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Attending to resistance: an ethnographic study of resistance and attendance in an adult basic education… Pare, Arleen Lyda 1994

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ATTENDING TO RESISTANCE: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC 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 FULHLMENT OFTHE 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 fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)___________________Department of LLQk -cuCc-t-The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate______________DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTThis ethnographic study explores the relationship between student attendance andstudent resistance in an Adult Basic Education (ABE) classroom. Resistance is interpreted tomean the positive opposition to dominant cultures and discourses (of which schooling andliteracy are a part), as is described in the work of Henri Giroux. The study was conducted ina community college Fundamental ABE classroom. It documents and describes instances ofstudent resistance that were gathered through three and a half months of videotapedobservation and twelve interviews. The initial question focused on how ABE students, whogenerally have marginalized identities, managed to remain in ABE programs despiteliteracy’s almost inherent thrust toward standardization and the mainstream. As I pursued therelevant literature and reviewed the data, the theoretical concept of resistance began toinfluence the research question, so that it finally became “What is the relationship of studentresistance to student attendance in an ABE classroom.”In the data that I gathered, resistance presented as a complex phenomenon that couldbe divided most usefully into five different categories. Comparisons of student resistancecategories with student attendance patterns suggested that students with more, and morevaried, resistance styles were the students who attended most regularly. Most of the studentswho attended sporadically or who dropped out of the ABE program either demonstrated noresistance, very little resistance, or only the type of resistance that I categorized as thewithdrawal type of resistance.11These comparisons imply that ABE teachers and programs could benefit from framingtheir experience of student resistance as 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 resistance to resist in other styles might alsoencourage them to keep attending.111TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract iiTable of Contents ivList of Tables vAcknowledgements viIntroduction 1Chapter 1: Theoretical Framework 6The Research Question 13Chapter 2: The Literature Review 15Commentary 28Chapter 3: The Research Process 31The Methodology: An Ethnographic Approach 31The Setting 31Data Collection 38Chapter 4: Data Presentation 41Data Analysis 41Student Demographics 43Attendance Information 44Attendance Commentary 45Resistance Information 46Resistance Commentary 52Student Profiles 55Five Who Dropped Out 55Five Who Attended Sporadically 65Seven Who Attended Regularly 72Resistance and Attendance Compared 96Teacher Interventions and Attitudes 105Chapter 5: Discussion 114Limitations 117Directions for Future Study 118Summary 118Bibliography 120ivList of TablesTable 1. Resistance incidents (all) by attendance group 97Table 2. Resistance incidents (observed) by attendance group 98Table 3. Resistance incidents (interview) by attendance group 99vACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis study has been a long and evolving process. My friends and family havetolerated, sustained and advised me through the many months, for which I am grateful. Inparticular, I would like to thank my partner and faithful editor, Chris Fox, who has not onlytolerated the endeavour, but has encouraged me, supported me, and helped me to clarify mythoughts as the study took shape.I also extend my appreciation to the institution, the staff and the students of MainCollege. The generosity and acceptance of the teachers and the students in the studyclassroom was humbling, and their interest and belief in the research was inspiring. Iespecially want to thank Kit who gave me so much of her time and from whom I learned somuch.I also thank my committee who read the drafts and provided the advice so that thisthesis could finally see completion.vi1The idea for this exploration began four years ago during an observation in aVancouver adult literacy classroom.’ The class was engaged in a grammar lesson. Theteacher had asked the class for a sentence with an object and one of the students volunteeredan example. He walked to the front of the class and confidently wrote “I seen the bus” onthe chalkboard. It seemed like a good example to the student. The teacher, however, wasconcerned; although the sentence included an object, 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 his seat and, pointing to his sentence, demanded to knowwhy “seen” was wrong. He repeated his sentence loudly 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 refusal were not made clear. It was simply notcorrect. Other students were also confused. They considered the original version preferableand argued for it; however, their point of view was not accepted. The teacher explained thatalthough they could say “I seen the bus” in conversation with their friends, it was notacceptable in literacy class. As the students filed out of the classroom for the break, theygathered around the offended student and confirmed their disapproval of the incident.This event left me wondering about the possible impact of this cultural conflict.Would the student interpret the event as a challenge to (and diminishment of) his workingclass language, culture and identity? Would he decide that the adult literacy classroom wasnot for him, that the personal costs were too great? Would this result in him dropping out?The observation referred to in this introduction occurred three years before I undertook this current study.2Or, alternately, would the solidarity of his 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 (in this case,working class identity) in adult literacy education. The particular manifestation observed inthis classroom event was the politics of language usage. 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. She writes:The imposition of “standard” language has been part of the process of creatinga “social police.” Thus the teaching of reading and writing has been theinculcation of a particular form of language claimed to 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, becomes the“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 learning a [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. I suspected thatalthough the classroom event I had observed was a transparent and extreme example ofschool culture versus a student’s (working class) culture of origin, it was not an isolatedincident. Similar cultural encounters likely occur frequently in educational settings, atvarious levels of awareness, and concerning other elements of cultural identity, such as, forexample, cultural values, styles, expectations, tastes or interests.3I then wondered whether cultural conflicts in adult literacy education might affect theattendance of an adult literacy student; and whether, within the North American experienceof high attrition rates in adult literacy programs, various sociological conditions in thelearning context, including conditions of dominance and difference, might be related toattendance.For decades, literacy practitioners and researchers have noted the difficulty ofattracting and sustaining adult literacy students in adult literacy programs and have identifiedattendance as a major problem in literacy programs. Further, the majority of adults withlimited literacy skills do not enrol in literacy education. Audrey Thomas reported that,according to earlier researchers, “especially at the lower literacy (or Fundamental) levelsOily one percent to six percent of the target population enrol in programs” (Thomas, 1990,p.5). In addition, once enrolled, many learners do not remain in literacy programs. “Dropoutrates have been quoted to be as high as 20 to 60 percent” (Thomas, 1990, p. 5). Andersonand Darkenwald found that dropout from adult literacy programs was four times as high asdropout from other adult education programs (Anderson and Darkenwald, 1979, p.5).Given the difficult early school experiences reported by many low literate adults, it isnot surprising that many do not return to school as adults. As well, if adult schoolingreplicates or echoes past difficulties, which would undermine adult cultural identity ordignity, then this might affect students’ attendance in literacy programs. Michelle Fine andPearl Rosenberg “found that students who drop out of high school came disproportionatelyfrom the social classes, races, and ethnic groups most alienated from schools. Standardcurricula tend not to reflect their lived experiences, nor provide much encouragement fortheir pursuit of education” (1983, p. 269-270). Fine and Rosenberg concluded:4Dropping out of high school needs to be recognized not as aberrant and not asgiving up. Often it voices a critique of educational and economic systemspromising opportunity and mobility, delivering neither. Thus far, the critiquestems disproportionately from those least likely to be heard. (p. 270)These high school dropouts occasionally return to Adult Basic Education (ABE)classes as adults and become adult literacy students. Against high odds some adult literacystudents persist in programs that can intrinsically involve personal, cultural, and educationalstruggles for the adult student. This is particularly so since most adult literacy students alsolead lives that are most often economically and socially demanding. But also undermining isthe adult literacy student’s economic, cultural and social marginality: their lifestyles andlearning styles are seldom reflected, sanctioned or encouraged in adult literacy schooling.In this study I will explore the issues of marginality, resistance, and ABE attendancein adult literacy education. In Chapter One, I outline the theoretical framework 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 the study. In Chapter Four, I present the study’sfindings. My conclusions and discussion, including implications for ABE instruction, arepresented in Chapter Five.I became sensitized to the fundamental importance of literacy in North Americansociety when my youngest son started to have reading problems in grades one and two. Iwould try to imagine what he could do when he grew up if he never learned to read andwrite. He was bright and curious, but how would our society receive him if he did notacquire literacy skills? Not very well, I thought.5Years of work as a social worker and years of my life as a feminist have exposed meto life at the margins of society. I value the margins. Years and years of schooling havetaught me how much education draws us to the middle, to the mainstream of society, andhow hard it is to protect marginal identities in schooling environments.All of this background has lead me to 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 searched for theoreticalpositions that made sense of the lives of the learners in the adult literacy program that Istudied, the concept of resistance emerged. It is used by critical education theorists and bypoststructuralists’ to explain, and to shape, opposition to the dominant status quo.I use the concept of resistance in two ways, both as it has been used 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 poststructuralist theory, I havenot privileged one over the other. I operate within both theoretical traditions as each senseof resistance applies. Patti Lather encourages critical researchers to move theoreticallyamong the three theoretical positions she views as most useful: critical theory,poststructuralist theory, and feminist theory. In this study I primarily use critical theory (inthe specific form of resistance theory) and poststructuralist theory, both of which will beelaborated. I use feminist theory as an underlying and guiding position rather than as anovert theoretical framework.There are several reasons for choosing the concept of resistance to inform this study.Primarily, the issue of cultural conflicts and differences between school culture and studentcultural backgrounds lends itself to resistance theory. As Henri Giroux expresses it:Culture is both the subject and object of resistance; and the driving force ofculture is contained not only in how it functions to dominate subordinategroups, but also in the ways in which oppressed groups draw from their own7cultural capital and set of experiences to develop an oppositional logic(Giroux, 1983, p. 281-282)The issues of student attrition (or dropout) and persistence may be issues of oppositional,resistant action (or of accommodating action) and the relationships therein are worthexploring.Most adult literacy students have numerous obstacles to overcome in order to remainin literacy programs. Apart from the overt demands and economic deprivations that shapetheir lives and sometimes determine whether they will remain in a literacy program, literacystudents also have other, less obvious struggles. They frequently struggle with negative pastschool experiences and many report struggles with being stigmatized as “illiterate.” Inaddition, they may have difficulties with aspects 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 issues can discourage adults from returning toschool for literacy education. As well, these issues can discourage adult literacy studentsfrom remaining in literacy education.Many adults enter adult literacy programs only to 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 prevent their schooling (Thomas,1990). However, there are many who leave for whom there are no such concreteexplanations. Neither do demographic variables provide adequate understanding of thereasons and the process of dropout. Nor is there adequate understanding about what sustainsthose who remain and persist in literacy programs. As the literature review reveals, severalsurvey studies have linked demographic traits and psychological dispositions to ABE8attendance, but little is known from observation studies and attendance continues to beproblematic in ABE programs.Hal Beder studied the issue of adult literacy program enrolment. Although Beder’ sstudy concerned barriers to enrolment, the responses he collected have implications for issuesof attendance once a student has enrolled. Beder found, for example, that among the six mostsignificant barriers to literacy enrolment, five pertained to adults’ discomfort about returningto school. The most cited reason for not returning to school, “I would feel strange goingback to school’ (1990, p. 213), indicates that low-literate responders felt they did not belongin a school environment and that they anticipated feeling uncomfortable there.Allan Quigley, using the concept of resistance in his 1990 study of public schooldropout and adult literacy non-participation, suggested that student resisters dropped out ofschool because they did not want to forfeit their cultural identity or 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 resistance in adult literacy education. Most criticaltheorizing and research has related primarily to the public school system for children.However, because most literacy learners are from marginalized groups and many aredropouts from the public school system (Anderson and Darkenwald, 1979), there is reason toconsider the concept of resistance in adult literacy education. Adults with limited literacyskills come from a range of demographic backgrounds; however, in North America, most arenot from the dominant cultures. They are not, typically, middle-class; many are poor; manyare not white; many are immigrants whose first language is not English; and there areslightly more women ABE students than there are men (Beder, 1991). Further, although9there is increasing awareness and effort to make adult literacy education more learner-oriented, school has been and still is predominantly white, middle-class, and male-biased inits structures, processes, expectations and content.Critical Education TheoryCritical theorists such as Michael Apple, Pierre Bourdieu, and Henri Giroux arguethat the school system serves the interests of the dominant culture in maintaining itshegemonic position in society. “As part of state apparatus, schools and universities play amajor role in furthering the economic interests of the dominant class” (Giroux, 1983 p.Z19).While this form of socialization may occur with more impact at the elementary and high-school levels, there is no reason to believe that adult literacy students might not find thesocializing component which accompanies school-based literacy alienating and personallyundermining.Unlike school children, whose school attendance is 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 oppositional or resistant behaviours have beenbroadly identified as, for instance, disregard for authority, testing school rules and developingcounter-cultures within the school (Willis, 1977).Adult students, however, can express their opposition ultimately in terms of theirattendance, a mode of resistance that is not fully available to involuntary students. Adultsmay attend sporadically as may involuntary students; however, unlike involuntary students,adults may also leave the program altogether. This is 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 resistance because it would appear thatthere could be some connection between attendance and resistance. I also raise it as apossible or partial explanation only.Horsman reported on a woman in her study, who was unhappy about the literacyprogram she had attended: “She found the whole process depressing and 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 study did not drop out, they persisted throughexercising other forms of resistance which resulted in 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 regular attendance), as well asforms of resistance that may be associated with sporadic attendance or 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 students who remain inadult literacy programs manage to persist and attend regularly in the face of apparent culturalconflict. Resistance theory encourages the examination of human agency within culture andcultural production and acknowledges the contradictions that exist within 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 mode of criticalanalysis, it becomes possible to illuminate how students draw on the limitedresources at their disposal in order to reaffirm the positive dimensions of theirown cultures and histories. (Giroux, 1983 p. 292)Although Giroux refers above to conflict among students, I use his concept of resistance toexamine the relationships between the subordinated cultures of adult students and the11dominant school and social cultures. In particular, I am interested in examining thestudents’ capacity for resistance, on the assumption that some forms of resistance mayreaffirm and promote persistence (regular attendance) in adult literacy programs.Aside from shifting the theoretical grounds for analyzing oppositionalbehaviour, the concept of resistance 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 as aprocess 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 is neverunidimensional; 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 inquiry to 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 includes theconcept of resistance, in order to speak about resistance and attendance issues in an adultliteracy classroom. Although the concept of discourse is most widely associated with MichelFoucault (eg., 1980; 1982) and with feminist poststructuralist scholars (eg., Terese DeLauretis 1986; Chris Weedon, 1987), Horsman explains her use of the concept in thefollowing way:12When we speak of illiterates, . . . or any other category, we have a wholecomplex set of terms and assumptions implied by the category that allows usto understand what it means to be “illiterate”. . . . All of these constitutediscourse. This oral and written language is found in and helps to shapebureaucratic processes and social relations. In this way it helps to form oursubjectivity, our sense of self. . . . Through my language and actions I may beable to adapt my role and contest the assumptions embedded in thesediscourses. But discourses which are endorsed by bureaucratic processes havea weight which in themselves will shape my life. . . . It is [the] dual sense ofbeing a subject [(l)subjected to and (2) author of] that is crucial to discourse.People are seen neither as helpless puppets subjected to control throughdiscourses, nor as the traditional rational individual who makes free choices.Discourses are not monolithic. Although discourses which are made powerfulthrough institutional frameworks are an important form of control, we can alsocontest and challenge them. As we participate in resistant discourses, we arepart of a process of changing perceptions of experience and forming newsubjectivities. (Horsman, 1990 p.22-23)Literacy learners, then, like all of us, both resist and enter aspects of the dominantdiscourse. Their resistance, (or acceptance) of the dominant discourse will be individual, butcan reflect collective experiences and may affect their attendance in adult literacy programs.My use of resistance assumes a sense of dignified agency on the part of the literacy students,which I wish to emphasize in the evolution of the research.Feminist TheoryI also rely on feminist theory in several ways. As a feminist of twenty-five years,feminism informs my perspective. I am sensitive to the dynamics of dominance,subordination and resistance, especially in terms of women’s experience in patriarchalstructures and this has sensitized me to the experiences of other subordinated groups. In thisway I draw on personal experience to inform my research, and in particular, I draw on myown experience of resistance (and accommodation) as a woman student with a feministperspective who has roots in the working class.13I have found that the political language regarding acts of resistance is mainlymasculinist, often describing resistance in terms of grand heroism and polarization. Inopposition to this trend, in this study, I also look for the subtleties (and recognize theambiguities), the small words and acts that indicate that the student is resisting the subtleconforming discourse inherent in the acquisition of schooled literacy.THE RESEARCH QUESTIONIn this study, I am primarily interested in exploring how adult literacy students, mostof whom are from a variety of cultures outside the dominant 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 education system. I explorethis in terms of the concept of resistance, and how the students’ particular ways of coping,in terms of resistance, affect their program attendance. My initial question was, “Whatcoping mechanisms do adult literacy students employ in order to adjust to, and remain in, anadult literacy program?” Gradually, resistance theory and the concept of dominant discourseinfluenced my analysis, and my approach. My research question became more firmly basedin the concept of resistance, and evolved to: “What are the forms of resistance in an adultliteracy program; what is the relationship of resistance to attendance in an adult literacyprogram; and does the educational environment influence resistance?”In pursuing this exploration I made the following assumptions about resistance:1) that resistance is generally a healthy response in 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 differently and 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 agendas of politicians,industrialists, and educators in the past decade; many proclaim a literacy crisis. While othersdispute the label of crisis, there is no question that literacy and illiteracy have capturedpublic attention in North America. However, one of the most persistent adult literacyprogram problems, along with the problem of very low enrolment levels, is the equallyenduring problem of very high attrition or dropout rates. Adult students leave Adult BasicEducation (ABE) programs in far greater proportions than they leave other areas of adulteducation.More than two decades of research literature addresses the issues surrounding attritionin 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 little solidinformation on the phenomena; most concluded with the recommendation for more 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 research and generallyproduced superficial demographically based results that 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 of North American research literaturerelating to ABE attrition and persistence in a chronological order (for the past fifteen years).It demonstrates how little research methodology, perspectives, values and categories have16changed or shifted over almost two decades. It also reveals the gaps in the research in termsof how the question of ABE attrition has been defined and how it has been studied.Only one author in this review is different. Allan Quigley addressed the issue ofresistance in relation to attendance and he did so using a range of adolescent literary fictionalcharacters. Despite its adolescent scope and literary-based methodology, I have included thisstudy in particular because of its focus on resistance and its use of resistance theory. Aswell, few researchers explored adult literacy dropout in terms of the social and culturalpower imbalances implicit in adult literacy education and none, in the following review, usedan ethnographic approach. These gaps inspired the direction of the present study.Generally, in the past literature, the adult literacy student has been classified andstudied based on demographic characteristics and/or on personality traits. In some studiesthe student’s social connections are examined; in others, the student 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 is a long standing source of concern to ABE teachers andadministrators” (p. 47). Their study sought to relate student persistence to student socialsupport systems. They argued that much previous research focused on sociodemographic andpersonality variables in relation to persistence and that this type of research failed “togenerate any reliable basis for predicting what types 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 this procedure is subject tocontamination by social pressures” (p. 48), implying that many ABE dropouts might not have17been comfortable telling researchers about what they might have considered to beunacceptable reasons for leaving ABE programs.The researchers distributed two questionnaires (the Adjective 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 support systems: work, family and church.This limited the final sample to 70 which seemed to indicate that many ABE students maynot work, belong to a church or have family.The researchers found that integration and involvement ii the three social supportsystems (church, work, and family) could predict students’ persistence, but not dramatically.They further found that social support system variables, in combination withsociodemographic variables, predicted persistence more effectively than social support alone,but that sociodemographic and personality variables were weak predictors.This model defined social support narrowly and in terms 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 social environments was a conceptual advanceon earlier research.Anderson and Darkenwald (1979)In 1979, Anderson and Darkenwald prepared a wide-reaching report on participationand persistence in adult education with emphases on various sub-groups, including ABE.They used data from the 1975 American Census and multiple regression techniques for dataanalysis,They found that ABE students are much more likely to 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 the most salientvariable for adult student persistence. Age, race, geographical location, and job-relatedreasons for enrolment were also significant to persistence in this study.While Anderson and Darkenwald suggested “threat and frustration” as reasons forattrition, they did not suggest that these reasons, which are related to the concept ofresistance, be explored further. It is possible that the concept of resistance, which may nothave been significantly recognized or articulated at the time of their study, could be moreuseful now in the exploration of their results.Wilson (1980)In 1980, R. K. Wilson reported on his study involving retention and dropout ascompared to personalogical variables in adult upgrading programs. Using the AdjectiveCheck List, which he administered to 142 students at enrolment, he compared results forstudents who persisted and for students who left. He found that students who 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 need to 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 likely to resist, and who is likely toaccommodate to, those different and difficult conditions. While those who left described19themselves as “more rebellious and hostile” (p.183), those who remained describedthemselves as “more obliging, tactful, diligent, practical and compliant” (p.183). Those wholeft “were seen as less socialized . . . [and] less willing to subordinate self’ (p.183). Wilsonrecommended, among other things, that peer relationships be promoted to encourageattachment to the school program. While peer relationships may promote attachment toschool, they may also encourage solidarity among culturally marginalized students (a form ofresistance) in the school, which may also work to promote persistence.Diekhoff and Diekhoff (1984)In 1984, George and Karen Diekhoff investigated the relationship between dropoutand sociodemographic variables gathered from ABE students at intake. They found that fiveintake variables were related to dropout in the U.S.: youth; Hispanic ethnicity; unemployedbut ready to work status; lack of General Education Development (GED) completion goal;and the presence of other family members with low literacy skills. The Diekhoffs analyzedthe intake information of 66 enrolling adult literacy students. However, they used only 44sets of data as only 44 students were able to present complete data.They also attempted to cross-validate their study one year later. This attempt failedto demonstrate the predictive powers of the five intake variables cited in their first study.They explained that intake procedures had changed in the intervening year so that a waitingperiod screened Out and reduced the number of potential program dropouts. However, theydid find that the five variables could predict waitlist dropoffs.Lewis (1984)In 1984, Linda Lewis examined ABE persistence and institutional and personalsupport systems. She sorted the various types of reference groups and significant others into20a typology of five types, according to their level of positive support for ABE, and thenanalyzed their impact on the ABE students. Lewis interviewed 214 ABE students and foundsthat friends and family members were described as both the most supportive (in some cases)and the least supportive (in other cases) of ABE student persistence. Teachers wereperceived to be the most important resources for ABE students and married students felt theyreceived more support than single students.Lewis recommended that ‘significant others involved in the lives of students must bewelcomed along with the student participants into the educational setting so that they canlearn more about what is going on” (Lewis, p.78). Among other benefits, thisrecommendation promotes some inclusion of the ABE students culture in the ABE program.Taylor and Boss (1985)In 1985, Taylor and Boss used the personality variable referred to as “locus ofcontrol” as the basis for study. Locus of control conceptualizes that individuals believeeither in internal control (that an individual can control their own behaviour) or externalcontrol (that an individual’s behaviour is beyond their own control or is in the control ofanother). Taylor and Boss pursued this study despite poor results from fonner studies basedon the same variable. They reported that a similar 1980 study by Newson and Foxworthfailed to produce positive results because the Newson and Foxworth student subjects receiveda training allowance which financially encouraged persistence.Taylor and Boss hypothesized a positive relationship between internal locus of controland ABE completion. Their findings supported this hypothesis and led them to recommendthat counsellors and teachers work with the students who exhibit external locus of control inorder to change the students’ attitudes and behaviours, despite their acknowledgment that21locus of control beliefs, which result from the reinforcements of a lifetime, would be verydifficult to change. Given the high rates of ABE dropout, it might also be useful to analyzethe origins of locus of control beliefs to explore their relationship to student membership indominant or in marginalized groups.Garrison (1985)In 1985, Garrison investigated the predictive power of goal clarity and courserelevance versus the predictive power of psychosocial variables upon persistence. He foundthat persisters entered ABE with a higher completed level of education and worked morehours on their ABE courses. He also found that those who dropped out of the ABE programhad clearer goals and judged the courses to be more relevant to these goals. He interpretedthis latter anomalous finding by suggesting that those who left the ABE program wereunrealistic in their occupational expectations, which led to dropout. Garrison also found thatone social affiliation variable was predictive as well: persistence was positively associatedwith social integration at school. This last finding is 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 Gavin used social environment theory (from Lewin, 1938and Murray, 1936) to examine the relationship between dropout and the social ecology of theABE classroom. Social environment theory assumes that behaviour is a joint product ofindividuals and their environment; they influence each other especially in micro or proximalenvironments such as classrooms. Darkenwald and Gavin used Moos’ theoretical perspectiveand his Classroom Environmental Scale (CES) to measure the classroom environments along22three dimensions or domains: the Relationship Domain (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 domains each subsume a set of dimensions.Earlier research suggested that student dissatisfaction was a function of discrepanciesbetween student expectation of a classroom environment and their actual experiences in theclassroom environment. Darkenwald and Gavin cited a 1978 study by Irish that “indicatedthat in-class negative reinforcers were the most potent predictors of dropout’ (p.154).Darkenwald and Gavin administered the CES to 91 original study subjects in fiveABE programs. They found that the most powerfully predictive variable was the affiliationdimension subsumed under the Relationship Domain. Students who left the ABE programwere less affiliated than students who remained. This supported the findings of previousattrition researchers, such as Boshier (1973), Garrison (1985), Irish (1978), and Wilson(1980).However, as with other quantitative descriptive studies, this research is problematic:the inability to randomly select subjects; the definition of 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 with regard to persistence in ABE is ofinterest to my current study in that cultural inclusion is associated with affiliation.Garrison (1987)In 1987, Garrison again addressed the issue of ABE student dropout, this time usingBoshier’s congruence model and tests in concert with other socioeconomic and psychologicalvariables to compare their respective predictive powers. He administered various tests to 11023adult students in tenth grade mathematics classes. He found that: 1) socioeconomic variableshad no significant predictive power; 2) nine psychological and learning setting variablescontributed to the explanation of 16.4% of dropout/persistence behaviour; and 3) the Boshierself-other variable was predictive but in reverse of expectation in that persisters experiencemore self-other incongruence than those who dropped out. However, Garrison conceded thathis study neither discounted nor confirmed Boshier’s congruence model any more thanBoshier’s study did.Quigley (1990)In a literary approach to ABE dropout research in 1990, Allan Quigley, using theconcept of resistance, analyzed the lives of several school-resistant fictional characters.Although this study did not address the issue of adult attrition, its grounding in resistancetheory 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 was aprocess of growing awareness that a certain freedom or liberty was beingdenied through schooling and the dominant culture. They choose to 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. Although Quigley suggested thatit may be iiaccurate to assume that participants and nonparticipants are similar, it may bethat the issues of cultural marginalization that both potential ABE students and enrolled ABEstudents must deal with are similar. Quigley proposed that nonparticipation can beunderstood on theoretical and ideological grounds. This implies that persistence and attritionmay be, at least partially, interpreted on these grounds as well.24Martin (1990)In 1990, Larry Martin applied the general model of attrition developed by Tinto in1975 to the prediction of persistence and attrition in ABE programs. Tinto’s model positsthat a student’s integration into the social and academic systems of an educational programmost directly relates to continuance in that program which leads to new levels ofcommitment.” Tinto based this model on Murray’s needs-press theory (Murray, 1938).Martin further explained:[for] example, the student friendships and faculty support which result fromsocial 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, must adjust “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 three categories, itidentified completers most successfully. Four academic variables distinguished completers:more student-instructor organizing time; more learning effort; more favourable studentassessments of instructors’ knowledge, both initially and subsequently. In Martin’s study,neither social integration nor institutional commitment variables distinguished completers25from persisters and dropouts. Martin concluded that completers may have had shorter termgoals that do not permit social integration or institutional commitment and that their initialhigher level of education allowed them to manoeuvre through the academic system moreconfidently. Persisters were found to be older students with 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 integration and short term goals arekey variables in the success of completers, it leaves unresolved the role ofsocial integration for students with lower levels of 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 social isolation 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 have included it in this review because hisfindings have implications for resistance and attendance. His finding that the mostsignificant reason for individuals with low literacy skills to not return to school (the listedresponse: “I would feel strange going back to 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, five related to what was referred to asdisposition. Including the reason cited above, these were: “There aren’t many people in adulthigh school classes who are my age;” “Going back to school would be like going to highschool all over again;” “I am too old to go back to high school;” and “A high school diplomawouldn’t improve my life” (p. 213-214). If these reasons, categorized here as dispositional(implying a personal trait), were also understood to be sociological (implying that the social26circumstance contributes to the situation) this would broaden the meaning and application ofthis study. These chosen statements reflected discomfort or incredulity about schooling byindividuals who did not feel acceptable to, nor accepting of, the school system: they impliedthat nonparticipants felt strange, different, and removed from the educational system, andwere unable to identify with schooling. It is likely that most ABE students have feltsimilarly prior to enrollment; most speak freely of feelings of fear, discomfort, uneasiness,and strangeness when they enter ABE classes for the first time. Beder’s study emphasizedthat individuals with low literacy skills do not feel at ease about school, suggesting that theyfeel marginalized by school. Because the main reasons for 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 results were encouraging for thisstudy.Thomas (1990)In 1990, Audrey Thomas wrote a report for the Ministry of Advanced Education,Training and Technology in British Columbia with the purpose of exploring reasons fornonparticipation and high attrition in adult literacy 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 impossible to estimate with any certainty in B.C. For example,no ABE administrators supplied the requested attrition data to Thomas. Thomas also notedthat there were problems posed by differing definitions of attrition and by definitions thatimplied that leaving was a problem of student failure.27She distinguished between dropout, stopout (also referred to as dropin or sporadicattendance), and persistence, stating that often students who leave return later. Sheacknowledged that the reasons for students leaving are complex, but found that the mostoften cited reasons fell into either work-related or family/health related categories.Thomas’ findings reveal the following information regarding student retention: ABEstudents often lead chaotic lives and supports are important to retain the less motivated. TheABE students she interviewed recommended peer counselling, tutoring, and assistance withprogram transitions. Learners said that the group and social interactions in ABE programswere important to them.Thomas used student quotes and ideas to enrich her study, one of which was ofparticular interest to this study. A non-participant said: “Education corrupts people.Educated people have their hand out for the almighty dollar and they forget their fellowhuman beings. We are destroying the planet” (p. 46). This perspective clearly reveals thateducation is not necessarily viewed positively; there are those who profoundly resist it.Thomas’ extensive study is of especial value to this study because it was BC based(most ABE attrition research in North America is US 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 the question of ABE attendance. Henoted that ABE student attrition was still considered the most important program issue in thefield, reaching rates of 60-70% in some ABE programs.Quigley examined whether some ABE students drop out because of negative formerschool experiences. He compared persisters’ and dropouts’ expectations of ABE and theirbelief in education at the time of entrance. His findings were anomalous in that dropoutswere slightly more at ease in school than persisters and they believed more in school.However, this anomaly may be explained by his third (other) finding, which was that theyalso felt that they did not receive sufficient attention from teachers. Dropouts were youngerthan persisters, more likely to be loners, and more likely to seek help more from counsellorsthan from teachers.Quigley recommended that students who appear disinterested (the potential dropouts)need to receive extra attention in the first three weeks of school. He asserted:we need to further investigate the attitudes of those who persist against allodds . . . those who quit and try and try again and those who never come backto ABE/literacy. Thus, further research is needed to respond effectively to theexpectations of those willing to enter, to more clearly reveal the complexdimensions of school”, and to understand better the life-long love-haterelationships so many adults, formally educated and undereducated, have withtheir past schooling. (p. 31)CommentaryMost ABE attendance research to date has been of the survey or descriptive variety.Despite occasional contradictory and anomalous results among some of these reviewedstudies, they appear generally to agree that those who persist in ABE programs are 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 socially in class.The main problems with these studies relate to the difficulty of applying quantitativemethods with sufficient rigor to complex ABE issues and to the difficulty in accessing ABEpopulations. These problems include survey sampling techniques: access to ABE populationsis limited and therefore random sample selection and sample size maintenance is notpossible. Those who leave ABE programs are often difficult to locate. Any follow-upresearch further reduces the sample sizes and threatens to distort results. Subjects appear tobe self-selected in so far as results come from the small number of subjects willing to beinterviewed or surveyed. Darkenwald and Valentine state 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 adjustments to the original study whichcompromise the replication. Further, contradictory findings from (adapted) duplication ofstudies, such as Garrison’s adapted duplication of Boshier’s study, create additionalconfusion.Thus, ABE attendance as it has been studied from the perspective of quantitativeresearchers continues to be an elusive issue. The questions asked, the categories chosen, andthe values implied and imbedded tend to reflect the viewpoint of educated professionals.The exception is the 1987 Quigley literature study on resistance. However, his use offictional data only reinforces the idea that researchers have great difficulty getting theanswers they want from the ABE students themselves. Despite the difficulties, the reviewedstudies generally support the further exploration of attendance issues from a sociological30perspective, especially from the perspective of resistance of marginalized groups in thedominant educational environment.It is important now to explore attendance from a perspective that is more studentoriented, more contextually based, and that also questions some of the cultural conditions ofliteracy education. It is also worthwhile to move away from the problematic quantitativeresearch methodology into a qualitative, ethnographic approach that 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 confirmed thatsurvey research data about ABE students provides only partial 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 information about 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 issues to beexplored in context and at length; it adds both breadth and depth to the data. 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 College at the Dover campus, and asked2 All names of persons and places in this research study are pseudonyms.32her whether I could conduct this study in her ABE class. She agreed and after several weeksof presentations to and approvals from the institutions involved, I began my observations. Iinclude here a description of the research setting in order to provide an orientation andcontext for the research findings.This description will fix the study’s findings firmly in the particular context thatproduced them by providing a sense of the community formed by the institution, the ABEprogram and the classrooms, as well as the population from which students were drawn.The study was conducted at a small satellite campus, one of five satellite campuses,attached to a large Vancouver Island community college. The college is referred to as MainCollege in this study and the satellite campus, which is a forty minute highway drive fromMain College, is referred to as Dover campus. The relationship between Main college andDover campus appeared to be strained at the time of the study. 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 and surrounding areaare employed in or connected to the forest, fishing or farming industries. Ten percent of thepopulation are First Nations peoples.Because of the semi-rural, small town setting, many of the students attending theDover campus ABE program know each other before meeting at the college. Although thisis usually positive, it is not necessarily so. Kit, who has been at Dover campus for overseven years, elaborated:33Most of [the students] are born here. . . . They often know each other. Likewhen they get to class they find they were in the same opportunity class athigh school. . . . Or lots of people are related to each other, especially lots ofthe First Nations students are related. And other people know each other andthey’ve seen each other around. It’s not that they know each other, but whenthey come to the class there’s a familiar face there. And sometimes it’s afamiliar face they can’t stand; sometimes it’s a familiar face that makes themfeel more comfortable. But sometimes we have a lot of conflict betweensomebody whose family doesn’t get along with the family of somebody else inthe class. Or somebody who won’t come to class because they’reuncomfortable with another person in the class because of something that’shappened because they were both tenants in the same building five years agowhen they had some kind of quarrel or because one of them stole the other’ssister’s boyfriend, you know, that kind of thing. . . . I don’t do a lot about ituntil one of them comes and says I can’t stand this person.At that point Kit offers counselling services or seat changes and encourages the student notto quit, but sometimes they leave anyway.The CampusThere are only two campus buildings; both are small and both are less than eightyears old. The manageable size and newness of the structures contribute to a pleasant,bright, and friendly campus atmosphere. The campus offers several student services. Acentral cafeteria is located adjacent to the Fundamental ABE classrooms, which is managedon contract by a former college Food Services Program graduate. She was particularlyfriendly and some students mentioned her as one of 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.” Doris also mentioned the cafeteria manager.When asked if there was anything at the college that helped her to come, she said, “Thepeople, and that lady in the cafeteria.”There is also a small but serviceable library on campus and daycare is available at aNative Centre which is next to the campus. College students have priority access to daycare34spaces; however, although this is helpful, there are too few daycare spaces available forchildren under the age of two.One day while I was observing, First Nations speakers from Kanehsatake spent a halfday at the campus presenting information about the Oka Resistance, Students from the ABEprograms were given time to attend. There are a relatively large number of First Nationsstudents at the campus and several First Nations ABE students attended this event. Iinterpreted this as indicating that the college was open to presentations from the marginalizedcultures that were represented in the student population.The campus ABE program employed eight staff members, including an ABEcoordinator and several teachers, some of whom were on part-time contract. Two teachers,Kit and Val, were the instructors in the combined level one and level two ABE Fundamentalclass that I observed. Kit, the more senior and experienced of these two teachers, wasemployed for sixty percent of her time on part-time permanent status and forty percent of hertime on part-time contract. Val was employed solely on part-time contract.The ClassroomsThe standard number of student spaces available in a British Columbia FundamentalABE class is fourteen; because this was a combined Fundamental class there were twentyeight available spaces. Not all the student spaces were filled with registered students duringthe course of this study. For the greater part of the winter semester (February to June),twenty-four students were officially enrolled. During the study observations, there werenever more than a total of ten students present.The two adjacent Fundamental classrooms were standard classrooms. Each room wasequipped with chalkboards, bulletin boards (on which were affixed items such as group35photos, advice about school closures in snow storms and the student check-in sheet), tablesand chairs. The smaller of the two classrooms (approximately 15 by 20 feet), referred to asthe Exhale Room3, also housed a row of computers against the west wall. This classroomwas used for quiet, individual work such as student writing or computer work. Whenstudents worked in this classroom, they understood they would work on their own andreceive no teacher direction. One of the teachers was always present for assistance withspelling questions, for instance, but not to 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 (approximately 20 by 20 feet) was referred to as the InhaleRoom and was used for group learning, group projects, oral reading, films, science class,chalkboard spelling and class meetings. The tables in this room were arranged in a large U-shape with a teacher’s table at the front and centre of the open U. Two additional tablesstood adjoined behind the left side of the U, close to the classroom entrance. Because theywere behind the central configuration of student seating, students who sat at these two tableswere somewhat separated from the class. I will refer to these two tables as the isolated rowin the rest of the study. A few of the students selected these tables deliberately andconsistently. Other students sat at the tables arranged in the U-shape, usually in seats theychose consistently.. Kit explained to me that she was influenced in naming these 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; level two is the next stage of literacy learning,which is nevertheless still considered part of the Fundamental program.The students chose which classroom they wanted to work in, depending on their ownliteracy skill level, and their preference for the work offered in each classroom, from periodto period. There was a teacher expectation that students would work at their own skill level.For instance, if the work occurring in the Inhale Room was at level two, students who couldnot manage this more advanced level would do individual writing in the Exhale Room.However, despite this expectation a student could choose otherwise. Ann, for example,always chose to be in the Inhale Room for science class despite her difficulty with reading,and especially oral reading, both of which were part of science class. Although sciencereading was the most difficult, Ann’s favourite subject was 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 which focused on students’ past schoolexperiences and their ways of learning. This unit set 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 was sponsored by the Fundamental class.The students spent considerable time in March preparing for the event. They arranged for a37luncheon, meeting space, invitations, media coverage and video recording. They also workedon presentations to the audience on the topic of returning to school as an adult.The third theme unit was on a project at a local forestry museum and the fourth unitwas on oral histories. The units simply provided the focus 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 ABE at Dover campus for seven years. In her late forties, shewas also slightly older than Val, who was in her early forties. And although Kit and Valshared the planning, teaching and evaluating, many of the methods and approaches weredeveloped by Kit in former classes.Kit had a reputation among her peers as a good teacher. Her primary interest was theteaching process itself and she arranged the details of the Fundamental class so that thisteaching process could happen most effectively. She explained her approach:It is true, I do care about these people, but what I really 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 work or, Imight, I don’t know, if I really cared about them then I’d go into politics andtry and right the social injustices.This illustrated that, although Kit was more focused on the teaching process, she was alsokeenly aware that ABE students experience social injustices because of their low literacyskills and their social and economic marginality.38Val was also interested in teaching but she was more focused on the students asindividuals. Her teaching experience spanned a period of twenty years, although she has nottaught continuously during that time.Data CollectionThe primary data collection methods used were: 1) recorded in-class observations; 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 February to the end of May, 1993. InMarch, April and May, recorded observations occurred two consecutive mornings each weekfor approximately three hours each morning in one of the two adjoining classrooms used bythe Fundamental level Adult Basic Education class at the college. In March and April Iobserved on Thursday and Friday mornings; in May I observed on Wednesday and Thursdaymornings, In total, .1 observed twenty-three mornings of ABE classes.While the initial three in-class observations were recorded by hand-written notes only,the other twenty observations were recorded by video camera and supplemented with handwritten notes.I interviewed ten of the twenty-six registered students. These students were selectedon the basis of their representativeness of the class demographics, their availability, and theirinterest in participating in the interview. The one hour interviews were held at the school(although not in the classrooms) before or after classes and were audiotape recorded withsupplementary hand-written notes. A set of questions was used as a guide; however, not all39the questions were asked of each student, not every student responded to each question, norwas each interview confined to the question guide.Interviews with both teachers focused on personal teaching theory and practice, on theteaching context, and on the students. These interviews were also audiotape recorded andsupplemented with hand-written notes. The teacher interviews were 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 the good fortune of being theovernight guest of Kit each week that I observed. This closer and more prolongedrelationship with the senior teacher provided not only a greater opportunity to 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 the ethnography, I also used informaldocumentation. As secondary data to my observations of attendance, I also used student self-monitored attendance sheets. These sheets were displayed on the bulletin board in thesmaller classroom and students were asked to check themselves present on each day theywere in attendance. There was no official attendance taken in the Fundamental class andthese sheets served as a backup check when the teachers noticed that one or several studentshad not been attending for a period of time. Not only was attendance taking notadministratively compulsory, but the Fundamental level teachers did not think that it servedany constructive purpose. Therefore, in determining attendance patterns, I also compiled my40own lists for the days that I observed and checked with the teachers to see if myobservations were consistent with each student’s pattern for that period of time.An additional documentary source for this study was provided through various studentwritings. These were gathered from in-class writing projects and from “Voices,” an ABEstudent writings magazine to which the Dover campus students occasionally 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 demographic information aboutthe student participants. The second part presents information about student attendanceissues, including the definitions of attendance used in this study. In the third part, I present adiscussion of resistance issues, including the definitions used and the categories of resistantbehaviours that I developed.I next present the student research data, organized according to individual students. Ithen explore the relationships between a student’s attendance pattern and the types ofresistance behaviours that that student displayed. This section also 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 resistant behaviours. Afterreviewing the data from every source, I transcribed all the quotations and all the descriptionsof behaviour that related to attendance or to resistance onto coded index cards for eachstudent and for both teachers. Data that related to attendance was transcribed onto small (4inches X 4 inches) green index cards. Data that related to resistance was transcribed ontolarge (4 inches X 6 inches) green index cards. These were all organized into separate stacksfor each student and teacher. I then organized the students into three attendance groupingsand recorded the incidence of resistance behaviours (see Tables 1, 2 and 3, pp. 97, 98, 99)42This permitted me to observe relationships between attendance groups and resistancecategories.Classroom observation information and casual discussion information was used toobtain the data for seventeen student profiles and for the two teachers profiles. Thesesources were also the only sources used for the information regarding the sevenuninterviewed students. The audiotape transcripts of the interviews were used as additionalsources for information for the student profiles for the ten interviewed students and for thetwo teacher profiles.I have analyzed the research data in terms of patterns of attendance and 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 these seventeen students because,although their attendance was not necessarily persistent or 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 largely on the basis of their availability.The presentation of the data is organized according to each of the seventeen students,providing for each student first, a brief profile, then information about the student’sattendance; and finally information about the resistance behaviours, if any, that that studentengaged in. The data has been arranged so that the students are grouped according to one ofthree attendance patterns (dropout, sporadic attendance, or regular attendance).The final section in this chapter discusses teaching behaviours that relate to resistance.This provides a fuller context in which to interpret student behaviours, which wereresponsive to the learning environment and influenced by the instructors teaching approaches.43This analysis places student resistance in relation to student attendance in adultliteracy programs. It also reveals how teaching approaches can encourage persistencethrough positive accommodation of this important aspect of literacy learning.Student DemographicsDuring the winter/spring semester (February 5 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 immediately advanced to level three and onestudent who attended on five days in February only but 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), and two 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 Fundamental class. Their ages rangedfrom the early twenties to fifty, with the majority of the students 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 name did 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 for an additional seven, for a total ofseventeen key student participants in this study. Of the four 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 situations prevented adequate research observation. Those whowere interviewed and observed were the students who were most available and most willingto be part of the study.The seventeen key student profiles include background information, where available,on domestic and economic situations, past school experiences and current ABE status. Thisinformation provides a background for each student and a context for the attendance andresistance information that emerged for each student.Attendance InformationI have categorized student attendance into three patterns of attendance, which coverthe range of attendance possibilities: dropout, sporadic attendance and regular attendance.These categories are similar to the categories that Thomas used in her 1990 study of ABEprograms in British Columbia.Attendance DefinitionsIn this study, the definition of attendance refers to the range of patterns within whichenrolled ABE students either (at one end of the continuum) come to class or (at the other endof the continuum) do not come to class.DropoutIn most research studies, students who stop coming to classes for a significant periodof time at the end of the semester are generally referred to as dropouts. In this study, astudent who stopped coming to classes more than four weeks before the end of the semesteris considered to have dropped out of school and is referred to as a dropout.45Sporadic AttendanceIn other studies, students who attended infrequently and inconsistently have beenreferred to variously as dropins, stopouts or sporadic attenders (Thomas, 1990). In thisstudy, these students will be referred to as sporadic attenders. Sporadic attenders attendedless than fifty percent of the classes but still continued to attend during the last four weeks ofthe semester.Regular AttendanceIn former studies, students who continue to attend frequently and regularly throughouta semester or a program are often referred to as persisters (Thomas, 1990; Martin, 1990;Garrison, 1989). In this study, these students will be referred to as regular attenders.Regular attenders attended over fifty percent of the classes and continued to attend during thelast four weeks of the semester. In this definition of 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 the semester well enough to include them orto calculate and categorize their attendance accurately.Attendance CommentaryAlthough the dominant discourse prescribes regular attendance as superior or moresuccessful than sporadic attendance or dropout, I prefer not to privilege one form ofattendance over the others with respect to the students. For some students there may bemore success in dropping out than in remaining in a 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 is a more complex process then isgenerally recognized.Nevertheless, frequency of student attendance is one of the measures of systemsuccess. Although this measure of system success may result in the problematic tendency toview student success similarly (suggesting that what is good for the system is good for thestudent), regular or frequent attendance is a well established and salient measure of systemsuccess, measuring what is most measurable: that students continue to attend. In BritishColumbia institutional funding from government sources is usually tied 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’s own 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 adapt to the institution.It must also be noted that student attendance fluctuates for many reasons beyond thescope of school influence. As well, it is likely that no single reason is sufficient to explainany student’s attendance pattern. I am interested in discovering how student resistance, inparticular, relates to student attendance. Therefore, the findings focus 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 their teachersaddressed it. It begins with the definition of resistance used in this study. The presentationof the five categories of resistance behaviour that I developed from the data and which47shaped my definition of resistance, follows. I used these five categories to organize therange and volume of resistance behaviours that I observed for each key student participant.In analyzing the data, I interpret any behaviour that appears to withdraw from, orquestion or challenge, the dominant status quo of school culture, dominant culture, ordominant discourse, or any behaviour that asserts an individual’s marginalized identity, orthat makes a connection across marginalized identities, as resistance.Resistance: Definitions and CateoriesFor purposes of this study, I have defined resistance as follows:Resistance is a defiant (oppositional) behavioral or attitudinal response of asubordinated/marginalized individual to dominance and/or exclusion, thatattempts to (re)establish the dignity of the subordinated/marginalized individualin the dominant situation and to mitigate power imbalances. As such it isconsidered a political act.This definition locates student resistance behaviours within a framework of politicalresistance, regardless of the resistant individual’s awareness of a political dimension totheir resistance. The defiant behaviour can take several forms: it can be withdrawing, whichavoids the dominant situation; it can assert awareness 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 subordinated solidarities against dominance. In this study,the marginalized identities that engender resistance are based on the political identitiesrelated to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and geography.The process of reviewing and organizing the data began to shape the categories ofresistance behaviours that I developed. As I looked at the videotapes, read the transcriptsand wrote the cards, I began to see patterns of resistance. I grouped them into five48categories: withdrawal behaviours, awareness behaviours, challenging behaviours, assertionbehaviours, and solidarity behaviours. Although there may be other types of resistancebehaviours, the data that I reviewed could all by 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 back row seats in the Inhale classroom. Theygenerally sat alone, often attending on different days from each other; they rarely spoke; andthey frequently left the classroom for long periods of time. I began to view these repeatedsets of behaviours as resistance behaviours which were different than other kinds ofresistance that I saw in the classroom. I categorized and labelled this kind of resistancebehaviour as “withdrawal behaviour.”This category includes behaviours that silently express either a rejection of parts ofthe dominant situation or a difficulty with accepting parts of the dominant situation. Most ofthe examples of this type of resistance behaviours relate primarily to current school valuesand expectations. These behaviours seem to demonstrate resistance to an aspect of theindividual’s surroundings; however, this was not always verifiable. In this study, Iinterpreted these (usually non-verbal) behaviours as indicating resistance to a situation ofdominance. I felt it likely that the situation (or parts of the situation) may have beenimposing unwanted expectations and/or limits on the marginalized individual or it may havebeen making the individual feel unwelcome, unacceptable or inferior and that this provoked aresistant response that was a kind of withdrawal.49Awareness BehavioursDuring my observations and in the interviews, I heard many 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 his teachers treated him in elementaryschool. I began to view this type of behaviour as revealing a level of student awarenessabout cultural or school dominance and their own subordinated positions 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 objection to those positions. They alsodemonstrated the students’ use of their subjectivity as 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 stereotypes ofpoverty; and racial and gender prejudice.The public school system was one area of dominant culture to which the ABEstudents expressed resistance and awareness of (fonner) oppressions. In the first theme unitof the semester (in February) the focus in the Fundamental class was on learning and pastschool experiences. Kit explained to me that she often presented this topic as the first unit ina new year. Whether students would have felt comfortable talking about their difficult pastschool experiences without this topic’s official and early introduction is unknown; however,it was clear that many students had a lot to say about the subject both in class and duringinterviews. Most of what the students said reflected their understanding that they had been50mistreated by uncaring school systems; they identified deficiencies in the values, teachers,and policies of their former public schools. Only two students (Vanessa and Horace)reported positive public school experience. The students also spoke with similar awarenessabout other systems of dominance they had experienced; however, the school system wasraised most frequently.Challenging BehavioursDuring my observations, I also saw several students challenge the actions of theclassroom teachers. Usually, it was some aspect of their teaching approaches that waschallenged. When I noted a student directly challenging a situation of dominance, thisappeared different, more active and immediate, than the revealing of awareness. 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 ABE classroomsand 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 in and of itself aresistant act since the dominant culture seeks to erase marginalized identities by denigratingor simply ignoring them. Doris, for example, talked about her First Nations traditions onseveral occasions. In the ABE classroom, which is a 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 that the 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 defiant andresistant: 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 similar tothe “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 marginalized identitiesbut 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 classroom observations and interviews that Iinterpret as student resistance. Interpreting this information in terms of resistance and asevidence of resistance can help educators develop alternative perspectives for understandingpuzzling and/or oppositional student actions. These alternate perspectives avoid applyingpsychological explanations, which often presume student pathologies, to oppositional studentbehaviours.Positing resistance maintains a respect for the reasons that underlie oppositionalbehaviours. This position assumes that students have healthy reasons for avoiding school, forsporadic attendance and for dropping out. It also encourages educators to honour thepersistence, the sacrifices and survival strategies, including a variety of classroom resistancebehaviours, that students who keep coming back to school must employ. If educatorsrecognize resistance and value it, they can consider ways of working with resistance (insteadof against it) to help students through the process of maintaining their marginalized identitieswhile entering into and remaining within the dominant cultural systems that literacyacquisition generally requires. I maintain that a positive consideration of resistance isimportant, not only to help students, but also to help ABE change and improve.The concept of agency is pivotal both in resistance theory and in poststructuralisttheory. Agency refers to the marginalized individual’s capacity to change their environmentsand to control the terms of their own existence. When postslructuralists refer to the dualnature of the subject (as subjected to and as author of) within the concept of discourse, theaspect of authorship refers to the individual’s capacity to effect change in the discourse itself.When an individual is “subjected to,” that individual enters the dominant discourse and is53controlled by it. When authoring, agency is employed to change circumstances; when being‘subject to,” agency is employed to change self according to some received or accepted valuefrom the dominant discourse. Authoring reflects 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 and others in only one or two categories. Somecategories appeared to be more associated with sporadic attendance or dropout. As well,both teachers often addressed resistance positively either by 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 nature of resistance to bevaluable to ABE instruction. When educators view resistance this way it prevents them fromviewing student resistance as pathology, which demeans and victimizes students. Instead thisrecognition emphasizes the web of power dynamics that inform the ABE student’s schoolexperiences. This definition views resistance as stemming from an individual healthyattachments to their own cultural identities.The concept of resistance . . . shifts the analysis of oppositional behaviourfrom the theoretical terrains of functionalism and mainstream educationalpsychology to those of political science and sociology . . . it has . . . a greatdeal to do with moral and political indignation . . . . [T]he concept ofresistance represents an element of counter-logic, that must be analyzed toreveal its underlying interest in freedom and its rejection of those forms ofdomination inherent in the social relations against which it reacts. (Giroux,1983 pp. 289-90)54The results of resistance behaviour may have negative or positive impacts on themarginalized individual, but the behaviour itself originates in a healthy and political (whetherrecognized as such by the student or not) response to marginalization.In some cases, a resistance behaviour might seem to fit into more than one category.For instance, a behaviour that could be categorized as asserting marginalized identity, mightalso be identified as a behaviour that demonstrates solidarity. Generally, however,distinctions are possible and may be meaningful in relating kinds of 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 consequences for the individual andher/his interaction with the dominant systems.In the following section, I present seventeen student profiles, including information ontheir attendance and resistance behaviours. The words and actions of the studentsdemonstrate the pervasiveness, the variety and the specifics of student resistance in this ABEclass. I wanted the students’ voices to convey the complexity of their circumstances;therefore, I include many and varied student quotes. This leads the way to a discussion ofthe relevance that the different types of students’ resistance behaviours have 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 of the 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 man who first registered in the DoverCollege ABE program three years ago. 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 main source of income at thetime of this study was income assistance. He said he received considerable familyencouragement to attend ABE.About his public school experiences, Adam said, “[I had] a lot of anger that Icouldn’t do the work, frustrated, and I was mad at 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’s kinda mixed up for me, school and job.I want to come to school and then no, I want to look for 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 boring and he objected to the newcombining of levels one and two in this large combined Fundamental class. Adam’s sisterin-law, Pat was also enrolled in this Fundamental class.56Adam was involved with First Nations traditions. He also continued to struggle withfrustration in his adult life in much the same way that he described his struggle during hischildhood public school experiences. He still overtly located his difficulties within himself.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 your brains, 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 came to school,often did not stay in the classroom. When he was in class, he usually sat in the isolated rowbehind the central U-shape of student seating. Adam stopped coming to school altogetherbefore the end of April, eight weeks before the end of the semester. Kit thought that 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 timing did coincide with hiswife’s program end date.Resistance InformationWithdrawal TypeAdam’s main type of resistance behaviour was of the withdrawal type. He almostalways chose to sit in the back row of four seats which were near the door; he was almostalways late; and he left the classroom frequently, often for long periods at a time. On myfirst day of observation, Adam explained his resistance by telling me that sometimes he gotmad and frustrated about his reading and then he simply didn’t come to school the next day.He said that other times, he stayed at home for awhile and then went to school late.57One morning in March, Kit instructed the class to compile a list of manners for theclassroom. Kit began, “I’m going to write a situation on the board: ‘coming late.’ Whatshould you do if someone comes in late? Which room do you come in?” Cory answered,“The other room.” Horace suggested, “Maybe you should change your pattern, start comingin on time.” Kit asked, “What if Adam came in late now? How should we react?” At thatmoment Adam walked in, late. The class laughed at the coincidence and Kit explained thereason for the laughter to Adam, who smiled but looked perplexed. 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.” Adam sat beside Horace. “I’m late!”, hedeclared.Another incident demonstrated Adam’s pattern of resistance behaviours. Adam askedKit to spell “skipping out” on the blackboard during a writing period in the Exhale room.She asked, “You’re going to write about ‘skipping out’?” Dave called over to Adam, “Yourfavourite pastime.” Kit wrote “skipping out” on the board as 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 “skipping out”behaviours) that was connected to his leaving.During our interview, Adam explained that he didn’t like some aspects of the ABEprogram, “I don’t like. . . talking about trips all week. . . and we talk about the same thingover and over.” I asked if that got boring for him then and he responded, “Yeah, and I justwalk out.” During one class discussion, just before a 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. Five minutes later, he left the room. These allappeared to be signs of resistance to the (dominant) classroom expectations. They are noless pointed for being non-verbal, but are often more easily overlooked.Adam demonstrated these withdrawal behaviours every time he was in class. As heattended class twenty-two days during the semester, he demonstrated these 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 resistant behaviour of thechallenging type. This example involved my role as classroom observer. Adam arrived latefor class one morning in the middle of April. He seated himself in the isolated row andnoticed that I had the video camera focused on him. He stared at the camera, got out of hisseat, and, approaching me, asked if he could use the camera. Using role reversal asresistance to our dominant positions, Adam focused the camera on Marie, the substituteteacher, and then on me. “Write,’ he directed as I picked up my note pad. He wasn’thostile but he wasn’t just fooling around either; he was purposeful. At this point, Marieintervened and suggested Adam join the spelling lesson at 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 identity in class, hearrived in the classroom one mid-April morning wearing a sky blue T-shirt, which bore thewords “FIRST NATIONS” across his large chest.59HankBackground InformationHank was a First Nations man, who appeared to be in his early thirties. He told mehe had children and Kit told me that he came from a northern community on VancouverIsland. He seemed well liked by the other students but 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 children had had the flu during theperiod of his absence. Hank attended in February, March and April with decreasingfrequency. Kit did not have any information about why Hank had left. This was unusual asmost students who dropped out either contacted Kit to explain or else others passed on theinformation to her.Resistance InformationWithdrawal TypeLike Adam, Hank also engaged in withdrawal resistance behaviours. He sat in theisolated row consistently. One morning I observed Doris trying to encourage Hank to joinher at a central table, reassuring him that 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’re OK.” 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 the class discussion. At the end of April,just before he dropped out, Hank entered the classroom at 9 a.m., fifteen minutes late, and60sat in the first row at the front of the class. This was the first (and only) time I had seenhim sit in the front row. Like most of the men in the class, Hank kept his jacket on. Kitasked Hank, “Can we find a spot for you [at the board for spelling]. 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 orange plasticene on the table in front ofhim. At 9:10 Hank moved to the back row.Hank did not engage in any other kind of resistance behaviours. He attended classeleven times, always sitting in the back row and often leaving the classroom for prolongedperiods of time. This indicates at least eleven episodes of withdrawal behaviour.HoraceBackground InfomiationI interviewed Horace in late May, just before he dropped out. He was a twenty-nineyear old First Nations man who left school in grade nine at 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 he said he “was quite dedicated to school,”he identified one aspect of his public school experience that 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 had a poor mark in social studies on account of him.And that’s what I really blame, because I like studying social studies. I really enjoyed thecourse.”Horace was married and lived with his wife and three children until May, 1993.Then he separated and moved in with his mother. He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis andhis income was largely from income assistance.61Attendance InformationHorace started the Dover campus ABE program in October, 1992 but dropped outearly in that fall semester, he said, because of ‘alcohol.” He added:Plus, another reason why I dropped out was I was kind of pissed at Val, theteacher. She didn’t really know me; I didn’t really know her. Like I wasn’teven participating in the class. I felt like a stupid doorknob. She wasavoiding me. . . . , be that way, and I’ll be my way.’Horace interpreted Val’s behaviour as 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 ABE semester. He attended morefrequently at the beginning of the semester, but his attendance fell 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 not attend because he’d broken up with his wife andthen later, because he was getting together with her again. On the day that I interviewedHorace, he told me he was unhappy about events in class, saying he thought some studentswere prejudiced. He dropped out shortly after that interview, with six weeks of the semesterleft.Resistance InformationHorace demonstrated a range of resistant behaviours. He had no observablewithdrawal behaviours4but he exhibited behaviours that demonstrated awareness ofdomination, that challenged, and that asserted identity.. Although Horace’s dropout in the former fall semester could be interpreted as a form of withdrawalresistance (as could all dropout behaviour), I have focused this study on resistance behaviour that occurs withinprogram attendance.62Awareness TypeHe implied awareness of racial oppression that he experienced when he reported hisdifficulty with a former social studies teacher: “I found him a bit prejudiced . . . . Prejudicedagainst me, yes.” Horace also resisted both the 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’t complete 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 read a student’s piece aboutliteracy learner militancy in Ontario. Kit asked the class if any of them felt militant. Horaceanswered enthusiastically, “Sure.” Kit elicited this resistant reaction deliberately,encouraging the class to think about learner action and militancy that they might beinterested in for their own purposes.Challenging TypeOn one occasion, Horace challenged Val when she was trying to elicit an answerfrom the class. Val said, “Do you see the punctuation he used . . . what is that thingy heused?” Horace responded, “You tell us, Val,” as if he felt that he was being talked down toand resented it.Assertion TypeIn an example of assertion behaviour, Horace resisted a dominant culture stereotypeabout First Nations people when he said, “I want to show that us Natives can get all oureducation and go to university for seven years.”63PatBackground InformationPat was a First Nations woman in her early thirties who attended only during Marchand April of the spring semester. I did not get the opportunity to interview her. She wasquiet in class; however, she always seemed to 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 wanted to enrol at that time but her childrenwere too young. Although this was her first semester and she seemed shy, she spoke at thisyear’s Speak Out and told an audience of about two hundred that she returned to schoolbecause she couldn’t understand when people spoke to her, especially if they used “bigwords.”Attendance InformationPat dropped out before the end of April. She called Kit in May to say that she wasin the midst of leaving her husband and that she would 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 presentation at the Speak Out, that she couldn’tunderstand when people spoke to her, especially if they used “big words.” She appearedvery distressed about the confusion these situations caused her.64She was also aware which side she supported when Kit presented an NFB film aboutLatin American peasant rebels in class one day. She quietly stated 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 who was related to another classmember, Doris, his aunt. Doris had encouraged him to 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 attended class ten timesand these behaviours occurred at least ten times. One morning 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. By the time Doris had relocated herself,Ron had left the classroom, only ten minutes after the class had started.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 last fourweeks of the semester. All five were under forty and First Nations and all but 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. According to Kit he livedoutside of the Dover community and drove along the highway for about twenty 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’m livingagain, I’m living again.” He complained that a lengthy bout of the flu had kept him away.Dave’s recorded attendance comprised over a third of the semester. He was still attending inJune, the final month of the semester.66Resistance InformationDave displayed a range of resistance behaviours: withdrawal, awareness, challengingand assertion behaviours. His main form was challenging behaviours.Withdrawal TypeThe one example of withdrawal behaviour occurred during an organizing meeting inthe Inhale classroom; Dave looked at length through his book instead of participating in thegroup discussion and then abruptly left the room for a prolonged period of time.Awareness TypeDave displayed awareness behaviour on at least three occasions. Dave recognizedthat he was neglected by the public school system. During one morning observation in earlyMarch, Dave sat just 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: “I was lost and then that’s whatI felt like. I was one of the lost people because then they didn’t give me enough help or talkabout enough.Two weeks later in the Inhale classroom, Dave spoke more generally about schools:You pass from one grade. That’s what happened to me. Who cares if youlearn; who cares? . . . I don’t think they [former public school teachersiactually cared if you learned anything at all. They were actually getting paidfor a service and they didn’t care if you learned or nothing.Dave was outraged when welfare personnel expected his 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, They didn’t get an education to get a job.Like my mom, when my dad died, welfare wanted her to find a job. I said, ‘How can you67expect her to go out and find a job. She only had grade four education and was home allher life.” Dave’s anger reflected his resistance and his understanding that welfareauthorities had not considered his mother’s (learned) dependency and set impossibleexpectations for her.One day in class Dave commented on a feeling of exclusion (from newsprint media)which he felt was related to his low reading skills. However, he resisted finding fault withhimself, as the dominant discourse on illiteracy would have 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 need to, like about things that happen inDover.” He thought that the media should be more user friendly, and challenged the ideathat it is the obligation of those with low literacy skills to 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 he got the beatings, and hepunched his dad, he left home. . . That’s basically what happened to me. Isaid [to my father after being beaten], ‘You go your way; I’m going mine.That’s the last time it’s going to happen.’ I could’ve pressed charges but Ididn’t want to ‘cause I had my brothers and sisters to look after.Val asked Dave, “How old were you?” “Thirteen,’ answered Dave “just like Des.” Davechallenged his father’s brutal dominance and left home in order to remain safe. Hisawareness of the seriousness of his father’s mistreatment was 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 sentence that you liked” after Des’s piece was readaloud, Dave complained, “Why didn’t you tell us that before he started reading it?” Anothertime, Kit stopped Dave’s oral reading and directed the next student to continue the oralreading. Dave protested, “Oh, come on, I know all of these words. I wanted to say them.”Another time, Kit drew attention to a 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 I have to figure out all themethods and so do you.” Dave replied, “I did it this time,” asserting his own expertise and,implicitly, challenging Kit.Assertion TypeDave also asserted his identity as someone with low literacy skills; however, he didthis in a somewhat ambiguous way. In class one morning when Val had asked if anyone hadever used any tricks to pass as literate, Dave answered, “I just 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 behaviours thanother students in this class. He was also the only non-dropout who displayed withdrawalbehaviour. He was also the only sporadic attender to display such a range and volume ofresistant behaviours.69GilBackground InformationGil is a young Canadian born white man who appeared to be in his late twenties orearly thirties. He was married and was interested in ham radios. He was generally quiet inclass but became more involved and slightly more talkative towards the end of the 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 had a visual disability and seemed todepend on Gil for some mobility needs, had started a college Life Skills Program at aboutthe time that his attendance increased. In all, Gil attended approximately one third of thesemester; 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 immigrated to Canada from the Punjab.She appeared to be in her late thirties. She spoke English well, and usually attended withher friend, Savita. Darshan also knew both Doris and Cal in the class because she workedon a commercial farm with them in the summertime. Darshan was 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. She gave one70example: “They were away for eleven days and came back and said, “Oh, we’ve been onspring break.’ There’s no spring break in a five day pian [in the ABE students’ schedule] --so they do these things, and especially adults do these things.” In Darshan’s case the springbreak may have been her children’s.Resistance InformationDarshan displayed no resistance behaviours during this study.SavitaBackground InformationSavita was a South Asian woman who generally attended with her older friendDarshan. Like Darshan, she had also immigrated from the Punjab to Canada, and she spokeEnglish well. She appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties.Attendance informationSavita was a sporadic attender who attended even less often than her friend Darshan.Resistance InformationSavita did not engage in any resistance behaviours during my observations.VanessaBackground InformationVanessa was a twenty-seven year old First Nations woman with five children underthe age of eleven. Except for the two year old, all of her children were in school or daycare.Vanessa’s mother looked after the two year old child when Vanessa was in school.When she was in grade nine Vanessa “got pulled out of school . . . [and] married off[in the] Indian tradition.” She was fifteen. Her first husband did not want her tocontinue attending school even though she liked school and had wanted to continue. At the71time of the study she was a single mother relying heavily on her own mother’s support toattend the Dover campus ABE program. She received income assistance.In the first class I observed, Vanessa told me at the end of the class that she hadthought about returning to school from the time her four year old was born. 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 said I didn’t knowhow and I told him to go see your auntie next door because I didn’t know andI kind of felt embarrassed because I couldn’t help my son and I couldn’t reallytell him that I didn’t really know anything about it and I felt bad. . . . I justcouldn’t explain it to him that I didn’t know the answer and I said I was 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’t yougo to the library and read.’ And he’s the one that encouraged me to comeback to school finally. So, that’s what made me come back, because my sonwanted to work along with me.Attendance InformationVanessa’s attendance was very infrequent. She explained that during one period ofabsence she spent weeks away nursing her sick baby. I observed Vanessa only three timesduring the semester. Once, when I saw her in class after a 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 even at the end of May.She was absent most of March and April. She said that 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, “T just told my mom that I was going tocome back to school and that my baby was better so 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, but her 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 all had youngchildren at home. One woman was First Nations and the other two were South Asian born.The two men were white Canadian born. The majority of these students exhibited almost noresistance behaviours.5Seven Who Attended RegularlyThere were seven students who attended regularly; that is, they attended over fiftypercent of the classes and were still attending during the last four weeks of the semester.These students were Ann, Cal, Cory, Donna, Des, Doris and Henry. I was able to 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 Main College ABEprogram for two years. She said that she had been recently embroiled in divorceproceedings. She had spent nine years working as a babysitter and then two years as a hotelchambermaid. Her family was pleased that she had returned to school.. Although sporadic attendance (like dropout) could be interpreted as a form of withdrawal resistancebehaviour, in this study I have chosen to focus on resistance behaviour that occurs within program attendance.73After leaving school at the age of fourteen, Ann stayed at home with her older sisterwho “only went to grade eight too.” She described her 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 used to do that too.”She hid her illiteracy from her ex-husband but when he found Out, he “started pushing” herto return to school. She became very good friends with Cory, another woman in theFundamental ABE class.Attendance InformationAnn was a regular and steady ABE attender, attending well over fifty percent of theclasses.Resistance InfonnationAnn displayed a number of resistance behaviours of the awareness and the assertiontypes.Awareness TypeShe talked about why she left school at fourteen with an awareness of how badly shehad been treated. In our interview, when I asked Ann why she left school in grade seven,she explained:I was getting teased at school and the kids didn’t like me because I was thetallest kid in school. And they picked on me and they just didn’t help me. .[W]e moved up to Shaw Lake and I went to school and the teacher gave me 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 it was 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’s resistance 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 as a “very stubborn” person who, when faced with greatobstacles and despite wanting “to call it quits” cannot allow herself to do so and “just keep[s]on going.” This image of herself as a perseverer is also resistant of the dominant discoursethat portrays poor and illiterate individuals as people who have “given up” or who lackperseverance. In this way she asserted her agency as a 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 younger brothers and sisters were the only farmkids in their Alberta school until his family moved when he finished grade five. He movedaround a lot after grade five, changing schools frequently. Cal wrote a piece in class using aphrase that his grandmother often used to describe Cal’s father: he moved around so muchthat he “had wheels under his butt.” Cal said he had grade five education, but he did attendhigh school in the vocational stream.Cal worked in construction for fourteen years but had stopped two years ago. Hesaid that he was having trouble getting construction jobs without his “ticket for journeyman.”After his wife attended a computer course at Dover campus, Cal began to consider ABE andfinally started classes in October, 1992. He said, “Oh yeah, I’ve been putting it off for solong, I finally got mad enough to do it.” He was separated and lived alone on incomeassistance at the time of this study; however, his family was supportive of his educational75attempts. Cal had a couple of acquaintances in the 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, missing only occasionallyto do some part-time construction work.Resistance InformationAwareness TypeCal, in his realistic appraisal of the usefulness of literacy, seemed to resist thedominant discourse about the importance of literacy, which presumes a richer life with theaddition of an upgraded education. Of his father, who had grade three education, Calasserted, “Like my mom’s been trying to get my dad to 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 addresses and stuff like that, but other thanthat he has no problem.” He was also pragmatic about his own situation. He said, “I dowish I was out there working, cause I don’t make money sitting here.” Cal seemed to resistthe dominant discourse about the power, the usefulness, and the mystique of literacy.Challenging TypeCal could be challenging in class, mainly challenging the teachers to interest him. “Ittakes a lot to interest me,” he told Kit one day after he had questioned (in a challengingmanner) a word she had written on the board, with the implication that her writing wasn’tclear. Cal talked about his dislike of reading in terms of sitting still, “Yeah, like, I just wishthere was a little more writing involved cause I don’t have the patience to sit there and read76a book. . . . Shortness doesn’t matter, I’d just rather be writing something or doingsomething or whatever, or doing something else than just sitting reading.” In a sense, thisrevealed his challenge to interest him as well, implyiiig he had better things to do.Assertion TypeThe rural identity, often ridiculed within the dominant discourse which tends to beurban-centred, was an important identity for Cal. He asserted it (along with two otherstudents in the class), though wistfully and quietly, one day. 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 speaking to themselves: “It was nice” [Cal]; “Yourneighbour’s not looking over your shoulder” [Cory]; “Nice and peaceful” [Des]. Cal inparticular had talked about how he and his siblings were taunted because they lived on afarm just outside the Calgary city limits and had to go 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 handle it. I didn’t know how many otherpeople were out there like me. . . . I was hoping that no one was too much smarter than Iwas, basically. But it seems like we’ve all in the same position and we all fit in well.”This statement reveals a measure of solidarity around people without literacy skills, includinghis relief that he “fit in well.”77CoryBackground InformationCory was a thirty-one year old Canadian born white woman who started the Dovercampus ABE program in October, 1992. She had moved to Dover that September, andenrolled with the insistent help of two friends. She had an eight year old son who lived withhis father, Cory’s first ex-husband. She, and her first and second ex-husbands all hadapartments in the same apartment building in Dover. She said, “I took a month off [inDecember] when I left my second husband. I just couldn’t function to do it. . . . I’d sit inclass; I couldn’t concentrate. I just had to get my head straight.” During our 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 soon as you walk inthe class.” She found school “hard” and was always in special classes or special schools.She left home at the age of thirteen, she told the class one morning, to avoid continuingsexual abuse from her step-father. She left school at the same time, finishing with what shedescribed as an official grade eightlnine education but what she thought was actually a gradethree/four education. Cory befriended Ann, with whom she did everything. Of her briefrelationship with Cal, Cory observed that it had been somewhat troublesome for her in class.Attendance InformationCory was a regular attender. Although she periodically missed some classes, sheattended over half the classes throughout the semester and was still attending in June.78Resistance InformationAwareness TypeCory shared Dave’s perception about how unhelpful their elementary school teachershad been. She said in class one morning: “The only thing those teachers were there for backthem days was their pay cheque once or twice a week”.Although Cory could be resistant and also assume a “bad girl” persona, she showedsome ambivalence in some areas and in the following example briefly entered the dominantdiscourse regarding etiquette. In the last week of March a discussion occurred that related toclass status. Cory’s attitude was initially accommodating to the dominant culturalexpectations but as the discussion unfolded, her responses changed and an awareness of theoppression of imposed upper class standards was evident.Kit was preparing the class to see an NFB film that satirized the excesses of tablemanners. In terms of poverty and social exclusion this film was an interesting choice; itpokes fun at rules that serve to exclude poor and working class individuals from the middleand the upper classes. Kit told the class that, “The next movie is also funny” and began todescribe it. Cory immediately and enthusiastically launched into a discussion of tablewareand table manners. She described her foster mother’s typical dining table, which, she said,had five forks, five glasses and finger bowls at each setting. At the end of her description,Des responded derisively, adding, “And a brass band!” Kit questioned the fuss about propermanners in general and, in particular mentioned, “Now there’s this rule in [the filmi 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 why that is done. Coryanswered, “I don’t know. That’s just for snobs. And you gotta make sure your pinky’s up.79That’s for snobs.?? To which Des commented, “the upper class, and received smiles ofrecognition from the whole class.Although Cory was initially eager to show that she was socially knowledgeable, sheand the rest of the class finally dismissed these exclusionary refinements of class distinctionwith Kit’s encouragement.In her interview, Cory elaborated on her awareness of what she perceived as oneaspect of public school policy motivation. She explained to me that although she left schoolin what was, officially, grade nine, she considered herself to really be in grade three. Shereflected, “But they would say, like you were in grade nine or 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 the school had manipulated the grade system in order tomake those who didn’t fit invisible. She did not think this 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 and Des) made similar comments about their officiallydesignated grade versus how they would evaluate their “real” grade status themselves.Cory was also aware of some of the subtleties of 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 two books; they’re reading like college stuff.”She understood that the stigma of illiteracy extends beyond whether one can or cannot read,it also includes the level of difficulty of one’s reading material. In other words, literacy isnot simply about encoding and decoding but involves mastering the typical materials of thedominant discourse.80Challenging TypeKit liked having Cory, who was confrontive and outspoken, in the class. Kitexplained:I mean, Cory is what I call a “bad girl.’t Always in ABE you have some girl,some woman, who, when she was fourteen, she got herself in trouble, she gotherself pregnant, it was just total rebellion. And when she comes into theABE classroom, she goes back to that school girl persona that she had and soshe writes poetry about sex and she expects you to be shocked. All of thosethings I really like. And so, I’m always happy when there is a “bad girl” inmy class because I like people who stir it up a little.Kit was not only comfortable with oppositional and challenging behaviour in theclassroom, but she actually preferred it. Cory not only challenged aspects of schooling, 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 when she 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 her agency couldexceed that of the representative of the dominant discourse (the substitute teacher). Coryremembered that once when she was in elementary school she had a strongly challengingincident of this kind: “I had a real problem with one teacher, 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. She noted that it was hard for her to admitthat she couldn’t read but she refused the 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 low status stereotypically accorded “illiterates”and asserted her own dignity.In the interview, Cory expanded on this resistance theme: “Yeah, cause it’s hard totell people you can’t [read], cause they say, ‘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’s easy.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 had a 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 being a 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 when you have to live on the streets youhave to have a big wall up. I still got a lot to keep under control.”In class Cory also talked about being sexually abused in a discussion about leavinghome at thirteen. “Have you ever heard of that thing about step-fathers and their stepdaughters?” 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 is to assertanother identity that the dominant discourse has tried to keep invisible and discredited.82Cory asserted her identity as a person with low literacy skills on several occasions.Cory referred to this when she praised, Ellen, the Speak Out speaker: “She picked outeverything right on the money. Like she hit all the things about literacy and how much ithurts us to tell people and that,” One day in class, VaT, the teacher, said that people withlow literacy skills are “so smart at covering up. 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 rejecting the distance Val was imposingby her use of “they.” “Well, you do!” she said, indicating that she, and by extensioneveryone with low literacy skills, simply do “think they’re dumb.” Cory, despite the difficultadmission that “you think you’re dumb,” did not remove herself from this phenomenon, eventhough Val’s use of “they” might have encouraged such a distancing. Cory asserted her owninclusion in the marginalized identity of “illiterate”.Solidarity TypeIn another example, Cory demonstrated solidarity with others in the class based ontheir common identity of “illiterate.” Following the day of the Speak Out, the class began tocompile a report about the event. Kit read out 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 Speakers at 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 why we came back to this class, to learn howto read and write and do everything. We all dropped out at an early age and started life.Now we’re coming back.”83This exchange reveals Cory’s commitment to her classmates and to “illiterates” as agroup. She made no apologies for school dropout; she simply included everyone in thegeneric and positive explanation, “We all dropped out at an early age and started life.”Cory explained the feeling of comfort she got 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. But you can ask them and they’re not putting youdown, like calling you a dummy or anything, ‘cause they’re no better than what I am.” Theatmosphere created by this class was supportive for Cory. She felt and participated in thesolidarity with the other students, instead of feeling competitive or excluded as frequentlyhappens in school culture.DesBackground InformationDes was a forty-seven year old Canadian born white man who lived alone in hispickup truck which he parked on his brother’s property at night. He disliked his brother,who was not supportive of Des’ return to 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 thirteen after punching his abusive father.He said he “got tired of my old man hitting me with a rubber hose.” He said he was ingrade three (officially grade five or six in the special class he attended) when he left schoolto work in a mill. At school “things were hard. . . . My parents couldn’t afford P,E. clothesfor me.” As he said, “What was the point 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 minutes before class started.Resistance InformationDes had a range and volume of resistance behaviours that, like Cory and Cal,included all types except the withdrawal type. Des was especially aware of the injustice ofhis treatment as a child and its subsequent consequences for him as 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 were too 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 hit by a teacher. Descontinued with his experience: “There used to be lots of kids lined up to get the strap. Ionce had it because I couldn’t write with my [injured] right hand.” He finished his story bystating, “They were cruel back then.”Des expressed resistance, and some ambivalence, when he talked about his feeling ofdissatisfied exclusion: “There’s a lot of things I missed out on; education is just a part of it.”At forty-seven, Des objected to his economic marginalization because of “illiteracy”;however, he accepted the dominant discourse’s message about how he could improve hisposition and what improvement looks like: “Some people, I can see that they have things,things I would like to have. So the way you can do that is get a better education. I don’twant to be working for people for cheap wages. I want to 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, there was 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 improve andto 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 not avery nice thing to be on. By my way of thinking it’s a disgrace. They don’t even give youenough; 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 [hisi old 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 spent his 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 when he 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 switched to the Restaurant Worker program. Sheleft school altogether for three years but returned in 1990 to 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 the class 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 and missed severalclasses during this period of time; however, she attended more frequently again in May andJune after her daycare job broke down. Donna attended over half the classes, was stillattending in June and is considered a regular attender.87Resistance InformationDonna had few resistance behaviours compared to the other regular attenders. Hermain type of resistance was challenging Kit’s teaching approach for her.Challenging TypeLike Dave, Donna resisted learning by some methods that Kit used; she and Kit hadan ongoing struggle about how teaching and learning should proceed. Periodicallythroughout the month of March, Donna insisted on proceeding in 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 writing too much (for Kit to manage to edit). Donna responded,You’re making me feel bad;” 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 oral reading in class. She resistedKit’s program of instruction designed to teach her to read less haltingly; she thought shewould learn better just practising oral reading. In this way, she asserted her agency andbelief in her own methods over the school culture’s authorized methodology.DorisBackground InformationDoris, at fifty, was the oldest student in the classroom. She was a First Nationswoman who was very involved with her Native traditions. She was also the oldest ofthirteen children and had to leave school because, as she said, “There was a big family and Ihad to help support the family, That was when I went to the farm [to work].” She hadattended residential school where she was abused. She “didn’t quite finish grade five.”88She lived with her husband in their trailer in what Doris described as a “Hollywoodstyle marriage,’t by which she meant that she lived at one end of the trailer and her husbandlived at the other. Doris’ granddaughter also lived with them. Doris said she had returnedto school partly to provide a role model for the younger First Nations generation, particularlyher granddaughter. She also wanted to be able to understand legal documents because shefelt that she and her husband were being taken advantage of in a 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 who said that she had made acommitment to her education part way through the semester.Resistance InformationDoris displayed the widest range and largest number of resistance behaviours in thisclass. Her primary types of resistance behaviours were in the awareness and the assertioncategories.Awareness TypeDoris talked about her awareness of gender dominance as 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, I freeze.Especially with a guy. They come and stand over me and I just sit. But not with a ladyteacher.” She described her reaction in these situations as freezing, which could be89interpreted as an form of withdrawal as well. However, I have chosen to categorize thisexample as awareness resistance because the primary tone is one of keen awareness.Doris also demonstrated awareness of how badly she was treated at the residentialschool she attended. She reported, in our interview, that she was abused at this school untilshe left at the age of twelve. Doris talked to me about this: ttJ had a lot of bad experiences Iguess. Abuse. .“ She told me she was learning to speak up.Doris also resisted the marginalization of illiteracy. She was aware that she could betaken advantage of as a person with low literacy skills. She said that she enrolled in theDover ABE program because she thought she and her family were being exploited 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 going to 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 it and 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 this is why Iwant to know [how the system worksl.For Doris, learning how to read (legal contracts) was a necessary step towards gainingsome control at the interface between the dominant culture and her First Nations culture.Doris’ motivation to start ABE was rooted in her desire to resist exploitation.Doris was deeply and personally aware of racial discrimination. One day at the endof May, as the class filed Out, Doris called to Amy as she was leaving. No other studentswere left in the classroom. The following conversation between Doris and Amydemonstrates a profound outrage at, and resistance to, dominant culture stereotypes of FirstNations people:90Doris: You see that write up in the paper about the Indians?Amy: Yeah.Doris: They blame us when someone comes up 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 Mom yesterday.Doris: They make us look bad. They’re the ones .Amy: Mom looked at that lady and she 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’s already some talk about how usIndians, putting on T.V.Doris: They make us look bad. It’s just like they put a mark on us: ‘we’realcoholics.’ We can do nothing. Now they put a mark on us that we buy smokes forpeople.This example in particular demonstrates how these ABE students were well aware ofthe political and personal dimensions of dominance and subordination (or marginalization).Doris and Amy are indignant that they are stigmatized and used as scapegoats on the basis oftheir First Nations identities.Challenging TypeDoris resisted the concrete results of her and her family’s inability to understand thelegal and financial dealings they are involved in. Further, she resisted and confronted thedominant white, corporate culture’s insinuation 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 guys wouldn’t be getting any kind of moneyfrom us and you guys won’t be making this kind of money.’ He’s alwaysgiving us the background that if it wasn’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, ‘if it wasn’t for us you wouldn’t have thiskind of land, so how could you not be getting any money yourself when weknow you have a brand new car and I’m still on my feet’91Doris’ words make it clear that she felt exploited as a First Nations person who alsohad limited literacy skills. She challenged this exploitation by refusing to be grateful, and bydirectly informing the businessman of how he is dependent on her.Assertion TypeOn several occasions Doris asserted her identity as a First Nations person. Oneexample occurred while she was telling me about her domestic arrangements. Herexplanation demonstrated the importance she attached to maintaining this identity and ofpassing it on to her heirs: “Well, I made this agreement [with my husband] in order to keepmy granddaughter. I didn’t want her to go out into the white society and they were going totake her away from my daughter.” The arrangement she made was that she would moveback in with her husband (from whom she had been estranged) so that her granddaughtercould live with them and avoid foster placement in white society.Doris also advocated for First Nations people. During a discussion 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 understand a lot of words that are large.Take it down to smaller words so they can understand them.”One day in class, Doris suggested the college hire First Nations people to cater thenext Speak Out:What about getting people who know how to cook? There are quite a few ofus on the reserve who know how, that’s cooking for two, three hundredpeople. And they don’t charge very much. I know for a fact, I used to dothat.92In making this suggestion, Doris asserted that marginalized people are skilled and canbe of help to the dominant culture; she asserted that assistance is a two way street betweencultures.Doris also often referred to First Nations traditions. For example, during oneobservation she noted, Most homes I go to have their parents’ pictures up, even whitepeople, And Indians, they have theirs up, 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 First Nations traditions and language, whichfurther validated the presence of the marginalized culture within the dominant culture of theclassroom, thus reducing the marginalization. For example, one day in class Kit said:It’s true that Brian [at the Native Heritage Centre] was interested when I saidthat Doris was in the class and also we 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 speak Hulqu’rne’num. So he saidDoris might want to do a little translation [for the oral history project]. We’llsee.Doris explained her attitude toward resistance 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 teach us anything; I don’t want tolearn anything from you.’ But I figure you’re learning from us too. It’s justthat you’re giving too. It’s kind of relaxing to me. I don’t know aboutanybody else, but when I’m there just doing the regular things in class, I getto relax sometimes and leave my mind outside the door.Doris had to overcome considerable resistance 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 undereducated status; she intended to increase herpersonal agency. Although being involved in white education has not been simply positive,93Doris makes it more positive for herself by resisting the dominance, especially by assertingher First Nations identity within the school culture, In doing so, she makes it more positive,not only for herself, but for others in the class. Through her assertion of her identity andresistance to the various dominant discourses present, she changes these dominant discoursesand helps to shift the dominance dynamics in the classroom.Solidarity TypeDoris appreciated and contributed to the solidarity of the First Nations students in herclass. In a letter she wrote to me at the end of my observations, Doris wrote: “What I missis that one other person [Mabel, a former ABE studenti in class that we used to talk ourNative language in class together.”The importance of solidarity among different marginalized people, especiallyconcerning the issues of poverty and illiteracy, were evident to Doris, as is apparent in herreport of her conversation with Ellen, the keynote speaker at the Speak Out:She was thinking everything. It was really good ‘cause, like I wasn’t at thetalk yesterday (at the Speak Out) and when I got 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’s just like us.’ It kinda wokeme up a little. I said, ‘Oh, OK.’ She asked if I would speak and I wasn’tsure. I would think about it. There are 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 all of a sudden your problem’s outsideand sometimes it helps to talk in public about it and maybe somebody outthere will give you an answer. It really hurts.Solidarity is significant to the concept of resistance in that it allows students to seebeyond their own problems and marginalized identities. It encourages marginalized people tobreak their isolation and view their marginalization in a broader social, economic or political94context. This connection and identification with others who are also marginalized is part ofgreater political and personal agency.HenryBackground InformationHenry was a forty-six year old Canadian born white man from Saskatchewan. He hadbeen a truck driver for many years but back problems forced him to quit and work for hiswife who ran a fast food restaurant. The business folded and he and his wife returned toschool at Dover campus in February, 1993. His wife was in the more advanced level threeof the ABE program. They and their three children lived on income assistance.Henry had dropped out of school with a grade six education when he was fifteen. Hedescribed his public school years:I had a hard time learning. Classrooms were then quite large and it was just,like, the first was the worst. That’s what kinda, I think, screwed me up a lot,in grade one . . . just the teacher. Then I got into grade two and I didn’t, like,catch on to some stuff, so on and so forth. And I kinda went along and didn’tlearn to spell, so I got fed up and quit and I was only fifteen, I guess, when Igot out of school.Then he worked for two years with his father on the family farm before getting a jobin construction on a provincial hydro project and later becoming a truck driver.Attendance InformationHenry was one of the most frequent attenders. Until the end of May (when he had tomove houses) he had not missed any classes.95Resistance InformationAwareness TypeIn early March, in one example, Kit asked the students in the Inhale classroomwhether they thought the government wanted some people to stay poor. In unison Horaceand Henry answered, “Yes.” Kit asked them what happened if a lot of people stay poor.Henry answered, “More people, less wages. You got to talk their lingo.” “Yes,” answeredKit, “You got to talk their lingo.” This exchange demonstrated that Henry knew thatemployers can pay lower wages if there is a pool of poor, unemployed workers, and also that“their lingo” is not the language of the welfare and working classes, but is the language ofthe ruling class, the language of influence. He was aware of the political implications ofpoverty.Challenging TypeIn one class, during a discussion of public school experiences, Henry recounted howhe responded as a child to teacher discipline. He said, “Once when I got hit, I brought mehand up and the teacher hit his own hand”. He was proud of his ability to subvert the schoolauthority through his own wits.Summary of Regular AttendersThere were seven students in this study who are considered regular attenders: Ann,Cory, Cal, Donna, Des, Doris and Henry. Each attended more than fifty percent of theclasses and had attendance in the last four weeks of the semester.In this study regular attendance was split on the dimension of age: four of the regularattenders were over forty and three were under forty. However, the most frequent attenders,(Des, Henry, and Ann) were over forty.96Regular attendance was not gender-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 comments and circumstances, especially with referenceto resistance, are of special interest to this study.Resistance and Attendance ComparedI observed many examples of resistant behaviour during the course of this study.While most students exhibited at least some resistant behaviour, each student had a particularpattern of resistant behaviours. As well, certain resistant behaviours were easier for theteachers to recognize, value and work with. In the discussion that follows I will comparestudent resistant behaviours with the student attendance 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 Table 3 (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 that exist between student resistantbehaviours and student attendance. I examine the resistant behaviours of those who droppedout of the ABE program, those who attended sporadically, and those who attended regularly,looking for commonalties among these attendance groupings of students in terms of resistantbehaviours.97Table 1Resistance Incidents (All) by Attendance GroupResistance CategoryAttendance Student W/draw Aware Chall Assert Solid TotalDrop-out Adam 22 0 2 1 0 25Hank 11 0 0 0 0 11Horace 0 3 2 1 0 6Pat 0 2 0 0 0 2Ron 10 0 0 0 0 10Sporadic Dave 1 3 5 1 0 10Darshan 0 0 0 0 0 0Gil 0 0 0 0 0 0Savita 0 0 0 0 0 0Vanessa 0 0 0 0 0 0Regular Ann 0 2 0 1 0 3Cal 0 2 2 1 1 6Cory 0 9 4 5 1 19Des 0 5 2 3 1 11Donna 0 1 4 0 0 5Doris 0 10 1 7 6 24Henry 0 3 1 0 0 498Table 2Resistance Incidents (Observed) by Attendance GroupResistance CategoryAttendance Student W/draw Aware Chall Assert Solid TotalDrop-out Adam 22 0 2 1 0 25Hank 11 0 0 0 0 11Horace 0 1 2 0 0 3Pat 0 2 0 0 0 2Ron 10 0 0 0 0 10Sporadic Dave 1 3 5 1 0 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 0 0 399Table 3Resistance Incidents (Interview) by Attendance GroupResistance CategoryAttendance Student W/draw Aware Chall Assert Solid TotalDrop-out Adam 0 0 0 0 0 0Hank 0 0 0 0 0 0Horace 0 2 0 1 0 3Pat 0 0 0 0 0 0Ron 0 0 0 0 0 0Sporadic Dave 0 0 0 0 0 0Darshan 0 0 0 0 0 0Gil 0 0 0 0 0 0Savita 0 0 0 0 0 0Vanessa 0 0 0 0 0 0Regular Ann 0 2 0 1 0 3Cal 0 2 0 0 1 3Cory 0 7 1 1 1 10Des 0 3 0 0 0 3Donna 0 1 0 0 0 1Doris 0 7 0 3 1 11Henry 0 1 0 0 0 1100The Dropout Group ComparisonThere were five students in the dropout category for whom I had gathered sufficientinformation to permit discussion. Of these five students, Hank, Ron and Adam displayed,primarily, withdrawal signs of resistance. They all sat (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 the classroomfor prolonged periods of time.As resistance behaviour, withdrawal behaviours seemed to be most difficult for theteachers to acknowledge and work with, although Kit did try several times to persuade 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 of resistance behaviours. Adam alsodisplayed two challenging and one (silent) assertion behaviour, but it was clear that 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 not displaywithdrawal signs of resistance. Pat displayed only two examples of resistance, both of whichdisplayed awareness of the oppression of dominant culture. In Pat’s case, dropout isassociated with only a very little resistant behaviour of the awareness type.In this group of students who dropped out, there was little evidence of the awareness,challenging, asserting or solidarity types of resistant behaviours; however, there was somevariation, particularly with Horace, who displayed a considerable number and range ofresistance behaviours. He challenged teacher methods; he expressed feeling militancy in the101learner context when Kit asked if anyone felt militant; he also asserted his First Nationsidentity as well as solidarity with others when he wanted to show that “Indians” could get aneducation. However, Horace also expressed more ambivalence and had more difficultypositioning himself than others in the class, which may have contributed to making continuedattendance in ABE more difficult for him. He displayed the most evidence of contradictionand ambivalence in reference to his perspective of the dominant discourse: significantly, hedisplayed this ambivalence particularly around education. In general, however, the dropoutgroup displayed resistance primarily in the withdrawal mode.It must also be noted that all the key student dropouts were First Nations students.My interpretation of this is that for First Nations people with low literacy skills, the distancebetween their cultural identity and the dominant culture and school culture is greater thanthat of other Canadian born individuals with low literacy skills. In this study, theobservation that it is primarily First Nations people who drop out indicates a need for theencouragement of a greater range and number of resistance behaviour among the students(given that the First Nations person who persisted displayed the most resistance behaviours)in order to allow the students to remain in ABE classes while asserting and preserving theircultural identities. It would also seem to indicate a greater need for political analysis,discussion, and action, especially on the part of ABE teachers, to counter the situation ofdominance.The Sporadic Attenders Group ComparisonFive of the students in the study are classified as sporadic attenders: Vanessa, Gil,Darshan, Savita and Dave. Vanessa, was a very infrequent sporadic attender. She displayed102none of the identified resistance behaviours in class, nor did she express any significantresistance when she was interviewed.Gil attended rarely at the start of the semester and though he attended more frequentlyas the semester progressed, he remained a sporadic attender. He participated rarely at thestart but he became more involved and talkative as the weeks went by; however, hedisplayed no resistance behaviours during my observations.Two other students were sporadic attenders, Darshan and Savita. These two women,both originally from the Punjab, usually attended together. They did not display resistant oroppositional behaviours during the observations, nor did I interview them.Among the sporadic attenders, Dave displayed the greatest range and number ofresistant behaviours. His primary mode was challenging. He challenged former school andfamilial dominance, as well as current classroom teaching behaviours and governmentalpolicies that ignore the needs of poor people. He also asserted his identity as a poor personand displayed solidarity with Des around childhood abuse. Although he was a sporadicattender he was by far the most frequent sporadic attender, attending over a third of theclasses.The sporadic attenders are a mixed group: two were Canadian born white men, twowere South Asian-Canadian immigrant women, and one was a First Nations woman; all wereunder forty. Of the five that I observed, I was only able to interview Vanessa. Four of thefive sporadic attenders exhibited no apparent resistant behaviours and the most frequent ofthe sporadic attenders was the only sporadic attender to exhibit resistance. Generally,sporadic attendance was associated with non-resistance.103The Regular Attenders Group ComparisonI categorized seven of the students in this study as regular attenders: Ann, Donna,Cory, Cal, Des, Henry, and Doris. Among these seven students, all displayed some resistantbehaviours, although two, Ann and Donna, displayed few. While Ann displayed fewresistant behaviours in classroom observations, she did oppose the way she was treated whenshe attended the public school system. Ann also thinks of herself as a resistant, “stubborn”person. This resistant persona allowed Ann to continue attending school when the oddsagainst her seemed overwhelming. In fact, she has attended the Main ABE programregularly for three years.Like Ann, Donna showed resistance by objecting to her former schooling. However,she also challenged the way that Kit taught her. Apart from these, Donna displayed fewresistance behaviours in the classroom.Cory was a regular attender who resisted the dominant and school cultures often andin a variety of ways. She is aware of power dynamics; she challenges past and presentinstitutions; she asserts her marginalized identities as a low literate adult, as a sexual abusesurvivor, and as a street person; she also shows solidarity with other low literacy adults.Although Cory demonstrated ambivalence in her initial tendency to accept the prescriptionsof the dominant discourse on etiquette, in the 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 usefulness of ABE. He asserted his identity asa rural person and expressed solidarity around low literacy with others in the class.104Des, the most frequent of the regular attenders, was also a resister. He challenged hispast schooling and his impoverished and abusive patriarchal family background. Des wasaware of socio-economic class issues and opposed his current position as a poor person oninadequate welfare. He asserted his marginalized identities as a poor, rural individual withlow literacy skills and asserted solidarity with his low literate classmates.Henry was also a regular attender. However, although he was a resister, hisresistance consisted mainly of demonstrating his awareness of institutionalized oppression.Although Henry did not exhibit frequent or varied resistance, he did express an awareness ofthe dominant structure in society and how it operates.Doris was an exceptional student in that she was the only regular attender who wasalso a First Nations student. She was also exceptional in displaying the greatest number andvariety of resistant behaviours. She displayed not only awareness and challengingbehaviours, but she also displayed assertion of her marginalized identities as a First Nations,poor and low literate individual. Further, she described seeing commonalties among andacross some marginalized identities. For instance, although she was surprised when theSpeak Out guest speaker, Ellen, talked about having lived on welfare, she immediatelyrecognized that this was a point of possible solidarity across racial identities. However, shemaintained her awareness of the oppression that whites generally visit upon First Nationspeople, as when the white press portrayed First Nations people as smugglers.Doris was a pivotal student in the class. She was called on by the teachers to takeover if the teacher had to leave. Other students 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. Both teachers encouraged her in her resistance105behaviours. She described feeling better about herself at 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 seemed to be satisfying herdesire for more agency without undermining her identity.All of the students in the regular attender group displayed more than one form ofresistance behaviour. None displayed signs of withdrawal resistance. 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 four are over forty and three are underforty. This variation heightens the likelihood of a 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 centred and 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 was followed up with a call to the student tofind out what the problems might be and to let the student know that they were missed. If106the teachers could not reach the student by phone, one of them wrote to the studentwelcoming them back. For example, Kit had written to Vanessa in May. On May 19thVanessa appeared in class for the first time in many days, entering the classroom as themorning lesson was beginning. As Vanessa took 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 showed up without getting the letter at all. Good!”Neither Kit nor Val was interested in keeping official attendance records, nor did thecollege require it. They posted a check-in attendance sheet on the 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 referred to as “power struggles” betweenstudents and teachers. During our interview she described a 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, totally at 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; he sleeps all day andthen the day is over so then he doesn’t have to worry about going toappointments or looking for a job or those things. So he can stay up all nightwatching videos. And then morning comes and he’s too 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 tried to get him totalk to me. And he immediately says, ‘Well, I’ll just have to be different.’Which, of course, is impossible. And so I tried to get him to talk to me aboutwhat he could do, but he wouldn’t. And he said, ‘No I’ll just do it.’ But, ofcourse, he never came back and that was the last time I saw him. And it wassimply silly of me to do that because I knew it wouldn’t work, but I believedthat it would. . . . It’s a kind of thing that you think there’s a certain kind ofcontrol that you have to have here. But it’s actually no advantage and so you107just . . . have to live with the fact that you can’t have control. I mean someprograms are really, really strict. They say that you have to have ninetypercent attendance or you’re out, or ninety-five percent or you’re out. But Ithink they lose a lot of students.Kit and Val did not pressure individual students to attend, but they did encourageattendance. On March 19th, Kit gave what was called the “Butt Lecture” twice, once at thebeginning of the morning and once at the end. The first time she gave it, she gave it solo.She said:The most important part of your body for back to school is not your brain; it’syour butt. Cause if you get your butt in here and put it on the chair, then yourbrain will be up to it. We’ll deal with your brain in whatever shape it’s in.But you’ve got to get your butt in. And you’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 presented to the class as a dialogue. Kit opened, “So, Des what is themost important part of you body to bring in to school?” Des answered, “Your butt.” And itcarried on. It was intended to be humorous, but it was given in earnest. Kit explained:Certainly with adults you have students who come with a million pounds ofbaggage about school and there is hardly any point in getting into any kind ofpower struggle with them. And so a whole lot of what I do is designed tokeep them coming back because if they don’t come back, they won’t improveat all. And there is no way. I mean, nobody forces them to come and nobodyforces them to come back and nobody forces them to say, ‘No I can’t drivemy aged mother to the old folks home where her only surviving friend is,because I have to come to school.’ I mean people have all kinds of reasonsnot to come to school and some of them aren’t very good. 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 missing school were not substantial oradequate. They may have been factual and even important, but they begged the question:108‘why?” Why, for instance, could the student not have driven their 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, their methods,and their daily interactions with the students could all be generally regarded as resistancepositive. They had an awareness of student resistance and built resistance work 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 helped to 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 attempted towork with the physical restlessness that was noted by many students and which could beinterpreted as a resistance to the schoollmiddle class culture that requires the subordination ofthe physical.The Initial InterviewIn this initial interview with each new student Kit stressed the importance ofrespecting all students in the class. She emphasized that there was a strong expectation thatno one would be racist or sexist in the classroom, and that the classroom would be a safeand comfortable place for everybody to learn in. Kit has found that, generally, this initialone-to-one discussion has kept the classroom free of overt racism and sexism. However, if109one of these problems arose, she said she responded by setting up a situation that encouragedthe targeted student(s) to help educate or refute the student who had been racist or sexist.She gave the following hypothetical example, wherein one 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 about women 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 it informed everyonethat identities that have been marginalized by the dominant discourses would be respectedand protected in this classroom.Learning And Past School ExperiencesThe first theme unit (on learning and past school experiences), which presented theopportunity for all students to air their grievances regarding their former school experiences,encouraged solidarity around the mutual identity of school dropout with low literacy skills ina heavily literacy-based society. It also provided opportunities for politicizing awareness, forchallenging oppressions in retrospect, and for asserting other associated aspects of identitywhich have been marginalized, such as poverty. It allowed the possibility of reclaiming andrevaluing neglected, abused and deprived adolescent selves. All of this learning encourageda respect for a marginalized and/or subordinated identity and encouraged the students’resistance against a dominant culture that subverts or subordinates them. Kit and Val bothencouraged the students to describe and discuss their experiences. They also taught thatlearning can happen in different ways for different people.110The Speak OutThe Speak Out had been a feature of the Fundamental ABE program at Dovercampus since Kit established it seven years ago. The Speak Out that I observed was a halfday event (buffet lunch included) composed of student testimonials describing, generally, thedifficulties and the benefits of returning to school, which were delivered to an invitedaudience of family, friends, other college students and community members. TheFundamental students spent the month prior to the Speak Out preparing their oralpresentations and making the arrangements for the invitations, the guest 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 invited to speak about theirexperiences. Speaking to an audience of about two hundred people, student after studentexplained their ambivalence about returning to school: how hard it had been to return, howhard it continued to be, but how glad they were to be back. One student who spoke had justreturned that day after dropping out for a week. A First Nations student 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 him but when door after door closed in his face as hegrew older, he decided to return. Their emotional and often tearful speeches reflected theirdesire for acceptance and their fear of continued rejection by the dominant culture.The Speak Out resembled two types of gatherings that I am aware of. It resembledan AA meeting wherein alcoholics admit to former lives of disability and embrace new livesof sobriety. The key there is to admit to the fault of alcoholism. Taking part in this type ofmeeting may be personally useful in battling the disease of alcoholism, but it is not111resistance behaviour. The second type of meeting that the Speak Out resembled is the“Abortion Speak Outs” of the seventies, wherein women who had had abortions admitted thisfact in order to promote the legalization 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 opportunity for solidarity around the identity oflow-literacy and also offered the possibility to challenge former school experiences, for someof the students the experience seemed more confessional than resistant. They wereconfessing to the fault of not having kept up with the expectations of the dominant culture.The Speak Out theme unit is particularly interesting because it represents the ambivalence ofliteracy to the dominant discourse and the ambivalence that many students feel as they try toboth enter and resist it.For the Speak Out to be a more resistance-positive event, it would likely be importantto work towards removing the confessional aspect from the Speak Out and to encourageexpression of anger that people often feel when they have, wrongly, been made to feel thatthey are at fault.Accommodating The PhysicalMany students in this class talked about restlessness; Doris, Des, Cory and Cal allnoted the problem of sitting still in the classroom context. This restlessness that wasdescribed, but not enacted, likely contains some elements of resistance (of the withdrawaltype), but was not evidenced clearly as such in this study. As well, some left the classroomfor long periods of time, which, combined with isolated seating patterns and consistentlateness has been described as withdrawal resistance behaviour. Further, physical modes of112learning (eg. watching and doing) were described as more comfortable for most of thestudents that I interviewed.Kit made several attempts to address this student restlessness. One day, while I wasobserving, Kit brought in chunks of coloured plasticene and distributed it to 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 making toomuch 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 entire class molded their pieces ofplasticene while participating in the group discussion. Kit commented at the end of thissession that the students were increasing their capacity to sit through long meetings: “Youpeople are getting very good at being in meetings. You’ve now been in a meeting for fortyor fifty minutes.” Cory responded, “Well, remember that first meeting!”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 learning to spell, ifwhen you write things, you write them like this [using her whole arm writing on the board],it helps.” When Des asked why, Kit responded, “Because it involves your whole body, notjust your brain.”113She used this principle (of including and using the physical in learning) again whenpiloting a new method of teaching reading that 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. Not jump around, but walk around. I’m going to 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 stand up 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 talking out loud helps youlearn better.She summed it up, “So the more parts of your body you 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 Central America. Onanother occasion, she described a literacy program in a hotel in Saskatchewan where theemployees teach one another literacy skills partly on their own time and partly on work time.She also talked to the class about the politics of class sizes in the public school system andhow the system needed to address this issue. Kit talked about adult literacy learner militancyin Ontario and asked if anyone in the class also felt militant, 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 of resistance as it applies to seventeen particularAdult Basic Education students, and has focused primarily on its relation to their programattendance throughout one semester. The data derives from ethnographic observations andinterviews and is suggestive of educational perspectives and instructional practices thatrequire further exploration.The data suggests that the majority of ABE students in this class engaged inresistance behaviours in the ABE classroom. In his 1990 study of literacy student resistance,Quigley suggested that ABE participants (enrolled students) might be different than non-participants in terms of resistance; he questioned the resistance of ABE participants.However, in this exploration, there is no doubt that the majority of these adult studentsexpressed resistance. This would indicate that one cannot assume that the adult literacystudent is an accommodating student based solely on their participation in ABE. They, likemany other students, manage to both engage in and resist different aspects of the schoolingproject. Nor can their regular attendance be taken to mean that they do not resist; the regularattenders in this classroom displayed more resistance behaviours, in terms of both quantityand variety, than the other students.Further, although each resistant individual is likely to engage in a range of resistancebehaviours, the data suggests a relationship between attendance and type of resistancebehaviour.Those who appeared almost non-resistant or whose resistance fell primarily into thewithdrawal category, were not regular attenders. Non-existent resistance and primarily115withdrawal type resistance is associated with dropout and sporadic attendance. Moreverbally expressive and more frequent resistance behaviour seems related to more regularattendance in this ABE classroom. These results suggest a positive association betweenconscious, active resistance and regular attendance. It also suggests that the more thatconscious resistance is encouraged, the more likely it is that regular attendance will result.This indicates that students could be encouraged to resist in different ways. Someforms of resistance may be less effective in allowing the student to remain in the ABEprogram (if that is the student’s goal). For instance, withdrawal resistance included thestudent absenting himself (it was a male phenomenon in this classroom) from the class forlong periods of time and thus missing large blocks of work. 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 forms of resistance, that might replace thewithdrawal from of resistance, which has a strong correlation with dropout behaviour.Instructors could explore how to encourage more active and verbal forms of resistance.This study suggests not only that instructors need to expect and recognize resistancein ABE, but also that they can and should encourage the more conscious and verbal types ofresistance. Resistance should be encouraged not only because it is socially just, but alsobecause it contributes to an improved learning context, to student retention and institutionalsuccess.Tt is not surprising that student retention increases when:1) students feel their marginalized selves are accepted and welcomed into theclassroom;2) the classroom seems more receptive to 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, the dominant culture and control, andmore on diversity, democracy and marginalized discourses.In this study, the educational environment seemed to influence the expression ofstudent resistance. Kit had developed methods and curricula for promoting a resistance-positive environment. She discussed her methods in 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 they avoid power struggles andenforcement of rules. She emphasized that the major focus should be on student success.In my observations, Kit put her own analysis to work. Because she recognized thatmost returning students may not be used to sitting in a classroom for hours at a time, shetried to include physical methods of learning as well as purely mental methods. She madethe classroom safe by encouraging a non-sexist and non-racist environment through the preentry interviews. She looked for opportunities to analyze the social power dynamics instudent stories.Kit’s curricula also reflected these concerns; she has “political” theme units. The firsttheme unit, Learning and Past School Experiences, allowed the students to examine theirformer school experiences (which, like most ABE students 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 exclusively individual base to include systemresponsibility and failure.In this classroom, teacher encouragement of resistance seems to have led to anincreased vocalization of student awareness of oppression. The teachers’ openness to117resistance also seemed to result in a reduced occurrence of in-class challenging behaviours.This contrasted sharply with my former observation in a Vancouver ABE classroom, which Irelated in the Introduction and which served as a motivator for this study. In that case, apower struggle around enforcing standard English in a classroom of working class studentsescalated quickly and increased opposition, which spread throughout the class.This study may be most useful in its implications for teaching in ABE classrooms.The results may encourage teachers to feel less threatened by resistance behaviours andindeed to experiment with valuing and encouraging student resistance. Teachers may attemptto promote especially verbal forms of resistance and to work to bring non-verbal, withdrawalresistance to conscious verbal statements of awareness and identity. For instance, followingthis study, Kit removed the isolated row seating in the classroom, in an attempt to reducewithdrawal resistance.LimitationsThis study was both limited and enhanced by the ethnographic approach that I used.The limitations included the initial lack of a set theoretical framework, the broad focus andthe inability to generalize to other contexts. Although I was initially interested in thedifficulties of student accommodation in adult literacy programs, I did not have theframework of resistance theory or poststructuralist discourse theory to inform and guide thisstudy from the outset.Had I used resistance theory and the concept of discourse from the beginning of thestudy the observations and the interviews might have produced more relevant information.On the other hand, it was important to maintain an open mind during the data collection118stages of the research. The lack of theoretical frames permitted the inclusion of data thatmight have not been noted otherwise.Directions For Future StudyThe ethnographic nature of this study provides indepth information about thisparticular classroom; however, further ethnographic classroom research needs to beundertaken in order to establish the possibilities for broader applications of this study’sfindings.This study was done in a classroom that had resistance positive teachers who hadgiven much thought to the implications of classroom and societal power dynamics, 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 resistance positive orresistance conscious teachers. These sorts of studies would provide additional informationabout 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 to explore therelationships between teaching styles (concepts), student resistance and retention. Studies ina variety of institutional and instructional contexts would provide more insight 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 displayed resistance119behaviours, and that that resistance was expressed in a variety of ways. It also found that thestudents who:1) dropped Out displayed more of the withdrawal type of resistance;2) attended sporadically displayed almost no resistant behaviour;3) attended regularly displayed more, and more varied, forms of resistance.These findings suggest that retention increases if ABE teachers learn to recognize,value, and encourage student resistance as a positive attempt on the part of the adult studentto maintain dignity and pride in their marginalized identities and to assert that identity whileparticipating in the very dominant discourse which tends to devalue it. It suggests thatteachers who learn to work with resistance, as opposed to discouraging it, will enhancestudent learning and ABE retention.120BIBLIOGRAPHYApple, Michael W. (1979). Ideology and Curriculum. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Apple, Michael W. (1982). Education and Power. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Anderson, R. and G. Darkenwald (1979). 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