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Through the Eyes of the Beholders: Stakeholder Experiences with Two Community-Based Adult Literacy Programs that Include Adult and Youth-at-Risk Learners
Ph.D. dissertation by Marion Terry, University of Regina, June 2005


This qualitative research study answered the question "What are various stakeholders' experiences with community-based adult literacy programs that include youth-at-risk and adult dropouts?" The purpose of the study was to develop an understanding of two provincially funded community-based adult literacy programs in rural and northern Manitoba, Canada, and to use stakeholders' experiences with these programs as the basis for suggesting improvements to adult literacy practices in general. The 70 research participants belonged to eight stakeholder categories: adult learners, youth-at-risk learners, coordinators/instructors, other staff members, parents/significant others, program administrators, community referral agents, and provincial funding agents. The study gave voice to these stakeholders, within the process of discovering the meanings that the programs had for the individuals most directly affected by them.

Data from documents, interviews, and researcher notes were analyzed to produce within-case and cross-case comparisons of stakeholder perspectives according to a theoretical-conceptual model based on Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological paradigm. Within-case analysis yielded descriptions of each program's mission statement, changes in program learners, learner recruitment, staff selection, instructional practices, learning climate, influences by parents/significant others, hiring of the coordinator/instructor, community credibility, funding, facility, and adult education model.

Four themes emerged from the cross-case analysis: program design, human relations, community context, and financial support. Program design encompassed variations on the community-based adult literacy program model; choosing program participants; on-the-job instructor training; learner intake procedures; learning processes, resources, and products; and classroom setup and location. Human relations included classroom climate as well as interpersonal relationships among staff and learners. Community context involved community status, learners' lives in the community, parents/significant others, Literacy Working Group administrators, community referral agents, Adult Learning Centers, and regular schools. Financial support consisted of sources of revenue, in-kind income, and general impacts of limited funding.

The research conclusions centered on the community-based model and on stakeholder groups' reciprocating relationships with the two programs in the study. The stakeholder group with the most direct impact on this study's programs consisted of the coordinators/instructors, followed closely by learners, other staff, and provincial funding agents. Of particular significance were the meanings that research participants made of their relationships with their respective programs as a whole and with other program stakeholders. Research participants noted not only the connections that learners made between their learning activities and their post-program learning and career goals, but also the academic and personal empowerment that resulted from these experiences.

The study adds to the literature on adult literacy education. It also provides an empirical basis for recommending changes to practice, particularly in relation to instructional methods, classroom climate, and administrative leadership; and for suggesting further research.


Terry, M. (2005). Through the eyes of the beholders: Stakeholder experiences with two adult literacy programs that include adult and youth-at-risk learners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Regina.

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