Literacy Research: Informing Policy and Improving Public Services
Submitting InstitutionLancaster University
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
The Literacy Research Centre works to understand the role of literacy in
all areas of life and to improve communication and collaboration between
researchers and educational practice. It focuses on people and contexts
such as prisoners, disaffected young people, job seekers and health care
settings. Its research impact includes raising awareness of user issues,
making recommendations regarding changes to public services and improving
educational attainment among disadvantaged groups. Its work has shaped
national curricula and contributed to the development of teaching staff
and other professionals, helping the government achieve its national
target for adult literacy early.
From 2002 to 2009, the Literacy Research Centre was funded by the then
Department for Education and Skills as part of a national research and
development consortium, the National Research and Development Centre for
Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) to support the major government
initiative Skills for Life. SfL was a high profile government policy; it
was regularly reviewed and achieved its targets. Professor David Barton
was on the national NRDC management team and a member of the Quality
Management Team, ensuring the impact on policy and practice of the
research and development projects.
Based on earlier underpinning research at Lancaster (e.g. Barton, D.
& M. Hamilton 1998, Local Literacies) and established networks
(e.g. RaPAL and Workplace Basic Skills), and being part of ALPHA/UNESCO
network, we were specifically included in the original consortium and seen
as one of the few expert groups in the UK able to inform the development
of the new policy, and possessing the networks to impact immediately on
the field of practice.
From 2002 to 2009, we carried out 25 research projects (total funding
£3,009,352) at Lancaster, and produced 21 NRDC reports, as well as 12
academic and practitioner-oriented articles and 5 books. The work was led
by Barton and carried out by members of the LRC including Prof. R. Ivanič,
Dr. U. Papen and Dr. K. Tusting in Linguistics. The LRC is identified
with: close textured research into language and everyday social practice;
research that is focused on learners' experience; and experienced working
in sensitive areas, such as health, offenders and homelessness; plus a 25
year track record of linking research and practice. We work with a
coherent theory of impact, starting with local activities and moving out
to regional and national in order to have an effect on policy, and
involving stakeholders in all stages of a participatory research process.
- Enabling literacy and ESOL teachers/managers to review and improve the
way health is integrated as a topic in their teaching (e.g. how students
manage the language and literacy demands of health care) (Report 2,
- Engaging new learners, based on supporting practitioners to carry out
their own projects to improve their practice (Report 3);
- Improving the literacy levels of young offenders (Report 7);
- Enabling more people in the Skills for Life priority groups to access
education including homeless people (Report 1);
- Enabling disaffected young people and other `at risk' groups to engage
and progress in education (Report 5);
- Improving teaching methods, particularly by demonstrating the
effectiveness of embedding language and literacy work in other learning
- Improving teaching and support for speakers of other languages
learning English, by drawing on their existing knowledge and improving
the social support for their learning (Report 5).
References to the research
Underpinning research outputs include:
1. D. Barton & M. Hamilton, Local Literacies: Reading and Writing
in One Community, London and New York: Routledge, 1998. (2983 copies
sold, as of July 2012. 1684 citations on Google scholar, Apr 2013.
Republished as Routledge Linguistics Classic 2012.)
2. D. Barton, R. Ivanić, Y. Appleby, R. Hodge & K. Tusting, Literacy,
Lives and Learning. Routledge, 2007. (584 copies sold. 67 citations)
3. D. Barton, Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written
Language. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. Second edition 2007. (9400 copies
sold. 1597 citations)
4. U. Papen, Adult Literacy as Social Practice: More than Skills.
Routledge, 2005. (1047 copies sold. 97 citations)
5. K. Tusting & D. Barton, Models of Adult Learning.
Leicester: NIACE, 2006.(1725 copies sold. 52 citations)
6. R. Ivanič, R. Edwards, D. Barton, M. Martin-Jones, Z. Fowler, B.
Hughes, G. Mannion, K. Miller, C. Satchwell & J. Smith. (2009) Improving
Learning in College: Rethinking Literacies across the Curriculum.
London: Routledge. (548 copies sold. 41 citations.)
NRDC reports aimed at policy and practice. All project reports
were part of a peer review process whereby they were reviewed by at least
2 academic reviewers, 2 practitioners and the Strategy Unit before
publication. Examples of the reports are listed in section 5 for
Grants funded by Department for Education and Skills:
|| Award £
||NLRC – Ethnographic Project
||NLRC – Central Management Costs
||NLRC – Teacher Researcher Programme Model
||NLRC – Educational Research MA Development
||Literacy and Health
||NLRC – Skills for Life
Grants funded by National Literacy Research Centre:
| David Barton
|| Practitioner Guides
||Creating a resource for Policy Practitioners and Researchers
Grants funded by the ESRC:
||Literacies for Learning in FE
Details of the impact
Research carried out at the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre,
2002-2009, has had a major impact on the government's Skills for Life
(SfL) policy and practice. 21 reports are aimed primarily at the English
SfL strategy, where they are used in teacher training and professional
development and circulated across government departments. The impact of
these included changes to public service practices/guidelines and/or
improved educational attainment among disadvantaged groups (for example,
the Public Service Agreement target for adult literacy was met two years
early; see: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmpubacc/154/154.pdf,
p.9). Overall, in the period Jan 2008-Aug 2012, there have been 67,226
downloads of NRDC publications to which Lancaster personnel have
contributed. More specifically, they have had impact in the following
Adult Literacy in England
- Our work has a central role in the revised adult National Curricula
for England both for Literacy and for English for Speakers of Other
Languages and national revisions of the subject specifications for
teacher training. Our underpinning research books are listed as core
reading in curriculum guidance documents, and referred to in training
materials for teacher training and professional development and teacher
handbooks produced since 2008 (such as Reference 9, below).
- We have made direct contributions to professional development and
practice in the SfL workforce. Since 2008 we have run practitioner
events aimed at specific target groups including practitioners working
with offenders and working with homeless people. We contributed to major
evaluations of SfL that impacted on the quality of public policy
delivery and future targets (Report 4).
- Prof Hamilton was a commissioner on the inquiry into adult literacy in
England, Work, Society and Lifelong Literacy, headed by Lord
Boswell, which reported in September 2011.
Impact on international adult literacy
- Internationally our work is drawn upon in the UNESCO Decade of
Literacy and the Literacy and Assessment Monitoring Programme (LAMP),
most recently in the reports The Global Literacy Challenge
(UNESCO Paris 2009) and The next generation of literacy statistics
(UNESCO Institute of Statistics 2009) (See report 8).
- In the period 2008-2012 we have addressed teacher groups and policy
makers in Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Norway.
(Testimonials on file which were collected in August 2012 confirm the
influence of our contributions to practitioner events and publications
in Canada and Australia.)
- The German ministry for education and research (Bundesministerium für
Bildung und Forschung) has funded a project 2009-2012 at the
Bundeswehrhochschule, Hamburg (the University of the Federal Armed
Forces) based on underpinning research output 1, above, to develop new
ideas for adult literacy and basic education curricula and programmes.
(Corroborating evidence 10, below)
Impact on Further Education
The parallel ESRC grant reported in underpinning research output 6, above,
was followed up by a DVD (http://www.publicspace.ac.uk/projects/literacies-for-learning)
(Dec 2007) and a widely circulated briefing paper (August 2008) aimed at
teachers, along with an associated website containing pedagogical
The website contains testimonials collected in 2008 on the efficacy of the
video for teacher training. Further testimonials collected in August 2012,
which we have on record, particularly cite the value of the DVD and the
suggested activities. The UK Open University purchased 8 minutes of the
video in 2010 to use on a teacher training course.
Sources to corroborate the impact
NRDC reports aimed at policy and practice.
Reports are available in hard copy and online.
- A. Reisenberger, D. Barton, C. Satchwell, A. Wilson, C. Law & S.
Weaver, (2009) Engaging Homeless People, Black and Minority Ethnic
and other Priority Groups in Skills for Life. London: NRDC. (1605
downloads in the period 2008-12)
- U. Papen and S. Walters. Literacy, Learning and Health: Research
Report. October 2008
- P. Davies, M. Hamilton & K. James (2007) Maximising the Impact
of Practitioner Research: A handbook of Practical Advice. NRDC.
- K. Tusting & D. Barton, (2007) Programmes for Unemployed
People since the 1970s: The Changing Place of Literacy, Language and
Numeracy. 58 pages.
- D. Barton, Y. Appleby, R. Hodge, K. Tusting & R. Ivanič (2006) Relating
Adults' Lives and Learning: Participation and Engagement in Different
Settings. 40 pages. (1440 downloads in the period 2008-12)
- H. Casey, O. Cara, J. Eldred, S. Grief, R. Hodge, R. Ivanič, T. Jupp,
D. Lopez & B. McNeil. "You wouldn't expect a maths teacher to
teach plastering...": Embedding Literacy, Language and Numeracy in
Post-16 Vocational Programmes — The Impact on Learning and
Achievement. November 2006. (8946 downloads in the period 2008-12)
- J. Hurry, L. Brazier, K. Snapes & A. Wilson. Improving the
Literacy and Numeracy of Disaffected Young People in Custody and in
the Community. February 2005
- D.Barton & U. Papen (eds.) (2005) Linking Literacy Programmes
in Developing Countries and the UK. 100 pages. (3816 downloads in
the period 2008-12)
- Online Teacher Educator's handbook published by LSIS as part of the
Skills for Life Support programme 2009 (see Ch 14 Challenging
Assumptions, Changing Attitudes http://archive.excellencegateway.org.uk/page.aspx?o=282329).
(See also Open University Press, Teaching Adult Literacy, 2010.)
- C. Zeuner & A. Pabst (2011) `Lesen und Schreiben Eroeffnen
eine Neue Welt'. Literalitaet als Soziale Praxis — Eine
Ethnographische Studie. Bielefeld: Bertelsmann Verlag.
External sources to corroborate.
NRDC carried out systematic evaluation and monitoring of projects through
a Quality Management Group (QMG). All research grants were initially
reviewed and approved by the QMG and then by the SfL Strategy Group. The
NRDC reported directly to the Department for Education and Skills SfL
Strategy Unit which reported to the Cabinet Office. See NRDC Annual
Reports (http://bit.ly/1138ZPq) and
QMG meetings minutes.
See www.nrdc.org.uk for all
individual reports and practitioner guides, and the Department of
Business, Innovation and Skills 2011 survey findings on the effectiveness
of Skills for Life Strategy http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/BISCore/further-education-skills/docs/0-9/11-1367-2011-skills-for-life-survey-findings.pdf