Te Arapiki Ako
"Towards better teaching & learning"

Dr Peter Waterhouse (2011)

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Last updated 31 January 2013 12:25 by NZTecAdmin

View comments from Peter Waterhouse, Director of Operations at National Centre of Literacy & Numeracy for Adults, taken at the Symposium in Hamilton, July 2011.

Key content

Peter discusses the role of the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for adults in building capability across the tertiary sector.


The way I see as the National Centre’s role is to play an active part in actually pulling together in various ways the connections between research, and policy and practice. So I think of it as a triangle, and I think of it as a dynamic space and as a contested space. But it’s about trying to make those sorts of connections: to get research to inform practice; to get research to inform policy; to get the policy-practice-research dynamic, and get those connections working. Because often the people involved in doing the research are not involved in the policy development; the people involved in the policy development are not the practitioners that are on the ground doing the work, and so on. So who can actually do that? – and I think the National Centre can do that.

Well the website I think is going to be a key part of that going forward. The government has funded a strategy over the past couple of years which has enabled us to go out into the field and deliver professional development for providers in their own workplaces. We’ve been going into PTEs, into ITPs and so on, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do some of that. But my sense is that it’s unlikely that we’re going to be funded at the same rate that we have been in the past to continue to do that work. So one of the strategies in response to that is to find ways of enabling the tutors that you’re talking about to get support and to learn, and to be able to facilitate their ongoing professional development.

We know that literacy and numeracy skills enable other sorts of learning to take place. So we’re really trying to provide support for effective pedagogy, support for effective teaching and learning. And so we’re committed to the idea that wherever tutors might be, they need to be able to get some support to help them to do that. And the online work – the adult literacy and numeracy website – is a really core part of that. And so what we’re trying to do with that website is to use that as a kind of platform, as a space, as a virtual learning environment, to use it as something that we can hook other things onto. So that tutors can go to that space and find something that’s going to help them to address how to deal with numeracy with a group of carpenters that they’ve got in a workshop; or how to deal with the literacy requirements for hairdressers working in a salon, or whatever it might be.

There’s a wide range of settings, so it’s actually quite a challenge to be able to come with material, with stories, with examples that are going to address that breadth of experience and professional practice. But that’s what we’re trying to do.

The National Centre will not survive if it’s not genuinely helpful. And it’s only going to be genuinely helpful if it’s genuinely connected to the field, if it’s genuinely connected to the sector. So in a sense the National Centre needs to be owned by the field, it needs to be owned by the sector. They’ve got to feel that it’s their centre; and they’ve got to feel that this is the place that they can come to to get some help, to get information, to find out about research, to find out how to do something. You know, "We’ve been thinking about maybe doing some sort of action research but we’re not really quite sure how we’d do it..." – the National Centre’s the place that you can go to. You can pick up the phone, you can send an email, and someone there will respond to that enquiry and say, "Yes, that something that... yeah, have a look at this, or read this, or have a think about that, or I’ll put you in touch with someone else who's...", you know. So it’s that notion of connections, and it’s that notion of trying to add value.

To find ways of identifying what’s working really effectively and expanding that, amplifying that, extending it. Taking the principles and the practices and recontextualising them, looking at how they might apply in a different setting. It’s that kind of appreciative enquiry, really understanding what works and why, and finding ways to grow that across the system. Because almost everywhere we look you see that there are really capable people working within organisations that have limited capacity. So you go to the organisation and they say, "Oh yes, we can do that", and you say, "Well could you do it next month?", and they say, "Well no because the people that have got the capability to do that are already fully engaged".

But we need to be able to build that capability across the system because there’s so much to be done. Everywhere we look there’s so much to be done: with youth, with Māori, with Pasifika, in workplaces, in ITPs, in private providers, in industry training organisations – everywhere you look there’s so much to be done. And the number of people with the depth of skill and understanding, and capability to address those issues is not sufficient. So there’s kind of capability there but not sufficient – not sufficient capacity to address all of those needs that need to be addressed. So the challenge for the National Centre is to be able to work with those people and work with those providers to build that capacity and to build that capability.




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