Explicating Literacy Activities at Work: The use of ‘okay’ as an effective topic-changing device in service request calls

Ann Kelly


There is evidence from different spheres that the grounding of understandings of literacy within social practices has gradually become accepted within the adult literacy field in Australia. However, what has been not been sufficiently considered are those tacit literacies that underpin such practices in both everyday and work settings. This has been the case particularly for those literacies that are deployed through an oral communication mode in workplaces. This article offers a way of explicating such literacies by showing how the analysis of an audio-recording of a particular occupational activity, namely the reporting of a service request, can render visible particular key literacy features. In this case, such an analysis shows how the marker ‘okay’ is used in a critical way to close off segments of an interaction and to mark verbally that agreement about a particular aspect of the request has been reached.  It is argued that the use of recordings, both audio and video, for the purpose of highlighting tacit competencies has implications not only for adult literacy teachers but for trainers, assessors and curriculum developers within the broader vocational education and training sector.

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