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Adult Literacy and empowerment - from stocktaking to power-sharing: LRDG seminar

Date: 12 January 2010 Time: 1-2pm

Venue: Institute for Advanced Studies Meeting Room 1

Chris Parson - Lecturer in basic adult education, Faculty of Psychology and Education, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Adult Literacy and empowerment - from stocktaking to power-sharing

From 2005 to 2008, seven voluntary bodies actively involved in adult basic education provision from 5 European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Spanish Basque Country, Switzerland) worked together on a UE ( Grundtvig 2 ) funded project to explore the emancipatory dimensions of adult literacy work in Europe. At the outset, the project partners identified the following main area of activity:

• Exchange, mutualisation and critical assessment between active partners in the field of adult literacy in Europe of Tools, methods, practices and methodological processes fostering autonomy, individual and collective empowerment in adult literacy work.

The project aimed at strengthening the emancipatory dimensions of pedagogical practices involving adult learners and more generally for their roles as citizens in the countries in which the now lived. The group was composed of learners, tutors and managers and two weekly meetings per year were scheduled in the partner countries, with five meetings taking place from November 2005 to May 2008.

Exchanges were to centre on existing empowerment practices, which had been tried and adopted by partners, in order to increase complementarities and enrich pedagogical approaches. It was thought that these exchanges would allow the establishment of an inventory of empowerment pedagogical practices in the field of adult literacy training.

In concrete terms, this involved:

• The learning of an oral language (in general, that of the host country)

• Reading and writing practices as developed in the ECLER* workshops

• The participative process of individual and collective emancipation, as developed in the REFLECT-ACTION approach

The REFLECT participative methodology, largely inspired by the work of Paulo Freire, was soon adopted as the working model for all meetings and shifted emphasis from the establishment of inventories of best practice to an ongoing analysis of what was actually happening in terms of power distribution and active participation within the group as it progressed. Not all learners had the same expectations in terms of power sharing and outcomes and it soon became evident that the process itself was becoming the focal point of the partnership.

How did this change come about, and how did it lead to a joint decision to work on a manifesto for learning ("Freedom to learn - learning for freedom") and the shooting of a short film about the participatory process itself?

* Ecire Communiquer Lire Echanger Réflechir - a participative approach to adult literacy developed in France by Noel Ferrand, centered on the learner's own written production.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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