NLA Discussion: The Improved Life
wwlp at ix.netcom.com
Tue Apr 8 11:19:41 EDT 1997
LVAGeorgeD at aol.com wrote:
> Thanks, Sally, for reminding us of the importance of student writings as
> evidence provided by learners for the quality of life experienced in adult literacy programs. Still, there is the sticky issue of
"translation." If such experiences do not translate into some
quantifyable form, then what are the formats that such materials as
student writings take so that they are not translated as "merely
This discussion of quantifying (or not) gains achieved by students in
adult literacy programs has finally coaxed me out of my traditional
lurking mode on this listserv. Having recently completed two
primarily ethnographic studies of changes experienced by adult learners
in school-based parent involvement programs, I found that these methods
are vital to documenting the kinds of changes being discussed here. What
seems to be more of the dilemma is, however, where to find the long hours
needed to talk to learners and engage with them in the kind of
participatory research needed to cull out the essence of what impact
these programs make.
My experience in both studies was that the "real life" data which I
was able to collect with the help of adult participants was by no means
"soft," as many so-called empirical researchers who know little about
qualititative research methods generally claim. Not only was it
tangible, numerical, rich with meaning, and straighforward, it shed a
great deal of light on the statistical data collected by other methods.
In addition, the process itself of reflecting on what was learned with
the adult learners took them out of the object mode of being studied and
enabled them to view the significance of their gains in a new way.
I must admit, many times in the process of collecting this data I was
criticized by what I will term "traditional researchers" for the methods
I was employing. Nonetheless, the data, when analyzed and presented to
even the most statistically obsessed number-cruncher, never came into
What I would propose is that we stop worrying about the potential
criticism we may generate from using such authentic or alternative
methods to measure gains in our programs. Or whether these
methods will produce data that is understandable or meaningful.
They will. Instead, we should use these methods engage in a
reflective process with learners and practitioners and see what our
programs are doing right. Then, we can present our findings, which will
be much more powerful than we as practitioners may have ever imagined.
Marguerite Lukes, Coordinator Literacy Partners, Inc.
What Works Literacy Partnership phone: (212) 802-1113
30 East 33rd Street, 6th floor fax: (212) 725-0414
New York, NY 10016 e-mail: wwlp at ix.netcom.com
More information about the Nla-nifl-archive