|FIRST, SOME DEFINITIONS OF LITERACY...|
Why begin a discourse on literacy research with a discussion of definitions? First, literacy has many faces and therefore many meanings workplace literacy, computer literacy, adult basic education, popular literacy, etc. Literacy definitions and perspectives affect literacy funding, programming and practice (such as literacy to work initiatives) and therefore should be made clear. Also, literacy research, like any other form of qualitative investigation, is a reflection of the researcher's own views, definitions, and approaches which should be stated.
By outlining some of the perspectives found within the literature and revealed in FGI's, I hope to provide a framework upon which much of the debate is taking place. I will also clarify my own perspectives and definitions of literacy, so that the reader understands how I came to view and analyse the research: "putting myself into the picture," so to speak.2
The 'Faces' of Literacy
"using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve ones goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential" (Statistics Canada 1995, p. 14)
The FGI's confirmed that most of the literacy instructors reflect a similar view. Here are some of their comments:
"Literacy is being able to perform the functions (reading, writing, math, and computers) required to provide for one's self and one's family in today's world."
"My definition of literacy is just helping people reach their academic and personal needs and goals - whatever they are."
2 Putting oneself "into the picture" is a basic tenant of Participatory Action Research. It acknowledges that no research is unbiased and that stating ones assumptions and perspectives, the research is in fact more accessible to the reader. Participatory Action Research can be defined as "the collection and analysis of information by a group of people for the purpose of taking actions and making change" (Samaritan House PAR Group (co-authored by Janet Smith) Where There Is Life, There Is Hope, 1995, p. 36).
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