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Learning in College
Curriculum unit case studies
Results of the analysis
While the general discourses of policy and practice focus on students' deficits in literacy, exploration of students' everyday practices indicates it is the multiplicity and abundance of literacy practices which is an issue, when compared with the very specific sets of practices that are valued within the context of FE. Literacies for learning are fostered not simply by focusing on the development of individual skills, but by increasing the meaningfulness of tasks to students, taking into account that many students are still exploring what they might do as well as seeking preparation and qualifications in a certain vocational or subject area.
We have identified four categories of literacies for learning:
The relative weight of these categories vary, but overall literacies for assessment dominate.
Learning has three aspects: cognitive, practical and communicative. while each is integral to the others, the tendency is for them to be treated as separate from each other. Staff and students talk of theory and practice as separate and how to relate them to each other. the communicative aspect, including literacy practices, tends to be put to one side among subject tutors. Students tend to be expected to understand different genres of writing (for example, reflection or analysis) rather than these being made explicit to them.
Staff and students do not develop a consistent practice in relation to genres and tasks. For instance, the notions of an 'essay' or 'a report' are used in a wide variety of ways, as are tasks such as 'to discuss', 'to research' or 'to analyse'. Students receive mixed messages about what is expected of them.
There is a view that the literacy requirements of more vocational courses are of a lower and less complex order. This project suggests that this is misguided. While students on more academic routes are encultured into a specific set of literacy practices associated with developing extended reading and writing or academic texts those on vocational course are often expected to engage in more diverse literacy practices, involving a wider range of texts and genres, and requiring an understanding of the social context in which the texts they are reading and writing are situated.
There can be ambiguity in curriculum purpose, which is illuminated by a focus on literacy practice. More vocational courses often seek for both employment relevance and academic progression. However, in terms of literacy practices required for students, these two goals emphasise different things - for example, simluations of work tasks or essays. The role and purpose of particular expectations needs to be clarified in relation to the overall curriculum narrative.
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