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Language in the Trades: The Literacy Demands of Vocational Study Jean Parkinson Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand James Mackay Wellington.

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Presentation on theme: "Language in the Trades: The Literacy Demands of Vocational Study Jean Parkinson Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand James Mackay Wellington."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language in the Trades: The Literacy Demands of Vocational Study Jean Parkinson Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand James Mackay Wellington Institute of Technology 1

2 Reason for the study Vocational literacy practices are often invisible to both students and staff and yet are central to the success of students in relation to attainment. […] Vocational subjects may actually be more demanding in the range of literacies required for assessment than is often considered to be the case. Edwards, Minty & Miller, 2013

3 The trades that were investigated and their context Automotive Carpentry Bricklaying Plumbing ElectricalWelding

4 Method of data collection Semi-structured interviews Interviews were minutes long 20 male tutors and 1 female tutor were interviewed The interviewer was a male colleague, well known to the interviewees

5 Literacy Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening. Visual elements such as graphs and diagrams and how these co- construct meaning with reading, writing, speaking and listening. Values: “Ways of talking, thinking, believing, knowing, acting, interacting, valuing and feeling”. (Gee, 2003, p.31)

6 Trades literacy: Matching language to listener Peter: We have to remind our trainees they're actually learning trades talk which is a different language and when they explaining to a client they have to crank that back a bit and put it in layman’s terms so people can actually understand and keep up with them…you could have a client on one side of you; you could have an architect on the other side of you; you could have your boss standing behind you and you’ve got to go like that [clicks fingers] and get everyone on board. It’s not directly taught – it’s something they learn on site with their boss; it’s something they learn when they come to WelTec when we start talking compliance documentation. [It’s] reliant on the trainee being involved with these people… …and everything we do has to comply, everything we do has to meet a NZ standard, everything we do must be to manufacturers’ specifications. It’s not about taking that combi valve set out of that box and throwing the box away; it’s actually reading that box and making sure that you do it to manufacturers’ specifications because if you don’t and that valve fails …

7 Trade talk: language and identity “I reckon, like, you know, you look like a builder, you walk like a builder, you might as well talk like a builder, you know what I mean, and that way we can have a conversation, we can get into the conversation, how builders talk […] it’s the building terminology, builders have their own sort of language, and I try and get the guys to talk to me in that sort of language, similar language, you know the size of nails, the size of the timber, the grade of the timber, the treatment of the timber” Carpentry tutor

8 Trades talk: technical vocabulary Building a brick arch 1.Set up a temporary support and mark around the top edge each voussoir plus a joint. 2.Cut springer bricks to correct angle (line through striking point with string) and set in mortar. 3. Bed voissoirs, working alternately from either side, checking correct angle with string through the striking point. 4.Keep soffit joints clear of mortar for later pointing when arch support is removed. 5.Mortar all bed faces thinly when placing the key brick. 8 The vocabulary

9 Trades talk: Sub-technical vocabulary Even words that have a meaning in general use have a very specific meaning in trade use and especially in the electrical trade so when I write anything up on the board, the first time we come across a word I stop and I explain the word. […] “write down 'charge' in your book and let's discuss; have you got a meaning for it?” Electrotech tutor ‘Fix' has a special meaning in construction. Fix means attaching something. The term 'fixings' is the bolts, screws etc. Carpentry tutor

10 Trades talk: Language features Building a brick arch 1.Set up a temporary support and mark around the top edge each voussoir plus a joint. 2.Cut springer bricks to correct angle (line through striking point with string) and set in mortar. 3.Bed voissoirs, working alternately from either side, checking correct angle with string through the striking point. 4.Keep soffit joints clear of mortar for later pointing when arch support is removed. 5.Mortar all bed faces thinly when placing the key brick. 10 The language features The visual images

11 Prominent literacy practices: reading Reading course notes Reading professional texts: Codes, Standards, Specifications, Manufacturer’s instructions Manufacturers’ instructions NZ StandardsSpecifications Protection against mechanical damage General Wiring systems installed in positions where they may reasonably be expected to be subject to mechanical damage shall be adequately protected in accordance with Clause and the applicable requirements of Clauses to

12 Prominent literary practices: writing Pedagogical writing Writing professional texts Automotive: Job cards Carpentry: Builders’ diary

13 Builder’s diary – multiple purposes 1.Student assessment 2.Acquiring the habit of writing the diary – a genre important for a qualified carpenter; “Teach them now and they'll have to do it in their working lives.” 3.Keeping a record for future reference: “in 5 or 10 years’ time they can go back to that diary and say ‘how did I do it then?’” 4.Job prospects - the carpenter can prove the kinds of jobs he’s worked on: “it gives an employer a better idea of what that student has been up to” 5.The possibility of having to give evidence in court in the case of a dispute: “they are legally bound for 10 years […] they can go back to their diary and say no sorry I wasn't on that wall I was on the north wall […] if you stuffed up a wall before the leaky buildings they didn't chase down the individual builders, now it's all down to the individual builder who has worked on those particular walls.”

14 Builder’s diary: form & instruction "What we also encourage them to do is to attach photos or drawings of certain areas they've been working on as well as writing comments.” “We don't actually have a teaching class for them to learn how to write in their diaries. We teach the diary on site. I say you just need to tell me what you've done for the day and where you've done it. So that's the basics. And then it gets more detailed as time goes on.” I have copies that I've taken of one of my students that I take that I keep with me. […] you've got photos and descriptions to go with them. […] Now not that I'm showing them how to do it but I give them the examples to have a look at so that’s the only form of teaching I can give them on the spot ‘cos I don't have the time to do it.

15 Job cards: Automotive “Service advisor, she has no idea. She writes exactly what the customer said. The qualified mechanic is pretty much doing the diagnostics as he's going though the process”. “The technician doesn’t write in sentences – usually phrases or point form. Usually the office lady will sanitize it” “Basic job card reports. They must tell a coherent story.”

16 Trades talk: Speaking & listening: The role of informal talk “Trade talk is learnt in the smoko sheds; it’s learnt with the people that you trust around yourself.” “We have a lot of 'bullshit sessions' where we just talk about what they want to talk about - a new model motorbike or something they've seen in a shop or in YouTube and they also pick up the technicalities. So if new vocab comes up they can say 'what the hell's that?’ rather than not saying anything in a formal classroom” “On a Monday morning I do a round up - if they have work experience, I ask them how it went, was there any mechanical faults they could talk about.”

17 Trades talk: technical language Knowing the language, knowing the trade: Everything that I do, I always call it by its name. […] in the workshops it's all worked around that tool whatever its name is Using specific rather than generic terms: I think it's the mystery of not knowing what these terms are that's why the mortar is ‘the shit’ as they say because they don't understand it and it’s a way of covering up. Regional variation: I was taught that you use the term 'noggins' for the small bit of timber in between your studs; ‘Noggs’ was the term used. And the equivalent to it is 'dwang‘ but 'dwang' sounds too much like an Australian way of speaking so we used 'noggs'.

18 Trades talk: technical language Identity: “We have a lesson going over all the terminology of an arch, and they go 'why do we need to know this?' ‘Well because you need to know what a voissoir is; you need to know what a skewback is’ […] after a while when they're building their arch they're starting to use the terminology and they're really pleased to be using it, cos they understand it […] When they start to talk like this they are a builder, they are a bricklayer; because they know, they begin to know their stuff.”

19 Next steps More data Course notes and other reading in the 6 trades Student writing Professional writing and reading Record classroom teaching Interviews with students This will provide a closer look at: key written genres: Builder’s diary and job cards how diagrams are embedded in text and talk to co-construct meaning the vocabulary of trades talk – technical and sub-technical language Later: How can our findings be useful in trades classrooms


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