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Adult educators comes together to celebrate launch of the Behavioural Research Centre for Adult Skills and Knowledge (ASK)

22nd Sep 2014

The Behavioural Research Centre for Adult Skills and Knowledge, or ASK for short, was officially opened on 17 September. The research centre is focused on using behavioural science to help tackle adult numeracy and literacy. Adults who lack literacy and numeracy skills tend to be less productive at work, earn lower wages, are more likely to suffer from ill health and experience social exclusion. ASK is a joint initiative between the Behavioural Insights Team and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills – its working title had been BIRCEM.

To mark the event, educators, academics, students and policy-makers came together at a BIT & BIS conference to discuss the challenges facing the sector. The conference was held at innovation charity Nesta’s London headquarters, where the Behavioural Insights Team is based, and attendees were invited to play an active role in developing the upcoming programme of work.

Highlights included:

  • Dr David Dockterman, an education expert at Harvard, gave the key note address entitled ‘Applying Behavioural Insights to Learning’. This engaging session highlighted how lessons from psychology and beyond can improve educational attainment
  • The ASK team gave details of the centre’s initial programme of trials, which will investigate how to motivate adult learners to sign up to courses, and stick at them.
    • One partner is the Lincolnshire Co-op, who are collaborating on a trial to encourage members to sign up to maths courses.
    • Another trial aims to encourage students to stick at English and maths courses – partners for this project include colleges from the 157 Group as well as Harvard University.
  • Trials are also in the pipeline with a diverse range of organisations, such as National Numeracy and Transport for London and lots of productive discussions at the conference laid groundwork for many more future projects.

In developing the centre’s first series of trials, the team has worked with academics from across the globe and travelled the country meeting experts to learn about the challenges those doing crucial work with adult learners face.

ASK has been provided with a 3 year start-up grant of £2.9 million from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It will conduct research and run large scale trials with the aim of producing evidence based policy recommendations. The centre’s evidence gathering will begin on a micro level: in colleges, prisons, community centres and workplaces, before moving to explore broader impacts.

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