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Project Activities

The "Changing Faces" project began in January 2002. The first phase involved setting up the advisory group, appointing Research Associates at Lancaster and City University, initial discussions with the Centre For Longitudinal Studies about sampling strategies for the National Child Development Survey respondents, and putting in place administrative and financial support for the project.

The project team made a number of decisions about how to conduct and structure the fieldwork and about systems for recording and storing the data. These decisions were particularly complex for several reasons:

  1. we were integrating a number of different data sources
  2. we were creating an historical archive that would be of future use to other researchers and those involved in practice
  3. we were committed to working in collaborative and interactive ways with respondents, both face to face and through the web
  4. we were working across three university sites, posing challenges for the on-line technologies we were using and for our administrative systems.

We developed a robust set of procedures for carrying out the fieldwork, a detailed plan. We piloted the interviews and made many initial contacts in the field. We developed a protocol which enabled us to work in comparable ways across different areas of the fieldwork. We developed a "timeline" of events and people that became an important central reference point for the materials we were assembling, and which is available on our website. We then moved into the main fieldwork interviews.

This report gives a brief summary of the different areas of activity we carried out over the first five months of the project.


The purpose of the initial survey was to generate awareness about the project and to identify potential research contacts. A survey was drafted and piloted. With the help of Sue Grief and Graham Knight from the Learning Skills and Development Agency, the survey was sent to 1000 organisations, selected from the LSDA database. The sample was drawn from further education colleges, adult education institutions, and work-based learning provision. The sample was weighted for the 4 case study regions. There was a low response rate with, to date, a total of 51 completed surveys. Part of the explanation for this was that some organisations contacted did not have a remit for adult basic skills.

Despite the poor response rate, the returned surveys were informative and mentioned a range of other potential informants and "key people". Respondents tended to mention local rather than national "key people" by name. New research contacts were identified and twelve of these were from the case study sites. Some respondents indicated that they wanted to be put on our mailing list, Others wanted to participate in an e-mail questionnaire. The research team conducted exploratory phone calls and follow up with those respondents who had materials that they wanted to donate to the archive, or who wanted to document their experiences as a group case study.

The Public Trajectory of ABE 1970 - 2000


See Timelines section.

The "key moments" that emerged from the survey and in the pilot interviews were events ranging from the general election of 1979, government and research publications, legislation, funding and media campaigns (such as On the Move, Parosi). These events were also documented and referenced through government papers and structures, by identifying historical documentary archive sources and researching adjacent employment and trade union related histories bearing on the development of ABE. All these aspects are perceived by people to have had an impact on them and to have shaped the direction of literacy, numeracy and ESOL. A range of personal memories and local experiences are also mentioned and constitute personal timelines that run alongside the publicly documented events.

The idea of creating a public timeline which can be used as a central reference point for the many personal accounts became a very important organizing idea for the project - a kind of backbone for the analysis (see Timelines). Main categories were decided for the timeline. These can be used to sort them into themed lists which are displayed on the website and will make it easier to move across the chronologies of different aspects of ABE.

Key Documents:

The public timeline includes many documents, from unpublished teaching materials and student writing to major policy texts. In order to inform our interviews, we are choosing a small set of documents that represent key moments across the period 1970-2000. We are reading these closely to discover how they treat the key themes of the project (starting with how they construct the learner, the tutor, the learning process and the learning context) and to identify similarities and differences across time. We have identified a method of discourse analysis to apply to these documents and to other texts as well.

Linking with other Historians:

The project team have linked with two historians who are currently writing relevant histories. The first, Sheila Rosenberg, through her work and involvement in the Ruth Hayman Trust, Neighbourhood English Classes and NATECLA has a long relationship with ESOL, and has written extensively about this field. She is hoping to write the history of NATECLA, of which she is a founding member. She discussed her work and how this might relate to the Changing Faces project in April, and has offered to share her considerable resource base with the team. Sheila has been invaluable in clarifying the distinctiveness of ESOL from literacy and numeracy, the particular needs of a learner for whom English is their second or third language. She has developed her own timeline of the history of ESOL to which we will have a link from the Changing Faces website.

Peter Clyne is currently writing a book on developments in the field of adult education since the Russell Report in 1973. He has discussed the overlap between his research and the Changing Faces project. In particular, Peter has been accessing the archive on the Advisory Council for Adult Continuing Education (ACACE). There isenormous potential to share research findings with Peter and to draw upon his work to inform the policy analysis of our project. He has offered to share his work with us, and we will draw on the findings of his forthcoming book.


Selection and Mapping of case studies:

In order to make the interviewing manageable and to generate more contextual depth, we decided to work in four case study areas in England. These were selected to provide a broad range of activity and to represent as wide a possible geographical spread. The 4 case study regions are

These areas cover rural, urban, metropolitan and county forms of LEA provision and offer some geographical spread across the regions of England. They were chosen on the basis of background knowledge of the provision, with advice from the Advisory Group, and supported by a preliminary literature survey of publications conducted in February 2002 at the British Library.

Each case study provides background information to the regional implementation of national policy, in addition to the more micro level of policy creation and implementation. We collected contextual information about the demographics, administrative, social and employment structures of each area. Around twenty interviews were conducted in each case study area. A list of appropriate interviewees was drawn up by the researchers, based upon information and advice given by the advisory group members and colleagues in the field. Interviews with the NCDS respondents were also clustered around these four geographical areas.

Manchester and Leicestershire provided quite different areas of provision in the north and the midlands. Manchester represents a busy and diverse metropolitan area and Leicestershire a reputedly 'successful' county, with both rural and urban settings and a significant ethnic minority population.

The North East London case site centres on the original ALBSU regional training group for North East London. The original group comprised Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Havering and Newham, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets. These can be split into two groups, outer London (WF, Havering, Redbridge and B and D) and Inner London Grouping (TH, Islington and Newham)

Norfolk was chosen as a case area site since it offers the opportunity to look at the type of provision that exists in a rural and semi-rural area as well as in small towns. This includes issues such as the difficulties and types of practice that developed when setting up classes for a widely dispersed population.

Key People Interviews:

A draft list of potential interviewees was identified by Mary Hamilton and Yvonne Hillier. This was informed by their own experience in the field, from survey questionnaires and from preliminary discussions with the Advisory Group and from colleagues in the field.

The list was then shortened to approximately 25 individuals These cover the range of adult basic education and skills work at national level. They represent those involved in the early literacy campaign, government agencies responsible for basic skills, the BBC, practitioners who have been highly influential on early developments and who now hold a more central role in the field. The areas of literacy, numeracy and ESOL are represented, although the strongest focus is on literacy.

Sampling the NCDS Respondents:

The National Child Development Study (NCDS) is one of Britain's richest research resources for the study of human development. Its subjects were all babies born in Britain between 3 and 9 March 1958 - more than 17,000 in total. In six follow up studies data was collected on the physical, psychosocial and educational development of the cohort at age 7, 11, 16, 23, 33 and most recently in 2000 when age 42 years. A representative 10% sample (n=1714) also had their literacy and numeracy skills objectively assessed at age 37.

The perspectives and adult learning experiences of the men and women in the 1958 National Child Development Study are particularly invaluable to our project. As potential school leavers in 1974, they could not be better placed to reflect back on the opportunities or experiences of learning they have had following the launch of the 1970 adult literacy campaign.

We chose 100 of these adults to interview, spread across eight different groupings which were devised to explore the relevance of adult basic education to the lives of as many people as possible (See the attached 'Summary of cohort members identified for interview'). The groups were based on different combinations of the following variables: an individuals assessed skills, their own perceived skills and any desire they had to improve their skills. To complement other parts of the project, we drew our sample (data permitting) from the four case site areas of England: Manchester, Leicestershire, London and Norfolk. . We chose an equal number of men and women. Where numbers were great enough to allow further choice about whom to interview, we prioritised men and women who had been involved in ABE or were members of a minority group.

Group Interviews:

We decided to create a framework of activities to enable groups of practitioners to meet and share their resources, experiences and key moments from their involvement with adult basic education and basic skills. A successful pilot group session was carried out on 12th June 2002 with a group of Pathfinder practitioners in Gloucester. Further group interviews took place in the case study regions, and at the RaPAL and Adults Learning Maths conferences. Details of the activities were posted on the website for groups who wished to organise their own events. The focus of the activities in the group session was to ask practitioners to identify key moments in the same way as the individual interview schedule, writing down what was happening in their professional lives over each decade from 1970 onwards. People were also invited to bring items they would like to donate to the archive. Within the group activity, practitioners were able to share their moments and experiences, stimulated by the materials they chose to bring along.

Organisational Case Studies:

In addition to the regional case study areas, two other case studies were planned: The Friends Centre, Brighton and Pecket Well College in Halifax. For each centre, it was anticipated that a short history of the projects and an archive of their materials would be facilitated through the use of consultancy funds. The Friends Centre identified how it wished to work with the Changing Faces project, and collaborated on the creation of an archive and a reunion for practitioners in September 2002. Some members of Pecket Well College have generously donated their collections to the Changing Faces archive, and the college has its own separate archives as well. A reunion was held in July 2004 and several of the founding members were individually interviewed. Several other organizational case studies were identified though we were not able to pursue them within the scope of this project.

Updated: August 2004



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