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Research in Practice: Learning through experience

Research in practice (RiP) is the term used in the adult literacy field in Canada for research by practitioners in the field. It is usually done to improve practice – to make a difference for adult learners. It is also a way to name, document and share practitioners’ and learners’ knowledge and experience. RiP can also be an opportunity for practitioners to step back from our work, take stock and reflect. This process often results in personal learning and growth, which also contributes to improved practice. In this section we also include relevant applied research carried out by educators outside the literacy field.

RiP is particularly valuable on the issue of violence and learning as it helps us to focus on an area that is often ignored, and to develop new understanding and approaches.

Below are links to reports and manuals based on research where educators and researchers have explored how to address the impacts of violence on learning and the difference it makes when we do so.

Anxiety in the Maths Classroom (2013) (PDF file)

One practitioner challenged herself to learn something that gave her great anxiety – basic math! Here is her report on what happened in that community college classroom: a reflection on the mechanics of anxiety as it plays out in her attempts to learn, and an analysis of teaching strategies to support learning in the face of these challenges. It is also an ethical reflection on boundaries, vulnerabilities and power dynamics in adult learning environments.

Report on Helping Myself Learn Pilot Course (2011) (PDF file)

A chance to read about the difference that addressing the impact of violence on learning in the classroom can make. Can 10 weeks of 2 hours a week classes using the student kit Helping Myself Learn, help students to improve their Essential Skills – especially those of Thinking and Working with Others? The answer is a resounding yes – and the details of students reflections in Lee Delaino's report make fascinating reading.

Marginalized women and apprenticeship training: Investigating a high-support model (2009) (PDF file)

This study was a careful look at an exciting course designed for women who had experienced violence to prepare them to work in the gas, refrigeration and air-conditioning fields. The hope for this course was that with a broad range of supports in place, these women would be able to complete training and obtain well-paid employment – which would help them to support themselves and their children and  escape violence. The women in the program did exceptionally well. So the research was designed to explore what supports are most effective to reveal the sorts of supports that can make a difference for education for survivors of violence.

You can also read more about the innovative counselling approach used during this training in Helping Others Learn – click on working with counsellors.

Moving research about addressing the impacts of violence on learning into practice By Evelyn Battell, Shayna Hornstein, Jenny Horsman, Christianna Jones, Judy Murphy, Ningwakwe/E. Priscilla George, Kate Nonesuch, Mary Norton, Nadine Sookermany, Sheila Stewart and Heather Ward.

Research has helped us to understand the impacts of violence on learning and to identify ways to address them. How can we move this research more widely into literacy practice? This question was a starting point for research by eleven practitioners from across Canada – here they describe their research and share what they learned in print and multi-media presentations.

Topics explored include the effects of systemic violence; power relationships; mind-body learning; arts based approaches in literacy education; what literacy practitioners know about violence and learning; what people learn and apply from workshops on violence and learning; and a research model.

Violence and Learning: Taking Action (2004) (PDF file)

Includes reports by five practitioners who explored ways to break silences about violence and create environments to support learning for all. Topics include: Applying Learning to Practice; Creating safety in learning; Facilitation reflection about self-concept; Facilitating a workshop about violence and learning; and Working with adult learners in light of one’s own experiences of violence.

Take on the Challenge: A Source Book from the Women, Violence, and Adult Education Project (2002) (PDF file)

This contains the learning from a three year project where teachers from six adult basic education programs in New England all changed practices in their programs and classrooms to address the impact of violence on learning.

Two articles from the same project:

Ridgway, R. & Griffith, D. (2002). Struggles: Writing as Healing. Focus on Basics, 5(C).

Morrish, E. (2002). Reflections on the Women, Violence, and Adult Education Project. Focus on Basics, 5(C).

Research in practice about multiple intelligences:

Kallenbach, S. (1999) Emerging themes in adult multiple intelligences research. Focus on Basics, 3(A).

Try some research in practice yourself!

Each of these publications include many examples of ways to do research.

To learn more about how to take on your own study, read A Traveler’s Guide to Literacy Research in Practice (2008). (PDF file)

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