NZDipALN: Content – Teaching Adult Literacy Versus Numeracy


Your approach to teaching literacy versus numeracy

In Part One of the assessment task for this unit, you need to outline your personal approach to strengthening literacy and numeracy. As part of this you should explore how your personal approach to teaching adult literacy differs from how you approach teaching adult numeracy (26611 1.4).

Here are some statements to get you started. Do you agree or disagree?

  • Literacy and numeracy are similar in the sense that they are both important skills used in life.
  • Literacy and numeracy are different in terms of the kinds of mental demands that each makes.
  • Literacy involves learning new words and higher levels of grammatical sophistication. This seems to be more closely related to memorisation.
  • Numeracy involves manipulating concepts, and builds from more basic numeracy skills.
  • Whether for educators or learners, changing attitudes seems to be more important for numeracy. So, at least initially, we need to spend more time dealing with attitudes to maths and numeracy.
  • Many educators lack confidence in teaching numeracy. This affects how they approach teaching it.
  • Many learners lack understanding of basic numeracy concepts such as fractions, decimals, percentages, and place value. This affects their ability to learn more advanced numeracy, particularly in trades and vocational training.

Professional Reading

Of course, principles of adult teaching still apply. Here’s an overview of how some of these apply to teaching adult numeracy.

Review the questions below then read the article

  1. What is essential for tutors in order for them to successfully employ a constructivist approach to embedding numeracy into their vocational training?
  2. What are the conditions that need to be in place in order for learners to transfer numeracy knowledge to work or everyday situations?

How adults develop their numeracy expertise

Adults engage in learning for their own larger purposes. These purposes are associated with their roles in society as workers, family members and community members.

  • Learning programmes that are transparent allow adults to see how their learning links to their own particular purposes.

  • Adults need to be involved in setting learning goals and monitoring their progress towards these. Learning is a purposeful goal-directed activity. An ongoing goal-setting process is integral to effective learning.

  • Motivation is a key factor in engagement and achievement. Learners are motivated when they can see the value of learning for their own goals.

Adult learners develop expertise by building on their existing knowledge, skills and experiences.

  • A constructivist approach to teaching and learning focuses on the development of learners’ conceptual understandings through meaningful learning experiences.

  • Teaching approaches that are based on constructivist theory build on learners’ existing knowledge, experiences and understandings, and support individuals to actively construct meaning for themselves.

  • As learners develop expertise in a field, they become increasingly aware of the key concepts that help to structure their knowledge and they develop meta-cognitive strategies that allow them to monitor their own learning.

  • To successfully employ a constructivist approach, tutors require a sound conceptual basis of mathematics.

Adult learners develop their numeracy most effectively in contexts that have meaning to them. As learners develop their expertise, their increasing awareness of their knowledge and skills allows them to apply them in a wide range of contexts.

  • Thinking and learning depend greatly on the social and cultural contexts in which they occur.

  • Learning can be transferred from instructional contexts to work or other everyday situations. Transfer is enabled where learners are aware of the underlying principles behind content, where they are engaged in mathematics and where they are supported to articulate their own problem-solving approaches.

  • Learning is enhanced through interaction with more knowledgeable individuals that can scaffold developing understandings.

Mathematics anxiety is experienced by many adults. This makes it difficult for them to access their working memory and think logically, and results in lower course completion rates.

  • Where teaching approaches focus exclusively on correct answers and give little cognitive support, learners who experience repeated failure may develop negative perceptions of their own mathematical ability which contribute to the development of mathematics anxiety.

  • Mathematics anxiety decreases the efficiency of the working memory and makes it difficult for individuals to think logically.

  • Teachers who model positive attitudes towards mathematics, and instruction focused on relevant content in meaningful contexts have been found to positively influence the attitudes of anxious learners.

Journal Task

Write at least 100 words about how your approach to teaching adult literacy differs from how you teach adult numeracy. Consider your approach in terms of any of these:

  • Your own teaching and learning philosophies
  • Teaching strategies that you use
  • How you assess literacy versus numeracy
  • How you evaluate your embedded literacy versus numeracy
  • Your own strengths and weaknesses relative to literacy and numeracy

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