Developing Teachers’ Cultural and Social Sensitivities: Teachers of Adult Literacy and Numeracy as Ethnographers

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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
Stream: Teacher Training and Professional Development
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , , Developing Teachers’ Cultural and Social Sensitivities


David Alan Baker

Reader in Adult Numeracy and Post 16 Mathematics, Continuing Professional Education, Institute of Education, London
Brighton, East Sussex, UK

Dave Baker was born in South Africa. He studied mathematics before becoming a teacher of mathematics in schools in the UK. He taught on teacher education programmes in the UK and abroad and then undertook research into teaching and learning mathematics in teacher education and in formal schooling for young children. As part of the Leverhulme funded project on Low Achievement in Numeracy Programme research team he researched relationships between children’s home and formal school mathematics practices and how understandings of these relationships may contribute to explanations of some children’s low achievement in school mathematics. A book describing this research, entitled "Navigating Numeracies: Home/School Numeracy Practices", was published in 2005. He is currently working on socially and culturally sensitive approaches to teaching numeracy / mathematics to adult learners in the UK, South Asia and Africa. He has focused on issues of social justice in mathematics and has sought to extend current developments in pedagogy towards widening access and to the need to transform dominant practices in mathematics education. He has published two other books, presented at many conferences and published academic papers on mathematics education.

Ref: L09P0340