Embedding reading into trades and vocational training

woman-readingWorking with my ComCol tutors today… we were looking at unit standard 26624: Read texts with understanding. And we came up with this as a draft template for trying standardise reading comprehension questions for trades-based or vocational training texts that they have to work with anyway.

Reading Text Title

Read through the text and then answer the following questions

  1. What’s this text for?
  2. Why are you reading it?
  3. Explicit question
  4. Explicit question
  5. Implicit question
  6. Implicit question
  7. Was it interesting? Say why or why not
  8. Was it useful? Say why or why not
  9. Do you trust the information? Say why or why not
  10. Was it a good reading for your course? Say why or why not

Purpose: Text and Reader

There’s two things to consider here. One is the purpose of the text. In other words, can a reader identify who this is written for? (Questions 1)

The other is the reader’s purpose in reading the text. In other words, why are they reading it? (Question 2).

Questions: Implicit versus explicit

We had a good discussion about this. Basically, if you can put your finger physically on the part of the text that has the answer, you’ve got an explicit idea or question (Questions 3, 4).

If you have to “read between the lines” in any way, it’s implicit – an inferencing skills is required in other words (Questions 5, 6).

Here’s what the NZQA say:

Implicit ideas are ideas that are implied, hinted at, or suggested in the text, but not directly expressed. This standard requires learners to ‘read between the lines’, ‘picking up’ what the author has implied. It does not require the learner to extrapolate or theorise beyond the implicit ideas that are contained in the text.

In general, very factual texts will not provide an opportunity for learners to describe implicit ideas (although they are likely to provide the opportunity for learners to describe the text in terms of its explicit ideas). Reading texts that contain opinion, aspects that require interpretation and ‘reading between the lines’ (such as non-linear narratives and/or abstract ideas), figurative language or layers of meaning and/or information should provide opportunities to describe implicit ideas. Note that this is about the learner’s comprehension – refer to the demands of step/koru 4 of the Comprehension progression of the Adult Literacy Learning Progressions.

These inferencing questions are important as they are probably the questions that will push the readers to function at least at step 4 or above on the learning progressions which I think is one of the requirements of the unit.

In the workshop I used my material on Hacking Reading Comprehension to provide some structure to the kinds of things they were asking readers to identify in the texts, as well as to limit the kinds of responses they were expecting to just answers using multiple choice, T/F or Y/N, or highlight in the text responses as per the Assessment Tool.

If you’re interested in this material on Hacking Reading Comprehension, it’s available below as follows:

  1. When to hack which covers
    1. What hacking reading comprehension is NOT about
    2. When to use the reading comprehension hacks
    3. How the list works
  2. The revised reading comprehension hacks list which covers
    1. Learner responses and inferencing
    2. A list of 19 things you can ask your learners to identify when they’re reading
  3. Some other information and words you need which
    1. Summarises the list, inferencing, and responses
    2. And gives you another list with the kinds of words and phrases that people use when they’re writing test items. This is to help your learners practice the language of testing that they need to make sense of comprehension questions.
  4. Finally, part 4 is my report of when I first used this material with a different group. Today’s post is an update on all of this.

Useful, interesting, credible, valid

These are also in the unit standard. As a group, we thought that most learners would be Ok with identifying whether something was interesting (Questions 7) or useful (Question 8) and saying why or why not. In terms of dealing with whether a text was credible (Question 9) or valid (Question 10), this presented some issues. We attempted to deal with these by simplifying the language (see above).

Probably, the hardest concept to get across to a learner here was the concept of validity. We thought that this probably wasn’t a useful word to use with low level literacy-challenged learners. However, we struggled to find a really good synonym without tying ourselves up linguistically.

Creating Quality Assured Trades & Vocational Tutors who Know How to Embed Literacy and Numeracy


This post updates other thoughts I’ve had on what the profile of a good tutor should be. Here I’m talking about vocational or trades tutors who have to embed literacy and numeracy into training at levels 1 – 3 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF).

Question: How do you spot quality assured tutors who possess the baseline knowledge and skills required for embedding literacy and numeracy into their trade?

Answer: Look for the features described in the ALEC Good Tutor Guide.

  1. Industry credentials
    1. Experience: At least two years industry experience
    2. Qualifications: An industry-based qualification at least one level higher on the NZQF than what they are expected to teach.
  2. Adult Education credentials
    1. Experience: At least two years teaching, tutor, or training experience in an adult teaching context including workplace, on-job, or at an education provider.
    2. Qualifications: At least the level 4 National Certificate in Adult Education & Training (L4 NCAET), but preferably the level 5 National Certificate in Adult Education & Training (L5 NCAET).
  3. Adult Literacy & Numeracy credentials
    1. Qualifications: The level 5 National Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education – NCALNE (Voc).
    2. Demonstrated practice: Ongoing verified evidence of actual embedded literacy and numeracy skills development in terms of the embedding literacy and numeracy baseline knowledge and skills.
    3. Voluntary registration: Annual voluntary registration as a quality-assured, currently practising, NCALNE (Voc) certified trainer.

All this together = Quality Assured Tutors

Any comments? Let me know below… Cheers, Graeme

ALEC Showcase 2 min pitch: selling our literacy and numeracy infrastructure to the world

white alec rgbI’m going to a business development thing tonight. I’ve got a 2 min slot to promote my work moving forward. Here’s my draft. Comments welcome…!


Kia ora Tatau

Graeme Smith here from ALEC. I work in the least funny profession in the world.

This is the field of literacy and numeracy professional development. It’s a real conversation stopper at dinner parties.

Actually, I don’t get invited to many dinner parties…

  • We have an education product. It’s not for everyone.
  • In fact, it’s for a small niche in education.
  • It’s a “train the trainer” course and qualification with a specific focus – we work with trades and vocational trainers.
  • It’s a proven system, a toolbox of teaching tools if you like, for embedding literacy and numeracy.

We done this with the Military, the Police, the Department of Corrections, Polytechnics, Institutes of Technology, private training organisations, industry training organisations, companies like Downer NZ, and privately with individuals.

And we’ve done it in virtually every trade or context you can imagine.

Some quick background:

  • Around half a million kiwis aged between 20 and 65 have no qualifications.
  • Just over 300 000 of these are currently working.
  • Most of them struggle with literacy and numeracy issues.
  • Their social and economic progress is now a national priority… perhaps a national emergency.

Other countries have the same issues. And bigger numbers.

Here’s the opportunity:

  • The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that funds tertiary education have a  unique literacy and numeracy infrastructure that they have spent millions developing.
  • They want to commercialise it.
  • I think it has export potential.
  • Our education product is the ideal vehicle to transmit their infrastructure.

We’re nearly ready…

But I don’t have any numeracy in my course… Why do I still have to teach and assess it…?

1340050882014_3068657This question seems to come up a bit. The answer isn’t entirely straightforward. However, the received wisdom is that it’s all about literacy AND numeracy these days. The idea that you can just focus on literacy alone is something left over a few years back.

Numeracy is possibly more important for people’s lives than literacy. This is controversial. However, if you think of trades: you can get away with not being able to read and write well… but you do need to be able to do basic and some fairly advanced numeracy – often mentally – for most trades.

Furthermore, the TEC requires all of us to assess numeracy using the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool which is now a funding requirement for most programmes at levels 1 – 3 in our qualifications framework.

So… setting aside the issues around why you have to teach and assessment numeracy, here are some ideas on where to look for it. These ideas are for you if you think that there isn’t any numeracy in your course and you’re wondering what to do.

  1. Look for contextualised numeracy opportunities
    • E.g. focus on time including minutes, hours, dates. This could provide lots of scope for additive strategies. Filling out a time sheet is something that most people struggle with who have to fill them out.
    • Money including budgeting, understanding finances is another area. There are some great resources on financial literacy by the retirement commission, also Sorted.org. Go and see a bank and find out what people struggle with.
    • Basic measurement is something that is a good general life skill. Using a tape measure, scales, estimation, distance, km, m , mm, etc are all areas that you could easily contextualise.
  2. Focus on non-contextualised numeracy that everyone struggles with. There are (at least) three key areas that we all struggle with:
    • Fractions
    • Percentages
    • Decimals
  3. Check out the unit standards for numeracy
    • These could also provide some direction and motivation even if you don’t or won’t assess against them.
    • Also, if you did focus on them your work might provide resources for other areas of study and learning perhaps elsewhere in your organisation.
  4. Start with Maori numeracy found in Maori customary practices. If this is appropriate, it’s a great way to investigate numeracy. Many (if not all) aspects of traditional arts and crafts and other practices have a strong numeracy component that would at least open the door to a conversation about numeracy. Mostly, this great content exists in “stealth” mode and you need to carefully unpack and explore it. For example, find someone to korero with about:
    • Rakau
    • Ta moko
    • Maramataki
    • Tukutuku
    • Raranga
    • Whakairo
    • Personal benchmarks for measurement, e.g. length of patu, height of taiaha