WEA Scotland

People's Stories: a study of everyday literacies in Armadale

The Group
The project was organised by three voluntary organisations working in West Lothian: The Workers' Benefit Advice Project, the West Lothian Trade Union Council and the Workers Educational Association. These organisations are part of the West Lothian Adult Literacies Partnership. The research was carried out by a group of learners as part of a Research Skills course run by the Workers Educational Association.  

What were they trying to achieve?
The research aim was to gather an oral history of literacies in the area, following the Scottish Executive's definition: ‘the ability to read, write and use numeracy, to handle information, to express ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems'. 

How did they go about it?
The research team interviewed community centre users in Armadale from all walks of life and a range of ages, some lifelong residents, others ‘incomers'. The interviews covered topics such as experiences of school, learning beyond school, working life, experience of reading, writing, numeracy, computers, self confidence, form filling, helping others with literacies, being listened to by people in authority, and barriers to accessing lifelong learning.  

What did they learn?
The project report, People's Stories: a study of everyday literacies in Armadale, includes quotations from interviews on the above topics, as well as a full interview with one man. Some of the general observations made by the team were that people's experiences of school were mixed, but that many people continued their learning beyond school, especially through work. People engaged with literacies in many different ways, but even those who were most confident in their abilities had met others who were not so well equipped. Everybody had something to say about being ignored by those in authority and their views not being respected. People faced many barriers to lifelong learning, either having been discouraged from learning at school or home in the past, or current barriers such as public transport and caring responsibilities. 

What difference did it make?
The community researchers presented their findings to the West Lothian Literacies Partnership. It is hoped that his will inform their literacies priorities and practices in the future. 

Tim Green / Craig Finnie
Workplace Literacies Tutor Organisers
WEA Scotland
Inspire Business College
EH52 6NH
Tel:  01506 862494
Email:  c.finnie@weascotland.org.uk