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Attending to resistance: an ethnographic study of resistance and attendance in an adult basic education.. Pare, Arleen Lyda 1994-12-31

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ATTENDING TO RESISTANCE: ANETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF RESISTANCE ANDATTENDANCE IN AN ADULT BASIC EDUCATION CLASSROOMbyARLEEN LYDA PAREB.A., McGill University, 1967B.S.W., McGill University, 1975M.S.W, McGill University, 1976A THESIS SUBMITFED IN PARTIAL FULHLMENTOFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF EDUCATION(Department of Administrative, Adult and Higher Education)We accept this thesis as conformingto e required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJune 1994©Arleen Lyda PareIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfilmentof the requirements for anadvanceddegree at the University ofBritish Columbia, I agree that theLibrary shall make itfreely available for referenceand study. I further agree that permissionfor extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarlypurposes may be granted by thehead of mydepartment or by his or herrepresentatives. It is understood thatcopying orpublication of this thesis forfinancial gain shall not be allowed withoutmy writtenpermission.(Signature)___________________Department of LLQk -cuCc-t-The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate______________DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTThis ethnographic study explores therelationship between student attendance andstudent resistance in an Adult Basic Education (ABE) classroom.Resistance is interpreted tomean the positive opposition to dominantcultures and discourses (of which schooling andliteracy are a part), as is described in thework of Henri Giroux. The study was conducted ina community college Fundamental ABE classroom.It documents and describes instances ofstudent resistance that were gathered through threeand a half months of videotapedobservation and twelve interviews. The initial questionfocused on how ABE students, whogenerally have marginalized identities, managed toremain in ABE programs despiteliteracy’s almost inherent thrust toward standardization and themainstream. As I pursued therelevant literature and reviewed the data, the theoretical conceptof resistance began toinfluence the research question, so that it finally became“What is the relationship of studentresistance to student attendance in an ABEclassroom.”In the data that I gathered, resistance presentedas a complex phenomenon that couldbe divided most usefully into five different categories. Comparisonsof student resistancecategories with student attendance patterns suggested thatstudents with more, and morevaried, resistance styles were the students whoattended most regularly. Most of the studentswho attended sporadically or who dropped out of the ABEprogram either demonstrated noresistance, very little resistance, or only thetype of resistance that I categorized as thewithdrawal type of resistance.11These comparisons imply that ABE teachers and programs could benefitfrom framingtheir experience of student resistanceas a positive, political phenomenon to be recognized,valued, encouraged and worked with(not against) in ABE settings. Further it suggests thatencouraging students with withdrawal type resistanceto resist in other styles might alsoencourage them to keep attending.111TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractiiTable of ContentsivList of TablesvAcknowledgementsviIntroduction1Chapter 1: Theoretical Framework6The Research Question13Chapter 2: The Literature Review15Commentary28Chapter 3: The Research Process31The Methodology: An Ethnographic Approach31The Setting31Data Collection38Chapter 4: Data Presentation41Data Analysis 41Student Demographics43Attendance Information 44Attendance Commentary45Resistance Information46Resistance Commentary52Student Profiles55Five Who Dropped Out55Five Who Attended Sporadically65Seven Who Attended Regularly 72Resistance and Attendance Compared96Teacher Interventions and Attitudes105Chapter 5: Discussion114Limitations117Directions for Future Study118Summary 118Bibliography120ivList of TablesTable 1. Resistance incidents (all)by attendance group 97Table 2. Resistance incidents (observed)by attendance group 98Table 3. Resistance incidents (interview) byattendance group 99vACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis study has been a long and evolving process.My friends and family havetolerated, sustained and advised me throughthe many months, for which I am grateful. Inparticular, I would like to thank my partnerand faithful editor, Chris Fox, who has not onlytolerated the endeavour, but has encouragedme, supported me, and helped me to clarify mythoughts as the study took shape.I also extend my appreciation to the institution, the staff andthe students of MainCollege. The generosity and acceptance of theteachers and the students in the studyclassroom was humbling, and their interest and belief inthe research was inspiring. Iespecially want to thank Kit who gave meso much of her time and from whom I learned somuch.I also thank my committee who read the drafts and providedthe advice so that thisthesis could finally see completion.vi1The idea for this exploration began four yearsago during an observation in aVancouver adult literacy classroom.’ The class wasengaged in a grammar lesson. Theteacher had asked the class fora sentence with an object and one of the students volunteeredan example. He walked to the front of the class andconfidently wrote “I seen the bus” onthe chalkboard. It seemed likea good example to the student. The teacher, however, wasconcerned; although the sentence included anobject, the verb was wrong. She corrected thesentence by crossing out the verb,“seen”, and substituting the standard verb, “saw”. Thestudent was chagrined. He stood at hisseat and, pointing to his sentence, demanded to knowwhy “seen” was wrong. He repeated his sentenceloudly and with conviction as if todemonstrate its rightness and acceptability; however,the teacher was steadfast in her refusalto accept it, even though the reasons for her refusalwere not made clear. It was simply notcorrect. Other students were also confused. Theyconsidered the original version preferableand argued for it; however, their point of view wasnot accepted. The teacher explained thatalthough they could say “I seen the bus” inconversation with their friends, it was notacceptable in literacy class. As the students filed outof the classroom for the break, theygathered around the offended student and confirmedtheir disapproval of the incident.This event left me wondering about the possible impact ofthis cultural conflict.Would the student interpret the eventas a challenge to (and diminishment of) his workingclass language, culture and identity? Would he decidethat the adult literacy classroom wasnot for him, that the personal costs weretoo great? Would this result in him dropping out?The observation referred to in this introduction occurred threeyears before I undertook this current study.2Or, alternately, would the solidarity ofhis classmates and his capacity to question and resistthe teacher’s point of view sustain him?The situation interested me because it involved the politics of identity (inthis case,working class identity) in adult literacy education. The particular manifestationobserved inthis classroom event was the politics of languageusage. Jennifer Horsman, in her 1990study of women and literacy in Nova Scotia, conflates literacy, schooling and“standard”language as a compounded form of social control. Shewrites:The imposition of “standard” language has been part ofthe process of creatinga “social police.” Thus the teaching of reading and writing has been theinculcation of a particular form of language claimedto be “standard.”Through the use of this language “the exploited classes, child and adult, havebeen induced to consent to the conditions of their own cultural subordination”(Batsleer et al. 1985, 36). Which language, or form of language, becomesthe“standard” is a matter of power. The process of imposing “standard” Englishlabels all other English “below standard” and makes “standard English” appearnot as a particular historical and class-based form of language. . . Studieswhich concluded that working-class English is a restricted code unsuitable forabstract thought have been influential, even though further studies have refutedthese conclusions. . . . Because “standard” English is the language ofschooling, literacy, for most children, has meant learninga [second] language[The student’s own language] comes to seem incorrect, which can easilylead to students seeing themselves as inferior. This domination . . .. goes along way toward explaining how school has been a place of silencing andbecoming “stupid” for working-class children from many communities.(Horsman, 1990, 12-13).Language form is only one manifestation of cultural identity. Isuspected thatalthough the classroom event I had observed wasa transparent and extreme example ofschool culture versus a student’s (working class) culture oforigin, it was not an isolatedincident. Similar cultural encounters likely occur frequentlyin educational settings, atvarious levels of awareness, and concerning other elements of culturalidentity, such as, forexample, cultural values, styles, expectations, tastes or interests.3I then wondered whether cultural conflicts in adultliteracy education might affect theattendance of an adult literacy student; and whether,within the North American experienceof high attrition rates in adultliteracy programs, various sociological conditions inthelearning context, including conditions of dominanceand difference, might be related toattendance.For decades, literacy practitioners and researchershave noted the difficulty ofattracting and sustaining adult literacystudents in adult literacy programs and have identifiedattendance as a major problem in literacyprograms. Further, the majority of adults withlimited literacy skills do not enrol in literacy education.Audrey Thomas reported that,according to earlier researchers, “especiallyat the lower literacy (or Fundamental) levelsOily one percent to six percent of thetarget population enrol in programs” (Thomas, 1990,p.5). In addition, once enrolled, many learnersdo not remain in literacy programs. “Dropoutrates have been quoted to be as highas 20 to 60 percent” (Thomas, 1990,p.5). Andersonand Darkenwald found that dropout from adultliteracy programs was four times as highasdropout from other adult education programs(Anderson and Darkenwald, 1979, p.5).Given the difficult early school experiences reportedby many low literate adults, it isnot surprising that many do not returnto school as adults. As well, if adult schoolingreplicates or echoes past difficulties, which wouldundermine adult cultural identity ordignity, then this might affect students’ attendance inliteracy programs. Michelle Fine andPearl Rosenberg “found that students whodrop out of high school came disproportionatelyfrom the social classes, races, and ethnicgroups most alienated from schools. Standardcurricula tend not to reflect their lived experiences, norprovide much encouragement fortheir pursuit of education” (1983,p. 269-270). Fine and Rosenberg concluded:4Dropping out of high school needsto be recognized not as aberrant and not asgiving up. Often it voices a critique of educational and economicsystemspromising opportunity and mobility, delivering neither. Thusfar, the critiquestems disproportionately from those least likelyto be heard.(p.270)These high school dropouts occasionally return to Adult BasicEducation (ABE)classes as adults and become adult literacystudents. Against high odds some adult literacystudents persist in programs that can intrinsically involvepersonal, cultural, and educationalstruggles for the adult student. This is particularlyso since most adult literacy students alsolead lives that are most often economicallyand socially demanding. But also undermining isthe adult literacy student’s economic, cultural andsocial marginality: their lifestyles andlearning styles are seldom reflected, sanctioned or encouraged inadult literacy schooling.In this study I will explore the issues of marginality, resistance, and ABEattendancein adult literacy education. In Chapter One, I outline the theoreticalframework for the studyand pose the research questions. In Chapter Two,I provide a chronological review of recentNorth American research literature on attendance in ABE,demonstrating the paucity ofethnographic, critically oriented research in this area. In Chapter Three,I describe theresearch process and the setting for thestudy. In Chapter Four, I present the study’sfindings. My conclusions and discussion, including implications forABE instruction, arepresented in Chapter Five.I became sensitized to the fundamental importanceof literacy in North Americansociety when my youngest son startedto have reading problems in grades one and two. Iwould try to imagine what he could do when he grewup if he never learned to read andwrite. He was bright and curious, but how would our society receivehim if he did notacquire literacy skills? Not very well, I thought.5Years of work as a social worker and years of my lifeas a feminist have exposed meto life at the margins of society.I value the margins. Years and years of schoolinghavetaught me how much education drawsus to the middle, to the mainstream of society, andhow hard it is to protect marginal identitiesin schooling environments.All of this background has lead meto this study and has influenced the particularperspective from which I view the material.6Chapter ITHEORETICAL FRAMEWORKThe Concept of ResistanceThe concept of resistance is pivotal to this study. As I searchedfor theoreticalpositions that made sense of the lives of the learners in the adult literacyprogram that Istudied, the concept of resistance emerged. It is usedby critical education theorists and bypoststructuralists’ to explain, and to shape, oppositionto the dominant status quo.I use the concept of resistance in two ways, both as it has beenused in resistancetheories proposed by critical theorists such as Henri Giroux,and as it is used inpoststructuralists’ discussions of opposition to dominant discourses.Although my use of theconcept of resistance derives from both critical education and poststructuralisttheory, I havenot privileged one over the other. I operate withinboth theoretical traditions as each senseof resistance applies. Patti Lather encourages criticalresearchers to move theoreticallyamong the three theoretical positions she views asmost useful: critical theory,poststructuralist theory, and feminist theory. In thisstudy I primarily use critical theory (inthe specific form of resistance theory) and poststructuralisttheory, both of which will beelaborated. I use feminist theory as an underlying and guiding positionrather than as anovert theoretical framework.There are several reasons for choosing the concept of resistanceto inform this study.Primarily, the issue of cultural conflictsand differences between school culture and studentcultural backgrounds lends itself to resistance theory.As Henri Giroux expresses it:Culture is both the subject and object ofresistance;and the driving force ofculture is contained not only in how it functionsto dominate subordinategroups, but also in the ways in which oppressedgroups draw from their own7cultural capital and set of experiences to develop anoppositional logic(Giroux, 1983,p.281-282)The issues of student attrition (ordropout) and persistence may be issues of oppositional,resistant action (or of accommodating action) and therelationships therein are worthexploring.Most adult literacy students have numerousobstacles to overcome in order to remainin literacy programs. Apart from the overt demandsand economic deprivations that shapetheir lives and sometimes determine whetherthey will remain in a literacy program, literacystudents also have other, less obvious struggles. Theyfrequently struggle with negative pastschool experiences and many report struggles with beingstigmatized as “illiterate.” Inaddition, they may have difficulties withaspects of current school culture (that generallymirrors white, male, middle class values and concerns),as did the students in the classroomevent I described earlier, Any one of these issuescan discourage adults from returning toschool for literacy education. As well, these issuescan discourage adult literacy studentsfrom remaining in literacy education.Many adults enter adult literacy programs onlyto leave within days or weeks. A fewleave because they get a job (Beder, 1991). For some,other life events, often pertaining tochild care or health concerns, intervene to postpone or preventtheir schooling (Thomas,1990). However, there are many who leave for whomthere are no such concreteexplanations. Neither do demographic variables provideadequate understanding of thereasons and the process of dropout. Nor is there adequateunderstanding about what sustainsthose who remain and persist in literacy programs. As theliterature review reveals, severalsurvey studies have linked demographic traits andpsychological dispositions to ABE8attendance, but little is known fromobservation studies and attendance continues to beproblematic in ABE programs.Hal Beder studied the issue of adult literacy programenrolment. Although Beder’sstudy concerned barriers to enrolment, the responseshe collected have implications for issuesof attendance oncea student has enrolled. Beder found, for example, that among thesix mostsignificant barriers to literacy enrolment, fivepertained to adults’ discomfort about returningto school. The most cited reason for not returningto school, “I would feel strange goingback to school’ (1990,p.213), indicates that low-literate responders felt theydid not belongin a school environment and that they anticipated feelinguncomfortable there.Allan Quigley, using the concept of resistancein his 1990 study of public schooldropout and adult literacy non-participation, suggestedthat student resisters dropped out ofschool because they did not want to forfeit their cultural identityor their freedom. Heargued that they choose, in the spirit of dignified resistance,to leave the schooling systemrather than succumb to its rules and demands.Little has been written about resistancein adult literacy education. Most criticaltheorizing and research has related primarilyto the public school system for children.However, because most literacy learnersare from marginalized groups and many aredropouts from the public school system(Anderson and Darkenwald, 1979), there is reason toconsider the concept of resistance in adultliteracy education. Adults with limited literacyskills come from a range of demographic backgrounds;however, in North America, most arenot from the dominant cultures. Theyare not, typically, middle-class; many are poor; manyare not white; many are immigrants whose first languageis not English; and there areslightly more women ABE students than thereare men (Beder, 1991). Further, although9there is increasing awareness and effortto make adult literacy education more learner-oriented, school has been and still is predominantlywhite, middle-class, and male-biased inits structures, processes, expectationsand content.Critical Education TheoryCritical theorists such as Michael Apple, PierreBourdieu, and Henri Giroux arguethat the school system serves the interestsof the dominant culture in maintaining itshegemonic position in society. “As part of stateapparatus, schools and universities play amajor role in furthering the economic interests of thedominant class” (Giroux, 1983 p.Z19).While this form of socialization may occur withmore impact at the elementary and high-school levels, there is no reason to believethat adult literacy students might not find thesocializing component which accompanies school-basedliteracy alienating and personallyundermining.Unlike school children, whose school attendanceis compulsory, adults who return toschooling are generally considered voluntary students.When critical researchers studyoppositional behaviours in elementary and high-schools,they are studying the behaviours ofinvoluntary (and younger) students. These oppositionalor resistant behaviours have beenbroadly identified as, for instance, disregard forauthority, testing school rules and developingcounter-cultures within the school (Willis, 1977).Adult students, however, can express theiropposition ultimately in terms of theirattendance, a mode of resistance that isnot fully available to involuntary students. Adultsmay attend sporadicallyas may involuntary students; however, unlike involuntarystudents,adults may also leave the program altogether. Thisis not to suggest that all adult literacydropout is oppositional or resistant.Further, adult resistance might take other forms within10the parameters of attendance. I raise the issue of resistancebecause it would appear thatthere could be some connection between attendanceand resistance. I also raise it as apossible or partial explanation only.Horsman reported on a woman in her study, who was unhappyabout the literacyprogram she had attended: “She found the whole process depressingand upsetting and soexercised the one power she had: She dropped out”(Horsman, 1990, p.212). Horsman goeson to explain that although other women in her studydid not drop out, they persisted throughexercising other forms of resistance which resultedin their remaining in the programs.Given the high rate of attendance difficulties in ABE,it seems useful to further exploreforms of resistance that may be associated with persistence (or regularattendance), as well asforms of resistance that may be associated with sporadic attendanceor with dropout.While it is apparent that resistance behaviour could be related to non-attendance(dropout or sporadic attendance), I also wanted to understand how studentswho remain inadult literacy programs manage to persist and attend regularly inthe face of apparent culturalconflict. Resistance theory encourages the examination of human agencywithin culture andcultural production and acknowledges the contradictions that existwithin ideologies,institutions, groups, and individuals.[When] a theory of resistance is incorporated into radical pedagogy, elementsof oppositional behaviour in schools become the focal point for analyzingdifferent, and often antagonistic, social relations and experiences amongstudents from dominant and subordinate cultures. Within this modeof criticalanalysis, it becomes possible to illuminate how students draw on the limitedresources at their disposal in order to reaffirm the positive dimensionsof theirown cultures and histories. (Giroux, 1983p. 292)Although Giroux refers above to conflict among students,I use his concept of resistance toexamine the relationships between the subordinated culturesof adult students and the11dominant school and social cultures. In particular, I am interested in examining thestudents’ capacity for resistance, onthe assumption that some forms of resistance mayreaffirm and promote persistence (regular attendance) in adult literacyprograms.Aside from shifting the theoretical grounds for analyzing oppositionalbehaviour, the concept ofresistance points to a number of assumptions andconcerns about schooling that are generally neglected in both traditional viewsof schooling and radical theories of reproduction. First, it celebrates adialectical notion of human agency that rightly portrays domination asaprocess that is neither static nor complete. Concomitantly, the oppressed arenot seen as being passive in the face of domination. The notion of resistancepoints to the need to understand more thoroughly the complex ways in whichpeople mediate and respond to the connection between their own experienceand structures of domination and constraint. . .. [Plower isneverunidimensional; it is exercised not only as a mode of domination, but also asan act of resistance. . . . (Giroux, 1983 p.289-290)Poststructuralist TheoryI also use aspects of poststructuralist theory. Patti Lather describes poststructuralismas “implod[ingj the concepts of ‘disinterested knowledge’ and the referential, innocentnotions of language that continue to haunt the efforts of educational inquiryto move awayfrom positivism and loosen the grip of psychologism on its theories and practices” (Lather,1991 p.6). Poststructuralist theory relies on the concepts of discourse and subjectivity. I usepoststructuralist theory primarily for the concept of discourse.From the poststructuralistperspective, I follow Horsman in her use of the concept of discourse, which includestheconcept of resistance, in order to speak about resistance and attendance issuesin an adultliteracy classroom. Although the concept of discourse is most widely associatedwith MichelFoucault (eg., 1980; 1982) and with feminist poststructuralist scholars (eg.,Terese DeLauretis 1986; Chris Weedon, 1987), Horsman explains heruse of the concept in thefollowing way:12When we speak of illiterates, . . . or anyother category, we have a wholecomplex set of terms and assumptionsimplied by the category that allowsusto understand what it means to be “illiterate”. . .. All of these constitutediscourse. This oral and written language isfound in and helps to shapebureaucratic processes and social relations. Inthis way it helps to form oursubjectivity, our sense of self. . . . Through my languageand actions I may beable to adapt my role and contestthe assumptions embedded in thesediscourses. But discourses which are endorsedby bureaucratic processes havea weight which in themselves will shape my life.. . . It is [the] dual sense ofbeing a subject [(l)subjected to and (2) authorof] that is crucial to discourse.People are seen neither as helpless puppetssubjected to control throughdiscourses, nor as the traditional rational individualwho makes free choices.Discourses are not monolithic. Althoughdiscourses which are made powerfulthrough institutional frameworks are an importantform of control, we can alsocontest and challenge them. As we participate in resistantdiscourses, we arepart of a process of changing perceptions ofexperience and forming newsubjectivities. (Horsman, 1990 p.22-23)Literacy learners, then, like all of us, bothresist and enter aspects of the dominantdiscourse. Their resistance, (or acceptance)of the dominant discourse will be individual, butcan reflect collective experiences andmay affect their attendance in adult literacy programs.My use of resistance assumes a sense ofdignified agency on the part of the literacy students,which I wish to emphasize in the evolution of theresearch.Feminist TheoryI also rely on feminist theory in several ways. Asa feminist of twenty-five years,feminism informs my perspective. Iam sensitive to the dynamics of dominance,subordination and resistance, especially interms of women’s experience in patriarchalstructures and this has sensitizedme to the experiences of other subordinated groups.In thisway I draw on personal experience to informmy research, and in particular, I draw on myown experience of resistance (andaccommodation) as a woman student with a feministperspective who has roots in the workingclass.13I have found that the political language regardingacts ofresistance is mainlymasculinist, often describing resistance in terms ofgrand heroism and polarization. Inopposition to this trend, in thisstudy, I also look for the subtleties (and recognize theambiguities), the small words and acts that indicate that thestudent is resisting the subtleconforming discourse inherent in the acquisition ofschooled literacy.THE RESEARCH QUESTIONIn this study, I am primarily interested inexploring how adult literacy students, mostof whom are from a variety of cultures outside thedominant and school cultures, and whoare often stigmatized and margiiialized, manage to cope with the demands,the culturalimpositions, and their own positions within the adult literacy educationsystem. I explorethis in terms of the concept of resistance, and how thestudents’ particular ways of coping,in terms of resistance, affect their program attendance.My initial question was, “Whatcoping mechanisms do adult literacy students employ inorder to adjust to, and remain in, anadult literacy program?” Gradually, resistance theoryand the concept of dominant discourseinfluenced my analysis, and my approach. My researchquestion became more firmly basedin the concept of resistance, and evolved to: “What arethe forms of resistance in an adultliteracy program; what is the relationship of resistanceto attendance in an adult literacyprogram; and does the educational environmentinfluence resistance?”In pursuing this exploration I made the followingassumptions about resistance:1) that resistance is generally a healthy responsein circumstances ofsubordination;142) that resistance can take many forms,some of which will result in persistenceand some of which will result in attrition; and3) that different students will resist differentlyand will resist different aspects ofthe school and/or dominant cultures and/or discourses.15Chapter 2THE LiTERATURE REVIEWAdult literacy has become an important issue on the agendasof politicians,industrialists, and educators in the past decade; many proclaima literacy crisis. While othersdispute the label of crisis, there is no question that literacy and illiteracyhave capturedpublic attention in North America. However, one of the most persistent adult literacyprogram problems, along with the problemof very low enrolment levels, is the equallyenduring problem of very high attrition or dropoutrates. Adult students leave Adult BasicEducation (ABE) programs in far greater proportions than they leave other areasof adulteducation.More than two decades of research literature addresses the issues surroundingattritionin adult literacy. The majority of the research, based on quantitative survey researchmethods, attempted to establish relationships between demographic, psychological or socialvariables and reasons for dropout or persistence. This body of research yielded littlesolidinformation on the phenomena; most concluded with the recommendation formore study,while acknowledging the enormous complexity of the issue of attendance(includingpersistence, sporadic attendance, and dropout or attrition)in Adult Basic Education. All thequantitative studies were restricted by the nature of quantitative researchand generallyproduced superficial demographically based resultsthat do not result in much understanding,from a student perspective, of the issue of attendance.Given that this was the case for themajority of the studies, I have presented this review ofNorth American research literaturerelating to ABE attrition and persistence ina chronological order (for the past fifteen years).It demonstrates how little research methodology,perspectives, values and categories have16changed or shifted over almost two decades. Italso reveals the gaps in the research in termsof how the question of ABE attrition has beendefined and how it has been studied.Only one author in this review is different. AllanQuigley addressed the issue ofresistance in relation to attendance and he didso using a range of adolescent literary fictionalcharacters. Despite its adolescent scope and literary-basedmethodology, I have included thisstudy in particular because of its focus on resistance andits use of resistance theory. Aswell, few researchers explored adult literacy dropout interms of the social and culturalpower imbalances implicit in adult literacy education andnone, in the following review, usedan ethnographic approach. These gaps inspired the directionof the present study.Generally, in the past literature, the adult literacy student has beenclassified andstudied based on demographic characteristics and/or on personalitytraits. In some studiesthe student’s social connections are examined; in others, thestudent and the educationalsetting were explored in relation to attendance.Jones, Shulman and Stubblefield (1978)In 1978 Jones, Schulman and Stubblefield noted that“the high dropout rate amongAdult Basic Education students isa long standing source of concern to ABE teachers andadministrators”(p.47). Their study sought to relate student persistenceto student socialsupport systems. They argued that much previous researchfocused on sociodemographic andpersonality variables in relation to persistence and thatthis type of research failed “togenerate any reliable basis for predicting whattypes of adult students are most likely topersist in such programs” (p.48). They avoided the approach of directly asking studentswhy they had dropped out of ABE programs “since thisprocedure is subject tocontamination by social pressures” (p. 48), implyingthat many ABE dropouts might not have17been comfortable telling researchersabout what they might have considered to beunacceptable reasons for leaving ABE programs.The researchers distributed two questionnaires (theAdjective Check List and theSocial Climate Scales) to 163 students initially;however, in order to be included in thisstudy, the students had to belong to three social supportsystems: work, family and church.This limited the final sample to 70 which seemedto indicate that many ABE students maynot work, belong to a church or have family.The researchers found that integration andinvolvement ii the three social supportsystems (church, work, and family) could predictstudents’ persistence, but not dramatically.They further found that social support system variables,in combination withsociodemographic variables, predicted persistence moreeffectively than social support alone,but that sociodemographic and personality variables were weak predictors.This model defined social support narrowly and interms of middle-class values; aswell, it excluded many students who were not supported.It was also limited, typically, bythe reduced sample; however, the emphasis on socialenvironments was a conceptual advanceon earlier research.Anderson and Darkenwald (1979)In 1979, Anderson and Darkenwald prepared a wide-reachingreport on participationand persistence in adult education with emphaseson various sub-groups, including ABE.They used data from the 1975 AmericanCensus and multiple regression techniques for dataanalysis,They found that ABE students are much more likelyto drop out than adults in othertypes of adult education programs. They noted that:18while such students are, in general educationally and economicallydisadvantaged, and disproportionately black, all of these factors are controlledin the regression equation and thus we must look elsewhere for an explanation.Perhaps reasons have to do with threat, difficulty, and frustration oftenexperienced by adults in these programs.(p. 27)Nevertheless, they did find that level of educational attainment is by far themost salientvariable for adult student persistence. Age, race,geographical location, and job-relatedreasons for enrolment were also significant to persistence inthis study.While Anderson and Darkenwald suggested “threat and frustration”as reasons forattrition, they did not suggest that these reasons, which are related to the conceptofresistance, be explored further. It is possible that theconcept of resistance, which may nothave been significantly recognized or articulated at the time of their study, couldbe moreuseful now in the exploration of their results.Wilson (1980)In 1980, R. K. Wilson reported on his study involving retention and dropoutascompared to personalogical variables in adult upgrading programs. Using theAdjectiveCheck List, which he administered to 142 studentsat enrolment, he compared results forstudents who persisted and for students who left. He found that studentswho persistedscored significantly higher in the categories of Self-Control, Endurance, Deference,andNurturance than students who dropped out. Students who left the program scoredsignificantly higher in the number of unfavourable adjectives they checked,as well as in thecategories of Autonomy, Change and Succorance (the needto be taken care of).Given that the school culture is different, and difficult, for most returning literacystudents, these results are interesting in terms of who is likelyto resist, and who is likely toaccommodate to, those different and difficult conditions. While those who left described19themselves as “more rebellious and hostile” (p.183), thosewho remained describedthemselves as “more obliging, tactful, diligent, practical and compliant”(p.183). Those wholeft “were seen as less socialized . . . [and] less willingto subordinate self’ (p.183). Wilsonrecommended, among other things, that peer relationshipsbe promoted to encourageattachment to the school program. While peer relationships maypromote attachment toschool, they may also encourage solidarity among culturallymarginalized students (a form ofresistance) in the school, which may also workto promote persistence.Diekhoff and Diekhoff (1984)In 1984, George and Karen Diekhoff investigated the relationshipbetween dropoutand sociodemographic variables gathered from ABEstudents at intake. They found that fiveintake variables were related to dropout in the U.S.: youth; Hispanicethnicity; unemployedbut ready to work status; lack of General Education Development(GED) completion goal;and the presence of other family members with lowliteracy skills. The Diekhoffs analyzedthe intake information of 66 enrolling adult literacystudents. However, they used only 44sets of data as only 44 students were able to present complete data.They also attempted to cross-validate theirstudy one year later. This attempt failedto demonstrate the predictive powers of the five intake variables cited intheir first study.They explained that intake procedures had changed inthe intervening year so that a waitingperiod screened Out and reduced the number ofpotential program dropouts. However, theydid find that the five variables could predict waitlistdropoffs.Lewis (1984)In 1984, Linda Lewis examined ABE persistence and institutionaland personalsupport systems. She sorted the varioustypes of reference groups and significant others into20a typology of five types, according to their level ofpositive support for ABE, and thenanalyzed their impact on the ABE students.Lewis interviewed 214 ABE students and foundsthat friends and family members weredescribed as both the most supportive (in some cases)and the least supportive (in othercases) of ABE student persistence. Teachers wereperceived to be the most importantresources for ABE students and married students felt theyreceived more support than single students.Lewis recommended that ‘significant othersinvolved in the lives of students must bewelcomed along with the student participants intothe educational setting so that they canlearn more about what is going on”(Lewis, p.78). Among other benefits, thisrecommendation promotes some inclusion of the ABEstudents culture in the ABE program.Taylor and Boss (1985)In 1985, Taylor and Boss used the personalityvariable referred to as “locus ofcontrol” as the basis for study. Locus of controlconceptualizes that individuals believeeither in internal control (that an individualcan control their own behaviour) or externalcontrol (that an individual’s behaviour isbeyond their own control or is in the control ofanother). Taylor and Boss pursued thisstudy despite poor results from fonner studies basedon the same variable. They reported thata similar 1980 study by Newson and Foxworthfailed to produce positive results because the Newsonand Foxworth student subjects receiveda training allowance which financially encouraged persistence.Taylor and Boss hypothesized a positiverelationship between internal locus of controland ABE completion. Their findingssupported this hypothesis and led them to recommendthat counsellors and teachers work with the studentswho exhibit external locus of control inorder to change the students’ attitudes and behaviours,despite their acknowledgment that21locus of control beliefs, which result fromthe reinforcements of a lifetime, would be verydifficult to change. Given the high ratesof ABE dropout, it might also be useful to analyzethe origins of locus of control beliefsto explore their relationship to student membership indominant or in marginalized groups.Garrison (1985)In 1985, Garrison investigated the predictivepower of goal clarity and courserelevance versus the predictive power of psychosocialvariables upon persistence. He foundthat persisters entered ABE with a highercompleted level of education and worked morehours on their ABE courses. He also foundthat those who dropped out of the ABE programhad clearer goals and judged the coursesto be more relevant to these goals. He interpretedthis latter anomalous finding by suggesting that thosewho left the ABE program wereunrealistic in their occupational expectations, whichled to dropout. Garrison also found thatone social affiliation variable was predictiveas well: persistence was positively associatedwith social integration at school. This last findingis supportive of the idea that students whoare more socially, and culturally,comfortable in school (ie. more socially integrated) may bemore likely to continue attending.Darkenwald and Gavin (1987)In 1987, Darkenwald and Gavinused social environment theory (from Lewin, 1938and Murray, 1936) to examine the relationship betweendropout and the social ecology of theABE classroom. Social environmenttheory assumes that behaviour is a joint product ofindividuals and their environment; they influence eachother especially in micro or proximalenvironments such as classrooms. Darkenwald andGavin used Moos’ theoretical perspectiveand his Classroom EnvironmentalScale (CES) to measure the classroom environments along22three dimensions or domains: the RelationshipDomain (to assess in-classroom support andinvolvement); the Personal Growth or Goal Orientation Domain(to assess basic goals of thesetting); and the System Maintenance and Change Domain(to assess control, orderliness,change response etc.). These three broad domainseach subsume a set of dimensions.Earlier research suggested that student dissatisfactionwas a function of discrepanciesbetween student expectation of a classroom environmentand their actual experiences in theclassroom environment. Darkenwald and Gavin citeda 1978 study by Irish that “indicatedthat in-class negative reinforcers were the most potentpredictors of dropout’ (p.154).Darkenwald and Gavin administered the CES to 91 original studysubjects in fiveABE programs. They found that the most powerfullypredictive variable was the affiliationdimension subsumed under the Relationship Domain.Students who left the ABE programwere less affiliated than students who remained. Thissupported the findings of previousattrition researchers, such as Boshier (1973), Garrison(1985), Irish (1978), and Wilson(1980).However, as with other quantitative descriptive studies, this researchis problematic:the inability to randomly select subjects; the definitionof dropout; and the attrition of initialsubjects (from 91 to 77) all lead to possible distortions in the results.Nonetheless, theindication that the affiliation variable is important withregard to persistence in ABE is ofinterest to my current study in that cultural inclusionis associated with affiliation.Garrison (1987)In 1987, Garrison again addressed the issue of ABEstudent dropout, this time usingBoshier’s congruence model and tests in concert withother socioeconomic and psychologicalvariables to compare their respective predictive powers. He administeredvarious tests to 11023adult students in tenth grade mathematics classes. He foundthat: 1) socioeconomic variableshad no significant predictive power; 2) nine psychologicaland learning setting variablescontributed to the explanation of 16.4% of dropout/persistence behaviour; and3) the Boshierself-other variable was predictive but in reverse of expectation in that persistersexperiencemore self-other incongruence than those who droppedout. However, Garrison conceded thathis study neither discounted nor confirmed Boshier’s congruence modelany more thanBoshier’s study did.Quigley (1990)In a literary approach to ABE dropout research in 1990, Allan Quigley, usingtheconcept of resistance, analyzed the lives of several school-resistant fictional characters.Although this study did not address the issue of adult attrition, its grounding inresistancetheory is of special interest for my current study. Quigley suggested that:[for] the schooling resisters in the sample, resistance meant a visible orinvisible struggle to be free within a certain values system, culture, moral set,or emotional environment not found in schooling. Their decision wasaprocess of growing awareness that a certain freedom or liberty was beingdenied through schooling and the dominant culture. They chooseto resistschooling while embracing an alternative values system. . .. (p.68)Quigley asserted that resisters are resisting the values of the dominant culture,thenormative values and assumptions that underlie schooling. AlthoughQuigley suggested thatit may be iiaccurate to assume that participants andnonparticipants are similar, it may bethat the issues of cultural marginalization that bothpotential ABE students and enrolled ABEstudents must deal with are similar. Quigley proposed that nonparticipation canbeunderstood on theoretical and ideological grounds. This implies that persistenceand attritionmay be, at least partially, interpreted on these groundsas well.24Martin (1990)In 1990, Larry Martin applied the general model of attrition developedby Tinto in1975 to the prediction of persistence and attrition in ABE programs. Tinto’smodel positsthat a student’s integration into the social and academic systemsof an educational programmost directly relates to continuance in that program which leadsto new levels ofcommitment.” Tinto based this model on Murray’sneeds-press theory (Murray, 1938).Martin further explained:[for] example, the student friendships and faculty support which resultfromsocial integration can be viewed as important social rewards that become partof the person’s generalized evaluation of the costs and rewards of attendanceand that modify educational and institutional commitments. (p.34.)Although Tinto first developed his model based on college students living in collegeresidences, Martin suggested that ABE students, like college students, mustadjust “theirbehaviours and expectations to the academic environment of the institution [while] returningto an established home/community network”(p.35).Martin surveyed an original 151 ABE students by telephone, collecting backgrounddata and information about the students’ expectations of their ABE program;59 studentsreceived follow-up questionnaires. He identified three categories: completers,persisters, anddropouts.Martin found that while Tinto’s model discriminated between the threecategories, itidentified completers most successfully. Four academic variables distinguishedcompleters:more student-instructor organizing time; more learningeffort; more favourable studentassessments of instructors’ knowledge, both initiallyand subsequently. In Martin’s study,neither social integration nor institutional commitmentvariables distinguished completers25from persisters and dropouts. Martin concludedthat completers may have had shorter termgoals that do not permit social integration or institutionalcommitment and that their initialhigher level of education allowed themto manoeuvre through the academic system moreconfidently. Persisters were found to be older studentswith fewer children under thirteen,who sought teachers’ advice more often,and who were more focused on GED completion.Martin concluded with a caveat:While this study suggests that academic integrationand short term goals arekey variables in the success of completers, it leaves unresolved the roleofsocial integration for students with lower levelsof academic achievement andlonger-range goals. This is a research and practice question of particularimportance in the inner-city where sociologists (Wilson, 1987)have observedlong-term trends of increasing levels of socialisolation among increasinglyeconomically impoverished populations. (p. 173)Beder (1990)Hal Beder, also in 1990, conducted a survey on reasons for ABE non-participation.Although his study did not focus on attrition I haveincluded it in this review because hisfindings have implications for resistance and attendance.His finding that the mostsignificant reason for individuals with low literacyskills to not return to school (the listedresponse: “I would feel strange going backto school”) was relevant in terms of studentperception of school culture and their own identities(p.213). As well, of the six mostsignificant reasons for not enrolling in ABE, fiverelated to what was referred to asdisposition. Including the reason cited above, these were: “There aren’tmany people in adulthigh school classes who are my age;” “Going backto school would be like going to highschool all over again;” “I am too old togo back to high school;” and “A high school diplomawouldn’t improve my life”(p.213-214). If these reasons, categorized hereas dispositional(implying a personal trait), were also understoodto be sociological (implying that the social26circumstance contributes to the situation) this would broadenthe meaning and application ofthis study. These chosen statements reflected discomfortor incredulity about schooling byindividuals who did not feel acceptable to, noraccepting of, the school system: they impliedthat nonparticipants felt strange, different,and removed from the educational system, andwere unable to identify with schooling. It is likelythat most ABE students have feltsimilarly prior to enrollment; most speak freelyof feelings of fear, discomfort, uneasiness,and strangeness when they enter ABEclasses for the first time. Beder’s study emphasizedthat individuals with low literacy skills do not feelat ease about school, suggesting that theyfeel marginalized by school. Because the main reasonsfor non-participation cited in Beder’sresearch are suggestive of the concept of resistance(despite their application to non-participants, as opposed to enrolled ABE students), Beder’s resultswere encouraging for thisstudy.Thomas (1990)In 1990, Audrey Thomas wrote a report for the Ministry of Advanced Education,Training and Technology in British Columbiawith the purpose of exploring reasons fornonparticipation and high attrition in adultliteracy programs in the province. Because mostABE attrition research has been conducted in the U.S.,Thomas’ report was relevant to thisstudy. Thomas noted that the issue of attrition rate,or dropout, assessment was a difficultone and, in particular, was impossibleto estimate with any certainty in B.C. For example,no ABE administrators supplied the requested attritiondata to Thomas. Thomas also notedthat there were problems posed by differing definitionsof attrition and by definitions thatimplied that leaving was a problem of studentfailure.27She distinguished between dropout,stopout (also referred to as dropin or sporadicattendance), and persistence, stating that often studentswho leave return later. Sheacknowledged that the reasons for students leaving arecomplex, but found that the mostoften cited reasons fell into either work-relatedor family/health related categories.Thomas’ findings reveal the following information regardingstudent retention: ABEstudents often lead chaotic lives and supportsare important to retain the less motivated. TheABE students she interviewed recommendedpeer counselling, tutoring, and assistance withprogram transitions. Learners said that the group andsocial interactions in ABE programswere important to them.Thomas used student quotes and ideas to enrich herstudy, one of which was ofparticular interest to this study. A non-participant said:“Education corrupts people.Educated people have their hand out for the almightydollar and they forget their fellowhuman beings. We are destroying the planet”(p. 46). This perspective clearly reveals thateducation is not necessarily viewed positively; thereare those who profoundly resist it.Thomas’ extensive study is of especial valueto this study because it was BC based(most ABE attrition research in North America isUS based), included the concept ofresistance, used the subjects’ own words,and emphasized the complexity of attritionresearch.28Quigley (1992)Most recently (in 1992), Quigley again explored thequestion of ABE attendance. Henoted that ABE student attrition was still consideredthe most important program issue in thefield, reaching rates of 60-70% in some ABEprograms.Quigley examined whether some ABE students dropout because of negative formerschool experiences. He compared persisters’ and dropouts’expectations of ABE and theirbelief in education at the time ofentrance. His findings were anomalous in that dropoutswere slightly more at ease in school than persistersand they believed more in school.However, this anomaly may be explained by his third (other) finding, whichwas that theyalso felt that they did not receive sufficient attention from teachers.Dropouts were youngerthan persisters, more likely to be loners, and more likelyto seek help more from counsellorsthan from teachers.Quigley recommended that students who appear disinterested (thepotential dropouts)need to receive extra attention in the first three weeks ofschool. He asserted:we need to further investigate the attitudes of those who persistagainst allodds . . . those who quit and try and try again and those who never come backto ABE/literacy. Thus, further research is neededto respond effectively to theexpectations of those willing to enter, to more clearlyreveal the complexdimensions of school”, and to understand better the life-long love-haterelationships so many adults, formally educated andundereducated, have withtheir past schooling. (p. 31)CommentaryMost ABE attendance research to date has been of the survey or descriptivevariety.Despite occasional contradictory and anomalousresults among some of these reviewedstudies, they appear generally to agree that those who persist in ABE programsare more29likely to be older, to seek teacher advice,to have higher levels of education upon entrance,to be interested in GED completion, and to connect sociallyin class.The main problems with these studies relate tothe difficulty of applying quantitativemethods with sufficient rigor to complex ABE issues andto the difficulty in accessing ABEpopulations. These problems include survey samplingtechniques: access to ABE populationsis limited and therefore random sample selection andsample size maintenance is notpossible. Those who leave ABE programs are oftendifficult to locate. Any follow-upresearch further reduces the sample sizes and threatensto distort results. Subjects appear tobe self-selected in so far as results come from the small number of subjectswilling to beinterviewed or surveyed. Darkenwald and Valentinestate that their study’s external validity“can only be established by replication. This is true for all factor-analytic researcht’(Darkenwald and Valentine, 1985,p.179). However, replication either rarely occurs, or, if itdoes occur, is rarely reported or is conducted with adjustmentsto the original study whichcompromise the replication. Further, contradictory findings from(adapted) duplication ofstudies, such as Garrison’s adapted duplication of Boshier’sstudy, create additionalconfusion.Thus, ABE attendance as it has been studied from theperspective of quantitativeresearchers continues to be an elusive issue. The questionsasked, the categories chosen, andthe values implied and imbedded tend to reflect theviewpoint of educated professionals.The exception is the 1987 Quigley literaturestudy on resistance. However, his use offictional data only reinforces the idea that researchershave great difficulty getting theanswers they want from the ABE students themselves.Despite the difficulties, the reviewedstudies generally support the further exploration of attendanceissues from a sociological30perspective, especially from the perspective of resistance of marginalized groups inthedominant educational environment.It is important now to explore attendance froma perspective that is more studentoriented, more contextually based, and that also questions someof the cultural conditions ofliteracy education. It is also worthwhileto move away from the problematic quantitativeresearch methodology into a qualitative, ethnographic approachthat privileges the subjects ofthe research and gives more voice to their perceptions and issues.31Chapter 3THE RESEARCH PROCESSThe Methodology: An Ethnographic ApproachThe methodology employed in this study is, unlike the methodology in the reviewedresearch, primarily ethnographic. A review of the literature on attendance confirmedthatsurvey research data about ABE students provides onlypartial information. While surveymethods are useful, they do not provide sufficient depth or understanding of complicatedphenomena; nor do they provide information on the personally and socially less acceptable(and therefore less accessible) reasons for leaving, reasons often related to resistance,boredom or frustration. Nor do survey methods provide complex informationabout whathelps ABE students to remain in ABE programs.I chose observation and interview methods because information about why individualsact in the ways they do is complex and not necessarily always fully accessible, even perhapsto the individuals themselves. The ethnographic approach allows research issuesto beexplored in context and at length; it adds both breadth and depth to thedata. The hours ofobservations and interviews create a layering of information about influences on students’actions regarding attendance.The SettingAfter I had chosen an ethnographic approach I approached my friend Kit2,whoteaches in the ABE program of Main Community Collegeat the Dover campus, and asked2All names of persons and places in this research study are pseudonyms.32her whether I could conduct this study in her ABE class. She agreedand after several weeksof presentations to and approvals from the institutions involved,I began my observations. Iinclude here a description of the research setting in orderto provide an orientation andcontext for the research findings.This description will fix the study’s findings firmly in the particularcontext thatproduced them by providing a sense of the community formedby the institution, the ABEprogram and the classrooms, as well as the population from which studentswere drawn.The study was conducted at a small satellite campus, one of five satellitecampuses,attached to a large Vancouver Island community college. The college is referredto as MainCollege in this study and the satellite campus, which isa forty minute highway drive fromMain College, is referred to as Dover campus. The relationship between Maincollege andDover campus appeared to be strained at the time of thestudy. There were ‘teachers’lounge” discussions among the teaching and administrative staff concerning theirdissatisfaction about the perceived lack of local control for Dover campus.The TownDover campus is located in the small town of Dover in a semi-rural area onVancouver Island. A large percentage of the population in the town andsurrounding areaare employed in or connected to the forest, fishing orfarming industries. Ten percent of thepopulation are First Nations peoples.Because of the semi-rural, small town setting, many of the students attendingtheDover campus ABE program know each other before meetingat the college. Although thisis usually positive, it is not necessarily so. Kit, who has beenat Dover campus for overseven years, elaborated:33Most of [the students] are born here. . . . Theyoften know each other. Likewhen they get to class they find they were in the sameopportunity class athigh school. . . . Or lots of people are relatedto each other, especially lots ofthe First Nations students are related. And otherpeople know each other andthey’ve seen each other around. It’s not that they knoweach other, but whenthey come to the class there’s a familiarface there. And sometimes it’s afamiliar face they can’t stand; sometimes it’sa familiar face that makes themfeel more comfortable. But sometimeswe have a lot of conflict betweensomebody whose family doesn’t get along with thefamily of somebody else inthe class. Or somebody who won’t cometo class because they’reuncomfortable with another person in the classbecause of something that’shappened because they were both tenants inthe same building five years agowhen they had some kind of quarrel orbecause one of them stole the other’ssister’s boyfriend, you know, that kind of thing. . . . I don’tdo a lot about ituntil one of them comes and says I can’t stand thisperson.At that point Kit offers counselling services orseat changes and encourages the student notto quit, but sometimes they leave anyway.The CampusThere are only two campus buildings; bothare small and both are less than eightyears old. The manageable size and newnessof the structures contribute to a pleasant,bright, and friendly campus atmosphere. Thecampus offers several student services. Acentral cafeteria is located adjacent to theFundamental ABE classrooms, which is managedon contract by a former college Food ServicesProgram graduate. She was particularlyfriendly and some students mentioned her as oneof the reasons they liked coming to school.Ann, one of the students interviewed said, “Oh,the people are nice, everybody; the cafeteria,when you go in there, they’re nice to you.” Dorisalso mentioned the cafeteria manager.When asked if there was anything at the collegethat helped her to come, she said, “Thepeople, and that lady in the cafeteria.”There is also a small but serviceable library oncampus and daycare is available at aNative Centre which is next to the campus. Collegestudents have priority access to daycare34spaces; however, although this is helpful, there aretoo few daycare spaces available forchildren under the age of two.One day while I was observing, First Nations speakers from Kanehsatakespent a halfday at the campus presenting informationabout the Oka Resistance, Students from the ABEprograms were given time to attend. There area relatively large number of First Nationsstudents at the campus and several First Nations ABE studentsattended this event. Iinterpreted this as indicating that the collegewas open to presentations from the marginalizedcultures that were represented in the student population.The campus ABE program employed eight staffmembers, including an ABEcoordinator and several teachers, some of whom were on part-time contract.Two teachers,Kit and Val, were the instructors in the combinedlevel one and level two ABE Fundamentalclass that I observed. Kit, the more senior and experiencedof these two teachers, wasemployed for sixty percent of her time on part-time permanentstatus and forty percent of hertime on part-time contract. Val was employed solelyon part-time contract.The ClassroomsThe standard number of student spaces available ina British Columbia FundamentalABE class is fourteen; because this was a combinedFundamental class there were twentyeight available spaces. Not all the student spaces were filled withregistered students duringthe course of this study. For the greater part ofthe winter semester (February to June),twenty-four students were officially enrolled. Duringthe study observations, there werenever more than a total of ten students present.The two adjacent Fundamental classrooms were standard classrooms. Eachroom wasequipped with chalkboards, bulletin boards (on whichwere affixed items such as group35photos, advice about school closures in snowstorms and the student check-in sheet), tablesand chairs. The smaller of the twoclassrooms (approximately 15 by 20 feet), referredto asthe Exhale Room3,also housed a row of computers againstthe west wall. This classroomwas used for quiet, individual work suchas student writing or computer work. Whenstudents worked in this classroom, they understood theywould work on their own andreceive no teacher direction. One of the teacherswas always present for assistance withspelling questions, for instance, but notto tell the students what to do. The tables in thisroom were arranged in four separate groupings,so that students could quietly consult witheach other.The larger classroom (approximately20 by 20 feet) was referred to as the InhaleRoom and was used for group learning, group projects, oralreading, films, science class,chalkboard spelling and class meetings. The tablesin this room were arranged in a large U-shape with a teacher’s table at the front and centre of the openU. Two additional tablesstood adjoined behind the left side of the U, close to the classroom entrance. Becausetheywere behind the central configuration of studentseating, students who sat at these two tableswere somewhat separated from the class. I will referto these two tables as the isolated rowin the rest of the study. A few of the studentsselected these tables deliberately andconsistently. Other students sat at the tables arrangedin the U-shape, usually in seats theychose consistently..Kit explained to me that she was influenced in namingthese two rooms by readifig Sylvia Ashton Warner.36The ProgramThis ABE class was a combined Fundamental levels one and two class.Level one isthe entry level of the college ABE program; leveltwo is the next stage of literacy learning,which is nevertheless still considered part of the Fundamentalprogram.The students chose which classroom they wantedto work in, depending on their ownliteracy skill level, and their preference for the work offeredin each classroom, from periodto period. There was a teacher expectation that studentswould work at their own skill level.For instance, if the work occurring in the Inhale Roomwas at level two, students who couldnot manage this more advanced level would do individual writing inthe Exhale Room.However, despite this expectationa student could choose otherwise. Ann, for example,always chose to be in the Inhale Room for science class despite her difficultywith reading,and especially oral reading, both of which were part of scienceclass. Although sciencereading was the most difficult, Ann’s favourite subjectwas science and this preferencedirected her choice.The program was arranged on the basis of monthly theme units. The first theme unitin the winter/spring semester was the Learning unit whichfocused on students’ past schoolexperiences and their ways of learning. This unitset the stage for discussions about schooldifficulties, which most of the students had experienced,so that school ‘failure” wasdescribed and discussed less personally and more politically.The second theme unit, for the month of March,focused on the upcoming Speak Out.The Speak Out was scheduled for April 1st and wassponsored by the Fundamental class.The students spent considerable time in March preparingfor the event. They arranged for a37luncheon, meeting space, invitations, media coverage andvideo recording. They also workedon presentations to the audience on thetopic of returning to school as an adult.The third theme unit was on a project at alocal forestry museum and the fourth unitwas on oral histories. The units simply provided thefocus for the month while the basicliteracy skills were taught in an on-going manner.The TeachersThis Fundamental ABE class was a combined class,so there were two teachers, Kitand Val. They were both Canadian born white women.Kit was the more senior teacher,having taught Fundamental ABEat Dover campus for seven years. In her late forties, shewas also slightly older than Val, who was in her earlyforties. And although Kit and Valshared the planning, teaching andevaluating, many of the methods and approaches weredeveloped by Kit in former classes.Kit had a reputation among her peers as a good teacher. Her primaryinterest was theteaching process itself and she arrangedthe details of the Fundamental class so that thisteaching process could happen most effectively. Sheexplained her approach:It is true, I do care about these people, but what Ireally care about is teachingand I think if I really cared about those people,then I might go and dosomething else. Like I might go and do community development workor, Imight, I don’t know, if I really cared about themthen I’d go into politics andtry and right the social injustices.This illustrated that, although Kit was more focusedon the teaching process, she was alsokeenly aware that ABE students experience socialinjustices because of their low literacyskills and their social and economic marginality.38Val was also interested in teaching but she was more focused on thestudents asindividuals. Her teaching experience spanneda period of twenty years, although she has nottaught continuously during that time.Data CollectionThe primary data collection methods used were: 1) recorded in-classobservations; 2)recorded, guided interviews with ten students;3) recorded, guided interviews with the twoclass teachers; and, 4) informal observations and conversations,both in and out of theclassroom.The in-class observations occurred from Februaryto the end of May, 1993. InMarch, April and May, recorded observations occurredtwo consecutive mornings each weekfor approximately three hours each morning in one ofthe two adjoining classrooms used bythe Fundamental level Adult Basic Educationclass at the college. In March and April Iobserved on Thursday and Friday mornings; in May I observedon Wednesday and Thursdaymornings, In total, .1 observedtwenty-three mornings of ABE classes.While the initial three in-class observations were recordedby hand-written notes only,the other twenty observations wererecorded by video camera and supplemented with handwritten notes.I interviewed ten of the twenty-six registered students. Thesestudents were selectedon the basis of their representativeness of the classdemographics, their availability, and theirinterest in participating in the interview. The onehour interviews were held at the school(although not in the classrooms) before or after classesand were audiotape recorded withsupplementary hand-written notes. Aset of questions was used as a guide; however, not all39the questions were asked of each student, not everystudent responded to each question, norwas each interview confinedto the question guide.Interviews with both teachers focused on personal teaching theory andpractice, on theteaching context, and on the students. Theseinterviews were also audiotape recorded andsupplemented with hand-written notes. The teacher interviewswere based on the PrattConceptions of Teaching Interview Guide developed by Dan Pratt (Pratt, 1992).Theinterview with the more senior teacher, Kit,was approximately two and a half hours, whilethe interview with Val was one hour long.Since the college was out of town for me, I also had thegood fortune of being theovernight guest of Kit each week that I observed. This closer andmore prolongedrelationship with the senior teacher provided not only a greater opportunityto gather casualinfonnation about many aspects of the research issues and context,but it also provided anopportunity to clarify, verify, and expand on information gathered in the institutional context.This added immeasurable depth to the study.In addition to these primary sources for theethnography, I also used informaldocumentation. As secondary data to my observations of attendance, I alsoused student self-monitored attendance sheets. These sheets were displayed on the bulletin board in thesmaller classroom and students were askedto check themselves present on each day theywere in attendance. There was no official attendancetaken in the Fundamental class andthese sheets served as a backup check when the teachersnoticed that one or several studentshad not been attending for a period of time. Not onlywas attendance taking notadministratively compulsory, but the Fundamental level teachers did notthink that it servedany constructive purpose. Therefore, in determiningattendance patterns, I also compiled my40own lists for the days that I observed and checked with the teachersto see if myobservations were consistent with each student’s pattern for that period of time.An additional documentary source for this studywas provided through various studentwritings. These were gathered from in-class writingprojects and from “Voices,” an ABEstudent writings magazine to which the Dover campus studentsoccasionally contributed.41Chapter 4DATA PRESENTATIONThis chapter presents the research data, providing first,a three-part introduction to thedata. In the first part of this introduction, I present general demographicinformation aboutthe student participants. The second part presentsinformation about student attendanceissues, including the definitions of attendance used in thisstudy. In the third part, I present adiscussion of resistance issues, including the definitionsused and the categories of resistantbehaviours that I developed.I next present the student research data, organized according to individualstudents. Ithen explore the relationships between a student’s attendance patternand the types ofresistance behaviours that that student displayed. This sectionalso provides informationabout teacher interventions.Data AnalysisI examined and re-examined the data from all sources (transcripts, audiotapes,andvideotapes) to elicit information about attendance and evidence of resistantbehaviours. Afterreviewing the data from every source, I transcribed all thequotations and all the descriptionsof behaviour that related to attendance or to resistance ontocoded index cards for eachstudent and for both teachers. Data that related to attendancewas transcribed onto small (4inches X 4 inches) green index cards. Data that relatedto resistance was transcribed ontolarge (4 inches X 6 inches) green index cards. These were all organized intoseparate stacksfor each student and teacher. I then organized the students into three attendancegroupingsand recorded the incidence ofresistance behaviours (see Tables 1, 2 and 3,pp.97, 98, 99)42This permitted me to observe relationships between attendance groupsand resistancecategories.Classroom observation information and casualdiscussion information was used toobtain the data for seventeen student profiles and forthe two teachers profiles. Thesesources were also the only sources used forthe information regarding the sevenuninterviewed students. The audiotape transcripts of the interviewswere used as additionalsources for information for the student profiles for the teninterviewed students and for thetwo teacher profiles.I have analyzed the research data in terms of patterns of attendanceand types ofresistance, examining the attendance patterns of seventeen students(out of a total of twenty-four) who were enrolled in this ABE class. I selected theseseventeen students because,although their attendance was not necessarily persistentor consistent, they attended enoughto give me adequate time to observe them in a meaningful way.Of these seventeen students,I interviewed ten, who were selected largelyon the basis of their availability.The presentation of the data is organized accordingto each of the seventeen students,providing for each student first, a brief profile, theninformation about the student’sattendance; and finally information about the resistancebehaviours, if any, that that studentengaged in. The data has been arrangedso that the students are grouped according to one ofthree attendance patterns (dropout, sporadicattendance, or regular attendance).The final section in this chapter discussesteaching behaviours that relate to resistance.This provides a fuller context in which to interpretstudent behaviours, which wereresponsive to the learning environment and influencedby the instructors teaching approaches.43This analysis places student resistance in relationto student attendance in adultliteracy programs. It also reveals how teachingapproaches can encourage persistencethrough positive accommodation of this importantaspect of literacy learning.Student DemographicsDuring the winter/spring semester (February5 to June 25), the Fundamental ABEclass had an accumulated total of twenty-four enrolled and attending students.This totalexcluded three who never attended, one who immediatelyadvanced to level three and onestudent who attended on five days in February onlybut whom I never observed.Of these twenty-four students, thirteen were First Nations men (seven)and women(six), nine were white, Canadian born men (five) and women (four), andtwo were SouthAsian women who immigrated to Canada from the Punjab.Ten students were from the localarea; eight had moved to the Dover area within the past ten years; and there were sixstudents for whom this particular information is not available. There were twelve womenand twelve men who enrolled in and attended this Fundamentalclass. Their ages rangedfrom the early twenties to fifty, with the majority of thestudents in their twenties and thirtiesand only four students over forty.Of the twenty-four enrolled and attending students, three left before the end of March.Maureen’s name did not appear on the check-in sheet after February(nor did I observe herafter this month); May moved away;, and Doug’s namedid not appear after the end ofMarch (nor did I observe him after this time).Of the twenty-one remaining students, Iinterviewed ten and include observation information foran additional seven, for a total ofseventeen key student participants in this study. Of thefour students who were not includedas key students, two attended only once or twice and two joined the class in the second half44of the semester. These two situationsprevented adequate research observation. Those whowere interviewed and observed were the students whowere most available and most willingto be part of the study.The seventeen key student profiles include backgroundinformation, where available,on domestic and economic situations, past schoolexperiences and current ABE status. Thisinformation provides a background for each student anda context for the attendance andresistance information that emerged for each student.Attendance InformationI have categorized student attendance into threepatterns of attendance, which coverthe range of attendance possibilities: dropout, sporadicattendance and regular attendance.These categories are similar to the categories that Thomasused in her 1990 study of ABEprograms in British Columbia.Attendance DefinitionsIn this study, the definition of attendance refers to the range of patternswithin whichenrolled ABE students either (at one end of thecontinuum) come to class or (at the other endof the continuum) do not come to class.DropoutIn most research studies, students who stop comingto classes for a significant periodof time at the end of the semester are generallyreferred to as dropouts. In this study, astudent who stopped coming to classes more than fourweeks before the end of the semesteris considered to have dropped out of school and is referredto as a dropout.45Sporadic AttendanceIn other studies, students who attended infrequentlyand inconsistently have beenreferred to variously as dropins, stopoutsor sporadic attenders (Thomas, 1990). In thisstudy, these students will be referred toas sporadic attenders. Sporadic attenders attendedless than fifty percent of the classesbut still continued to attend during the last four weeks ofthe semester.Regular AttendanceIn former studies, students who continue to attendfrequently and regularly throughouta semester or a program are often referred toas persisters (Thomas, 1990; Martin, 1990;Garrison, 1989). In this study, these students will bereferred to as regular attenders.Regular attenders attended over fiftypercent of the classes and continued to attend during thelast four weeks of the semester. In this definitionof regular attendance, I include onlystudents who enrolled before mid-semester (mid-April),because I did not get to know thetwo students who enrolled in the second half of thesemester well enough to include them orto calculate and categorize their attendance accurately.Attendance CommentaryAlthough the dominant discourse prescribesregular attendance as superior or moresuccessful than sporadic attendance ordropout, I prefer not to privilege one form ofattendance over the others with respectto the students. For some students there may bemore success in dropping out than in remaining ina class, particularly if that classcontributes to erosion of identity and self-esteem.Much depends upon the student’s own46needs and timing and calculating personal success isa more complex process then isgenerally recognized.Nevertheless, frequency of student attendance is one of the measuresof systemsuccess. Although this measure of system success may result in theproblematic tendency toview student success similarly (suggesting that what isgood for the system is good for thestudent), regular or frequent attendance is a well established andsalient measure of systemsuccess, measuring what is most measurable: that students continueto attend. In BritishColumbia institutional funding from government sources is usuallytied to student attendance,It is useful to keep not only these perspectives in mind,but also to ask how the system canaccommodate the student, rather than the reverse, for the system’sown success. Therefore, itmay be in the interest of the institution to examine how it might accommodate the studentinstead of focusing on how the student should adaptto the institution.It must also be noted that student attendance fluctuates for many reasons beyondthescope of school influence. As well, it is likely that no single reason is sufficient toexplainany student’s attendance pattern. I am interested in discovering how student resistance,inparticular, relates to student attendance. Therefore, the findingsfocus on and represent this(partial) description and interpretation of attendance behaviours.Resistance InformationThis section explores the concept of resistance as I have applied it in this researchcontext: how the Fundamental ABE students manifested resistance and how theirteachersaddressed it. It begins with the definition of resistance used in thisstudy. The presentationof the five categories of resistance behaviour that Ideveloped from the data and which47shaped my definition of resistance,follows. I used these five categories to organize therange and volume ofresistance behaviours thatI observed for each key student participant.In analyzing the data, I interpret anybehaviour that appears to withdraw from, orquestion or challenge, the dominantstatus quo of school culture, dominant culture, ordominant discourse, or any behaviour that assertsan individual’s marginalized identity, orthat makes a connection across marginalizedidentities, as resistance.Resistance: Definitions and CateoriesFor purposes of this study, I have defined resistanceas follows:Resistance is a defiant (oppositional) behavioral or attitudinalresponse of asubordinated/marginalized individual to dominance and/or exclusion, thatattempts to (re)establish the dignity of the subordinated/marginalizedindividualin the dominant situation and to mitigate powerimbalances. As such it isconsidered a political act.This definition locates student resistancebehaviours within a framework of politicalresistance, regardless of the resistant individual’sawareness of a political dimension totheir resistance. The defiant behaviour can take several forms:it can be withdrawing, whichavoids the dominant situation; it can assertawareness of dominance andoppression, often by verbalizing an understanding dominance;it can be confrontive, whichchallenges the status quo (ie. the dominant situation);it can be assertive of a marginalizedidentity; or it can be expressive of subordinatedsolidarities against dominance. In this study,the marginalized identities that engender resistanceare based on the political identitiesrelated to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and geography.The process of reviewing and organizing thedata began to shape the categories ofresistance behaviours that I developed. As I lookedat the videotapes, read the transcriptsand wrote the cards, I began to see patternsof resistance. I grouped them into five48categories: withdrawal behaviours, awarenessbehaviours, challenging behaviours, assertionbehaviours, and solidarity behaviours. Although theremay be other types ofresistancebehaviours, the data that I reviewed could allby subsumed by these five types.Withdrawal BehavioursAs I reviewed the data I saw over and over, for instance,that several studentsconsistently chose to sit in the isolated backrow seats in the Inhale classroom. Theygenerally sat alone, often attending ondifferent days from each other; they rarely spoke; andthey frequently left the classroom for longperiods of time. I began to view these repeatedsets of behaviours as resistance behaviourswhich were different than other kinds ofresistance that I saw in the classroom. I categorizedand labelled this kind of resistancebehaviour as “withdrawal behaviour.”This category includes behaviours that silently express eithera rejection of parts ofthe dominant situation or a difficultywith accepting parts of the dominant situation. Most ofthe examples of this type ofresistance behavioursrelate primarily to current school valuesand expectations. These behaviours seemto demonstrate resistance to an aspect of theindividual’s surroundings; however, thiswas not always verifiable. In this study, Iinterpreted these (usually non-verbal) behavioursas indicating resistance to a situation ofdominance. I felt it likely that the situation(or parts of the situation) may have beenimposing unwanted expectations and/orlimits on the marginalized individual or it may havebeen making the individual feel unwelcome,unacceptable or inferior and that this provokedaresistant response that was a kind of withdrawal.49Awareness BehavioursDuring my observations and in the interviews, I heardmany students speak negativelyabout situations of cultural or school dominance,past and present. Des, for instance, talkedfrequently how poor he was as a child and how badly histeachers treated him in elementaryschool. I began to view this type of behaviouras revealing a level of student awarenessabout cultural or school dominance and their own subordinatedpositions within thesedescribed dominant situations. I labelled these stories,commentaries or pronouncements asresistance behaviours of the “awareness” type.These resistant behaviours demonstrated the students’ awareness of their marginalizedpositions in the dominant discourse and their objectionto those positions. They alsodemonstrated the students’ use of their subjectivityas a source of agency to reframe theirexperiences and their socially conferred status and to establish their own worth.Awarenessresistance behaviours related primarily to certain areas of dominant discourse:the publicschool system (former school experience); the stigma of “illiteracy;” the stereotypesofpoverty; and racial and gender prejudice.The public school system was one area of dominantculture to which the ABEstudents expressed resistance and awareness of (fonner) oppressions. In thefirst theme unitof the semester (in February) the focus in the Fundamentalclass was on learning and pastschool experiences. Kit explained to me that she oftenpresented this topic as the first unit ina new year. Whether students would have felt comfortable talking about their difficultpastschool experiences without this topic’s official andearly introduction is unknown; however,it was clear that many students had a lot to sayabout the subject both in class and duringinterviews. Most of what the students said reflected theirunderstanding that they had been50mistreated by uncaring school systems; they identified deficiencies in thevalues, teachers,and policies of their former public schools. Only twostudents (Vanessa and Horace)reported positive public school experience. The studentsalso spoke with similar awarenessabout other systems of dominance they had experienced; however, theschool system wasraised most frequently.Challenging BehavioursDuring my observations, I also saw several students challengethe actions of theclassroom teachers. Usually, it was some aspect of their teaching approaches thatwaschallenged. When I noted a student directly challenginga situation of dominance, thisappeared different, more active and immediate, than the revealing ofawareness. Icategorized this type of resistance behaviour as “challenging”.This category of resistance behaviours includes behaviours that actively confrontforms of institutional dominance. Most of the behaviours occurred in the ABEclassroomsand involved resisting school related authority. However,a few of the students describedconfrontations that they had initiated in their youth.Assertion BehavioursIn this study, there were also several students who positively asserted their ownmarginalized cultural identities. Asserting a marginalized identity is inand of itself aresistant act since the dominant culture seeks to erase marginalized identitiesby denigratingor simply ignoring them. Doris, for example, talked about her FirstNations traditions onseveral occasions. In the ABE classroom, which isa dominant culture situation, thispromotion of her own cultural identity was resistant in the sense that it challenged51acquiescence to the culture of the dominant environment. T categorized these resistantactions as “assertion behaviours.”This category of resistance behaviours includes using words and actions that promotean individuals’ subordinated and/or marginalized identity.These behaviours demonstratedeither defiance about, or pride in the individual’s own educational, racial, cultural, class,geographic, or gender identities. They demonstrated thatthe resistant individual rejected thenegative stereotypes associated with marginalization. The examples challenge the student’sexclusion from the dominant culture on the basis of their marginalized identity and expresstheir insistence on having their own voice heard within the dominant discourse.Even the simple declaration of having a marginalized identity can be defiantandresistant: it demands mainstream notice and fights invisibility. The fact that all of thestudents acknowledged the marginalized identity of “illiterate” indicates that,at least in thispivotal area, they resisted, despite the hurt that that recognition could bring.Solidarity BehavioursA fifth category emerged when one or more students talked about or demonstratedconnectedness within or across marginalized identities. Although this category is similartothe “assertion” category, I categorized it separately because it was a more complicatedactivity. I labelled it “solidarity behaviour.”Behaviours that express solidarity among different marginalized identities or withinthe same marginalized identity are similar to behaviours that assert marginalizedidentitiesbut they involve collectivity. Much of the behaviour that I identify as solidarity behaviourrelates to the students’ common identity of being people with limited literacy skills. Thestudents in the class demonstrated solidarity most around the identity of “illiterate.”52Resistance CommentaryIn this chapter, I present data from both classroomobservations and interviews that Iinterpret as student resistance. Interpreting thisinformation in terms of resistance and asevidence of resistance can help educators develop alternativeperspectives for understandingpuzzling and/or oppositional student actions. Thesealternate perspectives avoid applyingpsychological explanations, which often presume student pathologies,to oppositional studentbehaviours.Positing resistance maintains a respect for thereasons that underlie oppositionalbehaviours. This position assumes that students have healthy reasonsfor avoiding school, forsporadic attendance and for dropping out. It alsoencourages educators to honour thepersistence, the sacrifices and survival strategies, includinga variety of classroom resistancebehaviours, that students who keep coming back to school must employ.If educatorsrecognize resistance and value it, they can considerways of working with resistance (insteadof against it) to help students through the process of maintaining theirmarginalized identitieswhile entering into and remaining within the dominantcultural systems that literacyacquisition generally requires. I maintain that a positiveconsideration of resistance isimportant, not only to help students, but also to help ABE change andimprove.The concept of agency is pivotal both in resistance theoryand in poststructuralisttheory. Agency refers to the marginalized individual’scapacity to change their environmentsand to control the terms of their own existence. When postslructuralistsrefer to the dualnature of the subject (as subjected to andas author of) within the concept of discourse, theaspect of authorship refers to the individual’s capacityto effect change in the discourse itself.When an individual is “subjected to,” that individual enters thedominant discourse and is53controlled by it. When authoring, agency isemployed to change circumstances; when being‘subject to,” agency is employed to changeself according to some received or accepted valuefrom the dominant discourse. Authoringreflects resistance; being “subjected to” reflectsaccommodation.Most of the seventeen key students in the study displayed resistant behaviours,someover the full range of the five categories andothers in only one or two categories. Somecategories appeared to be more associatedwith sporadic attendance or dropout. As well,both teachers often addressed resistance positively eitherby introducing it, encouraging it orsupporting it. These teaching actions (strategies,interventions and reactions) are alsopresented and examined.I consider the recognition of the positive and political natureofresistance to bevaluable to ABE instruction. Wheneducators view resistance this way it prevents them fromviewing student resistance as pathology, which demeansand victimizes students. Instead thisrecognition emphasizes the web of power dynamicsthat inform the ABE student’s schoolexperiences. This definition views resistance as stemmingfrom an individual healthyattachments to their own cultural identities.The concept of resistance . . . shifts the analysisof oppositional behaviourfrom the theoretical terrains of functionalism andmainstream educationalpsychology to those of political science and sociology. . . it has . . . a greatdeal to do with moral and political indignation . . . . [T]heconcept ofresistance represents an element of counter-logic,that must be analyzed toreveal its underlying interest in freedom and its rejectionof those forms ofdomination inherent in the social relations againstwhich it reacts. (Giroux,1983pp.289-90)54The results of resistance behaviour may have negativeor positive impacts on themarginalized individual, but the behaviour itself originatesin a healthy and political (whetherrecognized as such by the student or not) responseto marginalization.In some cases, a resistance behaviour might seemto fit into more than one category.For instance, a behaviour that could be categorizedas asserting marginalized identity, mightalso be identified as a behaviour that demonstrates solidarity. Generally,however,distinctions are possible and may be meaningful in relating kindsof resistance to kinds ofattendance.ABE students resist several dominant discourses. Resistance is complex and varied:ithas more than one face and different faces have differing consequencesfor the individual andher/his interaction with the dominant systems.In the following section, I present seventeen student profiles, including informationontheir attendance and resistance behaviours. The words and actions ofthe studentsdemonstrate the pervasiveness, the variety and the specificsof student resistance in this ABEclass. I wanted the students’ voices to convey the complexity of theircircumstances;therefore, I include many and varied student quotes. This leads theway to a discussion ofthe relevance that the different types of students’ resistance behaviourshave to studentattendance. As well, I also present the teachers’behaviours and words, which mainlysupport student resistance.55Student ProfilesFive Who Dropped OutThere were five students who dropped out ofthe class before the end of the semester:Adam, Hank, Horace, Pat and Ron. Of these five,I interviewed Adam and Horace, but notthe other three who were less available.AdamBackround InformationAdam was a thirty-six year old First Nations manwho first registered in the DoverCollege ABE program three yearsago. He was married to Jill, a student in the Native IndianTeacher Education Program (NITEP)at Dover campus. Adam told me about his wife’sprogram the first day I came to the Fundamental class.He lived with Jill and her fourteenage children. He has worked as a security guard, but his mainsource of income at thetime of this study was income assistance. Hesaid he received considerable familyencouragement to attend ABE.About his public school experiences, Adam said, “[Ihad] a lot of anger that Icouldn’t do the work, frustrated, and I was madat myself that I couldn’t do the work.” Hesaid he spent a lot of time in his public school library,avoiding the classroom. Adam wasambivalent about attending the ABE program. “It’skinda mixed up for me, school and job.I want to come to school and then no, I want to lookfor work. I’m stuck between schooland a job, eh? Last summer I was missing school,eh? Like school days I was working, soI miss school.” He also found group discussions boringand he objected to the newcombining of levels one and two in this large combinedFundamental class. Adam’s sisterin-law, Pat was also enrolled in this Fundamental class.56Adam was involved with First Nations traditions. He also continuedto struggle withfrustration in his adult life in much the same way that he described hisstruggle during hischildhood public school experiences. He still overtly located his difficulties withinhimself.In a recent piece he wrote for “Voices,”a student writings magazine, Adam wrote: “Okay,I’m talking about being frustrated with myself. It’s yourbrains, the part inside the head of aperson, which thinks and feels too. It comes hard on me, my mind.”Attendance InformationAdam initially was a sporadic attender who, although he sometimes cameto school,often did not stay in the classroom. When he was in class, he usually sat in theisolated rowbehind the central U-shape of student seating. Adamstopped coming to school altogetherbefore the end of April, eight weeks before the end of the semester. Kit thoughtthat Adam’sdropout was related to Adam’s wife’s term ending in her college NITEP program. Duringmy interview with Adam, he stated that his mother-in-law’s persistent inquiry,“are yougoing to school?” kept him coming back. However, his dropout timingdid coincide with hiswife’s program end date.Resistance InformationWithdrawal TypeAdam’s main type ofresistance behaviour was of the withdrawal type. He almostalways chose to sit in the back row of four seats which were near the door; hewas almostalways late; and he left the classroom frequently, often for long periods ata time. On myfirst day of observation, Adam explained his resistanceby telling me that sometimes he gotmad and frustrated about his reading and then he simplydidn’t come to school the next day.He said that other times, he stayed at home for awhile and then went to schoollate.57One morning in March, Kit instructed the classto compile a list of manners for theclassroom. Kit began, “I’m going to write a situation on the board: ‘cominglate.’ Whatshould you do if someone comes in late? Which roomdo you come in?” Cory answered,“The other room.” Horace suggested, “Maybe youshould change your pattern, start comingin on time.” Kit asked, “What if Adamcame in late now? How should we react?” At thatmoment Adam walked in, late. The class laughedat the coincidence and Kit explained thereason for the laughter to Adam, who smiled but lookedperplexed. Cory apologized toAdam for laughing. Adam stated unapologetically, “If I’m late, I’m late.”Cory told him,“You brought your butt in, that’s the main thing.” Adamsat beside Horace. “I’m late!”, hedeclared.Another incident demonstrated Adam’s pattern of resistance behaviours. Adam askedKit to spell “skipping out” on the blackboard duringa writing period in the Exhale room.She asked, “You’re going to write about ‘skipping out’?” Dave calledover to Adam, “Yourfavourite pastime.” Kit wrote “skipping out” on the boardas Adam had requested and thenasked whether there were other words that needed spelling on the board.Adam called out,“Annoyed.” A few minutes later, Adam packed his bag and left,saying he had to take hiscar in to the shop. It was difficult not to interpret his request for the spelling of“annoyed”as associated with a state of mind (possibly induced by the discussion of his “skippingout”behaviours) that was connected to his leaving.During our interview, Adam explained that hedidn’t like some aspects of the ABEprogram, “I don’t like. . . talking about trips all week. . . andwe talk about the same thingover and over.” I asked if that got boring forhim then and he responded, “Yeah, and I justwalk out.” During one class discussion, just beforea class film, Adam, who was sitting in58the back row, leaned back and yawned hugely.After the movie ended, he sat with his headon his arm as though he was asleep. Fiveminutes later, he left the room. These allappeared to be signs ofresistance to the (dominant) classroomexpectations. They are noless pointed for being non-verbal, but are often more easily overlooked.Adam demonstrated these withdrawal behaviours every time hewas in class. As heattended class twenty-two days during the semester, he demonstratedthese behaviours atleast twenty-two times.Challenging TypeAdam also demonstrated resistance behaviour that was not of the withdrawal type. Inone mainly non-verbal, confrontive incident Adam demonstrated resistantbehaviour of thechallenging type. This example involved my role as classroom observer. Adam arrivedlatefor class one morning in the middle of April. Heseated himself in the isolated row andnoticed that I had the video camera focusedon him. He stared at the camera, got out of hisseat, and, approaching me, asked if he could use the camera. Using role reversalasresistance to our dominant positions, Adam focused the camera on Marie, thesubstituteteacher, and then on me. “Write,’ he directed as I pickedup my note pad. He wasn’thostile but he wasn’tjust fooling around either; he waspurposeful. At this point, Marieintervened and suggested Adam join the spelling lessonat the board.Assertion TypeAdam engaged in assertion behaviour on one occasion by silently asserting his FirstNations identity. Although he did not talk about his First Nations identityin class, hearrived in the classroom one mid-April morning wearinga sky blue T-shirt, which bore thewords “FIRST NATIONS” across his large chest.59HankBackground InformationHank was a First Nations man, who appearedto be in his early thirties. He told mehe had children and Kit told me that he came froma northern community on VancouverIsland. He seemed well liked by the other studentsbut did not appear to have family orfriends in the class or college.Attendance InformationHe attended infrequently and dropped out at the end of April.Once, after aprolonged absence in March, he told me that he and his childrenhad had the flu during theperiod of his absence. Hank attended in February, Marchand April with decreasingfrequency. Kit did not have any information about whyHank had left. This was unusual asmost students who dropped out either contacted Kitto explain or else others passed on theinformation to her.Resistance InformationWithdrawal TypeLike Adam, Hank also engaged in withdrawal resistancebehaviours. He sat in theisolated row consistently. One morning I observedDoris trying to encourage Hank to joinher at a central table, reassuring himthat she wouldn’t bite. Another morning, in April, Kitasked, “Hank, are you happy back there?You want to come sit in the middle?” Hankanswered, “I’m OK.” Kit checked, “You’reOK.” Fifteen minutes later he left theclassroom. When Hank returned, one hour later,to his seat in the isolated row Kit seatedherself in the isolated row with him for the rest of theclass discussion. At the end of April,just before he dropped out, Hank entered the classroomat 9 a.m., fifteen minutes late, and60sat in the first row at the front of the class. This was the first (andonly) time I had seenhim sit in the front row. Like most of the men in theclass, Hank kept his jacket on. Kitasked Hank, “Can we find a spot for you [at the board forspelling]. Hank, we’ve got a spotfor you right here.” At 9:04 Kit ended the spelling lesson,“I think we’ll call it quits.” Hankreturned to his front row seat and picked up the orangeplasticene on the table in front ofhim. At 9:10 Hank moved to the back row.Hank did not engage in any other kind of resistancebehaviours. He attended classeleven times, always sitting in the back row and oftenleaving the classroom for prolongedperiods of time. This indicates at least elevenepisodes of withdrawal behaviour.HoraceBackground InfomiationI interviewed Horace in late May, just before hedropped out. He was a twenty-nineyear old First Nations man who left school in grade nineat the age of fifteen because, as heexplained, “I got into our traditional long house.That’s why I dropped out of school. I wasparticipating in our traditional stuff.” Although hesaid he “was quite dedicated to school,”he identified one aspect of his public school experiencethat he had disliked. He found hissocial studies teacher “a bit prejudiced” against him.“I couldn’t take in all the information Ineeded to learn the tasks because I hada poor mark in social studies on account of him.And that’s what I really blame, because I like studyingsocial studies. I really enjoyed thecourse.”Horace was married and lived with his wife and threechildren until May, 1993.Then he separated and moved in with his mother. Hesuffered from rheumatoid arthritis andhis income was largely from income assistance.61Attendance InformationHorace started the Dover campus ABE program inOctober, 1992 but dropped outearly in that fall semester, he said,because of ‘alcohol.” He added:Plus, another reason why I dropped out was Iwas kind of pissed at Val, theteacher. She didn’t really know me; I didn’t really knowher. Like I wasn’teven participating in the class. I felt likea stupid doorknob. She wasavoiding me. . . . , be that way, and I’ll be my way.’Horace interpreted Val’s behaviouras unwelcoming and excluding (“Val’s way”) andhe dropped out (“his way”) in the fall semester; however,he returned in February.Horace returned in February for a second ABEsemester. He attended morefrequently at the beginning of the semester, but his attendancefell off toward the end ofApril; before mid-May Horace stopped attending altogether,telling Kit that he would not beback. He told her that at first he could notattend because he’d broken up with his wife andthen later, because he was getting together with heragain. On the day that I interviewedHorace, he told me he was unhappyabout events in class, saying he thought some studentswere prejudiced. He dropped out shortly after thatinterview, with six weeks of the semesterleft.Resistance InformationHorace demonstrated a range of resistant behaviours. Hehad no observablewithdrawal behaviours4but he exhibited behavioursthat demonstrated awareness ofdomination, that challenged, and that assertedidentity..Although Horace’s dropout in the former fall semester could beinterpreted as a form of withdrawalresistance (as could all dropout behaviour), I have focused this study onresistance behaviour that occurs withinprogram attendance.62Awareness TypeHe implied awareness of racial oppression that he experiencedwhen he reported hisdifficulty with a former social studies teacher: “Ifound him a bit prejudiced . . . . Prejudicedagainst me, yes.” Horace also resisted boththe implication that his family who did notgraduate could be dismissed as uneducated,as well as the negative stereotype of illiteracywhen he pointed out that, “My mother didn’tcomplete school, but I do come from aneducated family.”In another example, Kit had distributed copies of her unpublished(but governmentcommissioned) booklet entitled, Learners Speak Out. The class reada student’s piece aboutliteracy learner militancy in Ontario. Kit asked the classif any of them felt militant. Horaceanswered enthusiastically, “Sure.” Kit elicited this resistant reactiondeliberately,encouraging the class to think about learneraction and militancy that they might beinterested in for their own purposes.Challenging TypeOn one occasion, Horace challenged Val when shewas trying to elicit an answerfrom the class. Val said, “Do you see the punctuation heused . . . what is that thingy heused?” Horace responded, “You tell us, Val,” as if he feltthat he was being talked down toand resented it.Assertion TypeIn an example of assertion behaviour, Horace resisteda dominant culture stereotypeabout First Nations people when he said, “I want toshow that us Natives can get all oureducation and go to university for sevenyears.”63PatBackground InformationPat was a First Nations woman in her early thirtieswho attended only during Marchand April of the spring semester. I didnot get the opportunity to interview her. She wasquiet in class; however, she always seemedto be involved. She was related to Adam, whowas her brother-in-law.She first visited the college with her boyfriend,for an ABE Speak Out, whichoccurred several years before she enrolled. She wantedto enrol at that time but her childrenwere too young. Although this was her firstsemester and she seemed shy, she spoke at thisyear’s Speak Out and told an audience of about twohundred that she returned to schoolbecause she couldn’t understand when people spoketo her, especially if they used “bigwords.”Attendance InformationPat dropped out before the end of April. Shecalled Kit in May to say that she wasin the midst of leaving her husband and that shewould return to school next semester, whenshe had sorted things out.Resistance InformationAwareness TypePat engaged in very few resistance actions; however,she did display awareness ofexclusion when she explained, in her presentationat the Speak Out, that she couldn’tunderstand when people spoke to her,especially if they used “big words.” She appearedvery distressed about the confusionthese situations caused her.64She was also aware which side she supported whenKit presented an NFB film aboutLatin American peasant rebels in class one day. She quietlystated that the rebel barbershould have killed the army captain when he had the opportunity.RonBackground InformationRon was a First Nations man in his early twenties whowas related to another classmember, Doris, his aunt. Doris had encouraged himto enrol and he attended classes inFebruary and March.Attendance InformationBy early April Ron had dropped of school. Kit learned subsequently that Ron’smother had wanted him to spend more time with her; however,this explanation seemedsomewhat inadequate.Resistance InformationWithdrawal TypeRon engaged in very few resistance behaviours except for those of the withdrawaltype. Like Adam and Hank, Ron consistently chose to sit in the isolated row, usually alone;he also left the classroom often, and for long periods of time. He attendedclass ten timesand these behaviours occurred at least ten times. Onemorning at the end of March, Dorissat in the isolated row with Ron. Kit asked, “Can you see anything over there?”Doris tiltedher head and then moved to the centre of the class. Bythe time Doris had relocated herself,Ron had left the classroom, only ten minutes after the class hadstarted.65Summary of Dropout InformationAll five students described above were enrolled in the first half of the semester,attended regularly or sporadically initially, but no longer attended classes in the lastfourweeks of the semester. All five were under forty and First Nations and allbut one weremen.Five Who Attended SporadicallyThere were five students, Dave, Gil, Darshan, Savita and Vanessa, who attendedsporadically. They attended infrequently and inconsistently,but they were still attending inthe last four weeks of the semester. I did not interview most of these students largelybecause they were often not available; I was able to interview Vanessa. Consequently, Ihave less information to present for these five students.DaveBackground InformationDave was a Canadian born white man who appeared to be in his early thirties. Hedid not seem to have family members or friends at the college. Accordingto Kit he livedoutside of the Dover community and drove along the highway for abouttwenty minutes toget to school. When Dave was in class, he was usually talkative.Attendance InformationAlthough he attended sporadically, when he returned to the class, it was as though hehad never been away. After one prolonged absence, Dave entered class saying, “I’mlivingagain, I’m living again.” He complained that a lengthybout of the flu had kept him away.Dave’s recorded attendance comprised over a third of the semester. Hewas still attending inJune, the final month of the semester.66Resistance InformationDave displayed a range of resistance behaviours: withdrawal,awareness, challengingand assertion behaviours. His main formwas challenging behaviours.Withdrawal TypeThe one example of withdrawal behaviouroccurred during an organizing meeting inthe Inhale classroom; Dave looked at length through his bookinstead of participating in thegroup discussion and then abruptly left the room fora prolonged period of time.Awareness TypeDave displayed awareness behaviour on at least threeoccasions. Dave recognizedthat he was neglected by the public schoolsystem. During one morning observation in earlyMarch, Dave satjust staring in the Exhale classroom.Kit sat down beside him and he said,“I’m lost.” Kit asked if that was how he had felt in school;he nodded yes. Kit then offeredto write what Dave was thinking. He dictated the following: “Iwas lost and then that’s whatI felt like. I was one of the lost people because thenthey didn’t give me enough help or talkabout enough.Two weeks later in the Inhale classroom, Dave spokemore generally about schools:You pass from one grade. That’s what happenedto me. Who cares if youlearn; who cares? . . . I don’t think they [formerpublic schoolteachersiactually cared if you learned anything at all. They wereactually getting paidfor a service and they didn’t care if you learned or nothing.Dave was outraged when welfare personnel expectedhis mother to start working afteryears at home. One day he explained this to the class.“And way back then the womenbasically lived in the home and did the dishes, Theydidn’t get an education to get a job.Like my mom, when my dad died, welfare wantedher to find a job. I said, ‘How can you67expect her to go out and find a job. She only hadgrade four education and was home allher life.” Dave’s anger reflected his resistanceand his understanding that welfareauthorities had not considered his mother’s (learned) dependencyand set impossibleexpectations for her.One day in class Dave commented on a feelingof exclusion (from newsprint media)which he felt was related to his low readingskills. However, he resisted finding fault withhimself, as the dominant discourse on illiteracy wouldhave him believe; instead, heattributed the fault to the media’s methods. He observed,“Well, I can read the newspaperexcept when they use those big words they don’t needto, like about things that happen inDover.” He thought that the media shouldbe more user friendly, and challenged the ideathat it is the obligation of those with low literacy skillsto change rather than the media’sresponsibility to take them into account.Challenging TypeDave described an important challenging behaviour from in his youth. One morningin class, Dave responded to Des’s story:He makes it almost sound as like, like after hegot the beatings, and hepunched his dad, he left home. . . That’s basically what happenedto me. Isaid [to my father after being beaten], ‘You go yourway; I’m going mine.That’s the last time it’s going to happen.’ I could’vepressed charges but Ididn’t want to ‘cause I had my brothers and sistersto look after.Val asked Dave, “How old were you?” “Thirteen,’ answeredDave “just like Des.” Davechallenged his father’s brutal dominance and left homein order to remain safe. Hisawareness of the seriousness of his father’s mistreatmentwas clear when he stated that he“could’ve pressed charges.”68Dave also challenged Kit’s and Val’s teaching approaches on occasion.Once whenVal directed the class to “underline one sentencethat you liked” after Des’s piece was readaloud, Dave complained, “Why didn’t you tellus that before he started reading it?” Anothertime, Kit stopped Dave’s oral reading and directed the nextstudent to continue the oralreading. Dave protested, “Oh, come on, I know all of thesewords. I wanted to say them.”Another time, Kit drew attention toa small breakthrough in Dave’s progress, announcing,“Aha, we’ve learned the method.” Dave was not impressed and questioned,“Why does italways take so long [to teach me]?” Kit explained, “Because Ihave to figure out all themethods and so do you.” Dave replied, “I did it this time,” asserting his ownexpertise and,implicitly, challenging Kit.Assertion TypeDave also asserted his identity as someone with low literacy skills; however, hedidthis in a somewhat ambiguous way. In class one morning when Val had askedif anyone hadever used any tricks to pass as literate, Dave answered, “Ijust say I can’t read and write andthey say bullshit.” This was a “trick”, as he expected disbelief;however, it was also a wayof asserting his identity defiantly.Dave was an unusual student. He exhibited many more challenging behavioursthanother students in this class. He wasalso the only non-dropout who displayed withdrawalbehaviour. He was also the only sporadic attenderto display such a range and volume ofresistant behaviours.69GilBackground InformationGil is a young Canadian born white man who appearedto be in his late twenties orearly thirties. He was married and was interested inham radios. He was generally quiet inclass but became more involved and slightly more talkative towards the end ofthe semester.Attendance InformationGil rarely attended in the early part of the semester but attended more frequently afterthe beginning of April. Kit reported that his wife, who hada visual disability and seemed todepend on Gil for some mobility needs, had starteda college Life Skills Program at aboutthe time that his attendance increased. In all, Gil attended approximately one third ofthesemester; his attendance became more frequent and regular as the semester progressed.Resistance InformationDuring all my observations I did not observe Gil engaging in any resistancebehaviours.DarshanBackground InformationDarshan was a South Asian woman who had immigratedto Canada from the Punjab.She appeared to be in her late thirties. She spoke English well, andusually attended withher friend, Savita. Darshan also knew both Doris andCal in the class because she workedon a commercial farm with them in the summertime. Darshanwas married and had children.Attendance InformationDarshan was a sporadic attender who attended quite infrequently.According to Kit,Darshan (and Savita) seemed to be on their own attendance schedule. Shegave one70example: “They were away for eleven days andcame back and said, “Oh, we’ve been onspring break.’ There’s no spring break ina five day pian [in the ABE students’ schedule] --so they do these things, and especially adults do these things.” InDarshan’s case the springbreak may have been her children’s.Resistance InformationDarshan displayed no resistance behavioursduring this study.SavitaBackground InformationSavita was a South Asian woman who generally attendedwith her older friendDarshan. Like Darshan, she had also immigratedfrom the Punjab to Canada, and she spokeEnglish well. She appeared to be in her latetwenties or early thirties.Attendance informationSavita was a sporadic attender who attended even less often thanher friend Darshan.Resistance InformationSavita did not engage in any resistance behaviours duringmy observations.VanessaBackground InformationVanessa was a twenty-seven year old First Nationswoman with five children underthe age of eleven. Except for the two year old, all of herchildren were in school or daycare.Vanessa’s mother looked after the two year old child whenVanessa was in school.When she was in grade nine Vanessa “got pulledout of school . . . [and] married off[in the] Indian tradition.” She was fifteen. Herfirst husband did not want her tocontinue attending school even though she liked schooland had wanted to continue. At the71time of the study she was a single mother relying heavilyon her own mother’s support toattend the Dover campus ABE program. She receivedincome assistance.In the first class I observed, Vanessa told meat the end of the class that she hadthought about returning to school from the time her four year old wasborn. She describedwhat impelled her to return:Well, because of my kids. Because they’re asking me things.. . . And myson asked me to help him out with some of his work and I saidI didn’t knowhow and I told him to go see your auntie next door because I didn’tknow andI kind of felt embarrassed because I couldn’t help myson and I couldn’t reallytell him that I didn’t really know anything about it andI felt bad. . . . I justcouldn’t explain it to him that I didn’t know the answer and I said Iwas busyright now. Then when he fmally realized, he said, ‘Mom,you don’t knownothing, do you?’ And I said, ‘No, son.’ And he said, ‘Well, why don’tyougo to the library and read.’ And he’s the one that encouraged meto comeback to school finally. So, that’s what made me come back, because mysonwanted to work along with me.Attendance InformationVanessa’s attendance was very infrequent. She explained that duringone period ofabsence she spent weeks away nursing her sickbaby. I observed Vanessa only three timesduring the semester. Once, when I saw her in class aftera long absence, she had her headon her arms, during a class film, as though she was sleeping.Although Vanessa attended very infrequently, she did attend evenat the end of May.She was absent most of March and April. She saidthat her mother and her children,especially the baby, were sick. She also missed school,she said, “cause I sleep in; I alwaysget up too late.” In May, she told me that she started taking iron pills.Her family’s healthimproved and she was bored at home. She said, “Tjust told my mom that I was going tocome back to school and that my baby was betterso she could look after her again, . . . Iwas tired of being in the house all the time and not being around people. . .. I don’t like72being cooped up in the house, just at home. Val attended that week, buther attendancecontinued to be sporadic.Resistance 1nformationVanessa displayed no resistance behaviours during this study.Summary of Sporadic AttendersThe five sporadic attenders were all under forty. The three women allhad youngchildren at home. One woman was First Nations and the other two were SouthAsian born.The two men were white Canadian born. The majority ofthese students exhibited almost noresistance behaviours.5Seven Who Attended RegularlyThere were seven students who attended regularly; that is, they attended overfiftypercent of the classes and were still attending during the last four weeks of thesemester.These students were Ann, Cal, Cory, Donna, Des, Doris and Henry. I was ableto interviewall seven, largely because of their availability.AnnBackground InformationAnn was a forty year old Canadian born white woman with two adult children.Iinterviewed her in May. She lived on her own and had attended the MainCollege ABEprogram for two years. She said that she had been recentlyembroiled in divorceproceedings. She had spent nine years workingas a babysitter and then two years as a hotelchambermaid. Her family was pleased that she hadreturned to school..Although sporadic attendance (like dropout) could be interpretedas a form of withdrawal resistancebehaviour, in this study I have chosen to focus on resistance behaviourthat occurs within program attendance.73After leaving school at the age of fourteen, Ann stayedat home with her older sisterwho “only went to grade eight too.” She describedher life before ABE as “shitty.” As amother she said, “My kids know [that I can’t read] and he[her former husband] didn’t helpme because they [her children] call me dummy and stupid and my ex usedto do that too.”She hid her illiteracy from her ex-husband but when he foundOut, he “started pushing” herto return to school. She became very good friends with Cory, another womanin theFundamental ABE class.Attendance InformationAnn was a regular and steady ABE attender, attending well over fifty percentof theclasses.Resistance InfonnationAnn displayed a number of resistance behaviours of the awareness and theassertiontypes.Awareness TypeShe talked about why she left school at fourteen with an awareness of how badlyshehad been treated. In our interview, when I asked Ann whyshe left school in grade seven,she explained:I was getting teased at school and the kids didn’t like mebecause I was thetallest kid in school. And they picked on me andtheyjust didn’t help me. .[W]e moved up to Shaw Lake and I went to school and the teacher gaveme abook to read and it was hard. She expected me to be up in front of theclassroom and read the book and I couldn’t even read it ‘cause itwas in littlefine printing. I told my mother that and she went and talked to the teacherand called the teacher an old bag. And that’s when I left.Ann tells this story with pride in her mother’s support for her and her mother’sresistance ofAnn’s oppressive classroom experience.74Assertion TypeAnn also noted that she “got taken advantage of”as a person with low literacy skills.However she described herself asa “very stubborn” person who, when faced with greatobstacles and despite wanting “to call it quits” cannot allow herselfto do so and “just keep[s]on going.” This image of herself as a perseverer isalso resistant of the dominant discoursethat portrays poor and illiterate individualsas people who have “given up” or who lackperseverance. In this way she asserted her agency asa poor, illiterate person despite beingmarginalized by the dominant discourse.CalBackround InformationCal was a thirty-one year old Canadian born white man. He had to fight a lot, he toldme, in elementary school because he and his youngerbrothers and sisters were the only farmkids in their Alberta school until his family moved when he finishedgrade five. He movedaround a lot after grade five, changing schoolsfrequently. Cal wrote a piece in class using aphrase that his grandmother often usedto describe Cal’s father: he moved around so muchthat he “had wheels under his butt.” Cal said he had gradefive education, but he did attendhigh school in the vocational stream.Cal worked in construction for fourteen years but hadstopped two years ago. Hesaid that he was having trouble getting constructionjobs without his “ticket for journeyman.”After his wife attended a computer course at Dover campus, Cal beganto consider ABE andfinally started classes in October, 1992. He said, “Ohyeah, I’ve been putting it off for solong, I finally got mad enough to do it.” He wasseparated and lived alone on incomeassistance at the time of this study; however, his familywas supportive of his educational75attempts. Cal had a couple of acquaintances inthe class: he knew Doris and Darshan fromthe farm where they both had worked;as well, he and Cory had had a brief relationshipwhen they started the program in the fall.Attendance InformationCal was a regular attender. He attended classes frequently, missingonly occasionallyto do some part-time construction work.Resistance InformationAwareness TypeCal, in his realistic appraisal of the usefulness of literacy, seemedto resist thedominant discourse about the importance of literacy, which presumesa richer life with theaddition of an upgraded education. Of his father, who had grade threeeducation, Calasserted, “Like my mom’s been trying to get my dadto come back [to school]. But he’sbeen without it for so long, he’s just gotten used to it.Plus the type of work he does, hedoesn’t really need it. He has trouble finding addressesand stuff like that, but other thanthat he has no problem.” He was also pragmaticabout his own situation. He said, “I dowish I was out there working, cause I don’t make money sittinghere.” Cal seemed to resistthe dominant discourse about the power, the usefulness,and the mystique of literacy.Challenging TypeCal could be challenging in class, mainly challengingthe teachers to interest him. “Ittakes a lot to interest me,” he told Kit one day after hehad questioned (in a challengingmanner) a word she had written onthe board, with the implication that her writing wasn’tclear. Cal talked about his dislike ofreading interms of sitting still, “Yeah, like, Ijust wishthere was a little more writing involved cause I don’t have the patienceto sit there and read76a book. . . . Shortness doesn’t matter, I’djust rather be writing something or doingsomething or whatever, or doing something else thanjust sitting reading.” In a sense, thisrevealed his challenge to interest him as well, implyiiighe had better things to do.Assertion TypeThe rural identity, often ridiculed within the dominantdiscourse which tends to beurban-centred, was an important identity for Cal. He assertedit (along with two otherstudents in the class), though wistfully and quietly, oneday. Kit had asked the class if theyknew “anyone who lived at the end of a road, isolated.”The three students respondedpositively, almost as though they were speakingto themselves: “It was nice” [Cal]; “Yourneighbour’s not looking over your shoulder” [Cory]; “Nice andpeaceful” [Des]. Cal inparticular had talked about how he and his siblings were taunted because theylived on afarm just outside the Calgary city limits and had togo to a city school. Nevertheless, beingrural was part of his identity and he asserted it positively.Solidarity TypeCal told me that it helped that so many in the class were in “the same position.”Heexplained: “1 just didn’t know if I could actually handleit. I didn’t know how many otherpeople were out there like me. . . . Iwas hoping that no one was too much smarter than Iwas, basically. But it seems like we’ve all inthe same position and we all fit in well.”This statement reveals a measure of solidarityaround people without literacy skills, includinghis relief that he “fit in well.”77CoryBackground InformationCory was a thirty-one year old Canadian born whitewoman who started the Dovercampus ABE program in October, 1992. She had movedto Dover that September, andenrolled with the insistent help of two friends. She had aneight year old son who lived withhis father, Cory’s first ex-husband. She, and her first andsecond ex-husbands all hadapartments in the same apartment building in Dover. She said, “I tooka month off [inDecember] when I left my second husband. Ijust couldn’t function to do it. . . . I’d sit inclass; I couldn’t concentrate. I just had to get my head straight.” Duringour interview,Cory complained that she’d spent the weekend fighting with both of her ex-husbands.Shewas self employed as a cleaner on weekends.Cory was teased in elementary school because she “couldn’t read or write oranything. ‘Dummy’ and ‘stupid’ and just put the dunce hat on you as soonas you walk inthe class.” She found school “hard” and was always in special classes or specialschools.She left home at the age of thirteen, she told the class one morning,to avoid continuingsexual abuse from her step-father. She left schoolat the same time, finishing with what shedescribed as an official grade eightlnine education but what she thoughtwas actually a gradethree/four education. Cory befriended Ann, with whom she did everything.Of her briefrelationship with Cal, Cory observed that it had been somewhattroublesome for her in class.Attendance InformationCory was a regular attender. Although she periodicallymissed some classes, sheattended over half the classes throughout the semesterand was still attending in June.78Resistance InformationAwareness TypeCory shared Dave’s perception about how unhelpful their elementaryschool teachershad been. She said in class one morning: “The only thing thoseteachers were there for backthem days was their pay cheque once or twicea week”.Although Cory could be resistant and also assumea “bad girl” persona, she showedsome ambivalence in some areas and in the following example briefly enteredthe dominantdiscourse regarding etiquette. In the last week of Marcha discussion occurred that related toclass status. Cory’s attitude was initially accommodatingto the dominant culturalexpectations but as the discussion unfolded, her responses changedand an awareness of theoppression of imposed upper class standards was evident.Kit was preparing the class to see an NFB film that satirized the excessesof tablemanners. In terms of poverty and social exclusion this film was an interestingchoice; itpokes fun at rules that serve to exclude poor and workingclass individuals from the middleand the upper classes. Kit told the class that, “The next movieis also funny” and began todescribe it. Cory immediately and enthusiastically launched intoa discussion of tablewareand table manners. She described her foster mother’s typical diningtable, which, she said,had five forks, five glasses and finger bowls at each setting. Atthe end of her description,Des responded derisively, adding, “And a brass band!” Kit questionedthe fuss about propermanners in general and, in particular mentioned, “Now there’sthis rule in [thefilmi thattalks about how you eat your soup.” Cory responded, “Oh yeah,that’s easy. I know how todo that. You move your spoon away from you.” Kit asked whythat is done. Coryanswered, “I don’t know. That’s just for snobs. Andyou gotta make sure your pinky’s up.79That’s forsnobs.??To which Des commented, “the upper class, and received smilesofrecognition from the whole class.Although Cory was initially eager to show that shewas socially knowledgeable, sheand the rest of the class finally dismissed these exclusionaryrefinements of class distinctionwith Kit’s encouragement.In her interview, Cory elaborated on her awarenessof what she perceived as oneaspect of public school policy motivation. She explainedto me that although she left schoolin what was, officially, grade nine, she consideredherself to really be in grade three. Shereflected, “But they would say, like you were in grade nineor ten so it looked good for otherpeople. You know, say, for you I was in grade nine,but [for what] I’d be doing. . . I’d bein two or three.” Cory believed that theschool had manipulated the grade system in order tomake those who didn’t fit invisible. She did not thinkthis was done to assist her; shethought it was done to serve the interests of the system,to “look good for other people.”Several other students (Cal, Donna andDes) made similar comments about their officiallydesignated grade versus how they would evaluate their “real” gradestatus themselves.Cory was also aware of some of the subtletiesof subordination through illiteracy:“[Tihere is a lot of iffiteracy people around but people don’t realize it because everybodykeeps hush about it, cause I guess you feel degraded. You know,[others] can read betterbooks than you. But it’s not like these grade twobooks; they’re reading like college stuff.”She understood that the stigma of illiteracyextends beyond whether one can or cannot read,it also includes the level of difficulty ofone’s reading material. In other words, literacy isnot simply about encoding and decoding but involvesmastering the typical materials of thedominant discourse.80Challenging TypeKit liked having Cory, who was confrontive and outspoken, inthe class. Kitexplained:I mean, Cory is what I call a “bad girl.’tAlways in ABEyou have some girl,some woman, who, when she was fourteen, she got herself in trouble, shegotherself pregnant, it was just total rebellion. And when she comesinto theABE classroom, she goes back to that school girl persona that she hadand soshe writes poetry about sex and she expects you tobe shocked. All of thosethings I really like. And so, I’m always happy when there is a “badgirl” inmy class because I like people who stir it up a little.Kit was not only comfortable with oppositional and challenging behaviourin theclassroom, but she actually preferred it. Cory not only challenged aspects ofschooling, shealso challenged aspects of patriarchal privilege with her “bad girl” persona.Cory had a lot to say about her experiences in public school some of which displayedchallenging behaviours. She described liking to have substitute teachers whenshe wasyoung: “yeah,” she said to Val one day, “you could sit and make spitbafis.”She enjoyeddisrupting the authorized schedule and being able to demonstrate that heragency couldexceed that of the representative of the dominant discourse(the substitute teacher). Coryremembered that once when she was in elementary school she had a stronglychallengingincident of this kind: “I had a real problem with oneteacher, real bad. I smacked her acrossthe face.”Assertion TypeCory asserted her worth and visibility as an “iffiterate”.She resisted the dominantdiscourse that stereotypes “iffiterates” as inferior. Shenoted that it was hard for her to admitthat she couldn’t read but she refusedthe subordination attached to the term “illiterate.”During a mid-March class observation, she stated,“It took me eighteen years to tell people81that I couldn’t read . . . [I was] trying to cover up . .. so other people wouldn’t notice. Myfriends would help cover. There are big shots who can’t read and write.” By identifyingherself with the “big shots,” Cory resisted the lowstatus stereotypically accorded “illiterates”and asserted her own dignity.In the interview, Cory expanded on this resistance theme: “Yeah, cause it’s hardtotell people you can’t [read], cause theysay, ‘How come? Look at the way you talk and thatand being in business.’ Like for the last thirteen years I’ve had my own business. It’seasy.Like I know top lawyers today, like that’s why they have secretaries.”When she explainedhow she managed with low literacy skills, she was proud of her personal resources: “Yeah,but I go to my memory a lot too. That’s how I got along all those years, it’s my memory.”Despite her low literacy skills, Cory knew she hada good memory and could use it to asserther worth and her agency despite her marginalization.Cory had a number of marginalized identities that were painful but, which shenevertheless, acknowledged and discussed. When Cory talked to me about beinga streetperson in her younger years, she was resisting hiding a part of herself that the dominantdiscourse might denigrate or try to make invisible. She said, “I’m not a ‘B’ word(a bitch)anymore; like the chip’s off the shoulder. ‘Cause whenyou have to live on the streets youhave to have a big wall up. I still gota lot to keep under control.”In class Cory also talked about being sexually abused ina discussion about leavinghome at thirteen. “Have you ever heard of that thing about step-fathers and theirstepdaughters?” Breaking silence regarding sexual abuse is a key factor in surviving andresisting both the abuse and the after-effects. To break silence in this area isto assertanother identity that the dominant discourse has triedto keep invisible and discredited.82Cory asserted her identity as a person with low literacy skills on severaloccasions.Cory referred to this when she praised, Ellen, the SpeakOut speaker: “She picked outeverything right on the money. Like she hit all the thingsabout literacy and how much ithurts us to tell people and that,” One day in class, VaT, theteacher, said that people withlow literacy skills are “so smart at coveringup. They’re so good at it. They’ve learned somany ways. How can they think they’re dumb?”Cory responded emphatically, changingthe pronoun “them” to “you” (meaning “one”) and rejectingthe distance Val was imposingby her use of “they.” “Well, you do!” she said, indicating that she, and byextensioneveryone with low literacy skills, simply do “think they’redumb.” Cory, despite the difficultadmission that “you think you’re dumb,” did not remove herself fromthis phenomenon, eventhough Val’s use of “they” might have encouraged sucha distancing. Cory asserted her owninclusion in the marginalized identity of “illiterate”.Solidarity TypeIn another example, Cory demonstrated solidarity withothers in the class based ontheir common identity of “illiterate.” Following theday of the Speak Out, the class began tocompile a report about the event. Kit readout one sentence from the chalkboard, “OurSpeak Out is about students coming back to school.” Horace interrupted,“About that,hmmmmm, was the Speak Out like, all the Speakersat the Speak Out, were they all [school]dropouts?” Kit confirmed, “Yep Horace, every single speaker.Yep, all eighty of them.”Cory spoke, “We’re all dropouts here. That’s whywe came back to this class, to learn howto read and write and do everything. We all dropped out at an early age andstarted life.Now we’re coming back.”83This exchange reveals Cory’s commitmentto her classmates and to “illiterates” as agroup. She made no apologies for schooldropout; she simply included everyone in thegeneric and positive explanation, “Weall dropped out at an early age and started life.”Cory explained the feeling of comfort shegot from the solidarity regarding being“illiterate”: “Like we’re a family in there.We all stick together because everybody’s thesame. Everybody has their problems. Butyou can ask them and they’re not putting youdown, like calling you a dummy oranything, ‘cause they’re no better than what I am.”Theatmosphere created by this class wassupportive for Cory. She felt and participated inthesolidarity with the other students, instead of feelingcompetitive or excluded as frequentlyhappens in school culture.DesBackground InformationDes was a forty-seven year old Canadian born whiteman who lived alone in hispickup truck which he parked on his brother’sproperty at night. He disliked his brother,who was not supportive of Des’ returnto school. Des was helped back into the adulteducation system by a former employer.He led a solitary life but was a friendly andsupportive class member.Des left home, and school, at the age of thirteenafter punching his abusive father.He said he “got tired of myold man hitting me with a rubber hose.” He saidhe was ingrade three (officially grade five orsix in the special class he attended) when he leftschoolto work in a mill. At school “things were hard. .. . My parents couldn’t afford P,E. clothesfor me.” As he said, “What was thepoint of getting an education.”84Attendance InformationHe started at Dover campus in February, 1993 and was the most regular attender inthe class. Some mornings he arrived for class forty-five minutesbefore class started.Resistance InformationDes had a range and volume of resistance behavioursthat, like Cory and Cal,included all types except the withdrawal type. Deswas especially aware of the injustice ofhis treatment as a child and its subsequent consequences for himas an adult.Awareness TypeDuring one class discussion, Des talked about the frequent use of corporal punishmentin his public school: “You got hit with a yard stick,” The teacher, Val, joked supportively,“It’s a meter stick now.” Des carried on: “When the front of my hands weretoo sore, hejust started on the back.” No one in the class expressed shock. Henry confirmed theaccuracy of Des’ assertions by telling his own story of being hitby a teacher. Descontinued with his experience: “There used to be lots ofkids linedup to get the strap. Ionce had it because I couldn’t write with my [injured] right hand.” Hefinished his story bystating, “They were cruel back then.”Des expressed resistance, and some ambivalence, when he talkedabout his feeling ofdissatisfied exclusion: “There’s a lot of things I missedout on; education is just a part of it.”At forty-seven, Des objected to his economic marginalizationbecause of “illiteracy”;however, he accepted the dominant discourse’s messageabout how he could improve hisposition and what improvement looks like: “Some people, I can see thatthey have things,things I would like to have. So the way you can do thatis get a better education. I don’twant to be working for people for cheap wages. I wantto better my lifestyle.”85His feelings that his former school experiences were unfair extended to a sense thathis current adult status of “illiterate” was unjustly stigmatizing. However, therewas alsoambivalence; he both resisted and entered aspects of the dominant discourse on illiteracy.He thought that it was wrong that as an “illiterate” he was assigned an inferior economicstatus, but he believed that the only answer to right that injustice was for him to improveandto increase his education.Des also recognized other injustice related to his current economic status. Like mostof the students in the class he received income assistance. He commented: “Yeah it’s notavery nice thing to be on. By my way of thinking it’s a disgrace. They don’t even giveyouenough; I’d like to see them live on$210 a month.” Clearly he was aware of the humiliationand subordination inherent in being on welfare which made him feel dependent andinadequate.Des also showed considerable awareness of class-re’ated issues during the groupdiscussion about table manners. When Cory had finished relating the inventory of tablewarethat that she said had appeared on her foster mother’s dining-room table, Des commentedderisively, “And a brass band!” He also added the elaboration “the upper class” when Corysaid that that kind of etiquette was “just for snobs,” which made clear his resistance of upperclass values, as well as his placement of snobs on the social hierarchy.Challenging TypeDes had also challenged patriarchal authority in his youth, underscoring his capacityfor resistance in extreme circumstances. One morning, Des read his own story about leavinghome at the age of thirteen (after punching his abusive father) to the class. As he said in his86interview, he “got tired of[hisiold man hitting [him] with a rubber hose,”so he punched hisfather, leaving home and school at the same time.Assertion TypeDes also identified as a rural person. He spenthis youth in the countryside andworked in fishing and forestry as an adult.He asserted how much he preferred this oftendevalued lifestyle in class one day whenhe responded that he thought it was “nice andpeaceful,” as compared with Kit’s description of ‘isolated.”DonnaBackground InformationDonna was a twenty-five year old Canadian born white woman.She started at MainCollege in 1986 in the ABE program, but switchedto the Restaurant Worker program. Sheleft school altogether for three years but returned in 1990to Special Education classes. Shereturned to the Fundamental ABE class in 1993.Donna lived with her parents and dependedon them for support and for transportation to and from school.Donna talked about movingaround a lot as a child. She was well known in theclass and had a couple of friends in thecollege from the other programs she had attended; however,she did not seem to have friendsin the Fundamental ABE class.Attendance InformationIn April, Donna got a part-time job in a local private daycare andmissed severalclasses during this period of time; however, sheattended more frequently again in May andJune after her daycare job broke down. Donnaattended over half the classes, was stillattending in June and is considereda regular attender.87Resistance InformationDonna had few resistance behaviourscompared to the other regular attenders. Hermain type ofresistance was challengingKit’s teaching approach for her.Challenging TypeLike Dave, Donna resisted learning by somemethods that Kit used; she and Kit hadan ongoing struggle about how teaching andlearning should proceed. Periodicallythroughout the month of March, Donna insisted on proceedingin her own way with her ownwriting projects in the Exhale room. In one exchange,at the beginning of the month, Kittold Donna that she was writingtoo much (for Kit to manage to edit). Donna responded,You’re making me feelbad;” she later explained that she was doing journal writing thatdidn’t need to be edited.Donna also objected to Kit’s restriction of Donna’s oralreading in class. She resistedKit’s program of instruction designed to teach herto read less haltingly; she thought shewould learn betterjust practising oral reading.In this way, she asserted her agency andbelief in her own methods over the schoolculture’s authorized methodology.DorisBackground InformationDoris, at fifty, was the oldest student in theclassroom. She was a First Nationswoman who was very involved with her Nativetraditions. She was also the oldest ofthirteen children and had to leave schoolbecause, as she said, “There was a big family and Ihad to help support the family, Thatwas when I went to the farm [to work].” She hadattended residential school where shewas abused. She “didn’t quite finish grade five.”88She lived with her husband in their trailer in what Doris describedas a “Hollywoodstyle marriage,’tby which she meant that she livedat one end of the trailer and her husbandlived at the other. Doris’ granddaughter also livedwith them. Doris said she had returnedto school partly to provide a role model for the younger FirstNations generation, particularlyher granddaughter. She also wanted to be ableto understand legal documents because shefelt that she and her husband were being taken advantage of ina Native land rentalarrangement that they had with a Victoria businessman.Attendance InformationAlthough Doris was absent for most of February, her attendance improvedconsiderably during the latter half of the semester;by the end of the term she had attendedwell over half of the classes. She was a regular attender whosaid that she had made acommitment to her education part way through the semester.Resistance InformationDoris displayed the widest range and largest number of resistance behavioursin thisclass. Her primary types of resistance behaviours were inthe awareness and the assertioncategories.Awareness TypeDoris talked about her awareness of gender dominanceas it related to teacherdominance. Doris explained how men teachers could affect her. She said,“I can tell byhow their faces look, their body language; you can tell. Like some teachers, Ifreeze.Especially with a guy. They come and stand over me and Ijust sit. But not with a ladyteacher.” She described her reaction in these situationsas freezing, which could be89interpreted as an form of withdrawal as well. However, Ihave chosen to categorize thisexample as awareness resistance because the primary tone isone ofkeen awareness.Doris also demonstrated awareness of how badly she was treatedat the residentialschool she attended. She reported, in our interview, that shewas abused at this school untilshe left at the age of twelve. Doris talked to meabout this: ttJhad a lot of bad experiences Iguess. Abuse..“She told me she was learning to speak up.Doris also resisted the marginalization of illiteracy. Shewas aware that she could betaken advantage of as a person with low literacyskills. She said that she enrolled in theDover ABE program because she thought she and her family were beingexploited by awhite businessman who rents their land. She elaborated:I wanted to learn more. My husband has an R.V.and I wanted to know andunderstand what the paperwork is. . . . Yeah and the land lease is goingto beup in three years from now and I wanted to understand why we’re gettingripped off because we haven’t got any lump sum of money from itand it’sbeen seven years now and they gave us the run around. Otherwise I wouldhave had this nice fancy car now and I’m still on foot. And thisis why Iwant to know [how the systemworksl.For Doris, learning how to read (legal contracts) was a necessarystep towards gainingsome control at the interface between the dominant cultureand her First Nations culture.Doris’ motivation to start ABE was rooted in her desireto resist exploitation.Doris was deeply and personally aware ofracialdiscrimination. One day at the endof May, as the class filed Out, Doriscalled to Amy as she was leaving. No other studentswere left in the classroom. The following conversationbetween Doris and Amydemonstrates a profound outrage at, and resistanceto, dominant culture stereotypes of FirstNations people:90Doris: You see that write up in the paperabout the Indians?Amy: Yeah.Doris: They blame us when someone comesup and asks us [to sell them cigarettes].Down at the mall, I seen a few of them down there.Amy: Yeah, they came up and asked Momyesterday.Doris: They make us look bad. They’re the ones.Amy: Mom looked at that lady andshe says, ‘Well, you’re not going to go to thenewspaper and start saying things about me,’she says and starts yelling. And shesays, ‘No, no I’m not going to do that.’ Well there’salready some talk about how usIndians, putting on T.V.Doris: They make us look bad. It’s just like theyput a mark on us: ‘we’realcoholics.’ We can do nothing. Now they puta mark on us that we buy smokes forpeople.This example in particular demonstrates how theseABE students were well aware ofthe political and personal dimensionsof dominance and subordination (or marginalization).Doris and Amy are indignant that theyare stigmatized and used as scapegoats on the basis oftheir First Nations identities.Challenging TypeDoris resisted the concrete results of her and her family’sinability to understand thelegal and financial dealings they are involved in.Further, she resisted and confronted thedominant white, corporate culture’sinsinuation that she should be grateful for what shesuspects is a shady land deal. Doris explained:He’s (the businessman) always giving us this go-around.Like, ‘if I didn’t rentthis land from you guys, you guyswouldn’t be getting any kind of moneyfrom us and you guys won’t be making this kindof money.’ He’s alwaysgiving us the background that if itwasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have thistoday. I finally got mad with him last month. I said,‘If it wasn’t for us youwouldn’t have this today.’ I said, ‘ifit wasn’t for us you wouldn’t have thiskind of land, so how could you notbe getting any money yourself when weknow you have a brand new car and I’m still onmy feet’91Doris’ words make it clear that she felt exploitedas a First Nations person who alsohad limited literacy skills. She challenged thisexploitation by refusing to be grateful, and bydirectly informing the businessman of howhe is dependent on her.Assertion TypeOn several occasions Doris asserted her identityas a First Nations person. Oneexample occurred while she was telling me abouther domestic arrangements. Herexplanation demonstrated the importance she attachedto maintaining this identity and ofpassing it on to her heirs: “Well, I made thisagreement [with my husband] in order to keepmy granddaughter. I didn’t want herto go out into the white society and they were going totake her away from my daughter.” The arrangement shemade was that she would moveback in with her husband (from whom shehad been estranged) so that her granddaughtercould live with them and avoid foster placement in whitesociety.Doris also advocated for First Nations people. During adiscussion about writing oralhistories that the class was planning to do,Doris suggested, “A little more understanding.The words of the story, some of our people don’t understanda lot of words that are large.Take it down to smaller words so they can understandthem.”One day in class, Doris suggested the collegehire First Nations people to cater thenext Speak Out:What about getting people who knowhow to cook? There are quite a few ofus on the reserve who know how, that’s cookingfor two, three hundredpeople. And they don’t charge very much. I knowfor a fact, I used to dothat.92In making this suggestion, Doris assertedthat marginalized people are skilled and canbe of help to the dominant culture; sheasserted that assistance is a two way street betweencultures.Doris also often referred to First Nationstraditions. For example, during oneobservation she noted, Most homes Igo to have their parents’ pictures up, even whitepeople, And Indians, they have theirsup, if they’re still alive. A lot of them, when they’regone, they put them away, cause that’s our tradition.”Kit acknowledged Doris’ expertise in FirstNations traditions and language, whichfurther validated the presence of themarginalized culture within the dominant culture oftheclassroom, thus reducing the marginalization. Forexample, one day in class Kit said:It’s true that Brian [at the Native HeritageCentre] was interested when I saidthat Doris was in the class and alsowe were talking about how Amy andDoris were joking back and forth in Hulqu’me’num[a First Nations language].So, urn, he said sometimes Elders want to speakHulqu’rne’num. So he saidDoris might want to do a little translation [forthe oral history project]. We’llsee.Doris explained her attitude towardresistance and accommodation in literacyeducation in the following way:But coming to school and learning,you learn to sit and relax and understand,instead of thinking, ‘You white people can’t teachus anything; I don’t want tolearn anything from you.’ But I figure you’re learningfrom us too. It’s justthat you’re giving too. It’s kind ofrelaxingto me. I don’t know aboutanybody else, but when I’m there justdoing the regular things in class, I getto relax sometimes and leave my mind outside thedoor.Doris had to overcome considerableresistance to the dominant culture and schoolsystem in order to join this ABE class.As she said, her motivation was based on resistanceto exploitation of her First Nations and undereducatedstatus; she intended to increase herpersonal agency. Although being involvedin white education has not been simply positive,93Doris makes it more positive forherself by resisting the dominance, especiallyby assertingher First Nations identity withinthe school culture, In doing so, she makes itmore positive,not only for herself, but for othersin the class. Through her assertion of heridentity andresistance to the various dominantdiscourses present, she changes these dominant discoursesand helps to shift the dominancedynamics in the classroom.Solidarity TypeDoris appreciated and contributedto the solidarity of the First Nations students in herclass. In a letter she wrote to me at the endof my observations, Doris wrote: “What I missis that one other person [Mabel,a former ABEstudenti in class that we used to talk ourNative language in class together.”The importance of solidarity among differentmarginalized people, especiallyconcerning the issues of poverty andilliteracy, were evident to Doris, as is apparent in herreport of her conversation with Ellen, the keynotespeaker at the Speak Out:She was thinking everything. It was reallygood ‘cause, like I wasn’t at thetalk yesterday (at the Speak Out) and when Igot to talk, just her and I, shethinks everything that I was thinking of in the background.And she said shewas on welfare and I thought, ‘Oh, this person’sjust like us.’ It kinda wokeme up a little. I said, ‘Oh, OK.’ Sheasked if I would speak and I wasn’tsure. I would think about it. Thereare people out there just like us. Andwe’re just like them too. It’s kinda hard,you know: somebody out therehurting just as much as I was, eh?And I never thought of that. I thought Iwas the only one really hurting. Like allof a sudden your problem’s outsideand sometimes it helps to talk in publicabout it and maybe somebody outthere will give you an answer. It really hurts.Solidarity is significant to the conceptof resistance in that it allows students toseebeyond their own problems and marginalizedidentities. It encourages marginalized peopletobreak their isolation and view their marginalizationin a broader social, economic or political94context. This connectionand identificationwith others who are also marginalizedis part ofgreater political andpersonal agency.HenryBackground InformationHenry was a forty-sixyear old Canadian bornwhite man from Saskatchewan.He hadbeen a truck driver for manyyears but back problemsforced him to quitand work for hiswife who ran a fastfood restaurant. The businessfolded and he and hiswife returned toschool at Dover campusin February, 1993. Hiswife was in the more advancedlevel threeof the ABE program. Theyand their three children livedon income assistance.Henry had dropped out ofschool with a grade six educationwhen he was fifteen. Hedescribed his public schoolyears:I had a hard time learning.Classrooms were then quitelarge and it was just,like, the first was theworst. That’s what kinda,I think, screwed meup a lot,in grade one . . . just theteacher. Then I got intograde two and I didn’t, like,catch on to some stuff,so on and so forth. And I kindawent along and didn’tlearn to spell,so I got fed up and quit and Iwas only fifteen, I guess,when Igot out of school.Then he worked fortwo years with his father on thefamily farm before gettingajobin construction ona provincial hydro projectand later becominga truck driver.Attendance InformationHenry was one of themost frequent attenders. Untilthe end of May (whenhe had tomove houses) he had notmissed any classes.95Resistance InformationAwareness TypeIn early March, in oneexample, Kit askedthe students in the Inhaleclassroomwhether they thoughtthe government wantedsome people to staypoor. In unison Horaceand Henry answered,“Yes.” Kit asked themwhat happened if alot ofpeople stay poor.Henry answered,“More people, lesswages. You got to talk theirlingo.” “Yes,” answeredKit, “You got to talk theirlingo.” This exchangedemonstrated that Henryknew thatemployers canpay lower wages if there isa pool of poor, unemployedworkers, and also that“their lingo”is not the languageof the welfare and workingclasses, but is the languageofthe ruling class, the languageof influence. He wasaware of the political implicationsofpoverty.Challenging TypeIn one class, duringa discussion of publicschool experiences, Henryrecounted howhe respondedas a child to teacher discipline.He said, “Once when Igot hit, I brought mehand up and the teacherhit his own hand”. Hewas proud of his abilityto subvert the schoolauthority through hisown wits.Summary of RegularAttendersThere were sevenstudents in this study whoare considered regularattenders: Ann,Cory, Cal, Donna, Des,Doris and Henry.Each attended more thanfifty percent oftheclasses and had attendancein the last four weeks ofthe semester.In this study regularattendance was split onthe dimension of age:four of the regularattenders were overforty and three were underforty. However, themost frequent attenders,(Des, Henry, andAnn) were overforty.96Regular attendance was notgender-marked in this study. Three of the regularattenders were men; four were women. However,all of the regular attenders, except Doris,were Canadian born of European heritage.This makes Doris, a First Nations student,somewhat exceptional; therefore, her commentsand circumstances, especially with referenceto resistance, are of special interestto this study.Resistance and Attendance ComparedI observed many examples of resistant behaviourduring the course of this study.While most students exhibited at leastsome resistant behaviour, each student had a particularpattern of resistant behaviours. As well,certain resistant behaviours were easier fortheteachers to recognize, value and work with.In the discussion that follows I will comparestudent resistant behaviours with the studentattendance patterns in this ABE program, whichare summarized in the three tables below.Table 1 (see p.97) represents the total number ofresistance behaviours for each student.Table 2 (see p.98) shows the number of resistancebehaviours that were observed and Table3 (see p.99) shows the number of resistancebehaviours that were noted during interviews.The students are grouped according toattendance pattern.In this section I examine the relationships thatexist between student resistantbehaviours and student attendance. I examinethe resistant behaviours of those who droppedout of the ABE program, those who attendedsporadically, and those who attended regularly,looking for commonalties amongthese attendance groupings of students interms of resistantbehaviours.97Table 1Resistance Incidents (All) by Attendance GroupResistance CategoryAttendance Student W/drawAware Chall Assert Solid TotalDrop-out Adam 220 2 1 0 25Hank 110 0 0 0 11Horace 0 3 21 0 6Pat 0 20 0 0 2Ron 10 00 0 0 10Sporadic Dave 13 5 1 0 10Darshan 0 00 0 0 0Gil 00 0 0 0 0Savita 0 0 00 0 0Vanessa 0 0 00 0 0Regular Ann0 2 0 1 03Cal 0 2 21 1 6Cory 0 9 45 1 19Des 0 5 23 1 11Donna 0 1 40 0 5Doris 0 10 17 6 24Henry 0 3 10 0 498Table 2Resistance Incidents (Observed) by Attendance GroupResistance CategoryAttendance Student W/draw Aware Chall Assert Solid TotalDrop-out Adam 22 0 2 10 25Hank 11 0 0 0 0 11Horace 0 1 2 00 3Pat 0 2 0 0 0 2Ron 10 0 0 0 0 10Sporadic Dave 1 3 5 10 10Darshan 0 0 0 0 0 0Gil 0 0 0 0 0 0Savita 0 0 0 0 0 0Vanessa 0 0 0 0 0Regular Ann 0 0 0 0 0 0Cal 0 0 2 1 0 3Cory 0 2 2 4 0 8Des 0 2 2 3 1 8Donna 0 0 4 0 0 4Doris 0 3 1 4 5 13Henry 0 2 1 00 399Table 3Resistance Incidents (Interview) by Attendance GroupResistance CategoryAttendance Student W/draw Aware ChallAssert Solid TotalDrop-out Adam0 0 0 0 0 0Hank 0 00 0 0 0Horace 0 20 1 0 3Pat 0 00 0 0 0Ron 00 0 0 0 0Sporadic Dave 00 0 0 0 0Darshan 0 00 0 0 0Gil 0 0 00 0 0Savita 0 0 0 00 0Vanessa 0 00 0 0 0Regular Ann 0 20 1 0 3Cal 0 2 0 0 13Cory 0 7 11 1 10Des 0 30 0 0 3Donna 0 10 0 0 1Doris 0 70 3 1 11Henry 0 10 0 0 1100The Dropout Group ComparisonThere were five students in the dropout category for whom I had gatheredsufficientinformation to permit discussion. Of these five students, Hank, Ron and Adamdisplayed,primarily, withdrawal signs of resistance. They allsat (often singly because they seldomattended together) in the isolated row of the class either exclusively or primarily;they cameand went frequently in the course of a class period and often remained out of theclassroomfor prolonged periods oftime.As resistance behaviour, withdrawal behaviours seemed to be most difficult for theteachers to acknowledge and work with, although Kit did try several times topersuade Hankand Ron to move into the more central seating area. She also joined both of them,atdifferent times, in the isolated row.Hank and Ron employed no other forms ofresistance behaviours. Adam alsodisplayed two challenging and one (silent) assertion behaviour, but it was clearthat hisprimary mode of resistance was overwhelmingly withdrawal.All three men dropped out atleast six weeks before the end of the semester.The two other students in the dropout category, Horace and Pat, did notdisplaywithdrawal signs of resistance. Pat displayed only two examples of resistance,both of whichdisplayed awareness of the oppression of dominant culture. In Pat’s case, dropoutisassociated with only a very little resistant behaviour of the awareness type.In this group of students who dropped out, there was little evidence of theawareness,challenging, asserting or solidarity types of resistantbehaviours; however, there was somevariation, particularly with Horace, who displayeda considerable number and range ofresistance behaviours. He challenged teacher methods;he expressed feeling militancy in the101learner context when Kit askedif anyone felt militant; he also asserted his First Nationsidentity as well as solidarity with others when he wantedto show that “Indians” could get aneducation. However, Horace also expressed moreambivalence and had more difficultypositioning himself than others in the class, which mayhave contributed to making continuedattendance in ABE more difficult for him. He displayedthe most evidence of contradictionand ambivalence in reference to his perspectiveof the dominant discourse: significantly, hedisplayed this ambivalence particularly around education.In general, however, the dropoutgroup displayed resistance primarily in thewithdrawal mode.It must also be noted that all the key studentdropouts were First Nations students.My interpretation of this is that for First Nations peoplewith low literacy skills, the distancebetween their cultural identity and the dominant cultureand school culture is greater thanthat of other Canadian born individuals with low literacyskills. In this study, theobservation that it is primarily First Nations people whodrop out indicates a need for theencouragement of a greater range and number of resistance behaviouramong the students(given that the First Nations person who persisteddisplayed the most resistance behaviours)in order to allow the students to remain in ABEclasses while asserting and preserving theircultural identities. It would also seem to indicatea greater need for political analysis,discussion, and action, especially on the part of ABEteachers, to counter the situation ofdominance.The Sporadic Attenders Group ComparisonFive of the students in the study are classifiedas sporadic attenders: Vanessa, Gil,Darshan, Savita and Dave. Vanessa, wasa very infrequent sporadic attender. She displayed102none of the identified resistance behaviours inclass, nor did she express any significantresistance when she was interviewed.Gil attended rarely at the start of thesemester and though he attended more frequentlyas the semester progressed, he remained a sporadic attender.He participated rarely at thestart but he became more involved andtalkative as the weeks went by; however, hedisplayed no resistance behaviours during my observations.Two other students were sporadic attenders, Darshan and Savita. These twowomen,both originally from the Punjab, usually attended together.They did not display resistant oroppositional behaviours during the observations, nor didI interview them.Among the sporadic attenders, Dave displayed thegreatest range and number ofresistant behaviours. His primary mode was challenging. He challengedformer school andfamilial dominance, as well as current classroom teachingbehaviours and governmentalpolicies that ignore the needs of poor people. He alsoasserted his identity as a poor personand displayed solidarity with Des around childhoodabuse. Although he was a sporadicattender he was by far the most frequent sporadicattender, attending over a third of theclasses.The sporadic attenders are a mixed group: two wereCanadian born white men, twowere South Asian-Canadian immigrant women, andone was a First Nations woman; all wereunder forty. Of the five that I observed, I was onlyable to interview Vanessa. Four of thefive sporadic attenders exhibited no apparentresistant behaviours and the most frequent ofthe sporadic attenders was the only sporadic attenderto exhibit resistance. Generally,sporadic attendance was associated with non-resistance.103The Regular Attenders Group ComparisonI categorized seven of the students in thisstudy as regular attenders: Ann, Donna,Cory, Cal, Des, Henry, and Doris. Among theseseven students, all displayed some resistantbehaviours, although two, Ann and Donna, displayed few. WhileAnn displayed fewresistant behaviours in classroom observations, she didoppose the way she was treated whenshe attended the public school system. Ann alsothinks of herself as a resistant, “stubborn”person. This resistant persona allowed Annto continue attending school when the oddsagainst her seemed overwhelming. In fact, she hasattended the Main ABE programregularly for three years.Like Ann, Donna showed resistanceby objecting to her former schooling. However,she also challenged the way that Kit taught her. Apartfrom these, Donna displayed fewresistance behaviours in the classroom.Cory was a regular attender who resisted the dominant and schoolcultures often andin a variety of ways. She is aware ofpower dynamics; she challenges past and presentinstitutions; she asserts her marginalized identities asa low literate adult, as a sexual abusesurvivor, and as a street person; shealso shows solidarity with other low literacy adults.Although Cory demonstrated ambivalence in her initialtendency to accept the prescriptionsof the dominant discourse on etiquette, inthe end she dismissed at least some of it as being“for snobs.”Cal also displayed a range of resistant behaviours.He challenged past schoolexperiences, present teacher methods, and the usefulnessof ABE. He asserted his identity asa rural person and expressed solidarity around low literacywith others in the class.104Des, the most frequent of the regular attenders, was alsoa resister. He challenged hispast schooling and his impoverished and abusive patriarchalfamily background. Des wasaware of socio-economic class issues and opposed hiscurrent position as a poor person oninadequate welfare. He asserted his marginalizedidentities as a poor, rural individual withlow literacy skills and asserted solidarity withhis low literate classmates.Henry was also a regular attender. However, although hewas a resister, hisresistance consisted mainly of demonstrating hisawareness of institutionalized oppression.Although Henry did not exhibit frequent or variedresistance, he did express an awareness ofthe dominant structure in society and how it operates.Doris was an exceptional student in that she was the onlyregular attender who wasalso a First Nations student. She was also exceptional indisplaying the greatest number andvariety of resistant behaviours. She displayed not onlyawareness and challengingbehaviours, but she also displayed assertion of her marginalized identitiesas a First Nations,poor and low literate individual. Further, she describedseeing commonalties among andacross some marginalized identities. For instance,although she was surprised when theSpeak Out guest speaker, Ellen, talkedabout having lived on welfare, she immediatelyrecognized that this was a point of possible solidarityacross racial identities. However, shemaintained her awareness of the oppressionthat whites generally visit upon First Nationspeople, as when the white press portrayedFirst Nations people as smugglers.Doris was a pivotal student in the class. Shewas called on by the teachers to takeover if the teacher had to leave. Otherstudents looked to her when a student representativeposition was announced for nominations.Not only is she the oldest, at fifty, but she is alsothe clearest thinker with respect to resistance. Bothteachers encouraged her in her resistance105behaviours. She described feeling better about herselfat the end of the semester than at thebeginning. “Yeah, there’s a few things that’s real different.I begin to fix myself up. Evento get up in the morning and look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m fme.Understandingmath is one more and being a little bit more patient.” School seemedto be satisfying herdesire for more agency without undermining her identity.All of the students in the regular attender group displayed more than one formofresistance behaviour. None displayed signs of withdrawalresistance. Other than these twocommonalties they are a varied group: six of the students are Euro-Canadian and one is FirstNations; four are women and three are men; and fourare over forty and three are underforty. This variation heightens the likelihood ofa connection between regular attendance andthe number and variety resistance behaviour (excluding the withdrawal kind).Teacher Interventions and AttitudesThe two teachers in this ABE classroom maintained educational attitudes anddemonstrated instructional interventions that appeared to be student centredand progressiveabout both attendance and resistance. These attitudes and interventions affected the generalclassroom environment, including attendance and resistance,as well as encouraging respectfor the identities of everyone in the class. I present a selection of their observed,ordiscussed, attitudes and interventions.Teacher Intervention and Attitudes Regarding AttendanceBoth Kit and Val were attentive to student attendance.They noticed when a studentdid not attend for several days. This noticing wasfollowed up with a call to the student tofind out what the problems might be and to letthe student know that they were missed. If106the teachers could not reach the studentby phone, one of them wrote to the studentwelcoming them back. For example, Kit had writtento Vanessa in May. On May 19thVanessa appeared in class for the first time in manydays, entering the classroom as themorning lesson was beginning. As Vanessatook her seat, Kit asked her, “Did you get aletter from me in the mail?’ Vanessa shook her head.“No, well probably tomorrow then, ortoday, you’ll get a letter. I wrote late last week saying,‘Hi, where are you? We’d like tohave you back.” And here you are, just showedup without getting the letter at all. Good!”Neither Kit nor Val was interested in keeping official attendance records, nordid thecollege require it. They posted a check-in attendance sheet onthe Exhale classroom bulletinboard for the students’ voluntary use.Kit had a rationale for not pressuring students about their attendance.She believedthat attendance was a pivotal focus for what she referredto as “power struggles” betweenstudents and teachers. During our interview she describeda teaching experience that hadtaught her to avoid “power struggles” about attendance with students.So last fall I made a kind of a major mistake again around the same thing.We had a student who would come maybe one or two days, totallyat random.So I talked to him about what he could do. In fact, there wasn’t anything hecould do. I mean, like, it’s not to do with a job.He has a life schedule thathe stays up all night. I think it’s because he’s depressed; hesleeps all day andthen the day is over so then he doesn’t have to worry about goingtoappointments or looking for a job or those things.So he can stay up all nightwatching videos. And then morning comes and he’stoo tired to come toschool. So we had this talk and it became clear to me. But I still kind ofsaid, well, you know, I put some pressure on him. Like I triedto get him totalk to me. And he immediatelysays, ‘Well, I’ll just have to be different.’Which, of course, is impossible. And so I triedto get him to talk to me aboutwhat he could do, but he wouldn’t. And he said,‘No I’lljust do it.’ But, ofcourse, he never came back and that was the lasttime I saw him. And it wassimply silly of me to do that because I knew itwouldn’t work, but I believedthat it would. . . . It’s a kind of thing that you think there’sa certain kind ofcontrol that you have to have here. But it’s actually no advantageand so you107just . . . have to live with the fact that you can’t have control.I mean someprograms are really, really strict. Theysay that you have to have ninetypercent attendance or you’re out, or ninety-fivepercent or you’re out. But Ithink they lose a lot of students.Kit and Val did not pressure individual studentsto attend, but they did encourageattendance. On March 19th, Kit gave whatwas called the “Butt Lecture” twice, once at thebeginning of the morning and onceat the end. The first time she gave it, she gave it solo.She said:The most important part of your body forback to school is not your brain; it’syour butt. Cause if you get your butt in here andput it on the chair, then yourbrain will be up to it. We’ll deal with your brain in whatever shapeit’s in.But you’ve got to get your butt in. Andyou’ve been getting your butts in andyour brains have worked very well.The second time she gave the “Butt Lecture,”she asked Des to be her “straight man”and the lecture was presentedto the class as a dialogue. Kit opened, “So, Des what is themost important part of you body to bring into school?” Des answered, “Your butt.” And itcarried on. It was intended to be humorous, but itwas given in earnest. Kit explained:Certainly with adults you have students who comewith a million pounds ofbaggage about school and there is hardly any pointin getting into any kind ofpower struggle with them. Andso a whole lot of what I do is designed tokeep them coming back because if they don’t comeback, they won’t improveat all. And there is no way. I mean, nobodyforces them to come and nobodyforces them to come back and nobody forces themto say, ‘No I can’t drivemy aged mother to the old folks home where her only survivingfriend is,because I have to come to school.’ I mean people have all kindsof reasonsnot to come to school and some of them aren’t verygood. So what I need todo is keep them coming back.When Kit suggested that “some of [the reasons]aren’t very good”, she implied thatsome of the reasons that students give her for missingschool were not substantial oradequate. They may have been factual and evenimportant, but they begged the question:108‘why?” Why, for instance, could the student not have driventheir aged mother to the oldfolks home later in the day, in the evening or on the weekend?Teacher Attitudes and Interventions Regarding ResistanceKit and Val made attempts to promote and to work with student resistancebehaviours. The initial interview with each student, the monthly theme units, theirmethods,and their daily interactions with the students could allbe generally regarded as resistancepositive. They had an awareness of student resistance and built resistancework into thecourse itself.At the beginning of each term, and subsequently when new students started theprogram, Kit always arranged for an initial one-to-one student interview that helpedto set atone of acceptance and solidarity across marginalized identities in the class. Some of thetheme unit concepts in this ABE course encouraged student resistance: the Learning and PastSchool Experience unit; the Speak Out unit; and the Oral History unit. Kit also attemptedtowork with the physical restlessness that was notedby many students and which could beinterpreted as a resistance to the schoollmiddle class culture that requiresthe subordination ofthe physical.The Initial InterviewIn this initial interview with each new student Kit stressed the importanceofrespecting all students in the class. She emphasized that therewas a strong expectation thatno one would be racist or sexist in the classroom,and that the classroom would be a safeand comfortable place for everybodyto learn in. Kit has found that, generally, this initialone-to-one discussion has kept the classroom free of overtracism and sexism. However, if109one of these problems arose, she said she respondedby setting up a situation that encouragedthe targeted student(s) to helpeducate or refute the student who had been racist or sexist.She gave the following hypothetical example, whereinone of the men students might havesaid something derogatory about women drivers.Kit would then ask several of the womenin the class if they thought they were bad drivers.Some women would then assert theirgood driving skills, thus discrediting the sexist generalization aboutwomen drivers. Andthat, according to Kit, would be the end of the issue.Kit was very clear that discriminationwould not be tolerated in her class. This assisted resistance because itinformed everyonethat identities that have been marginalized by the dominant discourseswould be respectedand protected in this classroom.Learning And Past School ExperiencesThe first theme unit (on learning and past school experiences), which presentedtheopportunity for all students to air their grievances regarding their former school experiences,encouraged solidarity around the mutual identity of school dropout withlow literacy skills ina heavily literacy-based society. It also provided opportunities for politicizing awareness,forchallenging oppressions in retrospect, and for asserting other associatedaspects of identitywhich have been marginalized, such as poverty. It allowed the possibilityof reclaiming andrevaluing neglected, abused and deprived adolescentselves. All of this learning encourageda respect for a marginalized and/or subordinated identity and encouragedthe students’resistance against a dominant culture that subverts or subordinates them.Kit and Val bothencouraged the students to describe and discuss theirexperiences. They also taught thatlearning can happen in different ways for differentpeople.110The Speak OutThe Speak Out had been a feature of theFundamental ABE program at Dovercampus since Kit established it seven yearsago. The Speak Out that I observed was a halfday event (buffet lunch included) composed of studenttestimonials describing, generally, thedifficulties and the benefits of returning to school, which were deliveredto an invitedaudience of family, friends, other college students andcommunity members. TheFundamental students spent the month prior to the Speak Out preparing theiroralpresentations and making the arrangements for the invitations, theguest speaker, the hall andthe luncheon.I videotaped the Speak Out presentations. All the campus students who had everdropped out of school, not only the Fundamental class, were invitedto speak about theirexperiences. Speaking to an audience of about two hundred people,student after studentexplained their ambivalence about returning to school: how hardit had been to return, howhard it continued to be, but how glad they wereto be back. One student who spoke had justreturned that day after dropping out for a week. A First Nationsstudent said she waspleased to see so many First Nations faces in the room.Another student said that he didn’tthink school had anything to teach himbut when door after door closed in his face as hegrew older, he decided to return. Their emotionaland often tearful speeches reflected theirdesire for acceptance and their fear of continued rejectionby the dominant culture.The Speak Out resembled two types of gatherings that I am awareof. It resembledan AA meeting wherein alcoholics admitto former lives of disability and embrace new livesof sobriety. The key there is to admitto the fault of alcoholism. Taking part in this type ofmeeting may be personally useful in battling the diseaseof alcoholism, but it is not111resistance behaviour. The second type of meetingthat the Speak Out resembled is the“Abortion Speak Outs” of the seventies, wherein womenwho had had abortions admitted thisfact in order to promote thelegalization of abortion. The key was to risk exposure andcensure in order to affect social change.Taking part in this type of meeting is clearlyresistance behaviourAlthough the Speak Out provided the opportunityfor solidarity around the identity oflow-literacy and also offered the possibilityto challenge former school experiences, for someof the students the experience seemed moreconfessional than resistant. They wereconfessing to the fault of not having kept up with the expectations ofthe dominant culture.The Speak Out theme unit is particularly interestingbecause it represents the ambivalence ofliteracy to the dominant discourse and theambivalence that many students feel as they try toboth enter and resist it.For the Speak Out to be a more resistance-positive event, it wouldlikely be importantto work towards removing the confessional aspect from the SpeakOut and to encourageexpression of anger that people often feel when theyhave, wrongly, been made to feel thatthey are at fault.Accommodating The PhysicalMany students in this class talkedabout restlessness; Doris, Des, Cory and Cal allnoted the problem of sitting still in the classroom context.This restlessness that wasdescribed, but not enacted, likely containssome elements of resistance (of the withdrawaltype), but was not evidenced clearlyas such in this study. As well, some left the classroomfor long periods of time, which, combined with isolatedseating patterns and consistentlateness has been described as withdrawal resistancebehaviour. Further, physical modes of112learning (eg. watching and doing) were described as more comfortable for mostof thestudents that I interviewed.Kit made several attempts to address this student restlessness. Oneday, while I wasobserving, Kit brought in chunks of coloured plasticene and distributed itto the class,explaining:There’s a lot of plasticene on the table because I’m finding that I needsomething to fiddle with and people are yelling at me because I’m makingtoomuch noise fiddling with my keys. I thought, ‘I’ll get something soft andquiet to play with while I’m talking.’ And then I thought. ‘Probablyeverybody wants some. If I have some I’ll have to share it.’ So I brought ina lot. So if you feel like fiddling, fiddle. If you don’t feel like fiddling justleave it there.During the large class meeting held that day to discuss the organization of theupcoming Forestry and Oral Histories theme projects, the entireclass molded their pieces ofplasticene while participating in the group discussion. Kit commented at the end of thissession that the students were increasing their capacityto sit through long meetings: “Youpeople are getting very good at being in meetings. You’ve nowbeen in a meeting for fortyor fifty minutes.” Cory responded, “Well, remember that firstmeeting!”Kit also attempted to privilege physical aspects of learning by using increasedphysicality in her teaching. For instance, during blackboard spelling one morning, sheexplained that it helped to learn spelling if one used one’s whole arm to write the word onthe board, because the more of one’s body was in use the more likely it was that the learningwould be remembered. Kit explained, “They say that, eh, when you’re learningto spell, ifwhen you write things, you write them like this [using her whole arm writing onthe board],it helps.” When Des asked why, Kit responded, “Because it involves your wholebody, notjust your brain.”113She used this principle (of including and using the physical in learning)again whenpiloting a new method of teaching readingthat she called “read and run.” She introduced it:But what T’m going to ask you to do today is a little more. I’m going to askyou to jump around. Notjump around, but walk around. I’m goingto askyou to work with a partner and say the things out loud. And that’s a differentway of learning. What we find is that when you have to standup and walkaround while learning, there’s something about walking around that makesyour brain work better. So you might think of that when you’re studyingsomewhere at home -- that walking around and talkingout loud helps youlearn better.She summed it up, “So the more parts of your bodyyou can get involved, the easierit is to learn that stuff.”Encouraging The PoliticalOn several occasions, Kit referred to political situations and asked the class for theircomments. Once, she presented an N.F.B. film that portrayed rebels in CentralAmerica. Onanother occasion, she described a literacy program ina hotel in Saskatchewan where theemployees teach one another literacy skills partly on their own time and partly onwork time.She also talked to the class about the politics of class sizes in the public schoolsystem andhow the system needed to address this issue. Kit talkedabout adult literacy learner militancyin Ontario and asked if anyone in the class also feltmilitant, thus encouraging assertion andsolidarity.Although Kit was more active in her approaches to pro-resistance behaviour,Val alsoacknowledged and validated the many marginalized identities. As well, she continuouslyencouraged students to speak their thoughts.114Chapter 5DISCUSSIONThis study has explored the concept ofresistance as it applies to seventeen particularAdult Basic Education students, and has focusedprimarily on its relation to their programattendance throughout one semester. Thedata derives from ethnographic observations andinterviews and is suggestive of educationalperspectives and instructional practices thatrequire further exploration.The data suggests that the majority of ABEstudents in this class engaged inresistance behaviours in the ABE classroom. In his 1990study of literacy student resistance,Quigley suggested that ABE participants (enrolledstudents) might be different than non-participants in terms of resistance; he questioned theresistance of ABE participants.However, in this exploration, there is no doubt that the majorityof these adult studentsexpressed resistance. This would indicatethat one cannot assume that the adult literacystudent is an accommodating student based solely ontheir participation in ABE. They, likemany other students, manage to both engage in andresist different aspects of the schoolingproject. Nor can their regular attendancebe taken to mean that they do not resist; the regularattenders in this classroom displayed more resistancebehaviours, in terms of both quantityand variety, than the other students.Further, although each resistant individualis likely to engage in a range ofresistancebehaviours, the data suggests a relationshipbetween attendance and type of resistancebehaviour.Those who appeared almost non-resistant orwhose resistance fell primarily into thewithdrawal category, were not regular attenders.Non-existent resistance and primarily115withdrawal type resistance is associated withdropout and sporadic attendance. Moreverbally expressive and more frequent resistancebehaviour seems related to more regularattendance in this ABE classroom. Theseresults suggest a positive association betweenconscious, active resistance and regular attendance.It also suggests that the more thatconscious resistance is encouraged, the more likelyit is that regular attendance will result.This indicates that students could be encouragedto resist in different ways. Someforms of resistance may be less effectivein allowing the student to remain in the ABEprogram (if that is the student’s goal). Forinstance, withdrawal resistance included thestudent absenting himself (it wasa male phenomenon in this classroom) from the class forlong periods of time and thus missing large blocks ofwork. If that student wants to remainin the program, achieve his literacy goals,and also maintain his marginalized identity(ies),then it may be worthwhile to encourage other formsofresistance, that might replace thewithdrawal from ofresistance, which has a strong correlation withdropout behaviour.Instructors could explore how to encourage more activeand verbal forms of resistance.This study suggests not only that instructors needto expect and recognize resistancein ABE, but also that they can and shouldencourage the more conscious and verbal types ofresistance. Resistance should be encouragednot only because it is socially just, but alsobecause it contributes to an improved learningcontext, to student retention and institutionalsuccess.Tt is not surprising that student retention increases when:1) students feel their marginalized selves areaccepted and welcomed into theclassroom;2) the classroom seems more receptiveto all kinds of student input, even to whatappears to be negative input;1163) student resistance is encouraged to be more overt; and4) the teacher focuses less on homogeneity, thedominant culture and control, andmore on diversity, democracy and marginalizeddiscourses.In this study, the educational environment seemedto influence the expression ofstudent resistance. Kit had developed methods and curricula for promotinga resistance-positive environment. She discussed her methodsin an unpublished paper entitled “Literacyteacher as quintessential feminine.” In it,she proposed that teachers not involve their egosin the classroom situation, and, in particular, that theyavoid power struggles andenforcement of rules. She emphasized that the major focusshould be on student success.In my observations, Kit put her own analysisto work. Because she recognized thatmost returning students may not be usedto sitting in a classroom for hours at a time, shetried to include physical methods of learning as wellas purely mental methods. She madethe classroom safe by encouraging a non-sexist and non-racist environmentthrough the preentry interviews. She looked for opportunitiesto analyze the social power dynamics instudent stories.Kit’s curricula also reflected these concerns; she has “political” themeunits. The firsttheme unit, Learning and Past School Experiences, allowedthe students to examine theirformer school experiences (which, like most ABEstudents were largely failures) in acollective manner in a supportive and politicized context.I observed that it helped to shiftthe weight of school failure from an exclusivelyindividual base to include systemresponsibility and failure.In this classroom, teacher encouragement of resistanceseems to have led to anincreased vocalization of student awareness ofoppression. The teachers’ openness to117resistance also seemed to result in a reduced occurrence ofin-class challenging behaviours.This contrasted sharply with my former observation ina Vancouver ABE classroom, which Irelated in the Introduction and which servedas a motivator for this study. In that case, apower struggle around enforcing standard English ina classroom of working class studentsescalated quickly and increased opposition, whichspread throughout the class.This study may be most useful in its implications for teaching in ABE classrooms.The results may encourage teachersto feel less threatened by resistance behaviours andindeed to experiment with valuing and encouraging studentresistance. Teachers may attemptto promote especially verbal forms ofresistance and to workto bring non-verbal, withdrawalresistance to conscious verbal statements of awareness andidentity. For instance, followingthis study, Kit removed the isolated row seating in the classroom, in anattempt to reducewithdrawal resistance.LimitationsThis study was both limited and enhancedby the ethnographic approach that I used.The limitations included the initial lack of a set theoreticalframework, the broad focus andthe inability to generalize to other contexts. Although Iwas initially interested in thedifficulties of student accommodation in adult literacyprograms, I did not have theframework of resistance theory or poststructuralist discoursetheory to inform and guide thisstudy from the outset.Had I used resistance theory and the concept of discoursefrom the beginning of thestudy the observations and the interviews might have producedmore relevant information.On the other hand, it was important to maintain an open mindduring the data collection118stages of the research. The lack of theoretical frames permitted the inclusionof data thatmight have not been noted otherwise.Directions For Future StudyThe ethnographic nature of this study provides indepth informationabout thisparticular classroom; however, further ethnographicclassroom research needs to beundertaken in order to establish the possibilities for broaderapplications of this study’sfindings.This study was done in a classroom that had resistance positive teachers whohadgiven much thought to the implications of classroom and societal powerdynamics, as well asto the value of marginalized identities. It would be useful to the understanding of resistancein ABE classrooms to conduct similar studies in classes without resistancepositive orresistance conscious teachers. These sorts of studies would provide additionalinformationabout student resistance in less accepting circumstances.It would also be useful to further explore the relationships of the five forms ofresistance behaviour to attendance. As well, it would be interesting toexplore therelationships between teaching styles (concepts), student resistance andretention. Studies ina variety of institutional and instructional contexts would provide moreinsight into therelationships among the variables of resistance and attendance.SummaryThis study examined the relationships between student resistance and studentattendance in an ABE classroom. It found that adult students generally displayedresistance119behaviours, and that that resistance was expressed ina variety of ways. It also found that thestudents who:1) dropped Out displayed more of the withdrawaltype of resistance;2) attended sporadically displayed almostno resistant behaviour;3) attended regularly displayed more, and more varied, formsofresistance.These findings suggest that retention increases if ABE teacherslearn to recognize,value, and encourage student resistanceas a positive attempt on the part of the adult studentto maintain dignity and pride in their marginalized identitiesand to assert that identity whileparticipating in the very dominant discourse which tendsto devalue it. It suggests thatteachers who learn to work with resistance, asopposed to discouraging it, will enhancestudent learning and ABE retention.120BIBLIOGRAPHYApple, Michael W. (1979). Ideology and Curriculum. London: Routledge and KeganPaul.Apple, Michael W. (1982). Education and Power. Boston: Routledge andKegan Paul.Anderson, R. and G. Darkenwald (1979). Participation and Persistance in AmericanAdultEducation. 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