Beyond deficit models for integrating language, literacy and numeracy in Australian VET

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Journal Article
Journal of Further and Higher Education, 2013, 37 (4), pp. 574 - 590
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In light of the perceived new significance to the Australian economy of adult language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills, this paper presents a broad picture of how LLN is being integrated in Australian vocational education and training (VET) and, through reference to selected programmes, indicates some future directions. Based on a national environmental scan of LLN providers and in-depth interviews with over 50 VET teachers and managers, we conclude that integrated LLN in Australian VET largely fits a deficit paradigm. In the main, students are assessed at the beginning of their course to identify the LLN skills they lack and then provided with assistance from a specialist LLN teacher, which may be in the form of individual support in a study centre, tuition in a separate LLN programme, or assistance within a team teaching structure in the vocational classroom. We focus mainly on the latter in this paper, explaining that often the LLN teacher assumes a secondary, 'hovering' role in the vocational classroom, helping primarily those students identified to be 'in need' of LLN support, while the vocational teacher delivers the vocational content. We provide examples of alternative models of integrated LLN which feature a shared or equal role for the LLN teacher, and we examine these using a theoretical framework developed from the work of Lea and Street (1998, 2006) on academic writing. Based on Lea and Street's work, we refer to these models as: 'study skills', 'vocational socialisation' and 'vocational literacies and numeracies'. © 2013 Copyright UCU.
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