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Dr. Vicky Duckworth has developed considerable expertise in Adult Literacy and Education and is deeply committed to challenging inequality through critical and emancipatory approaches to education, widening participation, inclusion, community action and engaging in research with a strong social justice agenda. She has drawn on a critical perspective, applying Bourdieu's work as the theoretical framework, as well as using a range of feminist, sociology of education literature on the ethics of care and critical literacy pedagogy, including the New Literacy Studies, to explore and add to the debate on the impact of violence and trauma on learning, possibilities, resistance and transformation and its link to class, gender, ethnicity and literacy (Duckworth 2013, 14, 15).
Drawing on this research, Vicky and her former adult learner Marie McNamara, were invited onto BBC 4 Woman's Hour to speak about women and literacy. In the candid interview, Vicky described how she was inspired to go into teaching adults to read and write based on her own experience of Further Education and importantly to inspire and empower adults who, not achieving at school, often due to the impact of poverty and struggling with dominant literacy, were labelled and pathologised. Listen to the interview
Vicky's research argues that class still matters and literacy is a central characteristic of social class. Vicky strongly believes that literacy, although side-lined historically in sociological analysis and needs, should be placed central to the debate on class analysis and importantly that policies designed to improve literacy are tightly bound to challenging poverty. By addressing low literacy in national policy, the UK and beyond, Vicky argues that this has the potential to more fully engage with the causes of inter-generational cycles of poverty and to improve the experience of poverty over people’s life. Low levels of literacy and living in poverty create a mutually reinforcing cycle that is difficult to rupture, which was exposed in her ethnographic study of sixteen adult basic skills learners living in the North West of England (Duckworth, 2013, 14).
Most recently Vicky co-explored the gradual evolution of Adult Literacy policy in the UK from the 70s to the current decade; drawing on philosophical, sociological and economic frames of reference from local, national and International perspectives, and the application of empirical data. The research argues that the value position of instrumentalism, driven by the now dominant human capital philosophy, has gradually taken control of adult literacy policy and its attendant practice. An alternative curriculum is offered; a transformative model that presents a more socially just different value position (Ade-Ojo and Duckworth 2015).