Adult literacy: Case studies of adults attending literacy classes

Francine Rose Boren Gilkenson, Fordham University


This study described and analyzed the uses of literacy at school, home, and work of two working adults labeled functionally illiterate, as measured by a score of 5.0 or less on a standardized reading test. Observational case study was the research model used. The researcher collected data over a period of 18 months at five sites which included the classroom setting, work sites, and homes of the participants. Data collected and analyzed included field notes, researcher memos, transcripts of audio tapes, documents, personal records, and information interviews. In general, school was found to be a place where judgments and assumptions were made about the participants. Judgments and assumptions were based on standardized test scores and affect the curriculum, teaching practices, class placement, and labeling of these adults. The school program underestimated and misunderstood these adults and limited access to knowledge, mobility, and power. Five factors describing these adults were identified. They are resource networks (defined as individuals or groups of people who serve as resources for these participants, offering access to information and literacy events), goal orientation/motivation (defined as the ability to articulate goals and have a future focus), self-direction/independence (defined as engaging in activities where responsibility for planning and carrying out the endeavor is assumed by the individual), uses of literacy (defined as engaging in reading and writing activities for a specific purpose or function that is meaningful to the individual), and success (defined as work-related achievement, having material possessions). The major findings of this study are five hypotheses which suggest that the integration of these factors into an education program for working adults would result in improved instruction and greater program success.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Boren Gilkenson, Francine Rose, "Adult literacy: Case studies of adults attending literacy classes" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109226.