What’s the big picture for embedding literacy and numeracy via the new NZCALNE (Voc)?

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What’s the big picture?

Here’s the big picture for embedding literacy and numeracy and an update on our work at ALEC.

This is the big picture for our revised embedding process and pipeline. And it’s the big picture for the new NZCALNE (Voc) training and qualification that we’re feverishly working on.

New content for Collections 1 to 4 are complete. We’ve also finished the Portfolio+ assessments for 5 to 7. We’re still working on the regular content for Collections 5 to 7.

What does that mean?

That means that you or your tutors should be working on the new version of this qualification now.

If you’re an experienced tutor, that means that we are now set up to work with you using a portfolio approach for the practical work. Get in touch if this is you – assess@alec.ac.nz

It also means that we’ll have this new content live on Pathways Awarua shortly. There’s a short video overview here on my blog in the meantime and all the new content is summarised here with links.

Also, stay tuned for new and revised content for Collections 5 to 7 covering diagnostic assessment, planning, facilitating, and assessing progress.

If you want to print out the new structure, just hit the link below for a PDF version:

Literacy and numeracy definitions: What’s the difference?


Similarities and differences

We’ve looked a few different meanings for literacy and numeracy. Now we need to look at how these definitions are the same or different. This is so that you can see how they apply to your teaching or to your learners.

Knowing the similarities and differences is going to help you decide what aspects of each you want to absorb into your own approach. That’s one of the things that is going to help you teach better. So while it’s the application that counts, for starters you need to think about some of the differences.

Just like you need to figure out what’s relevant for your context, you need to figure out what you think the similarities and differences are.

Here are some questions to keep in mind as you work through this process.


  • Is the focus just on literacy?
  • People who have good literacy skills behave in certain ways. What does this behaviour look like?


  • Is the focus just on numeracy?
  • People who have good numeracy skills also behave differently to people who don’t. What does this behaviour look like?

Literacy and Numeracy

  • Is there a focus on both literacy and numeracy?
  • We’re most interested in the definition for embedded literacy and numeracy. There are reasons for that. What do you think they are?


  • Is there a more holistic approach? Where does this come from?
  • How can a more holistic definition of literacy, such as from Māori and Pasifika help us in our teaching?


  • Definitions that come from government funding agencies are likely to have economic drivers. This means that under the surface there are likely to be economic incentives behind the drive to encourage and strengthen literacy and numeracy in the population.
  • Let’s assume that this is a good thing. What’s the motivation?


  • Are there social consequences?
  • In other words, if we adopt a particular focus to literacy and numeracy, how can this make our communities better or worse?


  • When leaders talk about literacy and numeracy in a national context – even if they don’t say so – which definition(s) are they likely to be referring to?
  • What kind of political action do you think is associated with this?


  • Does it incorporate English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)?
  • If this is not already relevant for you, how could it be important in the future?

Time to do some work

Let’s pause for a few moments. Here’s your task:

  • Download the PDF worksheet, or use the chart below to make notes on how the six definitions we’ve discussed are similar or different.
  • Make sure you think about the questions above.

This task is not assessed, but it will help you with your assessment.


Teach better – What is embedded literacy and numeracy?


What’s the definition?

Embedded literacy and numeracy means

Combining the development of literacy and numeracy with vocational and other skills (p.5).

Where does this definition come from?

Tertiary Education Commission (2013). Adult Literacy and Numeracy: An Overview of the Evidence, Annotated Bibliography’. Wellington: TEC

What are some key features?

Literacy and numeracy skills

  • Are contextualised to the programme. In other words, it’s not literacy and numeracy for everything. It’s literacy and numeracy for farming. Or agriculture. Or employment skills. Or whatever it is that you teach.
  • Provide learners with competence, confidence and motivation to success in the vocational or other training programme.
  • Are embedded at the level of the learner, programme and organisation.

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

This is relevant because it gets to the heart of what this professional development is about. In other words, how to mix in the kinds of literacy and numeracy learning that your learners need to really succeed at your course.

It’s also relevant because this is what the TEC wants and funds you to do. It’s just business as usual. But don’t forget that the motivation behind this is a good one. The embedded approach is backed up with research that says it works better for you and your learners.

Contextualising and integrating literacy and numeracy means your teaching becomes more relevant, more helpful for your learners. You’ll teach better. Learners are complex bundles of motivations. Much of the time you can’t control all the variables. But the idea here is that you can start with what you can control. That’s your approach to teaching.

Learners are complex bundles of motivations. Much of the time you can’t control all the variables. But the idea here is that you can start with what you can control. That’s your approach to teaching.

Your approach is internal to you. And you have complete access to yourself. There might be limitations in terms of resources you have to use or coursework that you have to get through. But you can choose how to approach these things.

And that’s powerful. Harness that power and you can teach better and in new ways.

You can’t know what state your learners will be in when they show up next week on Monday (or even if they will show up). But by taking an embedded approach you can set up the best conditions for learning to happen. That makes you a better teacher.

Teach better – What is numeracy?


(ii) Numeracy

This next definition comes from the PIIAC study as well.

What’s the definition?

Numeracy is the ability to use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations (p.4).

Where does this definition come from?

Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2016). Skills and Education: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Wellington: Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

What are some key features?


  • Quantity
  • Dimension and shapes
  • Patterns
  • Data and chance
  • Visual displays.

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

As with the definition for literacy, this one is important because it allows us to talk about our learners, our country and other countries when it comes to numeracy.

Also, it has a practical focus on using maths for a purpose. As with literacy, numeracy shouldn’t be mindless repetition and practice. It should be about solving problems that have meaning in the context of every life and work.

This is relevant to your teaching because this isn’t about the maths that you, or your learners, got at high school. This is about how to use maths ideas and knowledge to do stuff that you need to do.

The kinds of situations that are relevant to your learners and your teaching should provide you with the kinds of maths and numeracy that you need to do. But more on that in the next definition.


Teach Better – What is Literacy?


Introducing definitions

Something that we need to do first is figure out what we mean when we talk about literacy and numeracy. Let’s look at some definitions. There’s at least six we need to cover.

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Embedded literacy and numeracy
  • Maori literacy
  • Pasifika
  • ESOL

(i) Literacy

These first two definitions are important for a couple of reasons. One reason is that when politicians and people in the media talk about literacy and numeracy, even if they don’t mention it by name, they are likely to be thinking about some research that happened recently.

This research has a long name but gets shorted to the PIAAC. This was a massive study that looked at literacy and numeracy levels in New Zealand, but also in other countries. If you hear people comparing New Zealand’s literacy levels to other countries, then this is what they are referring to.

What’s the definition?

Literacy is the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to get everyday things done (p.4).

Where does this definition come from?

This definition comes from:

Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2016). Skills and Education: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Wellington: Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

What are some key features?

  • Understanding written words and sentences
  • Making sense of text in charts and diagrams
  • Comprehending, interpreting and evaluating complex texts.
  • This definition is more focused on reading rather than writing

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

Here are a few reasons how this definition might be relevant to your teaching?

This definition of literacy allows us to talk about the “state of the nation” when it comes to literacy. This means that you can think about the ability of your learners in the same way that the researchers did when they surveyed thousands of people.

It gets quoted by political and educational leaders. But it’s not the full picture when it comes to literacy. So we need to be careful about how we use it. And how others use it. This won’t make you a better teacher, but it helps to be critical and aware of what others are saying. Then you can make up your own mind.

This definition allows us to compare ourselves with other countries or our own past performance. This also won’t improve your teaching directly, but it might help you feel better to know a couple of things. One is that most other countries like ours have a similar problem when it comes to literacy. Another one is that, on the whole, we’re doing pretty well.

It has a practical focus. In other words, it’s about using language “to get everyday things done.” This should help you focus your teaching. Literacy is about doing. If your approach to literacy is academic then drop it in favour of something else that encourages using and engaging with language.

Teach Better – Understand Your Context


Last time I said that we had simplified the structure of the new qualification and assessment tasks. It now looks like this:

  1. Context
  2. Approaches
  3. Demands
  4. Strategies
  5. Before
  6. Teaching
  7. After

Here’s how the first part breaks down. These are also stripped back from the previous version of the course:

1. Understanding Your Context

1.1 What do we mean?


(i) Literacy
(ii) Numeracy
(iii) Embedded
(iv) Maori
(v) Pasifika
(vi) ESOL and others

1.2 What’s the difference?

Similarities and differences

  • Similarities
  • Differences

1.3 What’s under the hood?


(i) Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy
(ii) Learning Progressions for Adult Numeracy
(iii) Te Whare Tapawha
(iv) Pan Pasifika Fale
(v) ESOL

1.4 What’s causing the problem?


(i) The impact of colonisation
(ii) Socio-economic factors
(ii) Poverty and others

Three things to cover. Four if you count the discussion about similarities and differences between the definitions.




How do I teach better?

theres-a-better-way-to-teachThat’s my question for this year. And hopefully for you as well.

Stay tuned…