Using a wellbeing framework to recognise, value and enhance the broad range of outcomes for learners in adult literacy and numeracy programmes

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
Post school sector
Project start date: 
January 2017
Project end date: 
March 2019
Principal investigator(s): 
Jane Furness and Judy Hunter
Research team members: 
Bronwyn Yates, Peter Isaacs, Katrina Taupo,
Research partners: 
Literacy Aotearoa


Project description

In this project, researchers worked with tutors in adult literacy and numeracy (L+N) programmes. We drew on an existing Māori wellbeing assessment framework – Hei Ara Ako ki te Oranga (Hutchings, Yates, Isaacs, Whatman, and Bright 2013) – to facilitate its use in classroom practice and extend its application in multicultural settings in order to make visible the links between wellbeing and L+N learning for diverse learner populations. We trialled an innovative combination of technologies and tools of teaching and learning to support success for twenty-first century learners. 


The project aimed to capture the broader outcomes that are important to learners in their lives, beyond the L+N skills routinely assessed as part of adult L+N programmes. The goal was to build on a framework developed for Māori adult L+N learners but not in widespread use. Locating the framework conceptually within a personal, relational and collective model of wellbeing, the project aimed to provide opportunity for tutors and diverse learners to recognise, value and enhance broad wellbeing outcomes. The project sought to achieve a meaningful and manageable process for using the framework within programmes. The project aimed to answer the following questions:

  • How can a wellbeing framework be further developed and incorporated into adult L+N programmes in ways that engage tutors and learners in broad wellbeing outcomes, and that are meaningful and manageable for them?
  • What broad wellbeing outcomes can adult learners identify as a result of their engagement in L+N learning?
  • How does the use of a wellbeing framework help learners assume ownership of their continuing learning?

Why is this research important?

The project focused on an adult learner population that is currently marginalised economically and socially. Many such learners participate in adult L+N programmes. The project helped fill the existing gap in knowledge about the broad range of outcomes adult L+N learners experience from participation in L+N programmes that enhance their wellbeing, and how to capture wellbeing outcomes in a robust and manageable way. The project also tested out the efficacy of digital technologies through combining the use of social media and teaching and learning tools in innovative ways. We have expanded the picture of the value of L+N programmes to diverse learners and their families, communities and society. We now have a clearer picture of how outcomes of L+N learning that are important to people in their lives can be captured in a meaningful and manageable way. We have an understanding of conditions that limit the usefulness of social media in adult L+N learning contexts.

What we did

In Year 1 of the project the researchers worked with Literacy Aotearoa national leaders and tutors in two of its community-based programmes. The programmes in the study were delivering L+N education through the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC’s) Intensive Literacy and Numeracy and/or Adult and Community Education funding streams to up to 16 adult learners. The existing Maori wellbeing framework – Hei Ara Ako ki te Oranga (Hutchings et al, 2013) – was used collaboratively in a distinctive way. It was conceptually located within a view of wellbeing with personal, relational and collective dimensions, allowing for diverse learner populations to identify their own meaningful outcomes. We trialled photo elicitation, social network mapping and Facebook as the foundation of a dialogic system for illuminating and garnering outcomes information. We collected data on tutors’ and learners’ experiences of these processes and the outcomes through tutor and learner interviews, classroom observations, document review and a learner survey. Data was analysed for how well the trial facilitated recognition, valuing and learner self-assessment of wellbeing outcomes and for the ease of using the project technologies and processes. Year 1 findings informed refinements to the framework and its use. The refined framework was trialled in Year 2 with the same tutors and one more at each of the same two sites. Our learning from Year 1 led us to discontinue the use of Facebook in Year 2. Instead, we focused on the efficacy of tutor-instigated regular, collaborative, discussion-based mind-mapping for linking L+N learning and wellbeing outcomes. As well, we have focused on tutors’ overt and regular linking between L+N learning and wellbeing outcomes as a natural part of classroom conversation for identifying and recording wellbeing outcomes of L+N programmes.

Key findings

  • A wellbeing framework can be embedded in L+N programmes in ways that engage tutors and learners meaningfully and manageably through tutors’ skill at bonding the group; tutor-instigated regular, collaborative, discussion-based mind-mapping on L+N learning linked to wellbeing outcomes; and overt and regular linking between their L+N learning and wellbeing outcomes as a natural part of classroom conversation.
  • Learners’ wellbeing outcomes identified as a result of their engagement in L+N learning included: accomplishment of new or enhanced L+N and other broad societal knowledge and skills; self-care; enhanced communication, whānau relationships and support of whānau; increased self-esteem, self-efficacy and sense of self-worth; belonging and whanaungatanga; autonomy and independence; and optimism and planning for the future. Benefits flowed on to family members.
  • Potential for privacy breaches and need for technology support inhibited the usability of social media for identifying and recording wellbeing outcomes.

Our partners

Our partner in this project was Literacy Aotearoa. A national organisation and the largest provider of TEC-funded L+N education for adults, Literacy Aotearoa has extensive experience in adult literacy education in New Zealand. Its 44 affiliated member organisations deliver L+N tuition to over 8,000 people, as individuals or in groups, in workplaces, homes and communities. A Kaupapa Māori organisation, Literacy Aotearoa has an explicit commitment to Māori learners within a broader commitment to all learners. Partnering occurred at two levels: with Literacy Aotearoa leaders and with tutors.

Hutchings, J., Yates, B., Isaacs, P., Whatman, J., and Bright, N. (2013). Hei Ara Ako ki te Oranga: A model for measuring wellbeing outcomes from literacy programmes. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER.


Dr Jane Furness                                                      Dr Judy Hunter

Contact details

Dr Jane Furness                                                     Dr Judy Hunter                          
07 856 2889 ext. 9232                                           07 866 2889 ext. 7712