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A collaborative approach to adult learning

Will Law-DavisWill Law-Davis is a Senior Program Officer (Foundation Skills) for the Western Australian Department of Training and Workforce Development. One of his main roles is to promote good practice in adult literacy and numeracy. One approach has been to develop a newsletter and online platform to support practitioners to share and develop good teaching practice.

Adult Literacy and Numeracy Network

This year the Western Australian Department of Training and Workforce (DTWD) Development Foundation Skills team had the exciting challenge of developing an email newsletter, ALaN News, and an online community, the ALaN Network . Together these resources aim to support specialist adult literacy and numeracy practitioners to share and develop good teaching practice.

Professional isolation

The overarching goal of developing an online community was to ensure that teachers of adult literacy and numeracy remained continual learners who worked to improve their practice, skills and instructional strategies to successfully help others. With the knowledge that many teachers had a sense of professional isolation, there was the need to develop an online community of like-minded individuals who could:

  • continue their learning,
  • improve their professional practice, and
  • build a professional learning network that would provide quick access to relevant information, resources and connections to expert individuals.

Collaborative opportunities

In the development of the ALaN Network resrouces, the DTWD team had to address three key challenges:

  1. To gain a better understanding of the professional needs of the learning community
  2. To select the correct online platforms
  3. To create a space which would engage and motivate teachers to ask questions, share resources and learn from other members.

To find out what teachers wanted from the newsletter and online community, a survey was sent out to adult literacy and numeracy teachers and managers. The data collected set the format for both the newsletter and the online community. Teachers wanted to stay up to date with new information through articles, blog posts and updates from websites. They also wanted social networking tools to connect to other professionals. To keep the online community engaged and motivated it was important that the members could contribute to the collective knowledge, and also help others through features such as:

  • a discussion board
  • emailing other members
  • accessing and developing resources
  • establishing special interest topics
  • problem solving, and
  • having access to professionally respected educators who contributed to the newsletter.

Teachers are motivated to engage with the online community because they can get help and support, demonstrate their knowledge by helping others, and interact with their peers about new information and feedback.

Filling the need

Developing AlaN News and the online community – ALaN Network – has required energy, time and commitment from all members of the Western Australian Department of Training and Workforce Development Foundation Skills team. The slow but steady professional interaction and the connection of the growing membership in the network indicates the relevance and need for this type of informal virtual space learning. It has provided the Foundation Skills team with the opportunity to make a difference by providing collaborative opportunities in adult literacy and numeracy.   For more information please visit the ALaN Network online community, and subscribe to ALaN News.

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