Developing a curriculum which opens up spaces for empowerment and dialogue between tutors and for basic skills learners

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This paper will be based on my five year longitudinal ethnographic study, commencing June 2004; the main aim of the research was to investigate the impact of sixteen Skills for Life (SfL) learners, aged between 17 and 60, joining a basic skills programme and follow their subsequent trajectories. Learners who attend adult literacy classes have often had to overcome significant barriers to gain the confidence and courage to return to learning, in some cases bringing with them ‘fear of violence, threat and intimidation’ (see Barton et al, 2007:165). Even when learners have been in vulnerable situations, facing domestic violence or other social or emotional difficulties, adult literacy education can often be a critical space to support and empower them to take agency, no matter what their trajectory so far. I will explore shifting from a traditional, competency based approach to curriculum design to a more critical model can provide a culturally relevant, learner driven, and socially empowering curriculum for basic skills learners ( Freire, 1993; Barton et al 2003). The shift towards an egalitarian drive takes into consideration the cultural, psychological and educational factors related to the Learners and their lives. It opens space for dialogic communication between teachers and learners and actively involving learners in their own education. This active participation includes the co-creation of the curriculum whereby their needs, motivations and interests are the driving factors to the curriculum design (McNamara, 2007, Duckworth, 2008). It encourages autonomy and critical thinking, opening up spaces where learners and communities can ask questions, analyse and subsequently work through effective and meaningful strategies to take agency over their lives and enhance their situation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference - Institute of Education, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 20118 Sept 2011


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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