[Numeracy 562] Oracy, Literacy, Numeracy in Workforce Skills Development

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tsticht at znet.com tsticht at znet.com
Sun Oct 10 10:22:56 EDT 2010

October 9, 2010

Oracy, Literacy, and Numeracy in Workforce Skills Development

Tom Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education

At times it is difficult to get personnel to move up into middle management
positions if they think their skills are not good enough. In a program I
directed to develop mathematics education to help U. S. Navy personnel move
into mid-level management positions, colleagues and I drew upon the various
resources available in the classroom: teachers, books, computers, and

One of the things we noticed in analyzing what Navy personnel in management
positions need to do is that mathematics, meaning computational algorithms,
by itself is seldom good enough to do the job. Instead, we found that it was
necessary for personnel to follow what we called the three C’s:
Comprehension, Computation, and Communication.

First, personnel had to comprehend either spoken or written messages from
the higher- ups regarding what information they wanted, then the personnel
had to speak to and listen to their staff to get the needed data. Following
this, it was necessary for personnel to be able to perform various
computations: add, subtract, multiply, divide numbers and apply them to
statistical or other types of data.

Communications was then the next requirement. Rarely do mid-level managers
simply do mathematical computations for their own sake. What they have to
do with the results of their analyses and computations is communicate them
to their bosses. This can include using graphic tools such as tables,
charts, pie graphs, etc. often accompanied by oral communication about the
data requested by senior management.

To develop these integrated oracy, literacy, and numeracy skills, we
arranged for peer groups to discuss written information sources in special
job-related books we developed. Then they had to do the computation and
graphic representation of data. To do this, the peer teams had to discuss
the information requests, figure out what was needed, how to get the data,
analyze it using computational algorithms, and then how to represent it for

Then team members would orally present to the teacher and the class the
results of their work. This gave the opportunity for feedback regarding how
well the task was originally understood, the appropriateness and
accurateness of the computations and graphic representations of the data,
and the accuracy, succinctness, and appropriateness of the oracy skills
used in explaining the data for the task in question.

During the development of this new mathematics program the development team
had a chance to monitor the peer interactions which used the oracy skills
of speaking and listening. It was informative to note the exchanges among
the members of the peer teams, often using language that would not be
appropriate for a teacher, but which nonetheless had the effect of getting
learners to attend to the task at hand, think through the requirements of
the task, correct their thinking, and in general learn how to accomplish
mid-level management tasks.

The classroom computers were used with an authoring program to write
materials and provide additional practice in reading, writing, computing,
and communicating Navy-related information which mid-level management in
many jobs, such as mess (cafeteria) management, chemical-biological-nuclear
warfare activities, material and supply management and accountability, etc.
were involved.

Later, the methods used in the U. S. Navy programs, with the exception of
the computer programs, were used to produce materials for civilian-related
work. The Glencoe Occupational Learning Series (GOALS) integrated the
teaching of reading and mathematics with occupational information in five
areas: office technology, electricity and electronics, construction trades,
automotive trades, and health occupations. Missing from the commercial
materials was direct instruction in the oracy skills of speaking and

Today, however, governments in many industrialized nation are emphasizing
the development of English oracy skills not just for those leaning English
as an additional language, but also for native English speakers. Research
has indicated that oracy skills, such as listening ability, may correlate
with job task performance as well as do literacy skills. Thus, nations are
beginning to emphasize oracy for native English speaking learners in their
adult basic skills programs along with literacy and numeracy.
The web site of the Australian Oracy Association, Inc. includes a key
statement by Christable Burniston, MBE:

Quote: “Oral language is the medium we use to make friends, earn a living
and become participating members of the community. It is through speech
that we assimilate the thoughts and opinions, ideas, emotions, humour,
wisdom, common-sense, even moral and spiritual values of those around us
and it is through perceptive listening and courteous speaking that we move
towards breaking down social, professional and related barriers.” End quote

In today’s socially-oriented, world wide communication on the internet by
videos, audios, and oral communications at work, oracy should be one of the
essential skills developed in our education systems to prepare learners for
further education and work. Unfortunately, these skills are generally off
the curriculum in too many educational contexts. This is a mistake.

In the beginning was the word
and it was spoken!

tsticht at aznet.net