globalised World, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. ix-xv.
Yasukawa, K & Black, S 2016, 'Policy Making at a Distance: A Critical Perspective on Australia's National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults' in Yasukawa, K & Black, S (eds), Beyond Economic Interests: Critical perspectives on adult literacy and numeracy in a globalised world, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 19-39.
Balatti, J & Black, SR 2011, 'Constructing learners as members of networks' in Catt, R, Falk, I & Wallace, R (eds), Vocational Learning: Innovative theory and practice, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 63-76.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Networks are the sites through which social capital is generated. The number and the nature of memberships that people have in networks are indicators of the social capital that they can access. This chapter considers the possible consequences for pedagogy and even for what is valid as training outcomes if learners, in particular TVET learners, are seen as members of networks. The chapter begins with a discussion of what it means to conceptualize learners as members of networks. It then draws on research studies undertaken by the authors to identify the pedagogical strategies that seem to enhance the potential for social capital outcomes to occur for learners. It concludes with the kinds of social capital outcomes that learners can experience. Findings drawn on in this chapter are primarily from researching adult language, literacy and numeracy training.
Black, SR & Yasukawa, K 2011, 'Beyond deficit approaches to teaching and learning: Literacy and numeracy in VET courses', Bringing Australia's VET research community together, AVETRA, Rendezvous Hotel, Melbourne, pp. 1-12.
The paper is available on the AVETRA website as a refereed paper at the following: http://avetra.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/62.00.pdf
Yasukawa, K & Black, SR 2010, 'Integrated literacy and numeracy support in VET - implications for skills, equity and research', Building the foundations: outcomes from the adult language, literacy and numeracu search conference, NCVER Language, literacy and numeracy Search Conference, NCVER, Canberra, pp. 35-42.
Yasukawa, K, Brown, T & Black, SR 2011, 'Exploring the role of Australian trade unions in the education of workers', 14th Annual AVETRA Conference - Research in VET: Janus - reflecting back, projecting forward, Annual AVETRA Conference, AVETRA, Rendezvous Hotel, Melbourne, pp. 1-13.
There are two main elements to this paper. Firstly, we critically examine the current literacy and numeracy âcrisisâ in Australian workplaces in which loss of productivity, lack of take-up in education and training, and skills shortages are being blamed on workersâ lack of literacy and numeracy skills (Australian Industry Group [AiG] 2010a&b, DEEWR 2010, Skills Australia 2010). We indicate that the issues of literacy and numeracy in workplaces are more complex and require alternative understandings of literacy and numeracy (as social practices), and the additional perspectives of the workers themselves. The second main element to this paper is the opportunity for unions to demonstrate their stake in the education and training of workers. We ask: what possibilities are there for this to happen; what models exist from which Australian trade unions can draw? In the UK the Trade Union Congress (TUC) successfully negotiated with the Labour Government, to establish a Union Learning Fund (ULF), and give recognition to union learning representatives (ULRs), to facilitate learning for workers. Evaluations show that literacy and numeracy learning is one of the areas most positively impacted by union learning representatives. Based on a critical analysis of the current policy discourses around adult literacy and numeracy, review of the current overseas literature on the role of union learning representatives in workplaces, and research on the history of the involvement of Australian trade unions in shaping the VET agenda, this paper reviews the role unions played in recent VET policy formation and considers what new directions they might explore in the emerging policy environment.
Black, SR & Reich, AJ 2010, ''The elephant in the room': Audit culture and TAFE teachers', 13th Annual Conference VT Research: Leading and responding in turbulent times, VT Research: Leading and responding in turbulent times, Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association, AVETRA, Holiday Inn, Surfers Paradise, Qld, pp. 1-10.
The work of TAPE teachers has changed considerably in the past decade or more, as indicated in numerous studies (e.g. Chappell & Johnston 2003, Harris, Simon & Clayton 2005). However, one aspect of change which has not featured prominently in Australian VET research is the much increased compliance with audit requirements, and arguably it is the scale of this increased compliance that could be said to have transformed the work of TAFE teachers in recent years (see Black 2009a 2009b). The relative neglect of research into this aspect of change explains the title of this paper, 'the elephant in the room' (see Groundwater-Smith & Mockler 2009: 73). This paper is an introductory exploration of the 'audit culture' (Apple 2007, Strathern 2000) as it affects TAFE teachers, After outlining some of the conceptual notions of the audit culture in the research literature, and especially in relation to VET, the paper then examines the effects of the audit culture on teachers and their responses. The teacher data are obtained through several methods: firstly, a state-wide, emailed survey questionnaire on the changing role of head teachers in T AFE NSW (Black 2009a 2009b); secondly, in-depth, taped interviews with head teachers across two TAPE NSW Institutes; and thirdly, a series of taped, focus group discussions with teaching staff from several TAFE NSW Access sections. Through an examination of these data the effects of audits on the work of teachers will be discussed, as well as an exploration of the tensions between the audit requirements and the teachers' professional expertise.
Results from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have been used to suggest there is a crisis in the literacy and numeracy skills of Australian adults. This study challenges this current view by looking at the issue from a worker's perspective. Production workers, together with their managers and trainers, from three manufacturing companies were interviewed and observed. Little evidence of a direct link between increasing literacy and numeracy skills of workers and improved productivity was found.
Balatti, J, Black, SR & Falk, I National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) 2009, A new social capital paradigm for adult literacy: Partnerships, policy and pedagogy, pp. 1-49, Adelaide.
Balatti, J, Black, SR & Falk, I National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2006, Reframing adult literacy and numeracy course outcomes: A social capital perspective, pp. 1-47, Adelaide.