16 November 2022

UniSA Education Futures Visiting Research Fellowship Program supported by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Enterprise, and sponsored by Dr Mark Irwin and Mr Ross Ermidis, proudly present a Keynote Lecture by Alan Howe

The spoken language in England has been shamefully neglected’. So wrote Andrew Wilkinson in 1965 in the short publication in which he introduced the term ‘oracy’. Since then, oracy has been through peaks and troughs in its profile in schools and in educational policy. Currently it is undergoing a revival. More schools recognise the centrality of talk as a means of learning, underpinning written literacy development and wider educational attainment and also as a set of skills that need to be explicitly taught. The recent pandemic has thrown the importance of dialogue, discussion and conversation for young people’s social and emotional health into sharp relief. National educational policy has regarded oracy at times as worthy of attention but at others as a sideline, largely irrelevant to the core business of schools.

Alan Howe has been involved in various roles as a teacher, project leader, adviser, and National Strategies leader in England for much of the recent history of oracy since the word was invented in 1965. This keynote will present a short history of oracy, its origins and development/treatment over the past 50+ years along with some reference to earlier attitudes to spoken language in schools. How has the spoken word been treated in education, both in terms of classroom practice and wider policy? What can we learn from the past to take forwards if the recent revival of oracy is to be maintained and sustained?.

Biography: Alan started work in 1974 as a secondary English teacher in Kent, followed by three years in north-west Victoria, before returning to the UK to teach at an upper school in Swindon, Wiltshire. He has worked for nearly forty years at the forefront of educational change and improvement in the UK as a Local Authority Adviser and Inspector, and with the National Strategies (2000-2011) as a Senior Director, leading initiatives for both primary and secondary phases in literacy and English teaching, assessment, and teaching and learning.

As Director of the Wiltshire Oracy Project (1983-88) and National Oracy Project (1988-1992) he was part of the first significant movement in the UK to establish oracy as a major educational initiative. He has specialist expertise in supporting whole school approaches to improve teaching and learning, developing literacy across the curriculum, and English teaching, curriculum and assessment, and has written, published and presented widely about English, and language and learning in education.

Alan now works as an independent consultant, and is an Associate with ‘Oracy Cambridge’, the Hughes Hall Centre for Effective Spoken Communication at the University of Cambridge, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of effective spoken communication, and ways that it can be taught and learned, amongst policy makers and practitioners, within the UK and internationally.

In 2017-19, Alan worked with the Ministry of Education in Brunei Darassalam on the establishment of large-scale literacy and numeracy reform programme and also in Australia where he engaged in a month-long residency running an intensive coaching programme for oracy with a school in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. He is currently working on a number of long-term oracy programmes, including a three-year project in north-east Scotland with 14 secondary schools. He has particular interests in promoting dialogic teaching and learning as a key component in oracy education; in exploring what ‘progression in oracy’ entails; and in using coaching as an effective approach when working with teachers on oracy-related professional learning.

Impact for South Australia

  • Share world-leading expertise in relation to oracy education and dialogic teaching and learning.
  • Support the development of oracy education in South Australian schools.
  • Establish an ongoing relationship between UniSA and Oracy Cambridge to support research and professional development.
  • Provide international perspectives on educational change and improvement.
  • Provide mentoring for early career researchers and teacher educators at UniSA.