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


This ethnographic study explores the relationship between student attendance and student resistance in an Adult Basic Education (ABE) classroom. Resistance is interpreted to mean the positive opposition to dominant cultures and discourses (of which schooling and literacy are a part), as is described in the work of Henri Giroux. The study was conducted in a community college Fundamental ABE classroom. It documents and describes instances of student resistance that were gathered through three and a half months of videotaped observation and twelve interviews. The initial question focused on how ABE students, who generally have marginalized identities, managed to remain in ABE programs despite literacy’s almost inherent thrust toward standardization and the mainstream. As I pursued the relevant literature and reviewed the data, the theoretical concept of resistance began to influence the research question, so that it finally became “What is the relationship of student resistance to student attendance in an ABE classroom.” In the data that I gathered, resistance presented as a complex phenomenon that could be divided most usefully into five different categories. Comparisons of student resistance categories with student attendance patterns suggested that students with more, and more varied, resistance styles were the students who attended most regularly. Most of the students who attended sporadically or who dropped out of the ABE program either demonstrated no resistance, very little resistance, or only the type of resistance that I categorized as the withdrawal type of resistance. These comparisons imply that ABE teachers and programs could benefit from framing their 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 that encouraging students with withdrawal type resistance to resist in other styles might also encourage them to keep attending.

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