Professor Diana Coben PhD, FRSA, FHEA

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Director, National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults

Qualifications: PhD, DipACE

About Diana

I am Director of the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults and Professor of Education at the University of Waikato and Emeritus Professor of Adult Numeracy at King’s College London, UK.

I specialise in these areas: adult numeracy education, especially in and for safety-critical work contexts; the professional development of adult educators; and the policy and politics of adult education, viewed from an international comparative perspective.

I undertake research and consultancy, often in collaboration with international colleagues, supervise doctoral and other postgraduate students’ research, publish widely and speak at national and international conferences.

The National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults was established in 2009 to support the national effort to raise levels of adult literacy and numeracy in New Zealand, funded primarily by the Tertiary Education Commission and hosted by the University of Waikato: We build capability in adult literacy and numeracy education through research-informed professional development, research and critical engagement with policy and practice at the national and international levels. Our approach is strengths-based, evidence-based and outcomes-focused. We are guided by academic research and scholarly literature, our specialist professional expertise in adult literacy and numeracy education and our knowledge of the national and international environment in relation to our field.

Other work includes workforce development with a focus on literacy and numeracy, aligned with the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

One of my particular research interests is numeracy for Nursing and I am a member of an international interdisciplinary team investigating medication dosage calculation problem-solving (MDC-PS). There is an extensive worldwide literature on numeracy/mathematics issues in Nursing and other healthcare professions, especially in relation to drug dosage calculation, highlighting the dangers of errors and attempts to mitigate this risk. Our research and associated development work is described in depth in our ‘Safety in Numbers’ series of articles in the international peer-reviewed academic journal, Nurse Education in Practice (NEP) (Virtual Special Issue at:

I believe in bringing together researchers, practitioners and others and I was Founding Chair (and am now an Honorary Trustee) of Adults Learning Mathematics (ALM), an international research forum which promotes the learning of mathematics by adults: I was also a founding member of the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) in England

Recent Publications

  • Tout, D., Coben, D. C., Geiger, V., Ginsburg, L., Hoogland, K., Maguire, T., . . . Turner, R. (2017). Review of the PIAAC Numeracy Assessment Framework: Final Report: Review of the PIAAC Numeracy Assessment Framework:. Camberwell, Victoria, 3124, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) & OECD.

  • Coben, D. C., Weeks, K., Lum, G., & Pontin, D. (2017). Editorial: Developing nursing competence: Future proofing nurses for the changing practice requirements of 21st century healthcare. Nurse Education in Practice. doi:10.1016/j.nepr.2017.08.020

  • Coben, D. C., & Alkema, A. (2017). The case for measuring adults’ numeracy practices. Journal of Research and Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary, and Basic Education, 6(1), 20-32. Open Access version:

  • Coben, D. C., & McCartney, N. (2016). Beyond compliance: Developing a whole organisation approach to embedding literacy and numeracy. In K. Yasukawa, & S. Black (Eds.), Beyond Economic Interests. Critical perspectives on adult literacy and numeracy in a globalised world (Vol. 18, pp. 119-134). Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense Publishers.

Find more research publications by Diana Coben