Research in education suggests that pedagogy is crucial for both improving and achieving the desired learning outcomes. This means that the success of a learning programme involves the appropriate selection and application of pedagogical approaches, methods and strategies. However, the literature on adult literacy-learning has neglected research on pedagogy in general. Many studies have focused on the pedagogy for children’s literacy -learning, thereby leaving knowledge gaps on pedagogy for adult literacy-learning. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to use the Literacy as Social Practice (LSP) and adult learning as Experiential Learning (EL) theories to explore and understand the pedagogical practices in non-formal adult literacy classes.
This study was conducted in the Katete District of Zambia and sought to answer two research questions, which were: How are pedagogical practices used in non-formal adult literacy classes? Why are these pedagogical practices used? The two research sites included the following adult literacy-learning providers: the government Department of Community Development and an NGO called Tikondane. The research participants included the adult literacy-learning centre managers, the adult literacy-learning facilitators and the adult learners. All these participants were selected purposively and their participation was voluntary. Data were collected qualitatively through face-to-face interviews, focus group discussions, classroom observations and documents.
The conclusion of this study is that the pedagogical practices in non-formal adult literacy classes in the Katete District are based on two major practices. The first practice is the participants’ conceptualisation of adult literacy which is influenced by their perception of the adult learner. The second practice is the use of pedagogical approaches, methods and strategies in adult literacy classes. The study revealed that adult literacy was narrowly conceptualised as the acquisition of reading and writing skills for the purpose of eliminating illiteracy and ignorance among the adult learners. This was influenced by the manner in which facilitators perceived the adult learner, whom they narrowly and discriminatively viewed as an illiterate and ignorant person. In terms of pedagogy, the study found that learner-centred pedagogical practices have not fully permeated the practice of adult literacy-learning in the Katete District. The teacher-centred manner in which expository and evaluatory pedagogical methods and strategies were used was inappropriate for meeting the learning goals of the adult learners. This was an indication of the facilitators’ lack of both Content Knowledge (CK) and Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) in adult literacy-learning pedagogy. The facilitators admitted to this gap in their pedagogical knowledge. This lack of knowledge implied that the untrained facilitators were assigned pedagogical tasks that they could not cope with. Therefore, it is recommended in this study that professional development should be provided to the facilitators to improve their practice so that their pedagogy evolves into an eclectic approach rather than decontexualised teacher-centred practices.