It is necessary to make a distinction between professionalization of the literacy field and professional development. Professional development has been described as an individual approach to enhancing practitioner skills. Professionalization, on the other hand, refers to a systemic approach to build the capacity of the literacy field as a whole. In other fields, professionalization has included concepts such as licensing, certification, assessment and evaluation, and professional development.28
While no one working in the field would question the need for professional development, the topic of professionalization is contested ground. While professionalization can been seen as a way to raise the profile of literacy and as a way to ensure that learners receive the best instruction possible, some practitioners are concerned. They argue that attempts to systematize or regulate the field may result in placing another hard to meet demand on already overburdened practitioners.
A 2003 article in MCL’s newsletter literacy.ca entitled “Our Development as a Profession: What Will it Take?” states that
there has been little movement on
“professionalizing the field,” and stresses that a framework for developing the field as a profession
and developing human resources is an integral component of a pan-Canada literacy strategy.
Literacy practitioners and others who gave input into MCL’s National Literacy Agenda highlighted professionalization as a key issue. They noted that
“employment standards, opportunities for professional development for staff and volunteers, standards for certification of literacy workers, ways
of sharing new knowledge and best practices, adequate compensation, and increased social recognition”29 are key issues that need to be addressed.
What is clear, is that a strategy for professionalization cannot be one size fits all. It will need to be tailored to fit the different approaches to literacy programming offered across the country. MCL notes there have been attempts to initiate systems to train literacy workers but they have not come to fruition.
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28 See http://www.ccl-cca.ca/CCL/AboutCCL/KnowledgeCentres/AdultLearning/OurWork/Projects.htm for a project description.
29 Ibid., p. 2.