The discussion on curriculum development earlier underscores the view that a curriculum should be academically ordained by an institution and should be pre-packaged and finite. In light of the manuals already developed, it is evident that the planners do not adhere to this prescribed academic thinking.
As such, I would like to emphasize that the development of new manuals should not be bound to the previously prepared manuals. Development literacy and literacy as a situated social practice accurately postulate that the curricula of differing groups will grow out of and respond to the set of realities of a particular group, with its own socioeconomic realities, needs, and group culture, with set ways of doing things. The LITNUM Modules that have already developed, which flow one into the other, have been used in for different groups with varying contexts. Despite a development of the topics in the LITNUM curriculum that had been logical for past groups, the planners should not feel compelled to adhere to previous formats and content development if the next communities have emergent needs and requests borne of differing realities. Inevitably, each community will have its sets of realities, practices, and needs, which may give rise to reasons for learning. In this event, the curriculum development, teaching and materials development should be organized around these particular literacies.
Given the perceptions regarding curriculum development, as well as the pleasure of having shiny new materials bound to perfection, there may be pressure, from without and within, to produce pre-packaged materials, in adherence to an academic norm which is rarely questioned. We should not adhere to this because the empowerment and nurturance of women through an education that addresses unfolding needs can only be addressed by developing a program specifically for them, taking into accounts their needs, specific situations, and realities.
The recommendations below are geared towards the revision of current material and the creation and development of new material in response to specific community needs:
The Integrated Lesson Plan
The use of an integrated lesson plan as a guide informs the development of a comprehensive plan including reinforcement, extension and enrichment activities. It provides for the fleshing out of general and specific objectives, matching these with activities to concretely achieve expected learning outcomes within target timetables, and the developing discussion questions and aids. Of course, the format should be adapted to serve the needs of the learners within an informal education setting.
The parts of an integrated lesson plan are the following:
- General – overarching targets usually stated in value terms;
- Specific – outlines the specific, quantifiable, and measurable skills that will be used in order to achieve the general objective;
- May be given weeks in advance or the day before the lesson (depends on the content involved);
- Can be used as prior motivation in order to spark interest in whatever will be discussed during the next session;
- Activating the learner’s schema or prior knowledge by means of a motive question;
- Also referred to as a “springboard” question: something designed to activate the student’s prior knowledge and understanding by posing a question on a familiar or interesting topic;
- The ensuing discussion is intended to provide a smoother and more dynamic transition into the formal topic for the day;
- First stage involves mainly first level questions using who, what, where, and when to thresh out details;
- Next stage involves higher-level thinking skills that focus on why and how questions;
- Points threshed out during discussion are further developed by using a variety of class activities designed to highlight the lesson’s objectives;
- Communicative in-classroom activities that may be planned for either small (in pairs or threes) or big student groupings;
- Can also be used as basis for individual or group projects;
- Wrap-up; review of the lesson’s most interesting and important points;
- End the lesson for the day
- Other activities or materials related to the day’s lesson that the teacher can offer students who might be interested in finding out more via independent study
Records of Feedback and Requests of LITNUM Learners and Lesson Design Decisions of Teachers
It would have been ideal to have the notes of the past LITNUM teachers on feedback and requests of the learners regarding the lessons. The information on the directions they may have proposed to take and their comments on the program along with teachers’ decisions based on learners’ feedback would have been a great addition to the training manual “bank” and would have served well as references for the development of new manuals. As such, future teachers should document and contribute this information to help inform the continuing development of adult literacy materials.
Specific Cultural / Community Features of the LITNUM Materials
The incorporation of cultural and community practices, vocabulary, experiences and issues (such as the inclusion of cultural language cues and symbols) is commendable. However, the planners and teachers must take care to highlight these areas when using and adapting the manuals for use with other groups or communities. It is quite possible for cultural or community features incorporated in previous manuals not to be compatible with other groups or communities. Given the emphasis of a social inclusion and development of lessons for specific needs, care must be taken not to mistakenly use the previously incorporated features, or assume that the groups may share these features.
I suggest that a version of the manuals without the previously incorporated cultural and community practices, vocabulary, experiences and issues (or with these highlighted) be produced so that the blanks can be filled for the new group or community.
Some of the data also provided need to be updated. Perhaps the teachers and the learners can be enjoined to contribute to the updated figures.
The Training of Parateachers
The CWR had been quite fortunate for having found former parateachers whose hearts were in the right place and whose minds groped their ways successfully in feedback-based teaching. Based on accounts of parateachers in my meeting with them, they were able to find ways to overcome the challenges in teaching that they encountered. Thus, teaching training is imperative to optimize not only learning encounters but also the impacts the teachers will have on the development of new manuals. As such, the teachers should attend training sessions to equip them with the necessary tools for teaching adult classes as informed paraeducators:
- Teaching adult learners – the overall philosophy;
- Teaching and feminist counselling strategies;
- Engaging and sneakily effective activities and games;
- Recognizing and seizing “teachable moments”;
- Fostering an emotionally-safe learning environment; and
- Developing the literacy curriculum in collaboration with the adult learners.