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Language, Literacy, and Numeracy - English Language Learner


A resource development and critical analysis of a work-based task and the English language, literacy and numeracy demands that it places on the learner.


Apr 5, 2016   /   Visits: 1,583 Printable versionPrintable

Part A: Resource Development

This assignment has been divided into two parts. Initially, this section analyses the English language, literacy and numeracy demands that are placed on the learner in the 'communicate in the workplace' course developed by TAFE NSW. The general course has been designed for 'NSW public sector employees who wish to enhance their written and verbal communication skills' (TAFE). These skills are thought of as vital in the overall development of employees and young adults who study at TAFE NSW, hoping to further their education and skill set so that employment opportunities become more readily available. Through this acknowledgement of the importance of communication skills, this assignment has created two activities (one focusing on customer relations and the other concerns safety in the workplace) that aim to develop the learners' language, literacy and numeracy skills through an engaging, informative and multi-faceted approach.

This study is based within the automotive section of the school, with this researcher currently working within the remit of course 9003. One of the modules on this course is the 'communicate in the workplace' course as highlighted earlier. The module's main aim is to 'cover the competence in the workplace by oral, written and electronic means' (TAFE NSW) and this module is further supported by course number 9999, which is entitled 'TAFE statement in Learner Support'. This course has the specific aim of 'supporting TAFE NSW learners so they can meet their course and educational goals' (TAFE NSW). It is within the context of these two courses that this work is set. Having identified the workplace that this researcher is currently working in and assessing learners, the 'communicate in the workplace' task is analysed in terms of the literacy, numeracy and language demands that it places on the individual learner.

The importance of communication in the workplace, and the underlying skills of literacy, numeracy and language and their development, should not be understated in this work. They are crucial in helping adults improve their ability to work successfully with others, in a workplace environment and are key skills necessary for both work and social environments. Prior to analysing the nature of the resources designed for this work, it is important to consider and reflect on how the communicate in the workplace course helps to develop these skills more generally. TAFE NSW presents vocational education and training for its many students and the automotive course is no different in this respect. The course teaches individuals 'how to service, repair and diagnose faults in motor vehicles weighing up to 4.5 tonnes and learn how to diagnose, service and repair in light vehicle engine, transmission, suspension, steering, brake and electrical systems and components' (TAFE NSW).

Following this appraisal of the learned outcomes of the course, it is clear that individuals taking the course need to develop their communication skills to a high level to enable them to communicate with both colleagues and also the general public. Their employment, as a specialist mechanic places them at a technical advantage, servicing vehicles owned by the general public who may not know a great deal about how their vehicle works. Therefore, it is important that the students practice communicating with the public and offering information about the vehicle that can be understood by their potential customers.

English Literacy Research
In 2010, the OECD launched a study that found that in terms of vocational occupations, 'modern workplaces require good literacy and numeracy skills because literacy and numeracy support and improves the ability to use complex communication skills, to not only extract and transmit information but also to communicate a particular interpretation of it' (Viktoria). In this manner, it is clear that the role that mechanics play in this sphere is communication is one of great importance. They have to be able to relay highly technical information concerning problems and issues with certain vehicles, translated into a more simple language that can be understood by the average customer who might not know any information about the inner workings of a vehicle. To ensure careful running of the vehicle and passenger safety, it is necessary for mechanics to be able to explain in detail why certain operations are necessary whilst assuring the customer that they are not being ripped off.

The literacy and numeracy resources designed have been included because they are focused on the automotive industry and in particular, as the researcher works with course 9003, the resources have focused on communication with customers concerning vehicle repairs as a way of engaging the student during the development of their own literacy, language and numeracy skills. With this context explained, it is now possible to introduce the resources that were created to help students develop their language, literacy and numeracy skills within the situational context of the automotive workplace. The two resources focus on customer relations (Appendix A) and safety (Appendix B). These are perhaps the two most important considerations in terms of the automotive industry when involving the nature of communication. Clearly, the communication with the customer is crucial to driver safety as well as establishing positive relationships so that business may be achieved again and again from the same customer. Positive results depend heavily on communication and therefore this is a vital part of the process. As well as this, the communication inside the workplace between colleagues is also necessary to ensure worker safety. The two resources include practice at leading training sessions in the workplace to not only improve language, literacy and numeracy skills but also to raise confidence levels and to highlight effective communication in the workplace.

Appendix A clearly shows role-play conversations between the two individuals (the customer and the mechanic). The role-play resource has been designed to cover a number of different scenarios in which the respective customers have a variety of levels of knowledge about their vehicle as well as ranging from calm to aggressive and angry in their attitude towards the mechanic. This type of role-play ensures that the mechanic has to constantly think how best to deal with different types of customers, rather than become reliant on one approach that would not necessarily appease all individual customers that they come into contact with on a daily basis. The resource also includes different forms of communication such as face-to-face, email and phone conversations. This is because of the fact that in terms of communication, people communicate differently using different formats of conversation and employees need to be aware of how to access these differing formats so that they can utilise the correct tone for each. Through this resource, it is expected that the students will learn different methods of communication, how to relay technical information in an understandable fashion and how best to approach different types of customer through a variety of communication mediums. It is expected that the students will be engaged through this activity because of the relevance to their course, the interesting nature of communication and how it can differ as well as the fact that they need to constantly change how they approach certain customers and need to act in a reactive manner, hoping to appease the customer through communication. This resource will also include a numeracy aspect. This is crucial because price and customer reassurance are always important when dealing with vehicle maintenance. For example, the costs of the maintenance need to be explained particularly when it comes to the inclusion of labour costs and parts and therefore students need to be effective in their understanding of the fees as well as able to explain them confidently to the customer.

The lesson plan activity resource found in appendix B focuses on a different approach and aims to provide a comprehensive form of aiding communication through training. In this resource, the individuals will work by themselves or small groups (supported by staff) to create a brief training exercise (through the form of a presentation or small activity) that they could implement into the workplace to ensure that all workers are aware of the importance of communication. This safety training focuses on the communicative aspect, asking students to practice how they communicate safety issues, more than focusing on the particular safety issues at hand. The style of communication in this activity is different to that of the first and students will need to take into account the fact that they are communicating with their colleagues and attempting to devise a way that leads to effective and regular communication with regards to safety in the workplace. Through these two activities, the students should be able to develop their literacy and language skills, as well as improve their numeracy ability. Moreover, these tasks are designed to give the students confidence in dealing with both colleagues and customers so that they are able to converse with each in both technical and layman's terms, depending on the situation that arises. Furthermore, the focus on health and safety in the workplace and the forms of communication that can be delivered to help maintain standards, is also a key consideration on this course and any opportunity to help individuals learn more about safety techniques should be taken up readily.

Part B: Critical Analysis

In this section, the second part of the work is provided. This part of the assignment is devoted to presenting a critical discussion of the issues that had to be taken into consideration in designing these language and literacy resources. There were a number of considerations that had to be focused on for this work, not only the language, literacy and numeracy requirements but also the creation of lesson activities that would help to engage students, allow them to explore various forms of communication (both verbal, non-verbal and electronic) and attempt to improve other key skills such as leadership and personal confidence in the workplace. This critical analysis discusses the decisions made by the researcher in light of the empirical literature that highlights the importance of communication and how the design of educational resources should be tackled to ensure that students are both engaged and can develop their skills simultaneously.

Prior to assessing the activities designed, it is necessary to provide a brief overview concerning the importance of language, literacy and numeracy skills as highlighted by the ACSF. The framework indicates that it is not just individuals with skill sets regarded as poor that can benefit. It is stated that 'there is a growing recognition that the challenge is not confined to those with poor basic skills, but extends to all people trying to understand new forms of communication and information as they take on different roles in life and work' (ACSF). Therefore, this analysis focuses on how the core skills have been targeted through this assignment and how the creation of the resource activities can lead to assessment in terms of the levels achieved by each learner for each indicator on the ACSF.

When critically discussing the activity designed, it was first appropriate to assess how the skills of literacy, language and numeracy could be enhanced through the design. The central role that language and numeracy skills play in society, including all social encounters as well as basic transactions with money, underlines the importance of developing these skills for adults who may have experienced a lack of literacy and numeracy skills as they progressed through the education system. Therefore, these vocational courses are an important source of developing literacy and numeracy. The creation of the resources and activities in this assignment was done with a thought to the fact that often, learners do not necessarily want to learn literacy or numeracy as a discreet subject. It is stated by Hughes and Schwab that 'not all learners who have literacy needs want to attend a discrete literacy class and learners can be more motivated to work on their literacy skills when they have the opportunity to improve it as part of a vocational or other programme' (p.334). This viewpoint meant that the resource needed to focus on developing the student's knowledge of the vocation (the automotive industry) as well as improving literacy and numeracy skills. Therefore, the activities were based around important facets of the vocational course, namely dealing with customers and identifying safety training and issues in the workplace. These two parts of the course are important and it was the flexibility of the activities that allowed literacy and numeracy to be focused on primarily, disguised by central components of the course.

This viewpoint concerning the need to embed key skills within the vocational programme is supported by Reder and Bynner. They note that the 'idea of embedding basic skills teaching in vocational education, rather than treating it as relatively independent of the rest of the curriculum, is increasingly gaining momentum. This recognises the motivational value and effectiveness of provision that map directly into the vocational and other goals that learners are pursuing' (Reder & Bynner). The belief expressed here is that students are more motivated if they do not think that literacy and numeracy skills are being taught independently of the subject that they are learning. If this is believed, they may feel that it is a waste of time, or it may conjure up images of being back at school, which could also have negative connotations.

Perhaps the most important aspect of teaching literacy and numeracy within the vocational subject is that the content is most likely to be engaging to the student and therefore will inspire motivation within the self. If literacy and numeracy were taught independently, students might not be so motivated to learn. Hence, this is why the resources were developed to include the literacy and numeracy skills development within the wider context of the automotive course. It was noted in 2009 that numeracy and literacy needed to be taught within the context of an engaging subject for adult learners so that motivation levels were at their highest. Work by Fletcher-Campbell and Reid underlined that post-compulsory education is different in its motivation for adult learners. Adults are learning new skills to help them further their career paths or gain employment. Therefore, in any chosen subject such as the automotive industry, they are likely to be engaged directly with the topic. Therefore, this should also be used as the context for developing and embedding key skills such as literacy and numeracy.

There were also important decisions to be made about the nature of communication. The growth of social media and technology over the past decade has led to a change in teaching and focus on all forms of communication, not just traditional forms such as face-to-face communication and using the telephone. It is noted that learners, particularly adult learners, need to be taught key technological skills to ensure that they remain up-to-date and literate in a growth area. Andrews indicates that the role of technology will increase dramatically in all areas of business, including vocational work, as we move forwards into the twenty-first century and this should be adequately addressed by training colleges and educational institutions. This belief is represented in the activities designed for the learners. The first activity focuses on all forms of communication, allowing the learners to become proficient in communicating via email as well as more traditional forms of communication. As well as this, learners are encouraged to use ICT in their presentations of the safety training, as the use of technology no doubt plays an important part of the automotive industry already and this is only likely to increase as time continues. This need to focus on a variety of forms of communication is supported by the ACSF that states that 'Oral Communication involves both transactional and interpersonal exchanges. Transactional exchanges are primarily practical in purpose, designed to achieve a specific outcome such as providing or obtaining information, goods and services' (ACSF). It is clear from this statement that the need to communicate orally is a vital aspect of the core skills framework and that it has been highlighted through this assessment how the activities designed have attempted to develop this skill within the context of the wider automotive course.

In summary, these resources were created with the main focus of developing language skills and enhancing both literacy and numeracy ability of the students on the course. It is clear that these activities, having taken into account the theory and beliefs of the empirical literature, are able to achieve this development. The focus on multiple methods of communication highlights the fact that individuals in modern society need to practice their communication skills through a variety of mediums. Moreover, the translation of technical language to that of more everyday language will be helpful to the students on the course as they attempt to increase their literacy skills through the program. The two resources are engaging to the individuals, mainly because they focus on their own area of expertise and the learning that takes place in the activities can be applied to their future careers. This is an important consideration because through the role-play with customers and safety training presentation, students will clearly be able to understand that these two aspects will combine to be a major part of their chosen career, therefore ensuring that their focus will remain on the activities at all times. Moreover, the development of language, numeracy and literacy skills, coupled with the desire to improve personal confidence and possible leadership skills should help the students to recognise that they are capable of achieving success in their workplace and this should work as extra motivation for the students on this course as they strive to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

References

ACSF. Australian Core Skills Framework. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. ACSF. Oral Communication.

Andrews, R. The impact of ICT on literacy education. Abingdon: Routledge.

Dubrin, A. Human relations: interpersonal job-orientated skills: international edition. London: Pearson Education, Limited.

Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding difficulties in literacy development: issues and concepts. London: SAGE Publications.

Hughes, N. & Schwab, I. Teaching adult literacy: principles and practices. New York: McGraw-Hill International.

National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Reder, S. & Bynner, J. Tracking adult literacy and numeracy skills: findings from longitudinal research. New York: Taylor & Francis US.

TAFE NSW. TAFE NSW.

Viktoria, K. OECD reviews of vocational education and training. Washington D.C: OECD Publishing.


Appendices:

Appendix A - Lesson Activity - Customer Relations

1: Discuss with students how many forms of communication types there are. Prompts may be needed. Elicit answers such as 'Text, phone, talking, email etc'

2: Highlight the importance of customer relations. Ask students to try to explain various car parts without using the technical term for it.

3: Explain that role-play will now be used.

Class to divide into pairs and one person plays a customer and the other plays the mechanic explaining the problem. Remind the mechanics to remain polite and to explain costs and reasons for certain jobs.

Customer Types:

Customer 1: Young, female, no car experience
Customer 2: Angry older male feels he is being ripped off
Customer 3: Young male who thinks he knows more than he actually does.
Customer 4: Upset customer who thinks they have been overcharged.
Customer 5: Old lady who knows a small bit about cars but wants a low cost.

Conclusion: Hear some of the role-plays and discuss what was good about them and possible areas of improvement.

Language Resources

Provide students with key terms / technical translations so they are able to match them up and provide this information to the customer.

Teachers to assess using the ACSF how far each individual learner has developed using the 5 level scale as provided by the ACSF.

Appendix B: Lesson Activity - Staff Safety Training

This activity should focus on the students taking charge and designing a safety training session in which the focus is on improved communication in the workplace. The students will need to present the training as well so this is important to remind them.

Introduction: Ask why safety is so important in their workplace? What examples can they think of where health is possibly at risk. Create a list of these.

Explain how communication between colleagues can raise awareness of issues and certain safety problems before they become too serious.

Ask students, in small groups to prepare a fifteen-minute presentation for the group, covering the basic aspects of safety in a manner that achieves higher levels of communication.

Conclusion: Listen to presentation and have rest of the class rate them on terms of clarity of communication, information covered, easy language used, attention to detail and whether safety issues are adequately addressed.

Teachers to assess using the ACSF how far each individual learner has developed using the 5 level scale as provided by the ACSF.

Language Resources

Students to have access to training materials and visual safety guides to complete this activity.

Students to have access to ICT resources to help plan and present the information.
Author Info
English Language Research and Writing
USA



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