Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YD UK
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We carry out a range of funded and unfunded research, listed under Current Research Activities on the right hand panel. Completed projects are listed under Research Archive and many have links to publications.
Major Completed Research Projects
Adult Learners' Lives
Adult Learners' Lives was a major project funded by the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy. The aim was to understand some of the connections between adults' lives and basic skills taking account of social and economic factors. In this longitudinal study we used ethnographic methods to understand the meanings and connections that adults make between learning and their everyday lives. Informed by the Skills for Life strategy we looked at links between formal and informal learning at colleges, in the workplace, in the community and in the home. We were interested in literacy, numeracy and ESOL as social practices: practices that take place within a wide range of contexts in people's lives and that are shaped by a variety of social and economic factors.
In the classroom we looked at links between teaching and learning, participation, motivation and persistence. We were interested to know what motivates and engages adult learners in the area of basic skills. Through collaborative research we aimed to identify teaching and learning strategies that are more effective at encouraging and supporting adult basic skills learners.
Lancaster has a strong tradition of situated research looking at literacy as a social practice, rather than simply as technical skill acquisition. In the Adult Learners' Lives project we built upon this tradition making connections between different aspects of learners' lives and learning. We used, and developed, a variety of methods in the different sites of our research. These included observation, in-depth and repeated interviews, group work, photography and video. In addition we looked at various types of student writing and the many different forms of communications that adult learners encounter in their everyday lives: at work, at home and in the community. Read more»
Changing Faces of Adult Literacy, Numeracy and ESOL: A Critical History of Policy and Practice 1970 –2000
The ‘Changing Faces’ study started in October 2001 and aims to track policy initiatives stemming from the 1970 adult literacy campaign to the launch last year of the new basic skills campaign, as part of the National Literacy Strategy. This ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) funded research is a collaboration between Lancaster University, City University and the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education, London. We are using documentary, longitudinal and quantitative data alongside oral history interviews to collect the perspectives of three groups: adults with basic skills needs, practitioners involved in teaching and organising within ABE and ESOL programmes and people involved in making and managing policy in this field.
Our first information gathering exercise was a small survey that was sent to practitioners asking them to tell us of important events and people within ABE and ESOL between 1970 and 2000. From this we are conducting e-mail and face-to-face interviews as well as setting up group activities to collect memories, experiences and views from this period. We are using the four case study sites of Leicestershire, Norfolk, Greater Manchester and East London to look more closely at how these experiences intersect within a specific geographical area.
The Literacies for Learning in Further Education Project (LfLFE) Project is a collaboration between two universities - Stirling and Lancaster - and four FE colleges, Anniesland (Glasgow) and Perth in Scotland, Lancaster & Morecambe and Preston in England.
The Project, which began in January 2004 and is now entering Phase 2, has been funded for three years by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of its £28 million Teaching and Learning Research Programme. It now has one full-time and one part-time researcher at each university site, four college-based research coordinators and 13 college based researchers across eleven curriculum areas in the four FE colleges. The overall project director is Dr Roz Ivanic of the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, and deputy director at Lancaster is Professor David Barton.
More than a hundred students at the four different FE colleges will take part in the research, documenting the kinds of literacy activities they are involved in outside of lessons, from reading timetables and chatting on-line to taking notice of written language in their environments.
A major objective of the project is to identify actual and potential overlaps and connections between literacy practices in students' everyday lives, the literacy demands of their courses and the uses of literacy in the workplaces in which they are hoping to gain employment. It is intended that the project should link research and practice from the outset by contributing to staff development work and to local and regional conferences.
In Phase 1 (January - August 2004) the project has established the research partnerships in the four colleges, mapped the literacy demands of studying at college, and piloted several new methodologies. Early data analysis is showing the diversity of literacy demands across different curriculum areas and those involved in life at college more generally, from the perspectives of students, FE lecturers in a variety of curriculum areas, and other professional staff.
The overall aim of this research is to understand the relations between literacy, learning and health and its relevance for adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in the context of current adult basic education and ESOL policies in England. The two main objectives of the project are:
The project is funded by the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC).
The rationale for this project is that there is currently no research on this issue in Britain. Accordingly, we know very little about the precise health-related practices learners engage with and the role health plays in current literacy, numeracy and ESOL teaching. Yet there is incidental evidence that a lot of people (not only those who we meet in adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL classes) have difficulties with health literacies and that coping with illness and maintaining good health can be an important trigger for learning. The research will provide vital information to policy-makers and practitioners about the significance of health topics in basic skills education.
In the first phase of the project, we have carried out a small survey among literacy, numeracy and ESOL (LNE) practitioners in the North-West. The aim of this survey was to find out what practitioners' perceptions and experiences are with using health as a topic in adult LNE classes, what areas of health literacy students are particularly interested in and how working on health contributes to improving learners' literacy, numeracy and language skills. We are currently in the process of analysing the survey findings. A report will be produced later this year.
In the second phase of the research (which began in July 2004), we use primarily ethnographic methods. Our aim is to produce a series of case studies of learners and their health-related literacy, language and numeracy practices. Fieldwork is currently under way in three literacy and ESOL classes in Preston and Lancaster. We are seeking access to further sites in the Greater Manchester area and in Yorkshire (Halifax). The second phase combines participant observation in classrooms and everyday contexts (including students' homes and health care settings) with qualitative, in depth interviews with teachers and learners. The second phase is expected to produce insights primarily in the following areas:
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