Changing Work, Changing Workers

Critical Perspectives on Language, Literacy, and Skills

Edited by Glynda Hull

Subjects: Education
Series: SUNY series, Literacy, Culture, and Learning: Theory and Practice
Paperback : 9780791432204, 416 pages, March 1997
Hardcover : 9780791432198, 416 pages, March 1997

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

List of Tables




1. Hearing Other Voices: A Critical Assessment of Popular Views on Literacy and Work
Glynda Hull

Part I: Perspectives from the Classroom

2. Discourses on Workplace Education: A Challenge to the New Orthodoxy
Katherine Schultz

3. Pedagogical Innovation in a workplace Literacy Program: Theory and Practice
Judy Kalman and Kay M. Losey

4. "It Changed Something Inside of Me": English Language Learning, Structural Barriers to Employment, and Workers' Goal in a Workplace Literacy Program
Debby D'Amico and Emily Schnee

5. "Friends in the Kitchen": Lessons from Survivors
Sheryl Greenwood Gowen and Carol Bartlett

6. Dick and Jane at Work: The New Vocationalism and Occupational Literacy Programs
W. Norton Grubb

7. "It's Not Your Skills, It's the Text": Gatekeepers for Women in the Skilled Trade
Marisa Castellano

8. Widening the Narrowed Paths of Applied Communication: Thinking a Curriculum Big Enough for Students
Mark Jury

Part II: Perspectives from the Factory Floor

9. Complicating the Concept of Skill Requirements: Scenes from a Workplace
Charles Darrah

10. If Job Training is the Answer, What is the Question? Research with Displaced Women Textile Workers
Juliet Merrified

11. High Performance Work Talk: A Pragmatic Analysis of the Language of Worker Participation
Oren Ziv

12. Nurses' Work, Women's Work: Some Recent Issues of Professional Literacy and Practice
Jenny Cook-Gumperz and Karolyn Hanna

13. Finding Yourself in the Text: Identity Formation in the Discourse of Workplace Documents
David Jolliffe

14. Teamwork and Literacy: Teaching and Learning at Hardy Industries
Sylvia Hart-Landsberg and Stephen Reder

List of Contributors


This glimpse into factories, hospitals, other work settings, and work-related literacy programs, shows the massive changes in expectations for workers' "skills" in the twenty-first century, especially regarding language and literacy.


Changing Work, Changing Workers looks at U. S. factories and workplace education programs to see what is expected currently of workers. The studies reported in Hull's book draw their evidence from firsthand, sustained looks at workplaces and workplace education efforts. Many of the chapters represent long-term ethnographic or qualitative research. Others are fine-grained examinations of texts, curricula, or policy. Such perspectives result in portraits that honor the complex nature of work, people, and education.

For example, one chapter examines the shop floor of a computer manufacturer in Silicon Valley and shows how well-intentioned organizational changes, such as the imposition of self-directed work teams, often go awry, particularly in multicultural workplaces. Another chapter provides the history of a federally funded literacy project designed for garment workers in New York City, documenting the struggles and achievements that accompanied this attempt to prepare immigrants for alternatives to work in a rapidly downsizing industry. Other settings and topics include a community college where minority women are prepared for the skilled trades; an auto-accessory plant with a "pay-for-knowledge" training program; a union-based literacy program designed for hospital workers; and the popular vocational curriculum called "applied communications. "

Glynda Hull is Associate Professor of Education, University of California, Berkeley, and is Director of Berkeley's College Writing Programs.


"The question of what workers need to know has become big business. The workplace education world—especially its language and literacy component—has been invaded by hucksters and opportunists of almost every imaginable type—encouraged and driven on by the (often ill-conceived) policy predilections of bureaucrats eager to assist national industries and businesses to achieve competitive advantage. Activity has reached fever pitch, but all too often it lacks pedagogical soundness, and rigorous supporting research.

"This book addresses these shortfalls head on. It does so with clarity, principle, and a profound integrity. It exposes inadequate practice and provides clear directions toward improvement. If I recommend no more than one book this year, it will be this one. " — Colin Lankshear, coeditor of Critical Literacy: Politics, Praxis, and the Postmodern