Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

From resistance to persistence? An alternative self-directed readiness training program for adult literacy and Adult Basic Education learners

Don Louis Robishaw, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Many adult literacy and adult basic education learners struggle with various forms of negative emotions. Self-doubts are often a result of resistance to earlier schooling experiences and how they processed those experiences. Adults need to shed emotions that interfere with progress and develop the self-confidence needed to persist with academic work. There is a need for a strategy to help learners become more self-confident, persistent, and self-directed. The purpose of this study was to develop, pre-test, field-test, post-test, and refine a training program designed to help students move closer to self-directed learning. The data was collected through formative and summative evaluation strategies that revolved around a series of critical dialogues with learners. Findings related to the unlearning process revealed movement by the participants towards several enabling outcomes. These outcomes included unlearning the "blaming-the-victim" mentality; working through the shame issue of returning to school as an adult; resisting the self-fulfilling prophecy that they are incapable of academic work; giving themselves credit for overcoming barriers; and moving towards developing a stronger sense of critical awareness. This study also found that: (1) learners can benefit from reflecting on their earlier schooling experiences and surrounding circumstances; (2) learners want their critical voices heard; and (3) critical reflection and critical pedagogy are important processes in helping learners overcome negative emotions and getting at those voices. In conducting the evaluation, several problems in the design were easily rectified, but others were left unsolved. Empowerment and participatory practices are not easy, and program staff may find some of the results too critical, difficult to deal with, and unpleasant. What characteristics make for a good facilitator? Should a practitioner from the learning center be present during the critical dialogues? The participants not only endorsed the program, but had recommendations for practitioners who might consider participating in a similar program designed specifically for them.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Literacy|Reading instruction|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Robishaw, Don Louis, "From resistance to persistence? An alternative self-directed readiness training program for adult literacy and Adult Basic Education learners" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9619431.