The workplace as a site for learning critical numeracy practice

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Numeracy as Social Practice: Global and Local Perspectives, 2018, pp. 226 - 240
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This chapter focuses on numeracy learning among groups of workers, examines the possibilities and limitations of workplaces as sites of learning critical numeracy practices and considers their implications for education for work. The human capital-based discourse dominating many policy discussions about lifelong learning places significant emphasis on literacy and numeracy as key skills for economic growth and productivity, and for individuals’ successes in the globalised labour market (see for example OECD 2013). While formulations of numeracy in many influential policy discussions, such as the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) initiative, acknowledge numeracy as necessarily contingent on the context in which it is used, the discussions do not generally engage with issues of power that impact on the adults as employees and what they are able to negotiate about their place in the workplace. The chapter explores the possibility of workers developing critical numeracy practices: understanding, questioning and perhaps even mounting a challenge to the assumed positioning of workers in their workplace. It does so with the aid of the theoretical resources of Engeström’s (2001) third generation cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT).
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