MA Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy

Programme Specification

MA Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy

(incorporating Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy Teaching and Postgraduate Certificate in ESOL Teaching)

Awarding Institution: Institute of Education, University of London

Teaching Institutions: Institute of Education, University of London


This degree forms part of the Institute of Education’s 180 credit modular MA programme. The MA ALLN is an overarching programme in which discrete interim awards are nested within the one structure depending on programme participants’ needs and intentions. The Postgraduate Certificates in Adult Literacy Teaching and ESOL Teaching are offered at Master’s level and are designed to meet government requirements covering specialist applications of the professional standards for teachers of Literacy and teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in the Lifelong Learning Sector. (Validated by Standards Verification UK as the Diploma in Teaching English: Literacy; and the Diploma in Teaching English: ESOL.

Name of final award

Master of Arts (MA)

Postgraduate Diploma

Postgraduate Certificate

Interim awards

Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy Teaching

Postgraduate Certificate in ESOL Teaching

Programme title

Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy (ALLN)

UKPass code: P023520

Language of Study

The Institute of Education teaches and assesses participants through the medium of the English language. Competence in English language is required of all applicants. Programme regulations indicate the level of confidence required of each applicant and make its achievement a condition of admission.


The programme is designed for ALLN practitioners in a range of professional roles including: teaching and teacher education; curriculum development and management; advice and consultancy; and policy and quality assurance.

Educational Aims of the Programme

The aims are:

·  To stimulate participants to raise fundamental questions about the context for adult literacy, language and/or numeracy, based on up-to-date knowledge and research

·  To encourage experienced practitioners to reflect on their teaching and management of literacy, language and/or numeracy programmes and to experiment with and evaluate new modes of pedagogy and provision

·  To enable practitioners to evaluate provision critically and reflect on their practice as teachers, teacher educators, managers or policy makers

·  To develop in practitioners the skills to engage in small-scale research in the area of adult literacy, language and numeracy

An additional aim related to the embedding of ESOL and literacy teaching qualifications in the MA ALLN is:

·  To provide an effective basis for professional practice in ESOL and Literacy teaching that meets and extends beyond the statutory requirements of the standards for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status (QTLS) and the Application of the Professional Standards for Teachers of English (Literacy/ESOL).

Learning Outcomes

Expected learning outcomes are:

·  Ability to reflect critically on the teaching of literacy, language and numeracy, including functional skills; and to apply and evaluate new pedagogical approaches

·  Understanding of the political, social and economic context for adult literacy, language and numeracy, including functional skills programmes

·  Appreciation of up-to-date research in the field and the ability to use this to inform practice

·  Ability to use a range of conceptual tools and analytical skills to evaluate literacy, language and numeracy curricula, including English and Maths provision, and to assess the benefits of these for learners and their communities

·  The skills to engage in small-scale research to inform the development of policy and practice in the field

Criteria for admission

(a) Direct entry requirements:

1.  Applicants for the MA ALLN will be expected to have a good first degree and some professional experience in the field of adult literacy, language and/or numeracy .

[These requirements may not apply in the case of those wishing to take individual modules as a freestanding course.]

European or international applicants are expected to have qualifications at an equivalent level.

Those who do not meet these criteria will be considered on the basis of their Personal Supporting Statement, as part of the application process. Guidance on how this can be most effectively written is available via the web, here.

Participants completing the Postgraduate Certificate in Literacy or ESOL Teaching need to have a minimum of one year’s teaching experience and be currently employed as Literacy or ESOL teachers (or Functional English tutors) within the Lifelong Learning Sector. (Participants should also have a generic teaching qualification such as a PGCE or equivalent)

2.  Applicants who wish to take the ESOL/Literacy modules leading to the Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy or ESOL Teaching as an interim award will also have to take part in an initial assessment process as required by government regulations. In addition these applicants should hold a generic teaching qualification and be currently employed in the Lifelong Learning Sector for a minimum of two hours per week, teaching groups of ESOL or literacy learners (not one-to-one tutoring or NVQ assessing). The place of employment must be a college, training provider or similar (e.g. NHS), which falls within a government regulatory framework for QA inspection.

3.  Applicants for the ESOL/Literacy modules leading to specialist teaching qualifications will be asked to complete some initial assessment tasks to assess their language and literacy skills.

Applicants whose first language is a language other than English may be required to provide evidence of their English language proficiency. Note that applicants for the Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy or ESOL Teaching will be assessed for English language and literacy skills as part of the application process.

The Institute of Education is committed to admitting and supporting participants with disabilities and welcomes applications from them. We provide support for students with a range of conditions which have a long-term and adverse effect on studying such as: • sensory (visual / hearing / speech) impairments • mental health issues • mobility or dexterity impairments • Asperger's Syndrome or other autistic spectrum disorders • chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, epilepsy, H.I.V.) • specific learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia)

Disability and Wellbeing Support will also advise people who have a temporary mobility / dexterity impairment / other difficulty as a result of an accident, injury, illness or surgery. Every person is treated as an individual, and we invite you to contact us as early as possible so that we can consider your needs and tailor our support to meet them. This applies to all students – home, EU and international.

Mode of study

The MA ALLN is a part-time, taught programme and participants may join the MA programme at any point in the academic year.

Participants completing the Postgraduate Certificate as an interim award will need to contact the Programme Leader in the first instance.

Programme structures and requirements, levels, modules, credits and awards

The MA has a flexible modular structure, consisting of taught modules and two alternative research and practice pathways (dissertation or report). For a Master's degree to be awarded, successful completion of a minimum of 180 credits is required. (The Institute of Education uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), as a guide to support periods of study undertaken abroad and to assist student mobility. Currently it is assumed that two UK credits equate to one ECTS. Therefore a module of 30 credits would typically equate to 15 ECTS credits).

Students enrolling for the full MA in Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy either:

·  Take 4 taught modules (including at least two core modules and up to two optional modules) and complete a 20,000-word dissertation


·  Take 5 taught modules (including at least two core modules and up to three optional modules) and complete a 10,000 word report.

Core modules:

·  Lifelong Learning: Theories and Perspectives (note that this is a ‘Y’ shaped module, including both shared sessions on Lifelong Learning, and specific sessions for the MA ALLN pathway

AND at least one from:

·  Literacy, ESOL and the Learner (shared with Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy/ESOL Teaching)

·  Literacy Theories and Frameworks OR ESOL Theories and Frameworks (shared with Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy/ESOL Teaching respectively)

·  Understanding Mathematics Education (module from MA Mathematics Education)

·  Understanding Educational Research or other approved research methods module

Participants who wish to gain a specialist teaching qualification in Literacy or ESOL teaching must take three Literacy or ESOL modules, including the two Literacy/ ESOL core modules and Literacy or ESOL Learning and Teaching, which is a longitudinal module at H-level and is available only for participants meeting the specific entry requirements for the Postgraduate Certificates in Adult Literacy or ESOL Teaching. The Literacy/ESOL Learning and Teaching module explores the classroom application of the input from Literacy, ESOL and the Learner and the Literacy/ESOL Theories and Frameworks modules. Tutors give support in the form of tutorials and lesson observation feedback. Participants need to complete 90 credits for the Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy or ESOL Teaching to be awarded, including successful completion of the H level module (which would include a C level pass) as required by SVUK. Participants completing the Postgraduate Certificate in ESOL or Adult Literacy Teaching as an interim award are entitled to transfer 90 credits to the MA ALLN where they have been awarded a grade A or B at H level in the module, Literacy or ESOL Learning and Teaching.

Participants who already have a Literacy or ESOL specialism at Masters level and who wish to gain the other specialism (i.e Literacy or ESOL) may be accredited with 30 credits for the module, Literacy, ESOL and the Learner to count towards the second specialism. This means that a student who already holds a Literacy or ESOL teaching specialism at level 7 may gain the Postgraduate Certificate in the second specialism through completing two modules only: ESOL or Literacy Theories and Frameworks, and Literacy/ESOL Learning and Teaching.

Participants who for academic or personal reasons are unable to successfully complete the 180 credits required for the masters award may exit with the completion of 60, 90 or 120 credits respectively and be awarded a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma in the subject area.

Completion of a research methods module is compulsory for all MA ALLN participants undertaking a dissertation. (Accreditation of prior learning may apply but must be approved by the Programme Leader.)

Optional modules

Recommended modules include:

·  Gender, Education and Development

·  Assessment: Issues and Practice

·  Learning and Teaching for Adults

·  Contemporary Issues in English Education

·  English in Diverse World Context

Please note that all modules are 30 credits unless otherwise stated. Participants are offered support to devise a coherent MA programme on the basis of their individual interests.

Dissertation or Report

Participants will register for either a 20,000 word Dissertation or a 10,000 word Report. Those who choose the Report pathway will take an additional taught module, which must be approved by the programme leader.

The possible qualification pathways are:

·  Full Master's degree: 180 credits

·  Postgraduate Diploma: 120 credits

·  Postgraduate Certificate: 60 credits

·  Postgraduate Certificate in Adult Literacy Teaching or

·  Postgraduate Certificate in ESOL Teaching: 90 credits

Teaching, learning and assessment strategies to enable outcomes to be achieved and demonstrated

A key overarching theme of the MA ALLN is the differing conceptions of language, literacy and numeracy which underpin contrasting approaches to LLN, both internationally and among different theoretical groupings in the UK. These are the subject of much debate in the field. The theme is explored in a range of contexts and from different perspectives. Programme participants are encouraged to take a constructively critical view of their own professional contexts, including the UK context.

The international dimension of LLN is an important element in all LLN core modules. The more pedagogy focused modules study LLN pedagogy with reference to research and theory from a number of countries. The more policy focused modules examine local, national and transnational strategies for LLN in the light of contrasting bodies of theory, using case studies to further understand particular approaches to policy and curriculum.

An important complementary theme of the Postgraduate Certificate programme is that of the informed and critically reflective practitioner. Programme participants are invited to explore ways in which theory and research can shed light on their own practice. Teachers will be encouraged to undertake such practices as critical incident analysis, while in the policy focused module participants will be encouraged to reflect on their role in developing or implementing policy or managing provision.

A guiding principle throughout the MA ALLN programme is that programme participants, as experienced professionals, should be able to draw on their own experience and use this for the development of knowledge and understanding within a learning community. Whilst tutors guide debates and give overviews on key topics, ongoing self-study and collaborative working is required in order to maintain active participation in the programme. Tutors encourage participants to explore in more depth topics of particular interest to them, for example by providing extensive lists of further readings and offering feedback and suggestions on the design of research projects, assignments, reports and dissertations.

A variety of approaches to learning and teaching are used throughout the programme:

·  Tutor led overviews of theory and research

·  Individual student presentations, for example:

o  Developing an international case study illustrating policy, research and pedagogy in adult literacy, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or numeracy education

o  Presenting findings from classroom-based research on evaluating a particular learning theory

o  Reviewing a local or national strategy for LLN and evaluating its effectiveness

o  Presenting an assignment outline for group feedback and advice

·  Group presentations and debates, both online and face-to-face

·  Visiting speaker presentations

·  Tutor modelling of academic literacy practices such as critical reviews of readings

·  One-to-one tutorial discussions between programme participants and module tutors

·  In-depth formative feedback on draft assignments

·  In-depth formative feedback and dialogue on observed teaching