aims of the LfLFE project is to identify the range of literacies in the everyday lives of students currently in further education. Our work is likely to throw light on literacies for people in the whole 14 – 19 age range.
A corollary of this view of the way literacies are situated in purposeful social activities is a view of literacy learning in everyday contexts. Both children and adults develop their repertoire of literacies through participation in activities which they find meaningful, using a wide variety of types of text in a wide variety of ways, rather than through lessons, exercises and tests. This suggests that, for the 14 – 19 age group, education should provide supported opportunities for literacy learning through participation.
Literacies for learning across the curriculum
Learning across the curriculum is a purposeful use of literacies, just as much as everyday activities outside college are. The reading and writing involved in, say, learning how to run a restaurant (see Case Study), gaining a Business Administration qualification, or studying human biology, are just as specific and complex as, for example, those involved in getting medical treatment. They often overlap with, but are sometimes significantly different from, the literacies of the workplace, of more advanced courses of study, and of lifelong informal learning, for which the course is preparing the students.
A second aim of our project is to identify, describe and understand the literacies involved in learning across 11 further education curriculum areas. The research is finding a vast range of texts in use in pedagogic settings, including booklets, graphical user interfaces, websites, letters, handouts, overhead presentations, textbooks, logbooks, files containing notes on A4 paper, labels, maps, diagrams, writing on blackboards, white boards, measurements and lists. The collecting of the texts is being supplemented by data on the purposes of reading or writing them - according to the teachers, according to the learners, and on who does what with them and how. We are finding that when teachers see progression within the education system as the prime goal of their courses, the literacy practices they require of their students are more academic than those required by teachers who see themselves preparing students for employment.
Our research15 has also found, somewhat disturbingly, that there are an additional set of literacies involved in demonstrating learning which bear little relation to what is being learned, or to the futures for which courses are preparing their students.
This research has implications for teacher trainers, policymakers, curriculum developers, and teachers of both specialised learning lines and core subjects for the 14 – 19 age range. They need to recognise how literacies mediate
15 The other members of the research team are David Barton, Zoe Fowler and Candice Satchwell, (Lancaster University), and Richard Edwards, Greg Mannion, Kate Miller and June Smith (University of Stirling).