(Mis)understanding adult literacy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Adult literacy is a commonly used term, but it is often misunderstood as referring mainly to those adults who may be struggling to fully develop their skills. In part, this is a result of policy documents and research that prioritize the role that adults play in the economy and argue for the return on investment in workforce education. A broader view of adult literacy is provided by sociocultural accounts of what adults do with reading and writing in their daily lives, and how their literacy practices are associated with leisure pursuits, self-study and identity formation. Furthermore, the role that literacy plays in community building can take on an explicitly ideological dimension when adult literacy programs are part of larger social justice projects. Understanding adult literacy as a matter of both social practice and political praxis, and not just as a problem to be solved, creates opportunities to take action on a host of complex challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Education
Subtitle of host publicationFourth Edition
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780128186299
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Adult literacy
  • Contextualized instruction
  • Functional literacy
  • Praxis
  • Workforce education


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