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In this last term I have been designing resources and adapting teaching methods for an entry level literacy class that is exploring the information on food labels, recognising and reporting on safety signs, responding to symbols found in the community, and reading pictorial instructions such as operating a fire extinguisher or signing 'thank you' using British Sign Language. Consequently, our discussions have been enriched with colour in both physical and metaphorical senses. From the tangible - the shape and colour - to the messages conveyed in the colour and composition, and how they affect our decisions and/or judgments.

I have learned that these classroom activities and the consequent discussions are relevant to my learners' lives outside the classroom. They actively share stories, histories and anecdotes and learn from each other as much as from me. Due to their knowledge and experience of support systems they see the benefits of working collaboratively; they understand each other's learning needs as many of their needs are shared, and they extend each other the compassion and support to succeed.

The learners in this group are used to working within a kinaesthetic, tactile and active learning environment. They are responsive to activities that involve them doing most of the talking in class, moving around the classroom and using mobile devices to record, photograph and document each other. To this end they are also gaining a wealth of knowledge regarding digital literacy, citizenship and working with others. A question for my further professional development now is, how can I encourage this way of thinking in other groups of learners: to replicate this safe and encouraging learning environment, to spread the love of group working, and extend this compassion and support?

I have come to realise that my perceptions of learners, regardless of their literacy level, is a powerful influence in itself. If I hadn't been able to shift my perspective from the deficit model, I would have been limiting not only their personal development and potential for self-actualisation, but I would have been limiting my own professional development. I was viewing learners by their literacy ability alone. As I have come to know the learners, I have been able to develop a reflective teaching practice that is responsive to learners' developing and multiple needs. My perspective is now firmly rooted in the social model, and I have grown to forgive myself for my own shortcomings.

References Appleby, Y., and Barton, M. (2008) Responding to people's lives – Developing adult teaching and learning: Practitioner guides. Leicester: NIACE.

Oughton, H (2010) Funds of Knowledge: A Conceptual Critique. Studies in the Education of Adults, 1, pp. 63 – 78.


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