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by Phil Bartle, PhD

1. Do Not Copy Orthodox and Traditional Methods and Content

You will be more effective a literacy trainer if you abandon the notion that there is one correct way to do things, and that way is to be found in the standard text books. If you devise your own methods and your own content, based upon local needs, interests, characteristics and conditions, (ie functional) your approach will be more meaningful to both you and those learning literacy. Maintain the principles listed here rather than copy what others have done: both content and method.

The principle invoked by orthodoxy is "This is the way it has always been done," or "This is the ‘proper’ way to do it," is merely that it is based upon tradition rather than on function. In your search for identifying words and sentences that are immediately useful, you must abandon standard text books which list words and sentences that may have been relevant to other communities.

Every community is different, so your content should be different for each community.

As for orthodox methods of learning, most of those have been devised for school children. Your clients are illiterate or semi-literate adults.

Many of your participants might have experienced a few weeks of orthodox school, and left school because they found it uncomfortable or meaningless. They would therefore be unlikely to get much out or your approach if you imitate that of schools. For those who have never gone to school, they will find nothing attractive if you set up a "school-like" atmosphere.

Look at the module on training methods. It is aimed at training mobilisers. Many of the principles listed in it are applicable here. Avoid setting up an imitation school. Emphasize "doing" rather than "listening" as the most important way of learning. Encourage discovery rather than conformity. Encourage exploration rather than discipline..

Let your participants struggle a little bit; what they learn will stick better. Do not force them to struggle so hard that they will give up; but find ways to let them say, "We did it ourselves." (See "Go.") Empowerment.

Notes on all of the above (long document)

Back to the list of principles

Back to the principles handout


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