New Zealand Context for Adult Literacy & Numeracy – NCALNE (Voc) Task 1

Here’s some  video content that I created earlier for Task 1 of the NCALNE (Voc). I’ll redo this at some stage, but for now:


How to map literacy and numeracy demands using the learning progressions – NCALNE (Voc) Task 3

Here are the next couple of video segments… These relate to Task 3 of the NCALNE (Voc). I feel like I’m slowly getting faster at this, but it’s a long process. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Literacy Jokes Update – Another Lightbulb Joke…


How many literacy specialists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: None. Literacy specialists don’t change lightbulbs per se, but you need about a 6 to make it happen… One to analyse the literacy demands of the task, another to conduct a diagnostic assessment of students potentially capable of changing lightbulbs to find out what they already know, a third to recruit some students into actually changing the lightbulb, another to pre-teach words like “lightbulb” and “ladder” and to deliver any training around how to understand the instructions, a fifth to measure the success of the students in both changing the lightbulb and comprehending key technical vocabulary, and a sixth to conduct an evaluation on whether the entire operation was effective or not and present the results to management.

Maori Literacy and Numeracy – NCALNE (Voc)

I’ve started using Camtasia 2 again on my Mac to record short video clips containing some of the content for the NCALNE (Voc) qualification that we deliver. It’s definitely been better this time around (despite losing a day yesterday mistakenly deleting the temporary files that I was using).

Anyway, here’s the result. I’ll probably redo everything again at some later stage, but for now I’m just trying to assemble some minimally viable video content for the web. Here’s part 1 and 2 below. Please add your thoughts in the comments

Jokes on Literacy Specialists…

I think I posted these on twitter already, but for the record:

What’s the difference between a literacy specialist and a large Pizza?

Answer: A large pizza will feed a family of four…

Drum roll and cymbal crash please.

How many literacy specialists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Just one… as long as the trades tutor is holding the ladder…

Or this one:

How many literacy specialists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Actually none… the trades tutor does it… with his left hand…

Tiddy boom…! you can groan in the comments below.

Minimum Viable Pedagogy (MVP) – Or Why Lean Thinking Works with Embedded Literacy and Numeracy

I’ve written about the possible match of Lean thinking and my field of adult literacy and numeracy education before.  I’d like to narrow this down and talk about how Lean thinking works with the idea of embedded literacy and numeracy.


One of the key principles in Lean is the idea of the minimum viable product or MVP for short. This is not a minimal product, but a product that has just the barest features that it needs to be deployed. You can read more about MVPs here on Wikipedia.

What I’d like to suggest is the idea of a Minimum Viable Pedagogy – also conveniently labelled MVP for short. The point is to think about your training, and in particular your explicit embedded literacy and numeracy teaching interventions like this:

  • What’s the least that I could do here (with some very narrowly focused aspect of literacy or numeracy) to gain the most impact in my training for my learners (in terms of the vocational or trades content or context)?

In other words, when we think about designing and delivering explicit embedded literacy and numeracy training interventions they should be MVPs. They should also be “bookended” by assessments – not big external high stakes assessments, but small micro assessments that we design ourselves to measure the impact of making one small change to our training. This idea of testing and iterating also fits well with lean thinking, as it also does with action research.

For example, if you are teaching a new unit in your horticulture course and you know from past experience or previous diagnostic assessment that your learners are going to struggle with some aspects of the new technical vocabulary that you are going to introduce, then a possible MVP that you could employ would be a deliberate focus on 20 key words and terms that they will need to know to understand the content.

Here’s how we would do it:

  • Establish a list of the 20 key words and terms that you think will make the biggest difference to your content delivery.
  • Create a short assessment task using the new words and their meanings and pre-test your learners to find out what they already know (if anything).
  • Deliver a short teaching session deliberately explaining and discussing the new words. Make it clear that learners will need the new terminology to make sense of the new unit.
  • Follow up the teaching with some vocabulary practice activities (card sort, matching, cloze, writing sentences, creating a glossary or word bank together, or anything more creative that you can think of).
  • Deliver your regular content instruction.
  • Post-test your learners re-using your pre-test (or create a Version B of the same test).

What you’re trying to measure here is the impact of changing one small aspect of your regular teaching delivery. In this case, the effect of “front loading” your learners with 20 new vocabulary items before they encounter them in the context of your normal teaching and training.

Because you’ve gathered pre and post-test data you’ll be able to see what the uptake was on the new words. You may even be able to have a look at how the learners score for their content assessment following your delivery of the unit compared with other learners in other groups or from a previous year.

That’s it in a nutshell: Create a MVP for your training content today and get underway embedding the literacy and numeracy that your learners need.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments…

The Rules for Embedding Literacy and Numeracy

Increasing specialisation in adult education and the field of adult literacy and numeracy education means that we can be quite specific about what works.


Here’s a brief summary of the overarching rules for embedding literacy and numeracy into trades and vocational training with some questions to get you thinking:

  1. Understand your context: What are your training objectives? Who are your learners? What’s the wide context for your trade? Why do your learners struggle with certain skills? What’s the impact of this?
  2. Understand the basics of adult teaching and learning: What do you know about how adults learn? What are some basic principles of adult teaching and learning? What methods and approaches are relevant for your learners and context?
  3. Know the demands: What are the specific literacy and numeracy demands of your training? Do you have any kind of overarching system or framework to work from here? Have you mapped your training tasks, texts, and job demands?
  4. Know your learners: What are the specific literacy and numeracy needs of your particular learners? How do you know? What specific literacy and numeracy diagnostic tools and processes do you use? What external or nationally mandated tools do you use? What tools and processes have you created yourself? Do you use literacy and numeracy focused learning plans to help learners negotiate and create specific learning goals?
  5. Know what to do: Can you write and deliver highly targeted embedded literacy and numeracy learning outcomes with laser-like precision? What resources and activities have you created and used to develop and strengthen learners’ literacy and numeracy skills? Can you articulate the differences between what you learners ought to be able to do versus what they can actually do using clear language that other educators can understand and act on?
  6. Measure  progress: Can you say with any degree of confidence what your learners have actually learned with regards to the specific literacy and numeracy skills that you are trying to develop? Have you measured where your learners were at both before and after you intervened with your highly considered and explicit embedded literacy and numeracy activities? Could you report to others on the longer term gains of your learners? What tools are you using to do this?
  7. Evaluate your embedded literacy and numeracy interventions: Do you regularly stop and take stock of what you are doing? Do you really know what is working effectively and what is not? What do your learners think? Have you sat down with your supervisor or manager to discuss how you are strengthening learners literacy and numeracy skills? What do your learners need to do next? What do you need to do next?