In Section Four, we saw three teaching methods:

Three Teach Methods

With these three methods in mind, let’s now turn to five approaches that are not so “formulaic.” These approaches can often take learning beyond what might be considered “mainstream” teaching methods. They can be extremely helpful with our adult literacy learners, as will be seen. The earlier methods, nevertheless, are the basic “tools” we typically need to make innovation and creativity happen. To use a metaphor, we can be creative in imagining and building a house, but not much can happen without the tools.

Let’s now look at:

1. Self-Directed Learning (Andragogy): The Nurturing Approach

2. Behaviourism: The Operant Conditioning Approach

3. The Liberal Approach: Culture & Critical Thinking

4. The Transformative Learning Approach: “Making Meaning”

5. The Social Justice (“Radical”) Approach

Hoping this tools first, then on to approaches doesn’t end up being confusing…in Section Six, I try to put it all together with what I hope is a clear flow-through model. It integrates the three methods seen in Section Four with the innovative/creative approaches presented in this section. In the model presented in Section Six, you will see a start-to-finish literacy program moving from nurturing to various goal-directions learners typically take accompanied by the approaches that are presented here. While I am the first to say “No one-size fits all,” especially in the diverse, challenging adult literacy population we work with, that flow-through model, I hope, will lend itself to both one-on-one and small group tutoring, as well as classroom teaching situations. At least the model might give you some different ways to think and explore teaching approaches in your practice. As Voltaire once said: “The measure of a man should not be the knowledge he has, but the questions he asks.”

Before continuing, please take a look at our Intake Inventory. As noted previously, it is suggested you use this inventory in your first, second or maybe even your third meeting with your new learner. In any case, I suggest using it before using a placement test because the Intake Inventory can help you understand the learner’s past experiences with schooling and help clarify—even predict—what their concerns and hopes will be into the future with your program. Together with a (later) placement test, you and your new learner can start with shared knowledge of the learner’s life-story, unique hopes, and fears and anxieties from the beginning of your journey together.


Equally important, here is a way for you and your learner to discuss progress…by referring back to both the inventory and the placement test on a frequent basis, saying: “Let’s see how we are we doing…” The inventory will give on-going formative information as well as benchmark summative information to see progress. You both can see what is happening along the way from the learner’s personal sense of their own success and enjoyment compared to past schooling (remember the VVSE motivation formula); and you can compare your learner’s progress with the placement test to measure progress and discuss how things are going.

This two-part process—Intake Inventory and placement test—gives both subjective and objective data. In research terminology, you can collect both qualitative and quantitative data which gives you and your learner a far more wholistic picture than either instrument unto itself.