Researching Equity, Access and Participation,
County South, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YD, UK
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African Caribbean and Asian Curriculum Project
The ACA action research project was managed by Lancaster University's Community Access Programme (CAP) and was initiated in 1995 with the specific remit of developing 'black' perspective courses in community locations, under a university ethos of encouraging critical thought and analysis. It was funded by Lancashire County Council's Adult & Continuing Education.
The project encouraged the employment of role model and community based co-ordinators and tutors who developed provision specifically for minority ethnic communities in East Lancashire and Preston. Where possible these courses were organised in partnership with local providers with a view to raising community awareness of educational opportunities and encouraging progression into mainstream or higher level community provision.
Throughout the lifetime of the action research African Caribbean and Asian Curriculum Project CAP has undertaken research into the following areas.
Culturally relevant curriculum
Foundation credit frameworks designed to develop transferable skills for higher education have been adapted to meet the cultural and social relevance of learners. The impact of delivering study skills through courses like 'Bringing up Muslim Children in Britain' are explored in Preece J and Houghton A (2001) Nurturing Social Capital in Excluded Communities: A kind of Higher Education, Aldershot: Ashgate.
Community Based Educational Guidance
A specific action research cycle was used to explored with tutors the strategies they used for delivering educational guidance in a community setting. They reported that often learners were operating at a pre, pre entry phase of the guidance cycle. The importance of embedding guidance into teaching and learning was highlighted together with the benefits of using the guidance activity of feedback to inform local educational providers who are committed to creating a favourable learning environment.
This became an increasingly important theme for learners and community groups who seek to respond to the challenges of a changing world whilst at the same enable individuals to understand and retain an understanding of their religious and cultural heritage. See Ali H and Houghton A (2000) 'Voices from the Community: parents, education and faith' Religion, family values and education? Islamic Society Conference 3 - 5th March Cambridge University
Capacity Building in the Black and Minority Ethnic Voluntary Sector
CAP engaged in an ongoing collaborative and participatory evaluation of capacity building activities involving community groups belonging to the Lancashire Black and Minority Ethnic PACT (BME PACT). This collaboration continues. For further information, please contact Ann-Marie Houghton.
The ACA project developed culturally relevant foundation credit courses that provided a wider curriculum to complement other community and ESOL courses. Learners participating in CAP courses tended to enrol for personal reasons of lifelong learning or community and family learning. Learners with existing qualifications (including foundation credits), appeared to be interested in learning and progression opportunities that would enable them to acquire skills to achieve educational or employment goals as well as personal goals that would benefit their family and local community.
In addition to formal qualifications, the project's action research confirmed that individual indicators of progression, remain vital for the learner's personal development and future involvement in education. A key feature of all ACA courses was the emphasis on critical reflection by the learner on their own achievements and areas for development. We used student feedback forms to encourage learners to identify their own achievement with regards to individual, family and community goals. Learners were encouraged and supported to assess their own levels of achievement at the start of a course and then identify individual learning goals that would complement those identified for the whole group.
From the outset CAP has always placed considerable emphasis on establishing a range of partnership arrangements with colleagues working in FE, HE and in statutory, community and voluntary organisations (See links for further information about Community Access Partners). Within the ACA project we focused our attention on using partnerships to:
A common concern and problem facing many of the community and voluntary sector is their reliance on short term and project funding. This has a number of implications for the groups themselves. For instance, it is difficult to engage in long term planning, development staff are frequently on short term contracts, which increases turn over of staff, leading to considerable duplication of induction, explanation of systems etc. Project funding inevitably leads to competition and reduces the likelihood of collaboration as agencies seek to achieve their own targets. Since a lot of work is driven by external funding criteria there is often remarkable similarity in the targets that community groups have to achieve which can also create tensions.
Despite these challenges the community and voluntary sector are clearly committed and very well placed to undertake work with learners and groups within the community who for a host of reasons are uncomfortable or not ready to access more mainstream provision. CAP co-ordinators disseminate teaching and learning resources together with materials to support outreach and community development activities.
The CAP worked collaboratively with Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary organisations that belong to the BME PACT and with a number of Sure Start Groups who were seeking to encourage and support members of the community engaged in activities who are committed to providing learning opportunities that are designed to increase community cohesion and capacity building.
REAP was formerly known as the Community Access Programme
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