International Workforce Literacy Review: Australia
Appendix F: NCVER breakfast briefing
Reading between the lines
Summing up adult literacy and numeracy research (2006) Excerpt Exhibit 20: Professional development activities and programs (p62)
There are currently no national databases which record the professional development activities of language, literacy and numeracy practitioners in Australia. It is also difficult to get information on engagement with professional development of the VET workforce in general. Some information is available from the New South Wales TAFE Access Division study (New South Wales TAFE Access Division 2001) and more current research of the professional development activities of the adult literacy and numeracy workforce. The New South Wales study indicates that managers and teachers keep up with what is happening in their field through the accessing of informal networks, conferences and professional reading. In addition, teachers’ most recent involvement in professional development activities included moderation workshops for the Certificate of General Education for Adults (CGEA), National Reporting System training or moderation workshops and computer training sessions. In the main, these courses lasted one day or less and were delivered by external providers. This often provided difficulties for teachers in remote or regional locations in terms of cost and distance.
However, the Australian government has funded and continues to fund a number of national professional development initiatives to assist practitioners in the VET system to participate in professional development activities.
National frameworks and programs
The provision of specific professional development activities for adult literacy and basic education practitioners can be traced back to the early 1990s with the implementation of the Training Reform Agenda. The principles which underpinned this provision continue to be important for the provision of professional development in the VET system.
In 1991 the National TAFE Staff Development Committee undertook a study to explore the professional development needs of this group. The findings of the study led to the development of the National Framework for the Professional Development of Adult Literacy and Basic Education Personnel (TAFE Staff Development Committee 1994).
The main aim of the framework was to provide a nationally consistent approach to planning, developing and evaluating professional development for this group for 1993 and 1994. The framework also aimed to ensure the development of processes for the recruitment and induction of personnel and promotion of opportunities for practitioners to develop additional competencies. Other aims were to increase the competencies of practitioners so that they could deliver training in a broad range of situations and contexts, and to ensure that current teaching practice was informed by relevant research and theoretical developments.
A set of 13 principles to be applied to the provision of professional development for this group underpinned the framework. They highlighted the importance of providing learning activities which mirrored the main features of the new VET training system (for example, competency-based training, recognition of prior learning, flexible delivery, technology and resource-based learning, open learning, choice of learning activities). In addition, programs should focus on a combination of theory and practical experience. In particular, they should help practitioners develop additional knowledge on how ‘people become literate and numerate ... and apply ‘the most advanced knowledge of how language and mathematics should be taught’ (TAFE Staff Development Committee 1994, p3.).
Although the framework does not specifically talk about the need for practitioners to develop their knowledge of assessment, including formative assessment, the strategies associated with appropriate induction included the use of mentors and peer review and support groups which are often used in formative assessment.
There are three major programmes that provide for the professional development of trainers and assessors in the VET system. These are:
- Reframing the Future
- Flexible Learning Initiatives
- Professional Development for Equity
Reframing the Future
Currently, there are a two small projects being funded under the Reframing the Future programme which are aimed at improving the skills of vocational trainers to embed language, literacy and numeracy within their training package programs, and to meet the needs of the AQTF. One project uses an action-learning methodology and the development of a ‘community of practice’ and is being run by South Bank TAFE in Queensland. Another uses a work-based learning methodology and is being run by RMIT University Post-Compulsory Education and Training Research Centre. Both use coaching and mentoring techniques as main professional development tools (techniques which use ‘a community of practice’ approach to mentoring and coaching). There is also ‘increasing diversity’ in the types of professional development activities being funded and accessed (Mackay, Burgoyne, Warwick and Cipollone forthcoming).
The Flexible Learning Framework
The Flexible Learning Framework for 2005 is collaboratively funded by Commonwealth Government and state and territory governments, and is concerned with providing the VET sector with e-learning skills, professional development opportunities, resources and support networks. In 2005 it also aims to meet the e-learning needs of industry groups, students and communities, indigenous Australians, and those with a disability.
Professional Development for Equity
The Professional Development for Equity programme comprises a set of nine government-funded projects which are aimed at supporting equity issues in a wide variety of contexts. These include developing resources to support equity issues in the delivery of training in the Training and Assessment training package, and monitoring changes in professional development practices relating to training people with a disability. There is also a project which provides examples of how to advance equity issues in the National VET system, and another aimed at helping industry skills councils to build Indigenous issues into their strategic planning.
Three guides for working with equity groups were also developed under this program. These are:
- Working with Diversity: A guide to Equity and the AQTF
- Working with Diversity: Quality Training for Indigenous Australians
- Working with Diversity: Quality Training for People With a Disability.
The project also provides funding for recognition of prior learning (RPL) and recognition of current competency for Indigenous VET practitioners. The Billabong website <http://www.billabong.gov.au> was also created to support professional development for Indigenous VET staff.
The use of volunteers
The use of volunteers is common across Australia in the federal government-funded Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). The Home Tutor Scheme matches trained volunteers to migrants or refugees who want to learn English in their own home. Providers of AMEP programs in all states and territories will provide or make arrangements for the training of volunteer tutors.
In addition, the TAFE Tasmania Adult Literacy and Basic Education (ALBE) program has delivered volunteer tutor training sessions for those interested in becoming adult literacy volunteers. The South Australian government funds an adult literacy tutor training programme which addresses the skills and knowledge required by tutors of adults with low levels of basic skills. The programme is for volunteer tutors working in community centres, those who develop individual teaching plans for students, and those who have the time to spend improving their own learning.
South Australia has also introduced a qualification for literacy professionals—the certificate IV in language, literacy and numeracy assessment and training. It is directed at those who train or tutor in the community, supervise or mentor others, or work as:
- a language, literacy and numeracy trainer or tutor
- a workplace vocational trainer
- a specialist tutor working with adults with disabilities.
There is also a course in adult numeracy teaching for practitioners in the adult literacy and basic education sector to improve their understanding of methodologies teaching numeracy and basic mathematics to adults.
The Western Australian government also provides support to the Read Write Now organisation which provides free literacy and numeracy tutoring for adults. Training is provided by volunteers in local libraries, neighbourhood learning centres and community centres.
Key providers of professional development
Key providers of professional development for language, literacy and numeracy practitioners include:
- national, state and territory-based conferences
- workshops and seminars held by national bodies, education and training institutions
- industry stakeholders.
Key providers of professional development for the general VET workforce dealing with adult basic skills are the TAFE institutes themselves, industry associations, industry skills councils, and various agencies connected with the provision of employment services.
Key providers of professional development (identified in four states by Mackay, Burgoyne, Warwick and Cipollone forthcoming) for the language, literacy and numeracy workforce include:
- the National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research
- the Australian Council for Adult Literacy
- the Australian Council of Teachers of English as a Second Language Associations
- the Victorian Adult Learning and Basic Education Council
- the Queensland Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
- the New South Wales Association of Teachers of English as a Second Language Delivery Support Service Workplace Education TAFE SA
- Dare to Lead South Australia