As you know, I took a small and possibly annoying part in the "Beyond the IALS" conversation. Tannis was on there and posted a number of papers from this year's "Practitioner perspectives on the changing landscape of adult literacy," an Adult Education Research Conference institute or conference or some-such. (To see a host of interesting conference papers, see here.)
I've been reading three of those papers repeatedly and concurrently. Weaving the stories of one through the prism of the others: finding plainly stated in one what the others hinted at. If we had time, if we were in one of those comfortable restaurants where they didn't mind you lingering long after the meal (and had a handy flip chart) we could talk about them and the many, many ideas they hold. But, alas, we are not. And I confess to not being quite sure how to start.
Well, maybe I can start by telling you about them.
The paper that first caught my eye was Certification for what? Practitioner perspectives on the changing landscape of adult literacy education by Suzanne Smythe of Simon Fraser University. I found this to be a wonderful, short, thought-provoking paper demanding happy and angry and sad and emphatic margin notes.
I next read Essentializing the experiences and expertise of adult literacy educators by Christine Pinsent-Johnson. This paper talks about the way the new Essential Skills framework - and, to a lesser degree, IALS testing methodology - are changing the way facilitators are taught and/or required to support literacy learning, "discounting both research and practice based knowledge of literacy and adult learning."
That last paper made repeated reference to Richard Darville's work, so I moved straightway to reading his Unfolding the adult literacy regime. In the abstract, he writes, "A quarter-century’s development of a regime that promotes and regulates adult literacy has diminished the space for responsive and relational literacy work." Here, "regime" has the precise meaning of a system of control or management made up of related assumptions, regulations and power relationships. Darville suggests "an ensemble of governmental, administrative, academic and media processes" determine this regime; and though I am not confident he succeeds in "mapping their connections" he at least acknowledges that what happens in Canadian literacy classrooms is increasingly determined by the media, far away think-tanks focused on trade and international economic development, civil servants, and pollsters.
I've stuck these papers up on Google Docs, not out of any disrespect to the AERC, but simply to ensure that they will be there - somewhere - when I want them. Go and read and write.
We'll talk more later. :)