Production workers' literacy and numeracy practices: Using cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) as an analytical tool

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 2013, 65 (3), pp. 369 - 384
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Public policy discourses claim that there is a 'crisis' in the literacy and numeracy levels of the Australian workforce. In this paper, we propose a methodology for examining this 'crisis' from a critical perspective. We draw on findings from an ongoing research project by the authors which investigates production workers' literacy and numeracy in lean manufacturing firms. We focus on how language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) practices are embedded in production work and investigate various perspectives, including those of management, trainers and workers, on LLN problems and issues in the workplace. We adopt a critical perspective that analyses the way work, learning in work, and literacy and numeracy in the workplace are shaped and reshaped by social relations and culture, values and the histories of the industry and the local workplaces. This perspective examines the literacy and numeracy as social practices and using the theoretical analysis of cultural-historical activity theory, we indicate some of the complexities surrounding literacy and numeracy issues in workplaces, which have implications for the dominant 'crisis' discourse. © 2013 The Vocational Aspect of Education Ltd.
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