Diane Gardner told EPALE about Citizen Literacy – a promising project that develops adult literacy courses, tutor training materials and digital learning resources for teaching literacy to adults.
Citizen Literacy is a UK project that develops adult literacy courses, tutor training materials and digital learning resources for teaching adults how to read and write. At the heart of the project is the use of a synthetic phonics-based* system that takes a systematic and structured approach to using phonics to teach reading and writing skills. The project aims to fill a serious gap in provision in the UK in supporting the development of literacy skills for adults, as unfortunately, there are few training resources available to develop adult education tutors skills in this area.
The project is based directly on a ground-breaking course that has been in operation for several years developed at the City of Glasgow College. The course has been a City and Guilds accredited programme (SCQF Level 1) designed and developed in City of Glasgow College by Adult Literacy lecturer Diane Gardner. The Citizen Literacy team comprises adult literacy specialists, educationalists, learning technologists and software developers.
We are developing a structured and systematic set of tutor training resources to use the method with adults. The project is also developing a smartphone app that can assist learners to practice in their own time to support the face-to-face training sessions. The app uses handwriting and voice recognition to allow the learners to practice exercises that are mapped to their courses.
Citizen Literacy courses are designed for adults with severe literacy issues, where the participants learn to read and write by blending phonemes together to create words. This skill is linked with learning full words that cannot be blended, basic grammar and punctuation as well as building awareness of the alphabet. Our approach works well with reluctant readers and those with low literacy confidence offering them a structure and patterns to follow where none existed previously. The project is strongly motivated by an ethic of social justice that is explicit in improving the levels of adult literacy in our societies. This can greatly improve individual life chances, not just economically but also in terms of self-esteem and social cohesion
Our research and experience with learners and literacy practitioners throughout the UK who attended the latest staff training event in June 2018 highlighted the need for such approaches and learning resources. In particular they recognised the need for an app where learners can either supplement their learning or indeed teach themselves to gain confidence, thus cancelling out the stigma that many adult literacy learners still struggle with.
The course design lends itself very well to being supported by a smartphone app structure where the learner gains phonological awareness by listening, reading, writing and speaking using the app’s many useful tools such as voice and writing recognition. The need for appropriate digital tools to assist adult learning is growing and adult literacy students and their tutors should have access to those possibilities too.
We are keen to work with European partners from different education sectors to share and exchange good practice and innovation in current approaches to improving adult literacy in different European languages. Our aim is to share the phonics-based approach and learning resources already developed and explore how they might be adapted for use in a number of different languages. Ideally, we would like to find partners to discuss the possibility of creating learning resources, tutor training materials and a mobile app in different languages. The envisaged end users are adult literacy learners, their tutors, technical developers and support staff.
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* Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing of the English language by developing learners' ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns that represent them.
Diane Gardner has been involved with community education for twenty years as a volunteer and now as a Senior Lecturer of Adult Literacy and Community within City of Glasgow College. She is passionate about ensuring that all adult learners can access learning opportunities and that’s why she created City Phonics, a synthetic phonics programme designed to teach adults how to read and write. The structure of the course offers many learning opportunities for students as well as the chance for staff to build on their teaching practice. The course is now an accredited City and Guilds programme and is levelled at SCQF Level 1/ Entry Level 1 and has full teaching training notes available.