The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read

May 31, 2011

There’s a belief that literacy in developed, English-speaking countries is “an immigrant problem”, that people who were born in countries like Canada or the US are automatically literate. International surveys conducted in 1994 and 2003 proved that was a myth. The other day I did a post about what those two large-scale tests revealed about literacy rates in Canada.

One astounding fact revealed by IALSS (2003) that tested over 23,000 Canadians, was that 2% of Canadian-born university educated people scored at the lowest levels of literacy… below thousands of immigrants, in fact.

A news story from the US shows us that the situation may not be much different there. John Corcoran, a teacher from the United States who graduated from college with a grade 2 reading level, went on to become a professional teacher who hid his inability to read for years.

This interview from TeachHub.com tells how Corcoran slipped through the cracks, how he adapted and coped in order to have a successful career and how he now runs a non-profit literacy foundation.

Corcoran is living proof that people born in affluent countries can still struggle with literacy. He’s also living proof that people can make tremendous progress as adults, building skills as lifelong learners.

Perhaps the most brilliant part is that Corcoran has learned to read… and write. Now he dedicates his life to helping others do the same.

Related posts:

Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills http://wp.me/pNAh3-qi

Literacy and Essential Skills (video) http://wp.me/pNAh3-y

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


How to Market Your Literacy or Language Program (Free 5-part video series)

May 30, 2011

I’m happy to share this 5-part video series that was recorded live at the 2010 Spotlight on Learning Conference, held in Toronto, Canada by the Ontario Literacy Coalition.

I did a one-hour presentation on how to promote literacy and language programs. The conference organizers videotaped the session and are sharing it publicly. You can consider this a one-hour crash course in marketing:

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 1

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 2

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 3

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 4

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 5

Related posts:

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Free webinar – New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment

May 27, 2011

** This event has passed. Check out the recording of this program here: http://youtu.be/6iH_ikNmn9I **

The Ontario Literacy Coalition has a series of professional development webinars for literacy professionals. I met these folks last year when I spoke at their Spotlight on Learning Conference. I was delighted when they invited me back this year to present via webinar. I gave them a few different programs to choose from and they put the topics out for a vote to their stakeholders. The topic that got the most votes was “New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment”.

This is a free event for educators and literacy professionals. But there’s one catch. They have a limited number of seats, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to reserve your spot. Their May webinar was filled to capacity. Join us:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EDT (There is a link to show that in your time zone here).

Feel free to share this post with other literacy advocates. This is an open event. Would love to have you come and be part of the conversation!

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Share this post: Free webinar – New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment http://wp.me/pNAh3-Gj

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


You thought Canada was a literate country? Think again

May 26, 2011

In 2003, the International Adult Literacy Skills Survey (IALLS) tested more than 23,000 Canadians in four areas:

  • prose literacy
  • document literacy
  • numeracy
  • problem-solving

Proficiency was rated on the basis of levels one to five, that is, lowest to highest. Level 3 corresponds roughly to high school completion.

In case you’re wondering what this test was all about anyway… IALLS is the Canadian component of the “Adult Literacy and Life Skills” study, which was a joint project of the Government of Canada, the US National Center for Education Statistics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The larger study was an international undertaking, involving thousands of people from numerous countries. In the literacy world, it’s a big deal. The results are a big deal for all of us Canadians. We have more work to do to raise the bar for all Canadians.

Literacy isn’t a black and white issue. It’s not a matter of “You can read” or “You can’t read”. There’s a continuum. Skills can be built at any time over the life span. They can also decline if we don’t use them.

Sad blonde girl with bookThere is an idea out there at literacy is “an immigrant problem.” Well, folks, it’s a myth. While it’s true that about 60% of new immigrants to Canada scored below Level 3 on the IALSS test, there are tens of thousands of people born right here in Canada who lack sufficient literacy skills.

One shocking result of the test?

2% of Canadian born university-educated individuals scored at the lowest level of prose literacy.

We have to ask ourselves: How are we allowing these people to slip through the cracks, grade after grade and year after year? How is it that someone born in Canada can graduate with an undergraduate degree when they score at the lowest level possible on an international literacy test? Although those results are troubling, some might argue that those people are the exception, that they are the outliers on the bell curve of test results.

Before you write off the stats as being an exception, think about this result:

About 37% of the total Canadian-born population scored below Level 3 in prose literacy.

In other words, about 9 million Canadian-born adult citizens lack sufficient literacy skills to function in the workplace.

Let’s put that into perspective for a minute.

9 Million people…

That’s the entire population of Nova Scotia. Multiplied by 9.

The number of people killed during the Russian Revolution over half a decade from 1917-1922.

The number of people in the UK who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

The number of people who follow Justin Bieber on Twitter.

Just under the total number of people in the entire world who suffer from hunger.

However you look at it, 9 million is a lot of people.

What can we do, Canada, to raise the bar for literacy?

References:

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/051109/dq051109a-eng.htm

Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills http://wp.me/pNAh3-qi

Literacy and Essential Skills (video) http://wp.me/pNAh3-y

“The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” http://wp.me/pNAh3-H1

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Share this post: You thought Canada was a literate country? Think again http://wp.me/pNAh3-G7

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Appreciative Inquiry: A brief overview

May 22, 2011

In research and in leadership, it’s good to know what your biases and values are. In my own work, I take an asset-based approach, finding the strengths and building on them. I’ve grounded much of my professional, leadership and research work on this philosophy, which is grounded in Appreciative Inquiry (AI). The other day, someone asked me what AI is, so I’m posting a brief overview that I wrote up for another project about a year ago. It’s a “quick and dirty” overview, with some references:

Appreciative Inquiry: An Overview

hands hope sunAppreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach used in academia, business and the not-for-profit sectors. The main pioneer of  AI is widely recognized to be David Cooperrider.

Traditional methods of assessing and evaluating a situation and then proposing solutions are based on a deficiency model. Traditional methods ask questions such as “What are the problems?”, “What’s wrong?” or “What needs to be fixed?” Sometimes such questions are sugar-coated in trendy jargon. Instead of asking “What’s the problem?”, which can seem a little harsh, the question may be couched in terms of ‘challenges’: “What are the challenges?” Regardless of whether the question is asked harshly or softened with less antagonistic language, the model remains as one of deficiency. The thinking behind the questions assumes that there is something wrong, that something needs to be ‘fixed’ or ‘solved’. Business people (especially consultants) like to say they ‘can provide solutions’. The underlying belief is that there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed.

Appreciative Inquiry flips all that on its head. It is an asset-based approach. It starts with the belief that every organization, and every person in that organization, has something good about it. Each person has something valuable to contribute and the organization itself has merit of some kind. It asks questions like “What’s working?”, “What’s good about what you are currently doing?”

AI seeks to uncover the best of what an organization is currently doing, using interviews with its members. The interviews challenge participants to examine and discuss what is good about their current situation and explore what works well within the organization. This approach then utilizes the data collected from those interviews to construct a plan for enriching the organization by building on what is already working and what is already considered to be successful.

An initial reaction for some people is to balk when they hear questions like “What’s working?” An retaliatory answer may follow of “Nothing is working! It’s all a mess!”. People are so used to working within a deficiency framework, that it is almost like the brain can not process questions that are rooted in an asset-based approach. It may take some time for people to come up with an answer to questions based on an AI approach. This is because AI challenges us to shift our paradigm from deficiency thinking to asset thinking. Changing paradigms takes some time, but the results can be worth it.

Appreciative inquiry can be particularly useful in organizations where individuals or group of people are polarized over major issues. Rather than exacerbating the polarization between or among the parties, it assumes that a core of positive traits exist which can be highlighted and expanded up on to create even more success in an organization.

Bibliography

Cooperrider, D. L. (2007). Business as an agent of world benefit: Awe is what moves us forward.   Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/practice/executiveDetail.cfm?coid=10419

Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2008). A positive revolution in change: Appreciative inquiry.   Retrieved March 27, 2008, 2008, from http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/uploads/whatisai.pdf

Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D., & Stavros, J. M. (2003). Appreciative inquiry handbook. Bedford Heights, OH: Lakeshore Publishers.

Eliot, C. (1999). Locating the Energy for Change: An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry. Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development / Insitut International du Developpment Durable.

Faure, M. (2006). Problem solving was never this easy: Transformational change through appreciative inquiry. Performance Improvement, 45(9), 22-31.
Murrell, K., L. (1999). International and intellectual roots of appreciative inquiry. Organization Development Journal, 17(3), 49-61.

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Share this post: Appreciative Inquiry: A brief overview http://wp.me/pNAh3-FR

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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