Tearing through the tartan maths ceiling


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Annotated presentation to ALM 17, Oslo, 2010

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  • During this presentation I’m going to talk a bit about tartan. And here’s a tartan made from the colours of the Norwegian flag ... See how I’ll do anything to win friends ... (ho ho)
  • How we understanding “adult literacies” in Scotland.
  • Explaining the terms “literacies” and “social practice”. Highlighting one of the tensions we face when it comes to demonstrating “baselines” or learners’ achievements ... If the social practice approaches focuses on how learners USE literacies capabilities, then we cannot use a “dipstick” approach to measuring how “full of numeracy” they are!
  • This is a dipstick (ho ho)
  • What characterises adult literacies learning in Scotland?
  • And so to numeracy – a refocusing in 2004/5
  • The useful definition Diana Coben used in the report she wrote for Scotland, which fits well with our social practice approach. It doesn’t define a set of topics or a levelled curricululum ... Rather it describes a comfortable, efficient relationship to maths, in any given situation.
  • This is some of the activity and links that followed that report’s recommendations.
  • And here is a glimpse at how numeracy works in different ways across the country: sometimes quite a small “specialist” approach; sometimes fully embedded across all provision. Groups can be “dedicated” meaning that numeracy is the focus; others integrate numeracy into a broader programme. Two examples of the latter coming up ...
  • Rag Tag n Textile is a “social firm” operating in the Highland region. The business supports people who would otherwise face barriers to working (mental health problem, disability) to work and learn with them. The business recycles old fabric into crafts to sell. An example of this is a laptop bag made from recycled Harris tweed. The workers have gained numeracy accreditation from the skills they’ve learned and used while designing, making and selling these products.
  • A similar example from Perth is the Charmworks project: a jewellery making business employing homeless young people. Learners/workers cost raw materials, make jewellery, sell it ... Online, in shops, at events ... They are now working with local business enterprise support to develop the busienss.
  • New research has suggested that a majority of Scots in their forties are likely to find difficulty in some tasks at some point in their lives because of their numeracy.
  • However, it seems from the same research that people are unlikely to be aware that have limited capability
  • So are we talking about an invisible “maths ceiling” in Scotland? Could we call it a tartan maths ceiling? – and I have a reason for calling it tartan, which I’ll come on to. Consider Yvonne and Tariq.
  • I’m calling the ceiling tartan because tartan is a complex pattern. It has different colours, or the same colour in different tones: we could think of this as numeracy being used for different purposes, or similar purposes. We can see the pattern coming from different directions: and we could think of this as representing the different starting points – and destinations – of learners, or of their motivations. Ideally we would have a three-dimensional tartan, showing the different heights of the ceiling for different people ... (Notice that we’ve invented a three-dimensional, invisible, tartan!)
  • The 3D effect could represent learners’ “spiky” profiles.
  • As an aside, a colleague of mine said her numeracy isn’t a spike ... Rather a stump! (ho ho)
  • So where does all of this bring me ... Here are some of my thoughts. (The painting you’ll recognise ... It’s actually a painting of me thinking about numeracy ...)
  • And here’s what we maybe need to do ...
  • Get in touch ...
  • Tearing through the tartan maths ceiling

    1. 2. Tearing through the tartan maths ceiling Daniel Sellers 28 th June 2010 Oslo
    2. 3. <ul><li>Aim: to explore ideas for increasing adults’ engagement in maths learning in Scotland ... </li></ul><ul><li>This presentation will: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>briefly outline Scotland’s adult literacy and numeracy strategy and the delivery landscape </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>describe Scotland’s approach to adult numeracy and some characteristics of delivery </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>explore the notion of an invisible maths ceiling and some ways of breaking through it ... </li></ul></ul>
    3. 4. <ul><li>23% of Scottish adults may have low skills </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a further 30% may find their skills inadequate to meet the demands of the ‘knowledge society and information age’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>800,000 people </li></ul><ul><ul><li>IALS, quoted in Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland (2001) </li></ul></ul>
    4. 5. “ The ability to read, write and use numeracy, to handle information to express ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, as family members, workers, citizens and lifelong learners” ALNIS 2001
    5. 6. Terms: “ literacies” Encompassing literacy and numeracy, the term reflects the “dynamic and diverse ways in which adults encounter and use words and numbers in their written form” ( Literacies in the Community , 2000 ) “ social practice approach ” effective literacies learning takes account of its social, cultural, economic and political contexts. The emphasis is on how individuals and groups use literacy and numeracy in their everyday lives. At odds with a “dipstick” approach to assessing “levels” – why would you need to have numeracy before you need to use it? Why would we look for deficit?
    6. 8. <ul><li>Features of adult literacies delivery in Scotland: </li></ul><ul><li>cross-sectoral (community-based adult learning, voluntary/third sector organisations, colleges, workplaces, prisons), with “partnerships” led by each of the 32 local authorities </li></ul><ul><li>literacy and numeracy skills not separated, but seen as “situated in social practices”, with a recognition that capabilities are complex </li></ul><ul><li>values distance travelled against individuals’ learning goals with core skills accreditation where appropriate </li></ul><ul><li>sessional, part-time or fixed-term workforce </li></ul><ul><li>2,500 workers (50% paid, 50% voluntary) </li></ul>
    7. 9. A “refocusing” numeracy ... “ there is a need to raise the profile of numeracy within a learner-centred, research-informed approach to literacies that suits adults’ needs, rights and purposes for learning. This entails building awareness and developing the capacity both to do and review research amongst practitioners and learners, and to reflect on practice, something already encouraged in adult literacies tutor training in Scotland.” Adult Numeracy: shifting the focus (2005)
    8. 10. To be numerate means to be competent, confident, and comfortable with one’s judgements on whether to use mathematics in a particular situation and if so, what mathematics to use, how to do it, what degree of accuracy is appropriate, and what the answer means in relation to the context. Coben: 2000
    9. 11. <ul><li>Subsequent national developments: </li></ul><ul><li>Practitioners’ network (real and virtual) </li></ul><ul><li>Action research into the use of ICT in numeracy teaching </li></ul><ul><li>Professional development: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Numeracy “energiser” (with NIACE) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Active learning (Maths4Life, Thinking Through Mathematics) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tailored CPD </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualification at HND Level </li></ul></ul><ul><li>National conferences for practitioners and managers </li></ul><ul><li>Links to financial capability </li></ul><ul><li>Numeracy for healthcare workers </li></ul>
    10. 12. Characteristics of provision: One or two specialist tutors in a whole local authority area or ... All tutors support literacy AND numeracy holistically Dedicated provision: “Improve your Maths” or ... Numeracy integrated into other learning, but still explicit: “Rag Tag ’n’ Textile” and “Charmworks”
    11. 15. Further research ... “ 39% of men and 36% of women in the survey had literacy abilities at a level likely to impact on their employment opportunities and life chances. In the case of numeracy, this is even more widespread with 65% of men and 77% of women experiencing difficulties.” New Light on Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland (2008)
    12. 16. Further research ... continued “ Few adults have an awareness of their own literacy and numeracy needs” “ levels of self-reported difficulty with reading, writing or numbers were lower in Scotland than in England and Wales.” New Light on Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland (2008)
    13. 17. <ul><li>An “Invisible Maths Ceiling”? </li></ul><ul><li>Yvonne: </li></ul><ul><li>professional, early forties, team leader </li></ul><ul><li>needs to pass a “board” </li></ul><ul><li>fails on the “financial management” competency (tables, data, percentage increase and decrease) </li></ul><ul><li>Tariq: </li></ul><ul><li>early twenties, hairdresser </li></ul><ul><li>sells mobile phones, trying to get into police </li></ul><ul><li>fails the numeracy entry test ... three times, then out </li></ul>
    14. 18. Why tartan? Complex pattern: different colours (numeracy for very different purposes) coming from different directions (motivations) 3D Tartan?
    15. 21. <ul><li>My thoughts ... </li></ul><ul><li>It’s only when you want to use numeracy and cannot that you have a problem ... It’s not about how much numeracy someone has but how much they use . </li></ul><ul><li>So, should we be “filling tanks” with numeracy, especially when our fuel tanks are leaky (Reder and Bynner and Parsons)? </li></ul><ul><li>A major barrier in learners attending a class is the stigma they fear (Tett), and the risk to their self-image from the diagnostic assessment and how their tutor relates to them (Fingeret) </li></ul><ul><li>Also ...we don’t have the capacity or resources for mass re-education </li></ul>
    16. 22. <ul><li>What do we need to do ... </li></ul><ul><li>Normalise the need to polish up rusted skills ... especially among older people </li></ul><ul><li>Normalise asking for help from friends, colleagues, managers, as with technology. This involves a cultural change of attitude to maths/numeracy ... No longer acceptable just to be bad at maths ... Responsibility to get help </li></ul><ul><li>Promote much more integration of numeracy into other learning and activity, including social enterprise approach </li></ul><ul><li>Guides, cards, ready reckoners </li></ul><ul><li>Books, online materials (“the Learner Web”) </li></ul>
    17. 23. Contact me ... Daniel Sellers 0141 282 5253 [email_address] Learning and Teaching Scotland The Optima, 58 Robertson Street, Glasgow G2 8DU T: Customer Services 08700 100 297 www.LTScotland.org.uk