Developing Teachers’ Cultural and Social Sensitivities: Teachers of Adult Literacy and Numeracy as Ethnographers
In this presentation I consider issues that derive from the viewing of literacy as social practice for the teaching of adult mathematics and numeracy. The theoretical model is analysed and possible implications for adult education practices developed. I argue that the model allows more nuanced understandings of relationships, contrasts and tensions between adults’ everyday mathematics practices and formal educational mathematics practices. The paper draws on my current research in the UK and in the LETTER (Learning for Empowerment Through Training in Ethnographic Research) Project in teacher training programmes and workshops in South Asia and Ethiopia. This project uses ethnographic style research to enable teachers to understand their learners’ own mathematics practices. The interrelated models of mathematics as social practices and the training of teachers in ethnographic style research provide the basis for training adult mathematics teachers to become more socially culturally and economically sensitive to their learners. I outline some of the background to and concerns about the teaching of mathematics to adults and illustrate this by drawing on LETTER workshop participants’ accounts of their research into local mathematics events and practices. The accounts together with the theoretical positions are further built on to suggest guidelines for policy and practice in adult mathematics education that, I argue, will be of relevance to those working on these issues in the many international contexts. More cross cultural research is now needed to refine the theory outlined in this paper and to consider further potential implications for policy and practice in the teaching of mathematics to adult learners across international contexts.
Keywords: teacher training, Adult Literacy and Numeracy, Literacy as Social Practice, Ethnography, International Contexts, Numeracy, Developing Countries and Education
David Alan Baker
Reader in Adult Numeracy and Post 16 Mathematics, Continuing Professional Education, Institute of Education, London