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Harrison, Aline E.
The far reaching impact of transformative learning :
b a critical ethnographic case study
h [electronic resource] /
by Aline E. Harrison.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 176 pages.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: This multiple case study focused on the lives and experiences of four women who participated in an adult literacy program. This case study approach used critical ethnography as an analytic tool employing grounded theory leading to the development of a substantive theory. In-depth, semi-structured interviews and researcher's reflective journal were employed to collect data for this study that critically examined the impact of the transformative process of its participants and its influence on their socio-cultural context. Results revealed that participants did not necessarily experience a disorienting dilemma as contended by Mezirow (1978, 1991, and 2000). Rather participants experienced a series of integrating circumstances that led to the transformative experience.Moreover, the study indicated that unlike Mezirow's assumption that individuals need to have a high cognitive or educational level to experience a transformation these participants with little or no education experienced a transformation. Overall, the purpose of this study was to generate grounded theory on the impact of the transformative experience on the participants and their socio-cultural context. From the findings of the study, a substantive theory emerged revealing profound changes: a metamorphosis. Thus, the substantive theory is: Metamorphosis: Given the opportunity to shift frames of reference, one has the innate capacity to alter one's life and impact one's socio-cultural context creating possibilities for self and others. In light of this, all participants related experiences that reflect the core elements of transformative learning as first posited by Mezirow.These elements included exploration of new roles or actions, self-confidence in new roles, development of a plan of action and reintegration into life based on their new frames of reference. Major themes that emerged from the data are self-esteem and assertiveness, discovery of self, great personal sacrifice, development of sense of possibility for self and family, beliefs and values, increased spirituality, self-sufficiency, role model, opportunity for social action. As the women became empowered, the changes affected their socio-cultural context resulting in changes with their children, family and community. Finally, this study has far-reaching implications for policy-makers and practitioners in particular for strategic improvement of life for low-income families and family relationships. These findings can serve as the impetus to improve the disintegration of family values triggering a positive impact on entire communities.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
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Co-advisor: William H. Young, Ed.D.
Co-advisor: Rosemary Closson, Ph.D.
x Adult, Career and Higher Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
The Far Reaching Impact of Transformative Learning: A Critical Ethnographic Case Study by Aline E. Harrison A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Adult, Career and Higher Education College of Education University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: William Young, Ed.D. Co-Major Professor: Rosemary Closson, Ph.D. Linda Evans, Ph.D. Derek Mulenga, Ph.D. Date of Approval: June 25, 2008 Keywords: literacy, grounded theory, women, international, change Copyright 2008, Aline E. Harrison
Dedication This dissertation is first dedi cated to God Almighty for the strength and wisdom during my entire studies. Second, to my daughter Jude and the entire fam ily: you were my inspiration. And finally, to the women who participated in this study as they continue to metamorphose and flutter voicing their voice.
Acknowledgements This life-changing event has not come to fruition without the support of many people. I want to thank Dr. Bob Sullins and Dr. Young for the opportunity to be a part of ACHE department. I am grateful to my committee who has helped shape th is dissertation and fostered my transformation. I express my thanks to Dr. Rosemary Closson, Dr. Bill Young, Dr. Linda Evans, and Dr. Dere k Mulenga for their guidance and support throughout my doctoral st udies. Thank you for your time, commitment, and encouragement. I am grateful to all my friends and colleagues, both here in the USA and in Belize, who encouraged me along the way. Thank you for your concern. Thanks Debbie, Eve, Phillip, Consy, Lily, Maria, Lisa, Deb, Joel and Sister Angela. Dr. Co nnie Hines and Dr. Phil Smith thank you for your support. I would like to thank the women in this study who willingly participated in this study. They to ld their stories with such openness and honesty from their hearts. I express my appreciation to Iona Sarieva, Carmeda Stokes, Darunee Dujsik, and Annmarie Zoran for their work as peer-reviewers and co-coders, helping to make the study trustworthy and for their
friendship. Thank you to Dr. Ellaje an Gillett, Dr. Wilma Wright, Ms. June Bennett and Ms. Sonia Linare s for their assistance with the interview process. Finally, I want to thank my daughter Jude, for her enduring patience, support and prayers during this challenging process. Thank you to my mom, dad, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sisters-inlaws, aunts, uncles and cousins for their continued prayers and support.
i Table of Contents List of Figures iv Abstract v Chapter One: Introduction 1 Context 1 Statement of the Problem 8 Research Questions 10 Significance of the Study 11 Assumptions 13 Overview of Participants 14 Definition of Terms 15 Chapter Two: Literature Review 17 Theoretical Framework 17 Socio-Cultural Theory 21 Critical Ethnography 21 Understanding Transformative Learning as Theor y and Practice 23 Socio-cultural Theory and Adult learning 32 Education in Belize and the Possible Impact on t he Li teracy Situation 40
ii Literacy in Belize: A Socio-cultural Perspec tive 43 Conclusion 53 Chapter Three: Method 56 Overview 56 Research Design 57 Participants 63 Data Collection 68 Researcher as Primary Research Instrument 78 Data Analysis 81 Phase One 82 Phase Two 83 Phase Three 86 Summary of Analysis 87 Chapter Four: Findings and Discussion 90 Overview 90 Case One: Audrey 95 Case Two: Jayna 101 Case Three: Gida 111 Case Four: Imara 117 Summary of Transformative Learning Experience of Participants 130 Cross-case Analysis 131 Chapter Five: Conclusions, Implications and Recommendations for Future Research 142
iii Summary of Findings of Study 144 Substantive Theory 145 Implications of the Study 146 Recommendations for Future Research 147 The Last Word 148 References 167 Appendix 1 163 Appendix 2 169 Appendix 3 171 Appendix 4 173 About the Author End Page
iv List of Figures Figure 1.1. Map of Belize 2 Figure 1.2. Snapshot of Participants 14 Figure 2.1. Transformative Learning Impact 15 Figure 3.1. Research Design 59 Figure 3.2. Modified Interview Structure 74 Figure 4.1. Themes emerging from Phase 2 with sample dimens ions 132 Figure 4.2. Themes emerging from Phase 3 134
v The Far Reaching Impact of Transformative Learning: A Critical Ethnographic Case Study Aline E. Harrison ABSTRACT This multiple case study focused on the lives and experiences of four women who participated in an adult literacy program. This case study approach used critical ethnography as an analytic tool employing grounded theory leading to the development of a subs tantive theory. In -depth, semi-structured interviews and researcherÂ’s reflective journal were employed to collect data for this study that critically examined the impact of the transformative process of its participants and its influence on their socio-cultural c ontext. Results revealed that participants did not necessarily experience a disori enting dilemma as contended by Mezirow (1978, 1991, and 2000). Rather participants experienced a se ries of integrating circumstances that led to the transformative experi ence. Moreover, the study indicated that unlike MezirowÂ’s assump tion that individuals need to have a high cognitive or educational level to exper ience a transformation these participants with little or no education experienced a transformation. Overall, the purpose of this study was to generate gr ounded theory on the impact of the transformative experienc e on the participants and their sociocultural context. From the findings of the study, a su bstantive theory emerged
vi revealing profound changes: a metamorphosis Thus, the substantive theory is: Metamorphosis: Given the opportunity to sh ift frames of reference, one has the innate capacity to alter oneÂ’s life and impac t oneÂ’s socio-cultural context creating possibilities for self and others. In light of this, all participants relat ed experiences that reflect the core elements of transformative learning as fi rst posited by Mezirow. These elements included exploration of new roles or ac tions, self-confidence in new roles, development of a plan of action and rein tegration into life based on their new frames of reference. Major themes that emerged from the data are self-esteem and assertiveness, discovery of self, great personal sacrifice, development of sense of possibility for self and family, beliefs and values, increased spirituality, selfsufficiency, role model, opportunity for social action. As the women became empowered, the changes affected their so cio-cultural context resulting in changes with their children, family and community. Finally, this study has far-reaching implications for policy-makers and practitioners in particular for strategic im provement of life for low-income families and family relationships. These findings c an serve as the impetus to improve the disintegration of family values triggering a positive impact on entire communities.
1 Chapter One: Introduction The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and writ e, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler (1990). Context Belize, a former British colony and independent since 1981, is a small country in Central America with an area of 8,867 square miles and approximately 265,000 inhabitants. It is historically part of the Caribbean and geographically part of Central America. According to a United Nations report in 2004, Â“about half the population is female and about half lives in rural areas. 33.5% live in poverty, with 10.8% living in abject poverty, of which child ren are the most vulnerable [sic] (Children and Adolescents in Belize, 2004).Â” Despite its small size and population, Belize is comprised of a number of distinct major ethnic cu ltural groups, each of which continues to use its native language to varying extents. The official language of the country is Englis h and it is used for official publications, proceedings and as the medium of instruction at all levels. In informal ev eryday speech, however, Belizeans speak Belize Creole (English based lexicon) and Spanish to a lesser extent.
2 Figure 1.1 Map of Belize Of significance to this study ar e two areas in Belize: Belize and Toledo District as these areas are th e home of the participants in this study (see Figure 1.1). Toledo in Southern Belize has the highest percentage of illiteracy and poverty and is often referred to as the
3 Â“Maya HeartlandÂ”. Toledo District is home to the majority of Maya Indians (Kekchi and Mopan) who still practice their traditions. In postcolonial Belize, Toledo District has earned the name Â“the forgotten districtÂ” given its distance and the high poverty rate of 79% (Belize Central Statistical Office, 2002). In 1991, The National Literacy Task Force (NLTF) was created and it functioned as a government al agency to address issues of literacy. NLTF had representation from non-governmental agencies, government agencies and United Na tions Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A ccording to an NLTF 1996 report, the Task Force had a mandate to address issues as it related to literacy. For example, the Task Force set aside a National Literacy Day. To my knowledge, this was the last National Literacy Day the government sponsored. In addition, a highlight of the National Literacy Day was a literacy fair that involved displays of books, puppet shows, poetry and story reading (Literacy Da y, 1991). To date the Task Force is non-existent and I had difficu lty obtaining information on its accomplishments. The results of national exams ar e in a certain way related to literacy. In 2007, Primary School Exam (PSE) results indicated a national mean score of 52%. This standardized exam is taken after having attended primary school for eigh t years. This is significant since
4 the definition for being literate is eq ualed to attendance of seven years of school at the primary level. This criterion was established by The National Literacy Task Force when it existed in 1996. This definition was patterned from United Nations Ed ucational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) definition in 1996 (NLTF Report, 1996). If the results are so low and the literacy ra te is equaled to years of school attendance, the results do not appear to be positive. From these exam results and the 75% literacy rate (Belize Statistical Report, 2002), there is no doubt whether literacy is an issue that needs addressing. But rather th e focus should be on how best to address it. Belize for many years bo asted an adult literacy rate of 96%. However, more recent research in particular a study conducted by Duke (1995) dispelled the myth and explained it as a political ploy. The adjustment in 1997 to 75% according to Duke was more acceptable as indicated by the 1996 Literacy survey results. Additionally, literacy is an issue that has elicited much interest from politicians, educators and the co mmunity in Belize. There is little argument about its important role in the economic development of a country in an age of global economic competitiveness in particular for developing countries. The severity of the literacy crisis has prompted increased attention from BelizeÂ’s two main political parties for the past three decades as documented in th eir manifestos (PeopleÂ’s United
5 Party (PUP), 2003 Manifesto; Unit ed Democratic Party (UDP), 2003 Manifesto). The PUP, upon winning in 2003, pledged to the Belizean people to address with the persistent issu e of illiteracy. Prime Minister (to present date) and then Minister of Education (2003-2004), Said Musa had the following to say in regards to this dilemma on Channel 5 News (April, 2003) on behalf of his political party and government: We need to get back to basics, and one of the things I am emphasizing as the new Minister of Education, not just as Prime Minister, is basic readin g skills. There is a direct correlation between illiteracy and unemployment and poverty. And if we are going to fight poverty, which is a main plank of our manifesto, if we are going to eradicate poverty, we have to deal wi th illiteracy, and we have to take it on board and not be ashamed to say, well it's too low, whether it's seventy-five percent or whatever the percentage is, we need to get to the nineties percent once again [sic]. Belize was there before, but of course, you realize what has happened to us. There are two major things to have happened in our society, one was the massive the influx of poor, peasant people from Central America, the other was the outward migration of many
6 Belizean mothers and fathers; the grannies had to take care of the kids, and this created in itself a major dysfunction in Belize and we have to address that [sic]. However, in my opinion, none of the political parties has taken any noteworthy action when in powe r. The creation of the National Literacy Task Force was one initiative that had the potential to address the issue. The life of the Task Forc e lasted for three years, when a change of government ended its exis tence. Records of its activities were difficult to locate with on ly one report lodged in the Belize Archives Department. Apathy by the government has been documented and its source identified as partly the result of colonialism in a study conducted by Duke (1995). While Duke linked th e source to colonialism and the inheritance of a colonial system of education, no clear language or literacy policy exists for the Belizea n context to address this issue. According to Jules (1988): The existence of mass illiteracy is the historical product of structural deficiencies and inequalities in the formal educational system. The ab sence of adequate primary school places, the negative impact of socio-economic difficulties at the level of the family, are two of the most notable features of this inequality. (p. 370)
7 This line of thinking is further reiterated in a 1996 report from the National Literacy Task Force (1996) and a 2004 report from UNESCO, which questions whether the primary/middle schools are performing up to standards. Acco rding to the Literacy Task Force Report of 1996, Â“the overall literacy rate for the country stands at 75.1% (p.36).Â” It must be noted that this percentage consists of absolute literates and semi-liter ates. According to Miller (2000), Human Development Reports for the 1990Â’s issued by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), persons with no primary schooling are considered absolutely illiterate; those that had less than seven years of schooling as functional illit erate; those that completed eight years of primary schooling as func tionally literate and those that completed secondary schooling as having a literary standard. The literacy definition criterion employ ed to determine the literacy rate level is years of schooling. Beliz e provides eight years of primary schooling often termed as free educat ion but which is not necessarily the case as parents are often levied high fees to some extent. Consequently, a person was consid ered as literate if he or she had completed seven years of prim ary schooling according to this criterion. On the other hand, the 1996 national literacy survey using means of performance on literacy clas sified the literacy rate as 42.5%. This is considerably different using years of school criterion for the
8 same year, which yielded 75.1% (Nat ional Literacy Task Force 1996; Miller 2000). Statement of the Problem One of the aims of adult educatio n is to prepare individuals to cope with the changes of new knowle dge acquired. With this in mind, it is indispensable that adult educ ators have greater insight of this process. Adult educators therefore, have a vested interest to promote and understand the process an d conditions that generate transformative learning. Transfor mative learning suggests that learning gives way to a new or revised interpretation of the learning experience. This revised interpretati on is precisely what this study has explored, using the following op erating meaning based on my understanding of transformative learning: Transformative learning invo lves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic pr emises of thought, feelings and action. It is a shift of co nsciousness that dramatically and permanently alerts our wa y of being in the world. Such a shift involves our un derstanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our relation ships with other humans and with the natural world; our und erstanding of relations of power in interlocking structures of class, race and gender; our body-awareness, our visions of alternative approaches
9 to living; and our sense of possibilities for social justice and peace and personal joy. (OÂ’Sullivan, Morrel & OÂ’Connor (2002, p. xvii) Like many developing countries, Belize has no empirical evidence of the consequences of literacy pr ogram participation or of how it shapes the individual and their soci o-cultural context. Scant evidence which exists is from United Nation s reports often not addressing the situation adequately. Therefore, it is imperative for research to be conducted in this area. Lind (1997) asserts that: The systematic evaluation and documentation of some new programs is impressive. Very interesting publications and research have been produced. Adult literacy is still underresearched, but it is much be tter documented than it was in 1985. Some recurrent themes of new publications have been the impact of literacy pr ograms, the uses of literacy in different contexts, women and literacy, and postliteracy. (p. 33) Therefore, this study invest igated the extent to which participation in a literacy program a ffects the lives of its participants and how the change was manifested. In addition, it assessed the affective impact as felt in fam ilies, relationships, work and the community according to the participants.
10 Using a critical ethnographic case study approach, this study sought an understanding of the experi ences of its participants as they moved toward self-sufficiency. Th e overall focus was to gain an understanding of the transformations in the participantsÂ’ own lives and their experience of personal change This is important, as their experiences, knowledge and perspect ives are the most valuable and valid in gaining insight on how pa rticipation in a literacy program affects them. More specifically, this study described: 1. Critical incidents that enhanced transformation. 2. The extent that participants de scribe transformations in their own lives 3. The extent that participants de scribe experiences of personal empowerment. 4. How the transformations and changes influence their relationships at home, school /work and in the community. Research Questions This case study is nestled in an emancipatory approach to research as it uses critical ethnogr aphy and transformative learning as underpinning theories. This design was chosen because it is complementary to the guiding ques tions of the research and the participants and offers the opport unities for a broader understanding
11 of the conditions and circumstan ces that foster transformative learning. A case study couched within a cr itical ethnography is a way for me to highlight the lived expe riences of the conditions and circumstances that foster transformative learning process for adult learners in one setting. The stud y was guided by the following questions: 1. What conditions and circumstance s foster the transformative learning process? 2. What critical incidents have enhanced transformation? 3. How does participation in a program transform the participants to create change in their lives? How is this change manifested? 4. How have the transformations influenced participantsÂ’ relationships at home, school/w ork and within the larger community? Significance of the Study This study added to the expanding research on transformative learning by investigating the chan ge created by participation in a literacy program. In addition, it exam ined the impact of the change on the participantÂ’s socio-cultural cont ext. Thus it expanded MezirowÂ’s (1991, 2000a) transformative learning theory beyond the rational and
12 cognitive process he postulates by including the impact on the sociocultural context of the participants Such an understanding contributes by offering insight into the Â“integra ting circumstancesÂ” (Clark, 1991, p. 45) that fostered the transformative experience. Additionally, it tested MezirowÂ’s assertion that transforma tion requires a certain level of education and cognitive developmen t consequently meaning a certain educational level (Mezirow, 2004; Merriam, 2004) in order to engage in transformative learning. The part icipants in this study had either very low levels of formal education and/or low literacy levels and were all capable of transformational learning as indicated by their critical reflection. According to Brookfield (2 000), Â“an act of learning can be called transformative only if it in volves a fundamental questioning and reordering of how one thinks or acts (p. 139).Â” This is clearly evidenced with all four participants as their frames of reference were transformed as they acted on their reflective decisions. Unquestionably, this research study has the potential to contribute to Belize, in many ways particularly to those engaged in the work of educating adults. Addition ally, it can inform the work of adult education on both a theoretica l and practical level. For example, there are several literacy programs operating within Belize, generally sponsored by non-profit organizations. But, no studies exist in Belize that addresses the impact of the literacy program on the community,
13 family and workplace by individuals who have engaged in a literacy program. The findings of this stud y offers insight into the influences emanating from the transformati ve experiences of women. The overall goal was to gain insight that offers critical information to policymakers, progra m designers and administrators of adult education programs by pr oviding knowledge that can be incorporated in the Belizean contex t. Furthermore, the results add reliable published data in an effort to improve practice and contribute to the field of adult education in Be lize. Finally, this study gives voice to participants who would otherwise never be heard. Giving voice according to Giroux, (1992a) means, Â“giving voice to those who have been normally excluded and silenced (p. 209).Â” Assumptions The following are the majo r assumptions that underlie this research study: 1. Facilitating critical consciousn ess through education leads to transformation of individu als and their environment. 2. Even though the findings in this study are contextspecific, the findings will be relevant and useful for adult educators in developing nations. 3. This research study is empoweri ng and enlightening for both researcher and participants.
14 4. Transformative learning exists and can be studied to gain an understanding of the process. 5. The objectivity of this research lie s in the honesty, integrity, and objectivity of the researcher rath er than in the particular method used. 6. The very act of being interviewed using reflexivity is transformational and new meaning is created. Overview of Participants Figure 1.2. Snapshots of Participants I interviewed four women as partic ipants for this study. Table 1.2 provides a snapshot of each particip ant. In depth descriptions of each
15 participant is provided in chapter four. All participants were women who had engaged in a literacy progra m within the last five to eight years. Prior to engaging in a liter acy program, they had very little or no formal education. All claimed to have experienced a transformation in their lives and primarily attrib uted that change to attending a literacy program. Two of the partic ipants attended the same program at different times while the other two attended different programs. Three of the participants live in the city located in the central part of the country. The fourth one lives in the southern part of Belize (see Figure 1.1). All participants were very willing and accommodating with the interview. One of the participants considered it a therapy as she delved into her memories and rememb ered instances that were painful in the transformation process. Definition of Terms Transformative learning involves ex periencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, f eelings and action. It is a shift of consciousness that dramatically an d permanently alerts our way of being in the world. Such a shif t involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; ou r relationships with other humans and with the natural world; our under standing of relations of power in interlocking structures of class, race and gender; our body-awareness,
16 our visions of alternative approach es to living; and our sense of possibilities for social justice and peace and personal joy. (OÂ’Sullivan, Morrel & OÂ’Connor (2002, p. xvii) Socio-cultural context refers to soci al, cultural, historical, geographical and political space as it relates to class, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Inner-city refers in this study to th e poorer areas of the city often less developed and crime ridden with a high unemployment rate.
17 Chapter Two: Literature Review Once you have glimpsed the world as it might be, it is impossible to live anymore complacent in the world as it is. Anonymous This chapter will first present th e theoretical framework for this proposed study. It will then present literature to gain an understanding of transformative lear ning as theory and practice. It will furthermore situate transforma tive learning theory within the socio-cultural factors that make its meaning unique for this study. It will finally present the information on the educational system in Belize and its intersection with the literacy dilemma. Theoretical Framework Merriam (1998) notes that qualitat ive research is based on the view Â“that reality is constructed by individuals interacting with their social worlds (p. 4).Â” Qualitative research allows the understanding of particular contexts based on in de pth analysis (Merriam, 1998; Patton, 2002; Carspecken 1996). This reality can have multiple realities if a critical research perspective is ta ken. This study was framed using a critical ethnographic case study appr oach as issues such as power of literacy, empowerment and transf ormation will be studied.
18 The principal frame for this study is underpinned by Transformative Learning Theory, a theory that addresses change. Mezirow (1991, 2000a, 2000b) expl ained that adults construct meaning from new information an d experiences. Transformative Learning Theory is particularly app licable as the main frame of this proposed study as participants refl ect on experiences of change and empowerment. Transformative Le arning Theory points to adult learning and development; it is a process that enables adults to critically reflect and give meaning to their experiences (Mezirow, 1991). Transformative Learning Th eory provides a lens for adult learners in this study to self-examine critical incidents that led to transformation. It furthermore, explored their new roles and how their transformations extended beyond themselves. King (2005) aptly notes that tran sformative learning extends far beyond the individuals learning envi ronment. Figure 2.1 is adapted from King (2005) using OÂ’Sullivan, Morrel & OÂ’ConnorÂ’s (2002, p. xvii) definition stated in the definition of terms. King adds that its far reaching impact is felt in fam ilies, relationships, work, and the community (see Figure 2.1). Furthermore, OÂ’Sullivan, Morrel & OÂ’Connor expands the impact to includ e political forces, social action and spirituality.
19 Figure 2.1 Transformative Learning Impact (adapted from King, 2005) Baumgartner (2003) suggests that, Â“The transformative learning process is intuitive and involves st udentsÂ’ minds, bodies, spirits, and social environments (p. 18).Â” Co rrespondingly, King (2005) claims that transformative learning deepen s the learning experience and its impact extends far beyond the classr oom experience affecting multiple arenas within the adultsÂ’ lives. KingÂ’s idea of the diffused pattern of transformative learning in relation to the affective aspect of the
20 participantsÂ’ transformative experi ence was explored in this study along with OÂ’Sullivan, Morrel & OÂ’ Connor (2002) definition that includes political forces and social action. Figure 2.1 illustrates the potential far-reaching impact of transformative learning emulating both King and OÂ’Sullivan et al defi nition of transformative learning. More specifically, MezirowÂ’s more cognitive approach to transformative learning was expanded to include affective, spiritual, social action and political dimensions as the theoretical framework for this study as indicated in Figure 2.1. This study in a way parallels MezirowÂ’s Transformative Learning Theory but goes beyond as affective factors, context and so cial/political environment were considered in the final analysis. This was based on the premise that, Â“human activities take place in cu ltural contexts, are mediated by language and other symbolic syst ems, and can best be understood when investigated in their histor ical development (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 191).Â” Transformative Learning Theory as the principal underpinning theory for this study facilitated the analysis of participantsÂ’ experiences, thinking and circ umstances that fostered their transformative learning. A more exte nsive discussion of transformative learning will be explored in more detail later in this chapter.
21 Socio-cultural Theory Socio-cultural theory, drawn from Vygotskian theory of learning and development, added to the theoretical framework by explaining the impact of the external social world of the individual within his or her larger society. This theory assumes th at learning takes place in social interactions and thus must be exam ined from that perspective. It further posits that the individual cannot be understood without first understanding his or her socio-cultural context (Wertsch, 1991). Socio-cultural approaches to learning are based on Â“the concept that human activities take place in cultural contexts, are mediated by language and other symbolic syst ems, and can be best understood when investigated in their histor ical development (John-Steiner and Mahn, 1996, p. 191).Â” Socio-cultur al theory validates the numerous social and cultural contexts from which learnersÂ’ experiences emanate and how these lived experiences influence learning. Because learning and change take place in meaningful social and cultural contexts, they ought to be studied and understood within the same contexts. Critical Ethnography This study was also info rmed by the theory of critical ethnography. According to Thomas (1993), critical ethnography applies Â“a subversive worldview to the conventional logic of cultural
22 inquiry (p. 111).Â” In other words, it takes a critical look at the relationship among knowledge, soci ety and political action. Thomas further adds that critical ethnog raphy is a style of analysis and discourse embedded within convention al ethnography. It combines the focus of the investigation with a commitment to use the findings for change (Thomas 1993, Brown & Dobrin 2004). This type of analysis unleashes ethical obligations and in fluences a move toward change. According to Patton (2002) Â“what gives critical theory [ethnography] its name is that it seeks not just to study and understand society but rather to crit ique and change society (p. 131).Â” Patton further adds that, Â“It (c ritical ethnography) approaches fieldwork and analysis with an exp licit agenda of elucidating power, economic and social inequalities (p. 548).Â” Â“Through analysis or actions in the field, critical ethnographers hope to free the oppressed or at least to contribute in so me ways to their emancipation (Gunzenhauser 2004, p. 77).Â” Critical ethnography embodies reflection that analyzes culture, knowledge and action. It offers a pr ofound view in understanding and to a certain extent, feel social inequality. It Â“open (s) to scrutiny otherwise hidden agendas, power centers and assumptions that inhibit, repress and constrain (Thoma s 1993, p. 2).Â” Moreover, critical
23 ethnography Â“speaks on behalf of their subjects as a means of empowering them (Thomas 1993 p. 4).Â” This framework, while acknowledgi ng the role of the educational system, sees the system not only as agents of cultural reproduction (Dei et al 1997) but seeks to unpack Â“the development of the underdevelopment (Collins and Blot p. 28, 2003).Â” This study highlights the participantsÂ’ Â“consequ ences of literacy (Collins and Blot 2003, back cover),Â” as a colonial le gacy. It has an explicit agenda invoking social consciousness, reflec tion and societal change (Dei et al.,1997; Gunzenhauser,2004; Thom as 1993). This then makes it imperative for educators to analyze and take action and Â“approach learning not merely as the acqu isition of knowledge but as the production of cultural practices that offer students a sense of identity, place, and hope (Giroux 1992a, p. 205).Â” Understanding Transformative Learning as Theory and Practice Transformative learning theory is a description of a learning process whereby individuals move from an unexamined way of thinking to a mode where thinki ng gears towards criticality and reflection (Mezirow, 1999). Transfor mative learning has often been cited as Â“particularly promising for understanding adult learning (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 261)Â” because it focuses directly on
24 the learning process. Conseque ntly, educators sh ould focus on facilitating a continuous process of cr itical inquiry for adult learners as they go through the learning proce ss. Learners are thus moved to new levels of consciousness, which bring about new ways of how they define their worldÂ—perspective transformation. Mezirow (2000b) suggests that the process of perspective transformation begins with a diso rienting dilemma comprised of the following ten steps: 1.Disorienting dilemma 2. Self-examination 3. Critical assessment 4. Recognition (that discontent is shared with others) 5. Exploration of options 6. Planning a course of action 7. Acquisition of knowledge for implementing plans 8. Provisional trying of new roles 9. Building of competence and self-confidence in new roles 10. Reintegration into one's life based on new perspective (p. 22) These phases are not necessarily linear, as several studies have demonstrated that it is of a spiraling and revolving nature.
25 Transformative learning results in perspective transformation, which Mezirow (1991) describes as follows: Perspective transformation is the process of becoming critically aware of how an d why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world; changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrativ e perspective; and, finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings. (p. 167) Furthermore, Mezirow (1991) explained that individuals construct new meaning from learning experiences by incorporating the new knowledge into pre-existing meaning perspectives. Hence, new categories are created to acco mmodate the new information. Transformative learning occurs when the pre-existing meaning perspectives cannot accommodate the new information. Mezirow (1996) extends his thinking by saying Â“ learning is understood as the process of using prior interpretati on to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of on eÂ’s experience in order to guide future action (p 162).Â” What occu rs then is a dismantling of the existing meaning perspectives and th e world is viewed from different lens.
26 In a similar vein, Cranton (2002) presents seven facets that can be used to foster the transformative learning process. These facets parallel MezirowÂ’s ten phases that were presented earlier in this chapter. 1. An activating event that typically exposes a discrepancy between what a person has alwa ys assumed to be true and what has just been experienced, heard, or read 2. Articulating assumptions, that is, recognizing underlying assumptions that have been uncritically assimilated and are largely unconscious 3. Critical self-reflection, that is, questioning and examining assumptions in terms of where they came from, the consequences of holding them, and why they are important 4. Being open to alternative viewpoints 5. Engaging in discourse, where evidence is weighed, arguments assessed, alternative perspectives explored, and knowledge constructed by consensus. 6. Revising assumptions and perspectives to make them more open and better justified.
27 7. Acting on revisions, behaving talking, and thinking in a way that is congruent with transformed assumptions or perspectives. (Cranton, 2002, p. 66) As educators, we can never guar antee that each individual will become transformed. Therefore, ever y educator needs to set a goal of fostering transformative learning by using strategies such as those suggested by Cranton. Gunnlaugson (2007) echoes this assertion by saying, Â“If bringing about such transf ormation is to be a realistic aim within adult and higher educationa l contexts, there is a value in establishing practices to cultivate such potentials in our lives (p. 147).Â” Mezirow theorizes that change through adult education is generated by transformations of the meaning each adults frames from the new knowledge. There is clea rly a distinction between the acquisition of skills as a means of acquiring new knowledge and the increase of knowledge that leads to profound difference in the learnerÂ’s perspective and understanding. Ad ditionally,, Mezirow (1991) argues that all learning is change but no t all change is transformation. Portnow, Popp, Broderick, Drago-Severson and Kegan (1998) highlight this point by using the terms informational learning and transformational learning. They po int out that informational learning involves mastery of facts leading to concrete thinking. On the other hand, transformational learning involves the capacity to Â‘ think outside
28 the boxÂ’ Transformational learning le ads to thinking that questions the new knowledge acquired. It cons iders the perspective and bias of the facts learned, and reconstructs a new frame of reference based on the new knowledge. This transformation further influences how the learner interacts with his or her immediate surroundings as parent, worker and member of a community. According to Cranton (1994), Mezi rowÂ’s theory of transformative learning has advanced Â“into a comp rehensive and complex description of how learners construe, validat e and reformulate the meaning of their experiences (p. 22)Â”. King (2005) furthers the theory by asserting that transformative lear ning deepens the adult learning experience as the impact of the learning extends far beyond the physical classroom. She points out th at, Â“the stories of transformation tend to be the Â“bigÂ” stories of dr amatic changes, but sometimes the changes are not visible in the cla ssroom. Sometimes the changes have an effect on other aspects of individual lives (p. 9)Â”. KingÂ’s research illustrates the far-reaching impact of transformative learning. (See Figure 2.1). Very significant is the ripple effect of the transformation that influences social, family and professional relationships. It must be noted that as learners reassess, evaluate and reflect on their new un derstanding relationships need to be renegotiated. This can bring dist ress, confrontation, confidence and
29 a whole range of different emotions as transformative learning is about critical questioning. According to King (2005), the decisions and actions that learners engage with th eir social, family and professional relationships, Â“are the outermost ma nifestations of their learning and development (p. 109).Â” These adult learners must now function in a changing world where their worldview has shifted. Ad ults living in such a society must learn how to keep from being ov erwhelmed by these changes. Mezirow (1991) suggested: Rather than merely adapting to changing circumstances by more diligently applying old ways of knowing, [adults] discover a need to acquire new perspectives in order to gain a more complete underst anding of changing events and a higher degree of control in their lives. The formative learning of childhood becomes transformative learning in adulthood. (p.2) Above all, this new interpretation of their lives also consists of revising attitudes, behavior, and wa ys of thinking, feelings, discourse, and values in their interactions and discourse with their socio-cultural context. In sum, is a paradigm shift transpires that shapes the transformed individualÂ’s personality, belief system and lifestyle. The adult learnersÂ’ transformation is articulated in the discourse and
30 interactions with their environmen t. In other words, while it is occurring cognitively it is not in is olation of the context the individual finds herself or himself. As such, the beliefs, values and sense of possibility are co-constructed by the transformed adult and their relationships with their context. Mezirow (1991) believes that lear ning involves five primary interacting contexts. These contexts are: 1. The meaning perspective or fr ame of reference in which the learning is embedded. 2. The conditions of communication: language mastery; the codes that delimit categories, constructs, and labels; and the ways in which problematic assertions are validated. 3. The line of action in which th e learning occurs. This has to do with implementing the purpose and intentionality of the learner and involves the exercise of their conative powers. 4. The self-image of the learner. This context is concerned with how the lear ner feels, how things are going, and how he/she sees their situation. The meaning of this "felt sense is implicit; that is, it is never equal to specific cognitive units. We explain our felt
31 sense by interpreting it and reflecting upon our interpretation, using it as a criterion for assessing the correctness of our interpreta tion of our situation"(p. 14). 5. The situation encountered. In other words, the external circumstances within which and interpretation is made and remembered. Taylor (1998) sums up the key aspects of MezirowÂ’s transformative learning theory by positing that: Three common themes of MezirowÂ’s theory are the centrality of experience, critical reflection, and rational discourse in the process of meaning structure transformation. The learnerÂ’s experience is the starting point and the subject matter of transformative learning. Experience is seen as socially constructed, so that it can be deconstructed and acted on. It is experience that provides the grist for critical reflection. (pp. 8-9) The Â“gristÂ” that Taylor refers to is in fact the socio-cultural context where learners and their relationships co-construct and deconstruct their realities. It is the process of constructing and deconstructing that Mezirow (2000b) re fers to as Â“objective reframing and subjective reframing (p. 23).Â” In objective reframing Mezirow is
32 referring to the individual situatin g himself or herself within their environment to gain a deeper under standing of the system in which they live. The system is comprised of their economic situation, power in relation to politics and educational advancement or lack thereof. This consciousness awareness cannot exist in a vacuum but rather it exists both within and out of the self. Subjective reframing encompasses the individual grapp ling with the change as Â“old perspectives become challenged an d changed (Mezirow 2000, p. 23).Â” The possibility of transformative lear ning must be und erstood from the perspective of the relationships the learners find themselves situated in. These relationships will help to validate the expanded frame of reference. Socio-cultural Theory and Adult Learning This section will examine how adult learning and development can be viewed from a socio-cultural perspective. While there has been a plethora of research on transfor mative learning and adult learning, little has been investigated in how socio-cultural factors affect this process. Socio-cultural theory as an underpinning theory for this study can help explain adult learning and development in particular in understanding the context in the tr ansformative learning process. Many of the dominating theories in adult learning point towards an individual or cognitive perspective of learning. Such a perspective
33 suggests that socio-cultural factors have little or no influence or are not significant factors in the learni ng process. Alfred argued (2003) that According to this perspectiv e, one facilitates learning by breaking a complex task into component parts to be taught and learned in practica l isolation by the individual learner. Those who anchor thei r work within this individual framework propose a clear relation among beliefs, attitudes and values as motivati onal forces for learning. In other words, the extent to which one engages in an activity depends upon the beliefs one has about selfcompetency or self-efficacy, how much one values a given task, and the degree to which this value is extrinsic or intrinsic. Those who hold this view see these individual beliefs, values, or goals fo r learning as critical determinants for academic success. (p. 4) Alfred further posits that individu alistic and cognitive theories of adult learning and development prom ote a Eurocentric worldview. A Eurocentric worldview promotes the dominant culture thus indicating where the power lies. As such, the predominating culture is promoted with little or no regard for the ma rginalized cultures. This suggests that the dominant culture prevails in the learning process, thus
34 representing a single culture, whereb y there exists multiple cultures in the diversity now faced by adult educ ators. Internal forces such as motivation guide learning, a co mplex activity. For example, motivation stems from the social and cultural interactions of an individual that have been and sh ape the learners attitude towards learning. It is evident that such a Eurocentric perspective fails to account for the social and cultural context as factors that also determine how adults learn. Similarly, Johnson-Bailey & Cervero (2000) uphold this view as indicated from a review of adult ed ucation literature over a fifty-five year time span. This review reveal ed that the literature placed value on promoting a Eurocentric worldview. They indicated that while the literature considered race an issue in terms of power relations it was not considered of grea t consequence Â“in the entire corpus of eight handbooks (p. 201).Â” This support s the point of view of Alfred (2002a) and Johnson-Bailey & Cervero (2000) of adult education promoting a Eurocentric worldview. For minorities, in particular women who are already marginalized, the hidden curriculum continues to perpetuate disempowerment. Tisdell (1993) makes a bold statement by writing that, Â“the emphasis on the white and male curricular content is typical of ad ult and higher education and is a
35 significant factor in contributing to reproducing power relations (p. 223).Â” However, Merriam & Caffarella (1999) assert that Â“more recently there has been an increasing recogn ition that explaining development in adulthood is more than just focu sing on the individualized self (p. 117).Â” Significant social and cultur al factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, social class, socio-econom ic status and sexual orientation are major aspects that can better explain adult learning and development. The social, cultural and historical experiences adults bring to the classroom help determ ine what and how they learn and how this influences their interact ions with their environment. Recognizing that socio-cultural factors are significant in adult learning and development does not infer that individual and cognitive views are wrong. Rather, the idea is that there exists a symbiotic relationship between internal and ex ternal factors that influence adult learning and development. There is a Â“dynamic interdependence of social and individual processes (Jo hn-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 192).Â” Socio-cultural theory is underpinned by theories drawn from Vygotsky and asserts that learning does not occur in isolation but rather that it occurs through interaction with social beings (Wertsch, 1991). A socio-cultural perspective is based on the premise that, Â“human activities take place in cu ltural contexts, are mediated by
36 language and other symbolic syst ems, and can best be understood when investigated in their histor ical development (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 191).Â” Additionally, Lantolf (2001) claimed that, Â“The most fundamental concept of sociocultural theory is that the human mind is mediated (p. 1).Â” Mediation occurs through the interactions with self and others. For the field of adult education, the implication is that no longer can adult learning be viewed as an individualistic process but rather consideration for the social world in which the adult finds himself/herself is fundamental. The emphasis should be then on Â“Â…the socially constructed nature of how adulthood is defined (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 118).Â” In contrast to leading theories in the field of adult learning and development such as those from Kn owles, (1980) and Mezirow, (1991) that focus on the internal experi ence of the adult learner, sociocultural theory focuses on the inte rdependence between self and the social process. This indicates that socio-cultural theory is not to be considered as a theory that only focuses on the external as the intention is not to create a dich otomy with internal factors. JohnSteiner & Mahn (1996) further disclai m this viewpoint when they put forward that, Â“Vygotsky concep tualized development as the transformation of socially shared activities into internalized processes. In this way he rejected the Cartes ian dichotomy between the internal
37 and the external (p. 192).Â” In a ddition, they also point out that human action, on both social level an d individual planes has its origins in social sources. Interactions wi th social sources are first dependent on the source gradually moving so the learner takes more responsibility for his/her learning. This supports VygotskyÂ’s assertion of the interdependence between se lf and the social process (JohnSteiner & Mahn, 1996). Valsiner (1987) maintained that, Â“every function in the cultural developmen t of the child comes on the stage twice, in two respects; first in th e social, later in the psychological (cited in John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 192).Â” The argument being made is that social processes are the basis for cognitive processes. Furthermore, Rueda (1998) aptly cl aims that, Â“one distinguishing feature of socio-cultural theory is th e view that teaching and learning are social, not individual activities Â” (p. 1). He further maintains, Â“another premise of socio-cultural th eory is that teaching and learning must be contextualized, or situated in meaning activities connected to everyday life (p. 2).Â” Additiona lly, Alfred (2003) aptly terms this connection as Â“a dynamic interaction between the individual and the environmental contexts within wh ich one interacts (p. 244).Â” She suggests three levels of interaction that were originally suggested by Rogoff (1995, cited in Alfred, 2003). These three levels are:
38 1. The personal plane, which involves individual cognition, emotion, behavior, and beliefs. At this level, the unit of analysis is the individualÂ’s psychological and cognitive characteristics, as well as self-efficacy beliefs. 2. The interpersonal or social plane, which includes communication, role performances, dialogue, cooperation, conflict, and so on. The interpersonal plane reveals the individual Â’s ability to successfully interact with others in various social and cultural environments. 3. The community or institutio nal plane involves shared histories, languages, rules, values, beliefs, and identities. An individual may belong to several communities, each with its own rules, histories, and cultural practices. (p. 244) The point must be made howeve r that these levels are not independent but rather dynamic and interactive. To understand adult learning and development from a so cio-cultural perspective one must explore the interaction of each of these three levels as they shape the experiences of adult learners.
39 Alfred (2003) explored how fifteen West Indian women construct and acquire knowledge in the ho st country and how their early learning experiences in the home country influence learning in U.S. postsecondary institutions. The st udy used socio-cultural theory as the guiding framework to understand how early learning experiences of culture, language and community influence in the Caribbean affected their participation in U SA formal education. The study suggested that the early socializatio n experiences of the participants influenced their learning in adulthood In particular, early experiences in the West Indies Â“created a disciplined structure and a solid foundation that enhanced adult learni ng in the host cultureÂ” (p. 249). The value of education and the significance of hard work came from the constant support of family an d the community. The beliefs and attitudes that were learnt throug h economic struggles in the West Indies were great lessons. The ec onomic struggles consequently set the foundation for the discipline requ ired to be successful in a country where women were marginalized simultaneously as immigrant and as women. The women in this study came fr om a culture that did not hear the voices of women, as the Caribbe an is a male dominated society. Therefore, upon entering American in stitutions of higher learning they held on to their position of bein g Â“silent knowers (Alfred, 2003, p.
40 252).Â” Speaking in class or challeng ing the teacher is unknown in the Caribbean. Therefore, the partic ipants collectively experienced additional marginalization since, Â“in U.S. academic cultures, (where) silence often makes one marginal an d invisible (Alfred 2003, p. 253).Â” The example provided above suppo rts socio-cultural theory as a framework for a better understanding of the transformation process of adults and how it impacts their co ntext. The cognitive and socialcultural factors that led these wo men to be transformed imply that their early socialization experiences are significant factors to be considered when planning adult educ ation curriculum. Â“Learning is a process of transforming particip ation in shared socio-cultural endeavors (Rogoff, 1994, cited in John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996).Â” Additionally, Alfred (2003) reiterates this point when she wrote, Â“to fully understand learning from a soci o-cultural perspective, we must give attention to the culture and the discourse communities within which individuals interact and learn (p. 245).Â” Education in Belize and the Possible Impact on the Literacy Situation In the last decade teacher education in Belize has received much attention as successive government s have sought to reform and improve the education system. Given that there is a continual demand for change, it is not surprising that teacher educators call for professional development that is both ongoing and dynamic (Fullan,
41 1995). He further adds that ques tions remain regarding how to conceptualize teacher learning and, correspondingly, how to construct professional development to foster meaningful change. He furthers this by saying that much of the re cent research criticizes traditional approaches and advocate newer, innovative and more collaborative models. For Belize, this means among other things professional training and retraining of teachers with the knowledge and skills in to enhance instruction so that the literacy rate can be improved. Fullan (1993) asserts that the ke y to successful change is the improvement in relationships between all involved and not simply the imposition of top down reform. The educational system namely schools remain unchanged for the most part despite numerous reforms as key stakeholders are not involved in the process. The stakeholdersÂ’ commitment is a crucial success factor and Fullan (1999, 2001) reiterates this when he asserts th at people will not commit until they see a moral purpose. The literacy rate cannot be improved through teacher education alone but it is an important element in sustaining change. According to Penados ( 2000), Â“Change is not an event or project but a sustainable exercise an d largely sustained by teachers. Change, however, can only be sustai ned by teachers who feel trusted and respected, are highly motiva ted and committed, and have the skills to investigate and improve thei r own practice.Â” The challenge for
42 teacher educators is therefore prep aring and supporting such teachers while helping to create the enviro nment of trust and respect where such practitioners can engage creative ly with their task (Fullan, 1993). Teacher education has gone th rough its normal share of curriculum reform movements with no significant change in the overall literacy results or increasing the num ber of students who attend high school. Jacobsen, Clifford & Friesen (2001) assert that no longer can teacher education use the same appr oaches used in the past. They further point out that teacher educat ion is at a turning point requiring socially responsible individual s who will flexibly embrace the multiliteracies to enhance learning. Compulsory education in Belize is primary education for those aged 5 to 14 or to the age at whic h they complete Standard 6 (eighth grade) whichever is earlier. The Government of Belize (GOB) has no obligation to continue educating ch ildren who complete Standard 6 younger than 14 or those older than 14 who have not completed Standard 6. Tuition is free but th e registration fees and other fees make compulsory education neithe r free of charge nor equally accessible to all children. Access to high school is considered to be for the privileged. High school is not compulsory and acceptance is dependent on good grades, which is no incentive for low-performing primary school children to complete their compulsory education. Poor
43 children who do not achieve high Primary School Examination (PSE) grades cannot access high school scholarships. Literacy in Belize: A Socio-cultural Perspective Government of Belize (GOB) in 1990 initiated a National Literacy Task Force to identify existing lit eracy programs. The Task Force was comprised of representatives from several government ministries, NGOÂ’s, and educational institutions in conjunction with UNESCO. The Task Force was commissioned to design, develop and implement a national literacy survey and a five -year literacy recovery program. In addition, the Task Force was to advi se the government on how to deal with the literacy crisis the count ry was experiencing. To date no records exist to the knowledge of the researcher that indicates whether the goals of the task force were met or not. Moreover, there is scant research on literacy issues in Belize generally. There are nevertheless statistics that indicate that only 48% of the students who leave Std 6 (equivalent to Grade 8 in the USA) enter high school. It can be surmised that these indivi duals lapse into illiteracy with the limited programs that offer conti nuing education for school dropouts. The Belize National Educatio n Summit of 2004 sponsored by the BelizeÂ’s Ministry of Education (MOE) recommended the following derived from national consultati ons held throughout the country: 1. Declare illiteracy as a national concern, which
44 requires immediate attention. Conduct a year-long national literacy campaign Include a budget that re flects BelizeÂ’s commitment to literacy. Increase functional literacy by at least 75% 2. Conduct an awareness campaign to sensitize and motivate target groups. Utilize all media options Â– national and local. (Maheia, 2004, p. 132) To date none of the above-me ntioned recommendations have materialized or to my knowledge is there any planning for future implementation of the recommendati ons. In researching for relevant material for this study, I was not able to obtain additional information. Consequently, it is not known whether there is a link between the illiteracy dilemma and the so cio-economic problems, which confront the Belizean people. High unemployment, high increase in crime, poverty and corruption to name a few are issues that confront the Belizean people. Corruption is high er in Belize than previous years according to Transparency Internat ional issues Perceptions Index. (2006). Chairman Peter Eigen in the release asserted that, "corruption in large-scale public projects is a daunting obstacle to sustainable development, and results in a majo r loss of public funds needed for
45 education, health care and poverty alleviation, both in developed and developing countries.Â” Belize was rated 3.5 in 2006 and 3.7 in 2005 out of a maximum of 10 pts accordin g to the last published report in 2006. It ranked 66th out of 163 countries. Since no records exist to document how literacy policy establis hment (creation) would influence the social, economic, cultural and polit ical crisis that is pervasive in Belize there is an urgent need to begin to fill this gap. As has been noted, the illiteracy issue has become a national concern resulting in several initiati ves being instituted primarily by Non-governmental organizations (NGO Â’s) in an effort to address the situation and provide an avenue for those who cannot continue in formal schooling. While there is sc ant research in the area of literacy generally in Belize, there is need fo r an attestation of the practices, trends and gains realized through th ese NGO programs. Given that at the governmental level, a national initiative has not been undertaken recently it is crucial to investigate NGOÂ’s literacy initiatives to gain an inside perspective of the impact of their programs. Belize is a country with a high illiteracy rate as indicated elsewhere in this study. For Belize, it means that the chasm between advantaged and disadvantaged be comes even greater when one considers a literacy rate of 42.5%. According to Collins and Blot (2003) ongoing discussions on the role of literacy in economic
46 betterment and marginalized populations in developing countries post WW II has occurred. They claim that the debates have largely been inconclusive. In light of this, in the early 1980Â’s UNESCO, an arm of United Nations was given as its mandate to focus on the needs of developing countries. Its main thrust was on no n-formal education and literacy for adults (UNESCO, 2004). In a similar vein, the World Bank in the early 1990Â’s recognizing that illiteracy is directly related to poverty increased focus in the African regi on in the area of Adult Basic Education (ABE) (Lauglo, 2001). It is pertinent at this point to note the definition of literacy as defined by UNESCO (1996) as it infl uenced how Belize defined literacy: 1. A person is literate who can wi th understanding both read and write a short simple statement on his everyday life. 2. A person is illiterate who cannot with understanding both read and write a short simple statement on his everyday lifeÂ’. 3. A person is functionally literate who can engage in all those activities in which liter acy is required for effective functioning of his group an d community and also for enabling him to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his own and th e communityÂ’s development.
47 4. A person is functionally illiterate who cannot engage in all those activities in which liter acy is required for effective functioning of his group an d community and also for enabling him to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his own and th e communityÂ’s development. Conversely, both UNESCO and United Nations International ChildrenÂ’s Emergency Fund (UNICE F) another branch of United Nations, use the education criter ion as the measure utilized in reporting literacy statistics for Belize. Belize formed part of a UNESCO sponsored workshop in 1996 and the fo llowing is excerpted from the proceedings of the workshop: Â… in Belize which is a multi-ethnic country and was one of the countries that took part in the workshop, classifies: Absolute Illiterates Persons with no formal education; and Semi-Illiterates Persons who have limited primary education but did not go beyond standard 4.[grade 6] These definitions apply to all persons, both male and female, aged 11 years and over. Compulsory education in Belize lasts until 14 years of age. Illiteracy was determined in relation to one of the tw o official languages among the
48 13 national ones. A particularity in the approach adopted in Belize is that literacy is linked to educational attainment, with the 5th grade of primary education as the criterion. (p. 2) The aforementioned serves as background to what Collins & Blot (2003) point out, Â“Fundament al differences in human cognition and human social and cultural cond itions were attributed not to differences in human nature or stag es of civilization, but rather to literacy, conceived as Â‘technology of the intellect (p. 112).Â” Gee (1996) asserts that massive claims ha ve been made for literacy. For example, he claims Â“countries with high literacy rates are better developed, more modern, better behaved (p. 27)Â”. Specific among these claims are political democracy, greater social equity, economic development, wealth and productivity political stability and lower birth rate. Graff (1979, 1987) in Gee (1996) refers to the omnipotent view as Â“the literacy myth (p. 27)Â”. Gee claims that this Â“omnipotent view of literacy (p. 27)Â” has been disputed and that little evidence exists. Where evidence does exist says Gee, Â“the role of literacy is much more complex and contradictory, more deep ly intertwined with other factors than the literacy myth allows (p. 27)Â”. In disputing the myth, Goody & Watt (1963) in Gee (1996) claim that after almost 3000 years of literac y Â“we all tend to believe strongly
49 in the powerful and redeeming effects of literacy, especially in times of complex social and economic crises ( p. 32)Â”. Gee adds that the myth is foundational in how Â“we make sens e of reality, though it is not necessarily an accurate reflection of that reality, nor does it necessarily lead to a just, equita ble and humane world (p. 32)Â”. Gee posits that the continuity of the literacy myth has been used, Â“to solidify the social hierarchy, empowe r elites, and ensure that people lower on the hierarchy accept the valu es of the elite even when it is not in their self-interest or group in terest to do so (p. 36).Â” Gee makes an important point: literacy has em ancipatory power Â“a liberating side to the dilemma (p. 40)Â”. Ethnicity, low socio-economic status and illiteracy are often linked to minorities, which includes women. However, adult basic education, in particular liter acy and ESL classes are often decontextualized based on the dominant culture with little regard on the unique social and cu ltural constructs these individuals possess. Literacy and ESL curriculum from a socio-cultural perspective recognizes where the learners came fr om and where they need to go. Kazemek (1988) had previously proposed a move from the deficit view of adult learning to one that took into account the socio-cultural experiences of the learners. He make s mention of adultsÂ’ reluctance to participate in literacy programs be cause their social and cultural
50 identities are neglected. Peck ( 1993) wrote that, Â“If participation in literacy programs is predicated on lo ss of socio-cultural identity, adults most often choose nonparticipation (p 3).Â” Sparks (2002) proposed a socio-cultural approach to understa nding adult literacy. She posits that Â“dominant social and political interests intervene in defining content, direction, and prevailing va lues in the literac y curriculum (p. 60).Â” In a similar vein, Sparks (2002) adds that: Adult literacy education, from a socio-cultural perspective, recognizes contextualized cu ltural forms of literacy, including the social relations of active agents interacting with other active agents and locally produced meanings within a specific context. Â…I n other words, the degree to which people engage in learni ng or using literacy is a function of their cultural id entity and the symbolic and practical significance of literacy in their particular sociocultural context. (p. 60-61) Literacy has often been associated with transformation (Freire, 1985). Language or literacy is one crit erion in taking control of oneÂ’s life and oneÂ’s future by determinin g what social role or roles the individual will engage in. Bourdieu (1997) asserts that the power to name things is the power to organi ze and give meaning to experience. He adds that literacy is a resource towards achieving social
51 transformation. Therefore, liter acy experiences that promote a Eurocentric stance hold the pote ntial for continued oppression. Sparks (2002) suggested, Â“A soci o-cultural approach to adult literacy requires understanding the so cial meaning of literacy (p. 66)Â”. This indicates that literacy programs ought to be contextualized for meaningful learning experiences that will create critical awareness. Literacy, ESL or ABE programs must make every effort to not be Â“capitalist agencies, of social, ec onomic, cultural, and bureaucratic reproduction (Kincheloe & McLare n, 1994, p.139).Â” However, ABE programs need not perpetuate inequality but rather as Kincheloe & McLaren, (1994) argue: Be venues of hopeÂ…sites of resistance and democratic possibility through concerted efforts among teachers and students to work within a liberatory pedagogical framework in particular, maintain that schools can become institutions where forms of knowledge, values, and social relations are taught for the purpose of educating young people [adults] for critical empowerment rather than subjugation. (p. 139) As mentioned elsewhere, Tisdell (1993) found out that the hidden curricula in two higher ed ucation classes represented the experiences of white males, ther efore sending the message that
52 Eurocentric ways of thinking are su perior to that of non-dominant groups. Therefore, it is no wo nder that Alfred (2002b) remarks: The socio-cultural perspective holds promise for challenging the Eurocentric ideals that dominate the practice of adult educationÂ…Sc holars of adult education are beginning to question the extent to which the adult education discourse community empowers some learners and silences others, according to their race, culture, gender, nationality, physical ability and sexual orientation, to name a few contexts. (p. 11) Discourse is a system of norms, values, symbols, beliefs, and behaviors that shape our world. They are cultural practices that shape interactions and beliefs. Fenwick (2001) asserts that discourse affects how one views himself or herself, others and the possible choices one has. In other words, it shapes the liv es of an individual and that is why discourse communities are important. Adult basic education programs are but one of many discourse communities the marginalized participate. It is an important discourse community and as Alfred (2002b) wrote, Â“according to the sociocultural perspective, learning is embedded within discourse or so cial practice (p. 9).Â” Therefore, literacy program fo r example can shape how one thinks and produces knowledge. It consequently holds tremendous
53 potential for transformative learning Accordingly, putting forward a socio-cultural perspective for liter acy programs can create discourse communities that are inclusive and foster opportunities for change. Gee, (1989) argued, Â“discourses are intimately related to the distribution of social power and hi erarchical structure in societyÂ” (p.20). Hence, discourse communities help to validate that the transformative process is a social ra ther than an individual process. Conclusion Adult learning and development viewed from a socio-cultural approach is a complex social pr actice that incorporates the interrelationship of social and cogn itive factors of individuals. The research presented in this pape r suggests that approaching adult learning and development from a so cio-cultural perspective embraces the value of the more dominating co gnitive and individualistic theories of adult education. A socio-cultur al approach considers factors other than values, beliefs and attitudes as influences in how adults learn. Factors such as culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and socio-economic status to name a fe w are significant in the teaching and learning process of adults. The extent to which these factors are considered is indicative of wh ether education is liberating or oppressive. While the classroom can be a site for domination, it can also be one that empowers by fost ering and creating opportunities for
54 challenging the oppressive influences that surround us. It is therefore imperative that adult educators co nsciously foster transformative learning by using good strategies as suggested in the vast literature on transformation. All things considered, a soci o-cultural perspective and transformational learning has implic ations for Belize. One cannot fully comprehend transformative learning in the Belizean context without accounting for its colonial histo ry, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic context, social and educational po litics, gender bias and literacy dilemma. The discourse communities th at adults engage in are critical in changing how literacy is addresse d. By taking into consideration literacy from a socio-cultural perspect ive, social, political and historical trends will be addressed in particular for women. Such a model will provide a critical lens in addre ssing the disparity in educational opportunities. Much of the literature suggests th at literacy and socio-economic status are closely related. In addi tion, it is also suggested that minorities in particular women are the most affected. There is little doubt then that the education of women should be a priority as the Â“consequences and effects can emerge in many parts of their lives (King, 2005, p. 106).Â” These changes are not limited being able to read and write but rather has a be aring on relationships, emotions,
55 actions, spirituality and health. See Figure 2.1 for the diffused impact on adult learnersÂ’ lives as it relates to this study. In conclusion, as it relates to the Belizean context, it would be a major error in judgment to avoid investigating the consequences and effects of participation in adult lit eracy programs. Such studies would then serve as the impetus in design ing adult education programs that will bring dramatic gains that trickles to several layers of society. Very significant in such studies is that a cr itical lens be used in analyzing as social and political structures can be identified. These are the very structures that need to be uncovered so that meaningful and sustained change can occur. To consider adult education in particular adult literacy programs is to ground the pr ocess of learning within the sociocultural context in which individuals find themselves.
56 Chapter Three: Method Too often we forget that genius, too, depends upon the data within its reach, that even Archimedes could not have devised Edison's inventions ." -Ernest Dimnet Overview The purpose of this study was to investigate and examine the lived experiences of four women wh o had been identified as having undergone a transformative experience as a result of participating in a literacy program. The participants were identified by purposeful sample based on the main criteria of having experienced a transformation in behavior, attitude and thinking. Furthermore, this study employed a case study desi gn with aspects of critical ethnography. The overall focus wa s to develop an approach to understanding the conditions, circum stances and experiences that led to transformation. It further investig ated the far reaching impact of the transformation and change on part icipantsÂ’ socio-cultural context. Because the context of the study an d research questions guided the research design underpinned by a critical ethnography philosophy, qualitative data collection and qualitative analysis techniques were utilized. This chapter explains th e research methods and procedures
57 employed in this study. It begins with a rationale and description of the qualitative methodologies and proc edures chosen for this study. Following is a description of the re search participants and context. The research questions will next be restated, followed by an outline of the data collection, instrumentation, and data analyses involved in this study. Research Design The research design (see Figure 3.1) used a case study approach and the theoretical underpinnings of critical ethnography as a primary methodology. This study falls within the area of qualitative inquiry, as such an approach affords us, Â“to gain a holistic, integrated view of the context under study (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p.6).Â” Denzin & Lincoln (2005), define qualitative inquiry as: A situated activity that locate s the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform the world. They turn the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self. At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the worldÂ…Qualitative research
58 involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materialsÂ—case study; personal experience; introspection; life story; intervi ews; artifacts; cultural texts and production; observational, historical, interactional, and visual textsÂ—that describ e routine and problematic moments and meanings in individualsÂ’ lives. Accordingly, qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected interpretive prac tices, hoping always to get a better understanding on the subject matter at hand. It is understood, however, that each practice makes the world visible in a different way. Hence, there is frequently a commitment to using more than one interpretive practice in any study. (p. 3-4) (Italics my emphasis).
59 DataAnalysis: Coding; Developing categories;Constantcomparison Peer reviews of codes, categories and written anal y sis In-depth interviews Philosophical Orientation of Research: Qualitative Research Umbrella concept for research methodology that explores the understandings of the members of X community as they narrate and interpret their lived experiences giving it breadth and depth Denzin&Guba;MPatton;MDeCompte Type of Qualitative Research: Case Study: A Critical ethnography using grounded theory Case study and cross-case studies from the perspective of the participants will provide descriptions, interpretations and understandings of their lived experiences. S Merriam : R Yin; G Anderson; J Thomas, P Carspecken; J Gee; N Denzin; P Freire b Hooks; P Cunningham Triangulation Member checks ResearchersÂ’ reflective field journal Theory Building: Identification of a core category (main conce p t ) Substantive Theory: theory that emerges or is grounded from data; different from formal theory as it is localized Data Collection Figure 3.1 : Research Design
60 It is apparent that this type of research draws attention to such themes as situated activity, interpre tive, artifacts, field notes, case study, and to using more than on e interpretive practice, which are premises that allowed me to in vestigate and examine the complex issue of transformation and empowerment. Moreover, Salomon (1991), and Patton (2002) maintained that the research questions should guide the method ology. Furthermore, qu alitative researchers may proceed from many different pa radigms depending on the nature of their studies. While ther e are multiple definitions and understandings of the case study (to be discussed later), for this study, an instrumental case study approach (Stake, 1995) with critical ethnography underpinnings was employ ed as an appropriate research paradigm. This allowed for in de pth description of phenomena and a commitment to use the findings fo r change. Stake (1995) explains that an instrumental case study is used to provide insight into an issue. Therefore, an instrumental case study approach provided an advanced understanding of the multip le aspects of the transformative process as experienced by the participants. A case study approach as described by Yin (2003) is defined as Â“an empirical study concerned with the description and analysis of contemporary, contextually-bound phenomena using multiple sources of evidence in an attempt to und erstand the phenomena in another,
61 more specialized manner (p. 24).Â” Furthermore, Merriam in 1988 defined case study as Â“Â…intensive, ho listic description and analysis of a single instance, phenom enon, or social unit (p. 21).Â” However, in 1998, Merriam added an additional ch aracteristic to case studies, Â“Â…the single most defining characteri stic of case study research lies in delimiting the object of the stud y, the case (p. 27).Â” MerriamÂ’s definition is now more aligned with StakeÂ’s (1995) description of case study as, Â“the case is an integr ated system (p. 2)Â” and Miles & HubermanÂ’s (1994) explanation, Â“a phenomenon of some sort occurring in a bounded context (p. 25).Â” The bounded context in this particular study is a critical look at the conditions and circumstances that foster transformative learni ng for these participants and the impact on their environment. Case study focuses its attention on a single entity, usually as it exists in its naturally occurring environment (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2003; Merriam, 1988, and Patton, 2002). Case studies thus provide us with rich information, according to Stak e (1995). Furthermore, case studies should always be small, as the natu re of conducting case studies is designed to look at particular cases in a holistic manner (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2003; Merriam, 1988, and Patton, 2002). Case studies always describe cases in their natural contexts often times using other
62 qualitative methodologies such as et hnography and more specifically in this studyÂ—critical ethnography. This study subscribes to the ab ove definitions of case study particularly as it is a Â“phenome non occurring in a bounded context (Miles & Huberman 1994, p. 25).Â” This study was furthermore grounded in the theoretical underpinni ngs of critical ethnography as it seeks to Â“unmask (ing) dominant soci al constructions and the interest they represent (Anderson 1989, p. 254).Â” Critical ethnography is grounded in critical theories that assume that society is structured by cl ass and status among others that maintain the oppression of marginal ized groups. Critical ethnography is used to uncover the hidden texts and experiences of the oppressed. According to Carspecken (1996) critical ethnography gives an understanding of the relationship between power and thinking presented thoroughly through the principles of thick description. Gordon (2000) illustrates how critical ethnography can create opportunities for increased awarene ss through in-depth interviews with participants serving as an interve ntion in creating awareness and demand change. Furthermore, critical ethnography is interdisciplinary and overlaps across genres and theo retical traditions. This combines various strengths of these genres and traditions, augmenting the
63 deficiencies of using only one re search tradition (Denzin & Lincoln 2005; Gunzenhauser 2004, Murillo 2004). In addition, Murillo insists that, Â“Â…the degree and extent of ut ilization of each of these methods depend on the researcherÂ’s purposes, the guiding questions, theoretical framework, and the scene itself (p. 157).Â” Furthermore, Thomas (1993) asserts that Â“the tech niques by which we collect our data is not a neutral enterprise, and how we gather data can dramatically shape the critical po tential of the project (p. 37).Â” Participants The study was comprised of four pa rticipants who were identified by purposeful sample. Purposeful se lection of participants is a key decision in qualitative research (Creswell, 1994). A purposeful sampling technique was used in this qualitative design to obtain indepth information-rich cases (Maxwell, 2005). Purposeful sampling presupposes that the researcher want s to discover and gain insight. I chose participants where the most can be learnt (Merriam, 1998). I selected the participants using the key criteria of being able to identify a transformative experience based on MezirowÂ’s definition of perspective transformation: the process of becoming crit ically aware of how and why the structure of our presuppositions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about
64 our world, through a meaning re organization reconstituting this structure to permit a more inclusive, discriminating and integrative perspective; and making decisions or otherwise acting upon these new understandings. (Mezirow, 1998, p. 226) Participants were selected with the help of adult educators who have knowledge of the transformation process and were fully aware of the literacy experiences of the participants. In addition, I used the Â“criterion strategy (Miles & Huberm an, 1994, p. 28)Â” as participants were selected based on whether they met the criterion of experiencing a transformation as it relates to Me zirowÂ’s definition. This allowed for the identification of common pattern s. I believe that the selected participants represented a range of views on the subject of transformation and empowerment. Thomas (1993) points out Â“It is crucial to identify the types of informants who are most likely to possess an insiderÂ’s knowledge of the research domainÂ… (p. 37).Â” It was therefore imperative to choose participants that bear most direct ly with the study. Had I chosen a random sample of participants who had engaged in a literacy program, there would have been a disconnect with the purpose of the study. I would not have been able to pursue the guiding questions to a deep
65 level as the participants would not have necessarily experienced a transformative process. I first sought the advice of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that offers a literacy progra m. They were very helpful in identifying participants. However, due to time constraints I was not able to gain access to the identifi ed sample provided by the NGO. I then attempted contacting other NGOÂ’s and was finally able to find participants that matched my time frame in collecting data. I made the initial contact with the participan ts and applied the criteria of establishing whether they had under gone a transformative experience according to aforementioned definition This was done in the form of a conversation by asking questions such as, Â“How has your thinking changed since you completed your lit eracy program?Â” or Â“How do you handle certain situations now as o pposed to before you attended the literacy programÂ”? If the response indicated a change in meaning perspective as suggested by Mezi row (1998), I followed up then by asking them if they were willing to be a part of this study. This initial contact was two-fold as it established a level of rapport and familiarity as well as identified participants. I engaged each of the participants in conversation that did not necessarily deal with the study. After the initial cont act, I felt as if though I known
66 them for a long time. While Seid man (1998) supports the creation of rapport, he cautions against too much rapport. Too much rapport can lead to corruption of the data. It co uld mean then that the researcherÂ’s lived reality is being told and not th e lived realities of the participants. Participants were promised confidenti ality. I explained to them that I was going to use pseudonyms in wr iting the study and would alter or omit any revealing characteristics to prevent anyone identifying them. Any alteration or omittance woul d, however, not compromise or corrupt the data. I met with the participants an d again explained the purpose of the study and gave then the adult consent form (See Appendix 4). I then gave them time to read an d ask questions. They all asked questions, giving me the opportunity to fully give details and clarify the purpose of the study and further the rapport. As mentioned previously, the part icipants were identified using the criteria of having experienced a transformation after attending a literacy program. It was imperative that participants be drawn from this population, as the data derived must represent the experiences of those who have had the opportunity of participating in an adult education program and assert to bein g transformed. Such data will give voice to their lived realities. I believe that in speaking directly to
67 the stakeholders involved, I most effectively portrayed the issues presented in the guiding questi ons that guide this study. An important concern in car rying out the interviews was the language used in carrying out the interviews and the probability that the language would shift during the interview. The questions were written in English and I planned to use English to conduct the interviews. However, I was aware that Belize Creole, the countryÂ’s lingua franca could be chosen by the participants. As a Belizean interviewing Belizeans and a speake r of Belize Creole, I foresaw the possibility that the interview might sh ift into Creole. I, however, chose to use English as it is the official language, yet recognizing that the language could shift. Seidman (1998) notes that Â“As in most issues regarding interviewing, there is no one right way to respond to these situations, except to recognize the importance of language and culture to thought (p. 88).Â” Since I was aware of the linguistic differences that could occur, I took precaution of observing thos e differences during the interview and during the transcribing stage. If participantsÂ’ code shifted, I interpreted that they opted for use of the lingua franca as that was the best way to explain their experience s. Every attempt was made to ensure that transcriptions represente d the full sense of the word used
68 by the participants, as there is no standard orthography for Belize Creole. From my own experience as an educator in Belize, I know that most Belizeans understand Standard English but feel more comfortable speaking in Belize Creole. Therefore, the assumption was that the data was not corrupted due to translations I am also a fluent speaker of English and Belize Creole and und erstand the nuances between the two languages. To add credibility to the data collected, I had the interviews peer-reviewed by two fluent spea kers of Belize Creole and then conducted member checks of the transcribed interviews. Data Collection Data was collected using the following methods: 1. Open ended semi-structured in-depth interviews with participants using a modified version of Dolbeare and SchumanÂ’s (1982) three-interview series approach. 2. Field notes from interview sessions. 3. Public artifacts and docume nts about adult education program. 4. ResearcherÂ’s reflective journal. Employing multiple strategies to gather data is an attempt at creating trustworthiness in the data collected. This method of utilizing several gathering techniques is known as triangulation. (Denzin &
69 Lincoln, 2005. Triangulation allows for enriched data, possible thick descriptions and the examination of a phenomenon fr om more than one vantage point. Triangulation, however, does not mean that all data sources necessarily converge to reveal the truth. Hammersley & Atkinson (1983) caution that adopting a view that triangulation will produce a more complete pictur e is nave. They contend that differences emerging from the different data sources are just as important and shed light, establis hing further validity. Â“What is involved in triangulation is not just a matter of checking whether inferences are valid, but of disco vering which inferences are valid (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983, p. 200).Â” Moreover, the data was subjected to peer reviews by colleagues who have experience in the area of research in particular qualitative. In addition, member checks were conducted once the interviews were transcribed. This allowed me to get cl arifications from the participants as I reconstructed my journal writ ing and the interviews. Therefore, the member checks were critical if I was to adequately present their experiences and lived realities. The following are the questions that guided the study, previously presented in chapter one:
70 1. What conditions and circumstances foster the transformative learning process? 2. What critical incidents have enhanced transformation? 3. How does participation in a program transform the participants to create change in their lives? How is this change manifested? 4. How have the transformations influenced participantsÂ’ relationships at home, school/w ork and within the larger community? Data was collected over a twoweek period enabling me to interview participants twice using an interview guide (See Appendix 1 and 2). I later transcribed the interviews verbatim and conducted member checks. I also collected documents and artifacts from the government archives for later analys is if it would contribute to a deeper understanding of the findings I was able to use some of these documents in the literature revi ew section of this study. Thomas (1993) reminds us that data sources Â“can include a person, a group, documents, or any other artifactÂ… (p. 38).Â” Therefore, participants engaged in an open-ended semi-structured interview and a subsequent followup interview. These interviews were tape-recorded and later transcr ibed for data analysis. In an
71 unobtrusive manner, I took field notes that I later expanded in my reflective journal. Most often the fi eld notes consisted generally of key words or short questions that I later elaborated in the field notes after the interview was over. Participants were asked to use reflexive inquiry as suggested by Simon & Dippo (1986).The three-interview approach discussed later in this chapter is correspondingly aligne d to reflection and thus supported the reflexive inquiry. I do not intend to be a storyteller but yet attempt in an objective way to tell the storie s or if you will, give voice to the realities of the participants as they reflected on their lived experiences of transformation and change. How the voices are heard will consequently determine how it will be translated and interpreted by others. This process gives the researcher Â“the power to define and transmit reality (Thomas 1993, p. 9).Â” This is seen by Spradley (1979) as Â“almost friendly conversation (p. 9)Â”. According to Seidman (1998) this allows for the interviewer and interviewee to engage in an exploration of the participantÂ’s responses. In effect, the interviewer can build and delve into participantÂ’s experiences. The effe ct, is to create rapport without compromising the data collection process. Interview questions consisted of open-ended semi-str uctured questions. The interviews
72 were spaced a week apart with ea ch interview lasting approximately one hour each. The interviews followed the ba sic three-interview series approach posited by Dolbeare & Schuman (1982) discussed in Seidman (1998, p. 11-13).See Figure 3.2 for the modified interview structure created for this study modeled from Dolbeare & Schuman threeinterview series. The modifi ed version used in this study comprised of two interviews set a week apart. This is in keeping with SeidmanÂ’s suggestion on spacing interviews at least three days apart. This approach is designed to pl ace emphasis on the context as Seidman (1998) reasoned, Â“Without co ntext there is little possibility of exploring the meaning of an experi ence (p. 11).Â” However, Dolbeare and SchumanÂ’s three-interview approach was modified using two interviews yet maintaining the e ssential structure of the threeinterview approach thus providing a viable method of inquiry. This modification was required because of time constraints on the part of the participants and me. Seidman (1998) acknowledged that researchers would have reasons for altering the structure and procedures of the three interview se ries. He however contends that: As long as a structure is maintained that allows participants to reconstruct their experience within the context of their lives, altera tions to the three-interview
73 structure and the duration and spacing of interviews can easily be explored. But too ex treme a bending of the form may result in your not being ab le to take advantage of the intent of the structure. (p. 15) Seidman (1998) further emphasizes preserving the structure as it is related to the goal of the interview approach. The aim of the three-interview approach is to have participants reconstruct and reflect on their experiences. He explains that in the three-part interview method the: 1. First interview focuses on a pe rsonÂ’s life history associated with the context. 2. The second centers on the deta ils of present experiences. 3. The third interview incorpor ates the narratives of the previous two by reflecting on the essential meanings for the individual. (p.16) This rigorous one-to-one a pproach provided a detailed exploration of the meanings for the pa rticipants in this investigation as they explored issues of transfor mation and change. However, this three-interview approach to interviewing was collapsed into two interviews comprised of the thr ee corresponding sections that addressed the objectives of this study. This was done without
74 compromising the structure and in tegrity of the interview as the structure and process was main tained (see figure 3.2). Figure 3.2 Modified Interview Structure As suggested by Seidman (1998) the first interview focused on participantÂ’s life history associated with the issue of transformation and change and details of their ex periences. The second interview integrated the details of the partic ipantÂ’s present experiences asking them to reflect on the essential meanings of their experiences. Subsequently, the interview questions were divided into three sections
75 namely (a) life history; (b) details of present experiences; and (c) reflection on the meanings of thei r experiences. All interviews were audio-recorded for later tr anscription and analysis. Acknowledging SeidmanÂ’s caution on respecting the threeinterview structure, I was cautious to adhere to the structure by focusing on the questions set for ea ch interview. This was difficult as sometimes participants were presen ting interesting information, but which was pertinent to the second interview. Seidman emphasizes that it is important to avoid the tempta tion of pursuing the participantÂ’s lead as doing so, Â“can erode the focus of the interviewÂ” (Seidman, 1998, p. 13). He strongly challenges his point by claiming that: There is a logic to the interviews, and to lose control of their direction is to lose the power of that logic and the benefit from it. Therefore, in the process of conducting the three interviews, the interviewer must maintain a delicate balance between providing enough open ness for the participants to tell their stor ies and enough focus to allow the interview structure to work. Furthermore, to add trustwor thiness and integrity to the interview process I considered Seidma n illustration on the reliability of collapsing the interviews with the fo llowing anecdote that occurred in one of his studies. He mentions that a participant was leaving for
76 vacation the day after agreeing to take part in a study. As a result the three interviews were conducted all on the same day Â“with reasonable results (p. 15).Â” In my study the co llapsed interview structure that was used yielded reasonable results as participants were able to explore their experiences and reflect on th e meaning presently and what it means for the future. In addition to the interviews, public official documents and artifacts were obtained. Critical et hnography is under the assumption that there exists Â“hidden agendas, power centers, and assumptions that inhibit, repress, and constrain (Thomas,1993, p. 2-3).Â” This suggests that there exist documents and artifacts to support or refute experiences of the participants. I searched in the local newspapers archives, government archives and ar chives at the other libraries for references that had potential releva nce to this study. These artifacts were sought after the interviews had been conducted as they had the potential to amplify and add signific ance to the lived realities of the participants. Additionally, I also keep a reflec tive journal recording personal feelings and questions throughout the study. My reflective journal was supplemented by the field notes I wrote before, during and after conducting the interviews. The reflecti ve journal was crucial in allowing
77 me to incorporate aspects of crit ical ethnography. Reflexivity is fundamental in both critical ethnogr aphy and transformative learning involving all the constructs that play a role in the research. (Anderson, 1989; Soto, 1992, 1997). Soto (1997) as a proponent of selfreflexivity claims that, Â“The abilit y and willingness of researchers to self reflect is critical in the evolvi ng field of multicultural research (p. 13).Â” Reflection being key in this study was evident in the interview process, my reflective journal and throughout the analysis process. Self-reflexivity is a principal conc ern in doing qualitative research because the researcher is so closel y involved in the research process and outcome. Subjectivity is una voidable in qualitative research; however, subjectivity may be employ ed in particular ways to further enhance the research (Patton, 1990). The reflective journal commenced when the preliminary contact with the NGO. This journal consiste d of any or all of the following: gut feelings, my own questions formul ated after reflecting, anecdotal records, reflections of specific even ts and general observations as the study progresses. Â“The ability and w illingness of researchers to self reflect is critical in th e evolving field of multicultural research (Soto 1997, p. 13).Â” Soto further mainta ins that self reflection Â“places
78 researchers in a state of vulner ability yet has potential for the initiating alternative and experime ntal research paradigms (p. 13).Â” Reflection Â“entails being able to step back from the immediacy of the situation and examine knowledge, skills, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behavior in a dispassionate mann er. Reflection is that kind of thinking that extracts meaning fr om experiences as a mechanism to propel development (Guillaume & Yopp, 1995, p. 96).Â” Consequently Richert (1990) puts it as the "abilit y to think about what one does and why. Reflection influences how one grows as a professional by influencing how successfully one is able to learn from one's experiences (p.525).Â” From this perspective, I stepped back and examined my own beliefs, values an d attitude in particular. This reflection enabled me to examine an y biases I held and added to the trustworthiness of the study. Researcher as Primary Research Instrument In describing the researcher as the primary research instrument, and as a participant observer throug hout the study, there is some obligation on my part to provide a more extensive description of who Â“IÂ” am, and of my background, so that you may form a context in which to situate the comments and the conclusions of this study. Given the subjective nature of qualit ative research in general, I served
79 a major role in the collection of the da ta due in large part to the design of this study. Graue and Walsh (1998) assert that: The choice of role should be a theoretically driven decision, at least in part, because it is related to the kinds of understandings the researcher hopes to generate. The role negotiated by a researcher makes some things more prominent in data generation than others, thereby constituting reality in quite specific ways. (p. 75) As the key person in obtaining data from the participants, my facilitative interaction created a cont ext where participants shared rich data regarding their experiences and life. An argument can be made that the data may be influenced by my biases since I have a passion for my study. Corbin & Strauss (2008) support the idea of drawing upon personal experience. They howe ver point out that the idea is not to have the researcher Â“impose his or her experience upon the data(p. 28).Â” I saw it more as giving me a deeper insight into the restructuring and meaning making of my participants. I do have personal experience in the area of literacy as I have been working in adult education environments for the last fifteen years and consider myself a social change agent. I am fully aware of the power relations and politics of privilege and the possibility of consciousness-raising through education. I am very passionate abou t issues of diversity, oppression,
80 power and structural differences and have a stake in the findings of this study. As insights emerged, I related it to my own transformational experience. I began college nine years after graduating from high school. Like my participants, there was a gradual discovery within myself upon the re alization that I needed a higher level of education to make a signif icant difference in the life of my daughter. Audrey closely paralleled my own transformational learning process. I also share a common culture with the participants and was able to draw upon my lived experience as a Belizean educator in the data analysis process. As an educat or who has insight on the literacy situation in Belize I can relate to ma ny of their lived experiences. My intention was not to use my experi ence with the collected data but Â“rather, we [I] want to use ou r experiences to bring up other possibilities of meaning (Corbin & Anselm, 2008).Â” Even as a Belizean, I faced many challenges in carrying out the interviews. I had to travel to di fferent parts of Belize on public transport, which was often slow, and hardly ever on time. In some cases, I would travel and then find out that my participant had postponed for one reason or anot her. While I tried to arrange interviews considering the time and travelling constraint, it did not always work out the way I planne d. While very familiar with the
81 culture of my participants, I yet had to learn their own personal culture so they could view me without attaching a label of authority. I aimed at building and establishing a trusting relationship with the participants as I considered this also part of the meaning-making process. This process is crucial for the discovery of the transformative experience. As I reflected on some of the potent moments of my life, I realized my own transformation (as I mentioned previously) and discovered the connection between learning and transformation. Graue and Walsh (1998) uphold that the role of the researcher is theoretically driven. Therefore, I co nsidered myself key in obtaining the data as I underwent my own transformation and contributed an emic perspective to this study as I reflected on the findings. Finally, I argue that no procedure can guarantee total objectivity, but it is possible to add credibility using triang ulation as a strategy. Ultimately, the objectivity of the research lie s in the honesty, integrity, and objectivity of the individual research er rather than in the particular method used. Data Analysis Data analysis consisted of a process that brought order, structure, and meaning to the data (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Data collected for analysis consisted of the transcripts created from the interviews, field notes and my reflective journal. In addition, official
82 documents and archival records were scanned for themes that emerged as the data was coded and analyzed. This section details the data analysis procedures used in this study. In this study I strive to portray the close-up reality through "thick descriptions (Geertz, 1973 cited in Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 17)Â” of participants lived experiences of conditions and circumstances that have led to transformation. Data analysis took place over th ree phases. At each stage of the analysis the aim was to reduce th e data into manageable chunks as suggested by Corbin & Strauss (2008) They suggest that doing this brings meaning and insight to the words and actions of the participants in the study. Once the interviews were transcribed I shared the typed transcripts with pa rticipants in a process known as member checking (Lincoln & De nzin, 2005). Member checking and peer reviewing contributed to the trustworthiness of the study. Phase one Phase one, involved the transcribing of interviews and field notes of the first interview. I immediately scanned the interview for emerging themes or si gnificant information that might be pertinent for the second interview. I refined the questions before the next interview to ensure that I ad hered to the structure of the threestep interview approach. I additionally, made notes in my reflective
83 journal on specific information I n eeded from each participant. This was necessary, as the same question s were not refined for each one. It was important at this point to enga ge in this activity as I used this process also to get further clarificat ions for the subsequent interview. I later filed the interviews with co rresponding field notes for each participant. As suggested by Cresswell (1994); Huberman & Miles (1994), and Wolcott (1994). I read and reread data writing notes on the margin as I attempted to make sense of the data. In other words, I started to look for patterns and th emes. Labels were attached which began the coding process. However, caution was taken to not lock in categories but rather to reduce the enormous amount of data that indepth interviewing generates. Artifacts and documents were labeled should their need arise later in the analysis process. Following SeidmanÂ’s (1998) advice, no in-depth analysis of data was attempted. Phase two. The second phase entailed th e line by line coding of the interviews. I wrote notes in the margins of the interviews. In other words, I broke down the data and wh at emerged were over 300 codes. Categories were formed from thes e codes. These codes were then compiled into manageable categories using constant comparison. This was done in order to manage the da ta. Fifteen categories were built and developed from the integrated codes. Some codes were discarded
84 at this point as they bore no re levance to the guiding questions. Additional memos were also created at this point of the analysis. As the categories were developed, they were tested against the data. The fifteen categories were th en collapsed to seven again relying on constant comparison. The analysis was then subjected to inspection by two colleagues knowledgeable in qualitative research. Data was coded using the principl es of grounded theory, as the goal was to ultimately build theory from the data generated. I used constant comparative method (Strau ss & Corbin, 2008) to eventually arrive at a core category. This core category represented the substantive theory generated from the data. According to Merriam & Associates (2002), the goal of grounded theory is to derive inductively a theo ry that is grounded in the data. The emphasis is on description rather than on verification. Research in this mode has as a goal to build a substantive theory. They further explain that a substantive theory is distinct from grand or formal theory, as it is Â“localized (p. 7)Â”. Substantive theory deals with specific real-world situations such as the impact of transformative learning. Â“Substantive theory is not grand theory, but theory about some facet of professional practice, about real -world situations, about Â‘slices of lifeÂ’ (Charmaz, 2000, p. 522) (p. 142).Â”
85 The usefulness of substantive theory is for purposes of replication of the study in similar co ntexts and whether the results can be generalized leading to a grand th eory. This generalizability does not indicate a static process as it is rather dynamic since it allows for refinement or modification of th e substantive theory thereby building grand or formal theory. Qualitative coding is not the sa me as quantitative coding. The term itself provides a case in poin t in which the language may obscure meaning and method. Quantitative coding requires preconceived, logically deduced codes into which the data are placed. Qualitative coding, in contrast, means creating categories from interpretation of the data. Rather than relying on preconceived categories and standardized procedures, qualitative coding has its own distinctive structure, logic and purpose (Cha rmaz, 1983). The substantive theory emerged from the data without an y a priori categories. Using a systematic constant comparison a core category was interpreted. The issue of reliability was addr essed by having two independent researchers code each of the tr anscribed interviews and look for emerging themes. No preconceived categories were offered,. The themes from the two independent researchers were then compared with my coding for congruence. Via discussion, we agreed on the themes that they had discovered.
86 Phase three. Individual cases for each participant was conducted. I used ClarkÂ’s (1991) dime nsions of change manifested in transformational learning psychologica l, convictional and behavioral to organize the individual case studie s. (See below for more information on the three dimensions). The cross case analysis was created to reveal similarities or differences in the experiences of the participants using the categories that had emerged in phase two of the data analysis. These categories were late r collapsed into a core category, which led to the substant ive theory for the study. In using a case study approach incorporating essential elements of critical ethnography for the analys is phase, I was able to Â“allow an investigation to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real life eventsÂ” (Yin, 2003 p. 2).Â” During the data analysis phase, I analyzed the data bearing in mind issues such as power, privilege, socio-economic status and colonia lism. In other words, the context was taken into consideration du ring the analysis stage. In a seminal study, Clark (1991) uncovered three dimensions to perspective transformation that were used as a guide for the analysis of data. This aided in identifying ma jor components of a transformative learning experience that are aligned with the working definition of this proposed study. These dimensions we re utilized as a guide and not to prove its theoretical underpinnings. ClarkÂ’s three dimensions entail:
87 1. Psychological changes: change s in understanding of the self. 2. Convictional: revision of belief systems. 3. Behavioral: changes in lifestyle. (p. 123) ClarkÂ’s dimensions lent themselv es to exploring the impact of context on the process of transfor mation. According to Clark, any transformative learning experience manifests all three dimensions. However, this manifestation appears in different proportions with one predominating. Generating cross-case analysis revealed a more generalizable understanding of the transformative learning process while at the same time protecting the an onymity of the participants. Summary of Analysis In terms of data analysis, I fo llowed a grounded theory approach and broke down the main steps in the systematic analysis of the data. As shown above, I analyzed the da ta using 3 phases that involved interrogating the data at progre ssively deeper levels. First, I highlighted key passages in the tr anscripts labeling them with key terms from the transcript. This is subjective but a vital step in reducing the data. The next phase, known as Â‘open codingÂ’ I assigned the key terms to categories that we re created from grouping the key
88 terms. These categories were then a ssigned to pertinent quotes to be used later in the actual analysis writing. Memos were also created throughout the analysis phase. A category is an abstract conceptual label, which summarized the key ch aracteristics of a section of the transcript. This is a time-consumi ng stage, which involves working through the transcripts in turn to collect numerous quotes and examples of each existing category and to identify new ones. Many categories were identified from the first transcript and then progressively fewer new categories fr om each successive transcript, as the proportion of new information de creased. This process of assigning quotes to categories was repeated fo r each of the four interviews. For each transcript, I asked two inde pendent reviewers to look for themes/categories in the transcr ipt after which we discussed any differences in categorizing. This ensured consistency and credibility. The end-point of this process is th e production of an initial list of categories. The next stage of the analysis involv ed refining this list by deleting or combining some categories, followed by making connections between the categories and defining properties, for instance context and preconditions. This led to a se t of 15 categories that were refined and trimmed 7 categories using constant comparison. These 7 categories eventually were integrat ed to build the substantive theory.
89 This final stage identified a core category that for the substantive theory. At this point, a high-level comparison analysis was conducted to ensure that the emer gent theory was a rendition of the raw data.
90 Chapter Four: Findings and Discussion I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effectÂ….Your silence will not protect you. "The Transfor mation of Silence into Language and Action", in Sister Outsider (Audre Lorde, 1994) Overview Learning is a process and when co nsidering how learning fits into the fabric of a personÂ’s life, several dimensions emerge. When the participants in this study engaged in their learning journey, little did they realize the impact of particip ating in a literacy program. They were in the process of becoming certain types of individuals unconsciously. Each participant was studied under the assumption that transformative learning exists and that it can be investigated to gain a deeper understanding of the proc ess. Furthermore, one of the assumptions of this study, as stat ed in Chapter 1, was that each participant had experienced a transfor mation in her life. In order to gain a richer understanding of how these participants created change in their lives, it was essential that I studied individuals who according
91 to Mezirow (1988) understood learning as a Â“process of construing and appropriating a new or revised interp retation of the meaning of oneÂ’s experience as a guide to decision and action (p. 223).Â” They were each selected on the primary criter ia of being able to identify a transformative learning event in thei r life. Participants were identified through informal conversations with adult educators who have knowledge of transformative learning and the literacy experiences of the participants. Thus, four particip ants, all women, were included in this purposive sample enabling me to pursue the guiding research questions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the process of transformation in order to determine its impact on the participants and their socio-cultural context. More directly, this study addressed the following questions: 1. What conditions and circumstances foster the transformative learning process? 2. What critical incidents have enhanced transformation? 3. How does participation in a program transform the participants to create change in their lives? How is this change manifested?
92 4. How have the transformations influenced participantsÂ’ relationships at home, school/w ork and within the larger community? Chapter 4 presents the analysis of the research data. This chapter is presented in two parts. The first part is the with-in case studies of the four participantsÂ’ data and the second part is the crosscase analysis. The with-in case anal ysis provides a profile of each participant. Each case is organized using ClarkÂ’s (1991) dimensions of change manifested in transforma tional learning experiences: psychological, convictional, and behavioral. Clark (1991) in her seminal study on the process of transformational learning and the ro le of context claimed that these three dimensions are manifested in every transformational experience. According to Clark (1991), these dimensions are found in every transformational experience but in different proportions. Psychological refers to an altering of the self; wh ile convictional refers to change in belief system and, finally behavioral entails a change in lifestyle. Clark (1991) asserts that: The exact blend of these three dimensions is a subjective judgment which can only be assessed by the person who has the experience. However, it is possible to identify the
93 primary dimension of change in these transformational learning experiences. (p. 123) Point in fact is that these dimensions are found in every transformational learning experience but in varying degrees. She contends that one of the dimensio ns becomes the primary while the others are secondary. While Clark argues that one dimension predominates, I challenge this view, since for all participants involved in this study the dimensions were manifested equally. While it is a subjective judgment as to which dimension is deemed primary or secondary, I found it difficult to assign one dimension as the primary since each participant exhibited all dimensions to an equal extent. I want to propose that ClarkÂ’s mode l be expanded by considering all dimensions equally as each are si gnificant in the transformative experience. It is my theory that these dimensions are not independent of each other or should not be pigeonholed as either primary or secondary. In other words, they a ll occur in equal proportions each enhancing the other. In short, they are integrated as each influences the other From the data gathered in th is study, it is evident that categorizing the dimensions into primary and secondary destroys the equilibrium the interrelatedness of th e dimensions requires. This equal
94 manifestation of the dimensions was displayed by all participants involved in this study and classify ing the dimensions as primary or secondary would be contrary to the transformative experience of all four participants. Audrey, Jayna, Gida, and Imara underwent a change in the self that consequent ly altered their belief system and subsequently caused a change in behavior. The cross-case analysis examin ed the themes that emerged across cases. It further analyzed the far-reaching impact of the transformative experiences of the participants. Through the identification of four women who had taken part in a literacy program, I searched for a deeper underst anding of the impact of the transformation process on the indi viduals themselves, their families, workplace/school and their communiti es. These four cases present and shed light on the deeper meanings that the transformative process holds. If the transformative proc ess indicates a reconfiguration of perceptions that allows individuals to become critically aware of themselves and their social context then these participants are in an advantageous position to ascertain how their perspective has changed. More than that, they are in a posi tion to indicate the impact the transformation has had on their socio-cultural context.
95 As described in Chapter 3, the co nfidentiality of participants was vital and I stressed that point upon initial contact with them. Every one of the participants indicated that I had their permission to use their real names if I wished to use them, as they were pleased to share their experience. One of the participants said to me, Â“I have no problem with my real name being us ed as I believe everyone should know I am proud.Â” I, however, ex plained to them that for research purposes I had to use a pseudony m. We did not decide on names during the interview. I later cond ucted a Google search on names whose meanings personally matched each participant. I then chose a name for each participant reflective of who they were. None of the participants knows each other or ha s met previously to my knowledge. Case one: Audrey (noble strength). Audrey, age 27, is the youngest participant. She is single and lives at home with her mother and siblings. She is of Creole de scent and very notably spoke English throughout the interview. I say notabl y since the language of everyday conversation for Belizeans is the lin gua franca Belize Creole. Belizeans of all ethnic groups will generally use Belize Creole even though English is the official language of the country used for education. Audrey describes a home where her mother valued education and was very instrumental in helping her to where she is today. She is
96 the fifth child in a family of seve n. They lived in house where she shared a bedroom with her sisters. Audrey grew up in poverty typical of the in the inner city and adamantl y emphasized that she is part of a strong and loving family. She consid ers her family very hard working, an example set by her mother. Audrey attended an inner-city school as the family lived with limited resources. She believes that she is a role model for her sisters since she is the only one who has atta ined this high level of education and she is looking forward to a ccomplishing more educationally. Audrey mentioned to me that she Â“provides support and gives an extra push to her sisters.Â” The motivation and exemplar she is providing is aimed at inspiring others to strive, in particular the motivation is aimed at her sisters. Her strong desire to become educated demonstrates critical self-reflectio n and an understanding of poverty. She positions her transformation in the context of her family and the community she works in and wants to change. Audrey highlighted her change fr om living with limited resources to a life with more financial resour ces. Her optimism, self-esteem and sense of responsibility were displa yed throughout the interview and in the information, she offered. She believes in herself and strives for opportunities to improve profession ally. She is determined and goal
97 oriented which is displayed in her pursuit of attaining the highest education possible. This young woma n is a teacher by profession and is now pursuing an undergraduate degree in elementary education. This is one example of persistence and diligence because against all odds she is now at the local university. She was teaching at an inner city school with a provisional teachi ng license and got accepted to do an undergraduate degree in elemen tary education. She believed that her experience prior to teaching has given her the knowledge to be able to reach the children she teaches. She mentioned that she often uses stories from her life to motiva te her students. She mentioned to me that she tells them, Â“If I can ma ke it so can you.Â” Audrey has dreams of one day attaining a PhD. From the look on her face, I could see the determination and will that one day she will have a PhD. She used the word perseverance seve ral times, as she described her experience. It is this strength that she ho pes to pass on to the children she teaches in the inner-city school as sh e has plans to return to teach at the same school. After graduation, sh e would have a choice of where to teach but believes that she need s to return to the children Â“that need her most.Â” Audrey shares he r experiences with the youth group she belongs to and believes that she has inspired many of them to do more than completing high school. In other words, she has become a
98 role model for her students and yo uth group members especially those who come from families that are expe riencing financial difficulties. She has a strong belief that sharing her life experiences is a more effective way of bringing change with young people than simply telling them what to do. She has seen ways that some young people have changed and therefore believes she has played some role in that change. Audrey does not ascribe her tran sformation solely to academic achievement but extends it far beyo nd to the identity she has found which include increased self-esteem self-awareness, and a sense of possibility. Her participation in an adult literacy program was powerful as it made her aware of her streng ths and intelligence. She, however, asserts that even if she had not go ne to that particular program she believes that she would still be in the same position she finds herself now. She underscored this by saying: If you have enough confidence in yourself you can achieve anything. I am a very persistent person so I know (her emphasis) that I will be successful, that one day I will have a PHD. Once I put myself to something I will get it, I will get it. Just look how far I have come. I have my own room now.
99 According to ClarkÂ’s convictional dimension of change, Audrey manifested it in how her belief system was altered. She realized how successful she could become by atta ining the highest education level and she aspires to one day have a PhD. She confidently said, Â“I am about to finish my undergraduate degree and I am working towards my PhD.Â” Her new understanding of herself made her aware of her intelligence and increased her belief in attaining the highest degree possible. This conviction is what makes her want to return to teach at the inner-city school even though she has a choice of other schools that would be willing to hire her. Sh e has lived the experience of being in an inner-city school as a student and believes she is better suited to serving the needs of those schools. Like Friere (1973) she believes she can address change at the societ al level through education. AudreyÂ’s psychological dimension of change is displayed as she emerged a confident and assertive person. During our interview, she spoke very confidently of her experi ences. She claimed that though a shy person she is assertive. She has assumed responsibility for her learning and reflects on how to im prove it. Furthermore, she claimed that as person she is more tolerant of others, behavior that she did not have before. Her way of thinking was altered in how she viewed education and poverty. Audrey s ees a new self that has evolved overtime and she focuses on th e struggle yet highlighting the
100 achievements this is bringing. Her fo cal point is that there is a way out of poverty and is education. She sa id,Â” you can succeed even if you are poor; you can do anything if you put your mind to it.Â” This indicates to her that poverty shou ld not exclude anyone from the opportunities education affords the individual. On the behavioral dimension of change, AudreyÂ’s lifestyle changed since she was able to buy th ings she could not afford before. With a mother who struggled financ ially to put food on the table, clothes on her back and those of he r sisters and give her an education there was nothing left for wants. Sh e proudly explained to me that she now has a room of her own where be fore she had to share one with her other sisters. The role of context was clearly a fa ctor as it helped to shape and structure how she wanted to pursue further studies. She mentioned that her mother played a significan t role in encouraging and offered the moral support required. As the only one in the family that attained that level of education, she believed that she would influence not only her immediate family but also the members of the church group she belongs. Audrey is very confident that she is a role model for the children she teaches given that they have few positive role models.
101 Case two: Jayna (bringer of victory). Jayna, 44 years of age is a mother of three children and a wife. She is of Belize Creole descent and spoke English for the most part during the interview. She however resorted to Belize Creole when sh e wanted to make clear that I understood her and received the me ssage the way she was intending it. Her husband is a carpenter by trade and could read and write. He works with the government but does private work when available on the weekends or evenings. She is of Belizean Creole descent. She often helped her husband in his work. She mentioned driving big trucks and doing heavy work along wi th her husband to help him as he built houses. Her current socio-econom ic situation is much better than the one she grew up. She said that they live comfortably as she can afford provide food and pay for her utilities. She comes from a large family and is the eldest of 14 children. Her mother was a single parent as her father left when she was quite young. Since Jayna was the eldest, it was expected that she would stay home to help care for the rest She along with another sister were the ones given the task of helpin g out with the large family. Both Jayna and her sister only attended the first three grades of primary school and were then taken out of sch ool to help care for the rest of the family. The three years that she attended school she missed at least half of the time. Often the re ason for not attending classes was
102 because Mom needed to run an errand and the younger siblings needed a babysitter. Jayna mentions that her younger brothers and sisters got the opportunity to go to primary school and even further education. She has brothers and sister who have received university education. She however, along with her sister wh o cared for the family, did not get the opportunity to go to school thus both were not able to read and write. Even though, she was not able to read and write she recognized the value of education and encouraged her children to become educated. She wanted her children to get the best education possible and sacrificed to ensure that they received the best education. She mentioned to me that she did not want her children to go through what she had gone through, that is not being able to read and write. While she believed that as a woma n, she could get a husband and some of her problems would be solved; she also believed that with an education she could achieve even more. Jayna would often pass signs and always would wonder what they said or meant. She shared a st ory that was part of her motivation for wanting to learn to read and write. Jayna mentioned that the center of the town has a big clock and she would always pass by it and would want to know the time. But, of course she could not read time.
103 She told herself each time she passe d by the town clock that one day she would be able to tell the time Jayna proudly explained how each time she passes by the town cloc k she looks and reads the time. Jayna was encouraged to join a literacy program by her son who saw the advertisement in the news paper. She knew the value of reading even though she could not read herself and made sure that her children had reading material. Reading the newspaper was strongly encouraged and her son would often relate the newspaper stories to his mom. He remembered Jayna always saying that one day she would learn to read and write. Therefore, the day he saw the advertisement in the newspaper he mentioned the literacy program to her. He said to her, Â“mammy you have always talked about going back to schoolÂ…well hereÂ’s your chance.Â” He further explained to her where the literacy program was being held. She then talked with her husband about joining the literacy program and he was very supportive in her interest in attending. For Jayna ha ving the support of her husband was very significant as in her experien ce men would generally not support the wife or partner joining such a program. This motivated woman went to th e literacy program and received all the information on joining and she enrolled in the program. Jayna mentioned that her husband made sure that he drove her to school
104 whenever it was raining. This was si gnificant for her as it proved his support in her endeavor. Her children were her tutors at home, as they helped her with assignments and constantly encouraged her in particular when problems other th an schoolwork challenged her. She mentioned that, Â“as a wife and moth er I am very proud of myself.Â” She continued by saying, Â“for the re cord I donÂ’t think that in those years aback I could explain and expre ss myself this way if I didnÂ’t go back to school. You underst and what I am saying.Â” Jayna felt the caring and support of the teachers at this literacy program also played a significant role in how she learnt. She attended this program for almost six years and claimed that she had the full support of the school throughout he r time attending. She described her time at the school as Â“fascina tingÂ”. She mentioned that she was not sure of the experiences of other adults in her program in relation to returning to school. However, for her it was fascinating. Jayna was very dedicated and made every sacrifice in order to be successful in her program. She remarked had it not been for that literacy program she more than likel y would not be as successful as she is. She indicated that Â“a whole new world opened for herÂ” and she could now Â“express herself better.Â” Sh e revealed that she could stand up for herself and was very confident as well.
105 Jayna pointed out that the way sh e handled different situations presently was so different than be fore. She mentioned that before attending the literacy program she would have behaved unbecoming to the point of being shameful in some instances. She mentioned that her husband had a lot of patience during this time with her. For example, in instances where things were not done her way or if she did not like the situation, she would more than likely degrade the other party. She was easily angered even when the situation did not call for anger. On reflecting about those times, she explained to me that it was not necessary to behave that manner. Looking back she could recognizes her ignorance and today she manages touchy circumstances very differently. She listens attentively and thinks logically not resorting to berating the other person with whom she is communicating. She has reached a level of mutuality which was not evident prior to attendin g the literacy program. Jayna pointed out that before sh e would not have agreed to an interview with me. She stressed the fa ct that she would have seen no purpose in sitting down with some one to share her life. Today, she understands the purpose of the in terview I was conducting and its significance. On the day of the inte rview she had just arrived from out of town where she looking to buy some land. She was tired but had committed to the interview and made sure that she kept her
106 appointment with me. She was a fe w minutes late and apologized several times for being late. I joked ab out her tardiness in an effort to calm her. She then mentioned that many people had supported her when she embarked on he r endeavor to learn to read and write. She said: I understand the people that supported (stood there) for me; my family, friends, teachers and everybody. Therefore, I understand the pu rpose of the situation and I would do this 100 times for you or anyone that comes if that is what is required because I know what they have all put out there for me. She further emphasized her change in relation to her attitude and way of thinking this point by rela ting it to her relationship with her husband: Now I understand him a lot more and maybe that is one reason why weÂ’re married and lived together for so long. If I didnÂ’t go (gawn) back to school, maybe we would not have been together all these years and thatÂ’s because there is only certain things a person can take. There is only so much. But since I went back to school, it has made a big difference. It has made a very big difference.
107 Jayna with the help of her husband first built a six-unit apartment building that she manages. A few years later, she was able to build another apartment unit in another area. She hopes to keep adding to her business. She is ab le to do the paperwork that is required for the management of the apartments. She is always looking for other ways to invest and has expl ored real estate. She claims to be a businesswoman now. Her husba nd is now retired from the government service, which gives them both more time to look into other business ventures. She later went to a school that offered a GED equivalency in the evenings. It was here that she encountered major problems. The school population consisted of most ly young people and she was one of the few older learners there. Firstl y, she claims that the teachers at that school did not have the patience with adult learners like her. At her previous school, she felt she wa s more valued and respected as an adult. Her experience was taken in to consideration unlike this school. Secondly, the young people in the cl ass deliberately tried to belittle the older learners. She tried very hard to ignore them and justified their behavior by saying, Â“them just be ing young people.Â” By this she meant that, they were immature and just behaving their age.
108 But, eventually this took a toll on her along with the lack of considerations of one particular teacher. She explained that she needed further explanation in und erstanding a math problem and asked the teacher for further clarification. This teacher told her in front of the class that she should pay mo re attention even though she was paying keen attention, which is why she was now asking for clarification. She felt that the te acher knowing she was an adult and one who had started school very late in life did not respect her as an individual. She left the school then and never went back. However, her yearning for learning was never quen ched as she continued to educate herself by reading. Before she was able to read and write, she was fascinated with looking at signs and always wanted to know what they said. Today, she still continues with her fascination for signs but is now able to read them. She always reads all signs wh erever she goes. She recalls that her husband was always encouraging her to learn to drive but she did not want since she could not read road signs. She said: it is something else when you see a stop sign and you donÂ’t know that that sign says Â‘stopÂ’ that you should stop there. But now that I know it says Â‘stopÂ’ I donÂ’t fear
109 anything because when I reach that sign I know it says stop. A significant event in JaynaÂ’s tr ansformation was the time she learnt to read an analog clock. She remembers that moment very clearly as the teacher drew a circle and demonstrated reading the clock. The others in the class were no t interested in learning to read a clock but that was important to her as she often passed the town clock in the center of the to wn and always wondered what time it was. She is always reminded of the times sh e could not read and write when she passes the town clock. This reminder gives her a deeper appreciation of the person she has become. This new awareness creates in Jayna a better understanding of herself. Co nsequently, she strongly believes that as a result, she has become a better mother, wife, and neighbor. Jayna has manifested behavioral dimension of change in the major changes to her lifestyle. She has become a businesswoman in her own right. She illustrates this dimension by explaining that she is very confident and feels comfortabl e conducting business even if her husband is not around. She is secu re in making decisions and knows that her husband will support her decisions. Moreover, she can now help her children with school a ssignments and looks forward to supporting them. JaynaÂ’s social an d moral support has mainly been
110 from her children and husband. She however attributes support from the teachers at the literacy program. This change in behavior in Jayn a has caused her to change her communication style with others as prior she alienated herself. She has toned down her approach and is has far fewer confrontations with others. Jayna has created a new conf idence that has encouraged her to explore new avenues. Her change in lifestyle is evident as she is successful in what she is engaged. On the psychological dimension of change, she has undergone a change in personality as she explaine d, Â“she does not consider herself ignorant anymore.Â” The manner in which she handles different situations is distinctive from the wa y she operated before she attended the literacy program. This change ha s an impact on he r relations with her children and husband. It also ex tends to her relationships with her extended family. She finds that she can now hold a conversation with any of her siblings without getting in to a Â“rageÂ” even if she does not agree with them. She explained that there have been times when the other party would attempt to tell her off and she positively controls the situation diminishing the other pers onÂ’s anger. She said, Â“not so before.Â”
111 On the convictional dimension of change, Jayna displays an even deeper understanding of the value of education as she encourages her children and others to attain the highest education possible. This change has also given her a new sense of identity-a new understanding of herself as a mo ther, wife and businesswoman. Case three: Gida (strong fighter). Gida is a strong fighter as her name indicates. She is a 46-year single mother and grandmother. She has one son and four grandchildren. Five years ago, she lost a son to gun violence leaving her with one son and the two children from the dead son to take care of. The death of her son was one of the many disorienting dilemmas that Gida has undergone. She was raised by her grandmother who passed away when she was only fourteen. Her death caused a major impact as she had lived with her grandmother since the age of two. When her grandmothe r died, she had to literally, take responsibility for raising herself. She claims that she went through some serious hard times living in poverty in the inner city. She did not have any role models to follow and thus hung out with a crowd that had little ambition. She began to spend time Â“hanging outÂ” with the crowd with no positive goal for her future of her children. She sadly explained that th e word future had no meaning for her. She lived for each day. She practically lived like a homeless for a
112 time, as she had no permanent home She became a single mom at an early age and raised her two sons with very limited resources. However, after more than 30 ye ars of being out of a formal education setting she decided to re turn. She tells the story that the decision to attend school was the resu lt of an encounter with a student and the realization that she coul d understand the school assignment that student was engaged in. On looking at the assignment, she could comprehend most of it and that re alization motivated her to consider getting a high school education. Th e parents of this student were instrumental as well in encouraging her as they noticed that she had the intelligence, will, and determinat ion to want to return to formal education after more 30 years of not being in the classroom. During those past years, she was never inclined to learning. She existed and struggled to feed her children. She did mediocre jobs, which, paid very little. At this poin t, she became more aware that this was not how she would live the rest of her life. She surmised that maybe unconsciously she might have been thinking of making a change in her life. She repeated se veral times the idea of having no dreams or even an idea of what the future held for her. Future for her was the next meal or the next day.
113 She spoke very proudly, of where she is at this point in her life and the many opportunities that are now available to her. She became emotional for a little bit, as she recounted her story. The idea of reading for example ne ver existed as in her world it was a useless activity. She was in a survival mode for herself and two children. Gida describes this time as a very difficult time in her life. To survive she did what she had to do such as taking menial jobs. There were many times when she felt useless and powerless. She remarked that, Â“I did not live comfortable and did not know anything about goals and about the future.Â” Gida explai ned to me that she lived Â“hand to mouthÂ” an expression meaning that as soon as she had any money it was to buy necessities such as food Her sons were little and it was rather frustrating and depressing to live that way but she knew no other way. She describes feelings of anger and rage that were often the reason for irrational outbursts on others. She would often berate others for little or no reason. He r entire outlook on life was very negative and it appeared doomed. Her sons passed those formative ye ars living with examples that were not positive. School or educ ation was not a priority or even encouraged. Her sons were grown-up when she decided to return to school. She was a grandmother and realized that there was still a
114 chance of her making a turning point in her life. She recalls thinking of her grandchildren, and their life appe ared as doomed as hers did. She had no skills and no education an d often wondered how she could make a difference in the lives of her grandchildren. Very early in this realization th e idea of returning to school was not there. She credits God as putting the right people in her way since it seemed like suddenly things were falling into place. Positive things began to happen and she was then able to enroll to get a GED equivalency. She was very motivated at this point and had such a quench for learning catching the attention of others. It was quite unusual for a grandmother particularly one from her socio-economic level to aim at getting an educatio n. She speaks with pride of her determination and persistence to excel. In May 2003, the local television channel featured her as she was completing her second year in the GED program. She recalls ho w she could have been the mother of all the other students as all the others were young people. She tried to motivate her sons to attend the same program but they had no interest. Her sons had children at th is point and were not supportive of Gida. In the May 2003 television interview, Gida mentioned that her sons believed that she should be at home taking care of the grandchildren and cooking. She a ffirmed during this 2003 interview:
115 But I don't have time for them right now, I want to go to school, I need my education because out here if you don't have an education, you have nothingÂ…. I do not have good memory like the younger ones. I don't have good mind to hold in everything like the younger ones, but I will try harder for me because I know that is something I wants to do. I find that challenging to get up in the morning do my chores and after doing my chor es I take a bath and get my booksÂ… (May 2003, Belize Channel 5) Very unfortunate, a week after ha ving been interviewed by the local television station, her 22year-old son was killed in urban violence. Gun violence has escalated in recent years and the latest statistic for the first quarter indi cates a record number of 28 for the first three months of the year. This number is high in relation to the countryÂ’s population. She is still becomes emotional when she talks about the death of her son even five years later. After the brutal killing of her son, Gida along with another mother whose son was also brutally killed organized Mothers Organized for Peace (MOP). The mission of this organization is to bring awareness of the brutal killings that have occurred; and creating a consciousness for parents to positively influence their children. She is become an activist in protesting the unacceptable high number of senseless killings and
116 increased laws for gun possession. She calls the radio station on a daily basis to protest and asks th e authorities to do something to decrease the crime rate. Gida is on a campaign to educate young people to avoid a life of crime in an e ffort to stop the vi olence before it starts. She has become very vocal in the campaign to decrease crime and uses her experience to educate others. She is very active in the MOP and helps to organizes rallies to bring awareness of the impact of gun violence and the need for need for families to be involved in the lives of their children. In relation to the dimensions of change asserted by Clark (1991), as previously mentioned, I found it difficult to lay claim to one dimension as the primary for Gida and the other participants. Like Clark, I agree that it is a subj ective judgment in assessing the dimensions for others as it can only be assessed by the individual who has the experiences. Gida restructur ed herself undergoing a change in the self for the psychological dimension of change. She emerged a new person from the experience of re turning to school and getting a GED equivalency. She spoke with such pr ide as she explained to me that she was going to graduate with an associate degree in a few months and planned to take a paralegal cour se at the local university so that later she could go and study law. Being actively involved as a
117 community activist, she developed a sense of identity and selfconfidence. In relation to the behavioral dimension of change, Gida claimed a new power that Â“empoweredÂ” her and dramatically influenced her behavior. In a corresponding manner, she displayed a change in her lifestyle. She no longer Â‘hung outÂ’ and spent the time learning, or engaging in quality time with the grandkids. She looks forward to the day that she can defend the poor in court. Today, she maintains a habit a reading and enjoying surfing the internet. She is self-directed in that aspect. On the convictional dimension of change, Gida belief system changed as she created a new identity for herself. Her newfound belief in herself created an assertiveness that she had not known before. She now strongly believes and is convince d that parents play an important role in guiding their children. She had previously not been able to provide that guidance and was determined to do so now for her grandchildren and the community she lived. Case four: Imara (strong resolute). Imara the name given to this participant displayed a determinat ion very unlike women from her ethnic group. Imara is 37 years of age of Ketchi-Mayan descent and has eight children. Ketchi-Mayan cu lture is a male dominated society
118 and women have no role in the deci sion-making processes. I believe it is appropriate to say something of her ethnic group as it forms a background of who she is and how she fit the criteria to participate in this study. The Ketchi Mayan is one of two distinct Mayan Indian groups in Belize. They migrated from Alta Ve rapaz District of central Guatemala in the 1870Â’s to the lowlands of To ledo, the southernmost region of Belize and have a distinct language different from Mopan Maya the other Mayan group in Belize. They are considered the poorest of the many ethnic groups found in Beliz e according to the Government of Belize 2002 Poverty Assessment report (CSO, 2004). The report claimed that the Toledo district had the highest level (79%) of poverty and that the incidence of poverty was highest among the Mayas (77%). Toledo has a predominantly high proportion of this ethnic group and they form 11% of the total population. On the issue of gender equity Ketchi Mayan women will normally speak through their husbands. Â“It is difficult in traditional communities to gain the confidence of women so that they speak independently and freely and not through their fathers, husbands, or brothersÂ” (SATIM, ND). The women are generally not acti vely involved in decision-making
119 activities whether in the home or the community. Their traditional role is to be mother and wife. Imara is an active member of a womenÂ’s group associated with her ethnic group. The members of this group come from different remote villages. Often individuals tr avelling from these areas need to walk or use a canoe before boarding a bus that will take them into town. Buses normally will only travel once a day. This group seeks to address gender issues and econom ic well-being through leadership training, marketing, communication, administrative, and business management skills. This group is al so linked to direct advocacy through the mediation of domestic violence cases. Domestic violence is prevalent which is associated with high use of alcohol. An illustration of this was presented in a United Nations report: Alcoholism in BelizeÂ’s indigenous Maya population contributes to a pattern of widespread domestic violence and a womenÂ’s group worker te lls of Maya women running into the bushes with their children to escape beatings. There is nowhere else for them to run. The same worker notices signs of more Maya girls marrying Â“outÂ” Â– choosing Garifuna or East Indian hu sbands in order to escape domestic violence in their village s. Prostitution is said to be
120 becoming another escape route from domestic violence (Children and Adolescents in Belize, 2004). ImaraÂ’s womenÂ’s group is also pa rt of a larger network called Southern Alliance for Grassroots Empowerment (De Vries, 2003). Her womenÂ’s group is involved in inco me-generating projects such as sewing and basket-weaving (See Appendix 3). On the day of the interview, Im ara was along with other women from her womenÂ’s group at the center where they normally meet. This group is a non-profit organization, which work towards the advancement of Maya women in the Toledo district. This group has several projects in Toledo but thei r biggest project is the Literacy project. This project is operating in several villages in the Toledo District and Imara is working on this project. This literacy program is similar to the literacy program she participated. Today she is forms part of a group who ar e attending a series of workshops to become literacy trainers. (Wright, 2008 pe rsonal communication, March 23, 2008) The womenÂ’s group is presently tr aining some of the women to be basic literacy trainers for a ba sic literacy program that will be implemented in remote surrounding v illages in the district. This group of women is also involved in other projects whose ultimate goal is to
121 empower women and subsequently infl uence their family relationships and community. (Wright, 2008 pers onal communication, March 23, 2008) These women had planned to ba ke black fruitcake that day for the holidays. The cake making was more of a social event since it is not a normal activity of the group. I could hear the noisy chatter and camaraderie of the women as they shared stories of how each had arrived into town and what time their buses were leaving. A colleague of mine who worked with these wo men facilitated the interview. I explained my study to all the wome n as I joined them in the cake making process. They had organized themselves before we arrived at the center. They had a group who would prepare lunch for everyone and arranged which group would start to make their cake first. They decided which group would start with the cake making based on what time their bus left. As a group, they had donated money in order to provide lunch for everyone. Lunch cons isted of a chicken soup with lots of onions (a traditional Belizean di sh) and handmade corn tortillas that we all enjoyed. In normal circumstances when maki ng cake a cake mixer is used to cream the butter, sugar and eggs. However, a cake mixer is not one of the appliances these women will normally use in their kitchens. Therefore, they used the next best thing that would equally do the job their hands. In all my experien ce, I had never seen the hands work
122 like a cake mixer. Had I not seen it I would have concluded that a cake mixer was used. In rhythm with th e conversation, they mixed their cakes with their hands having no need for a cake mixer. It was an eyeopening experience, as I had not expected such creativity and improvisations such as as the mixing of cake batter with the hands. They all helped each other to mix and bake so that they could accomplish the task they had set ou t to do. As they worked, they shared stories with me of their liv es and of what they were engaged with in terms of community invo lvement. My knowledge of women from this ethnic group was one of shy, submissive women who had their husbands or brothers speak for them. That myth was broken that day as they shared many experience s, which go beyond the scope of this study but which indicated that these women had a new consciousness. From our interactions, it was evident that these women had a new understanding of themselves in terms of social roles and attribution of values and connecting their feelings with actions. Their experiences were one of transfor mation. This new understanding according to Mezirow (1981) is perspe ctive transformation. He furthers defines perspective transformation as:
123 The emancipatory process of be coming critically aware of how and why the structure of psychocultural assumptions has come to constrain the way we see our relationships, and ourselves reconstituting this structure to permit a more inclusive and discriminating integration of experience and acting upon these new understanding. (p. 6) I write all this about the group be cause I feel it is relevant and gives context to ImaraÂ’s experience. While I was not able to observe the other participants engaged in a similar activity, I felt that because Imara belonged to the group it o ffered some context for her story. After my interaction with the group, I then conducted the interview with Imara in a room away from the others. She explained to me that she was able to find her voice after engaging in a literacy program. She was able to engage in discourse that she never imagined before. She shared a story with me: When I join the womenÂ’s grou p, I was afraid and shy to talk to a whole crowd of people So when I started to go out, to go for a meeting I could barely say my name. When I stand in front of peop le, I canÂ’t talk but I improve when I go to every meeting now. I see that I could talk now even if there are a lot of women there, I could explain
124 myselfÂ…. Yes because the wome n in my village always tell me that I could lead anything If they call a meeting to get into a group and they select a lady to be chairlady, they would say they canÂ’t do it and that I should do it. They seem to have more confidence in me now. Imara has a newfound confidence that she proudly displayed as we spoke. She explained that financia lly life is a little better than a few years before since she has a little income from what she does. When that is combined with her husban dÂ’s income, she believes they have enough to feed the family and have the basics. She maintained that while they might not have extra food they had food everyday for the family. Imara attended public school for si x years and like most girls in her culture married very young. Educ ation for women, in the past was not encouraged and often a girl wo uld miss school for reasons such as helping with home chores. In her cult ure, it is the norm for girls to marry at the age of 14. The minimu m legal age to get married in Belize is 14. The Children and Adolescents in Belize Report, (2004) pointed out: With traditional family pressu res on girls to learn from puberty how to be good wives and mothers and to marry
125 early, many leave school early or under-achieve: many Maya girls in remote village s are reported not to have reached beyond Std 3 or 4 ( grades 5 or 6 ) by the time they reach 14, the end of compulsory education. She could read very little and from what she explained would more than likely fall in the semi-literate level based on years of schooling according to the United Nations definition of literacy. However, she always felt that she wa nted to become a teacher. Today, five years later after having been in a literacy program she is in preparation to be a literacy trainer. A significant part of her motivation comes from the knowledge of having participated as a learner and now getting the opportunity to be a facilitator. The womenÂ’s group she belongs to has received a grant to organize a literacy program for wome n in the various villages. She was very excited about the program since she is aware that many women in the Mayan communities are illiterate or semi-literate. She reflected on what life would have been had she not received the opportunity to become part of a literacy program. Before she joined the literacy program, she remembered hearing of a literacy program in a nearby village and wished that she lived there. She recollected by saying:
126 So I thought, well if I liv ed in San Antonio I would do literacy and that was years ago. Maybe four to five years ago. I remember it. I just thought that if I lived there I would take literacy to lear n more, to improve more. About a year later, her village offered the same program and she was one of the first to join. When she joined the literacy program she told herself, Â“one of these days I could do teaching. I could teach children at schoolÂ”. While she may no t be teaching at school, she is training as a literacy trainer and is also a sewing instructor for three villages. Imara attributes her participation in the literacy program as the catalyst for the opportunities sh e is receiving today. As a sewing instructor, she earns a stipend, wh ich helps her family financially. As an active member of her womenÂ’s group, she has many times held key leadership positions such as secretary or treasurer. The members of her group recognize her leadership qualities and encourage her growth. Being involv ed outside the home does not mean that she neglects her family. Rather, she now has the knowledge to help her children with their homework something she could not do for the older ones. In addition, she has earned a high respect from her husband as he seeks her advice in important decisions. She supported this assertion by saying:
127 I explain things to my child ren and husband. I understand their feelings much better and I can help them. I read for them and can explain homework now. My husband now asks me questions about maybe a paper he has to signÂ…. well I could talk much better to him and he seemed to have a different attitudeÂ…better in understanding. This suggests that Imara also has better communications skills acquired because of becoming engaged in a literacy program. This change has given her greater self-esteem and self-confidence evident during the interview and the cake -making interaction prior to the interview. While this assessment is subjective, I come to this conclusion based on Imara recounting of her personal journeyÂ—a deep shift in her frame of re ference (Mezirow, 2000). In ImaraÂ’s case, there was a bu ilding of competence and selfconfidence in her new roles and re lationships. She admitted that she had little personal power and was overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness. Therefore, her aspira tion to participate in a literacy program while not provoked by a diso rientating dilemma as posited by Mezirow (1991, 2000) was more of Â“i ntegrating circumstances (Clark, 1991 p. 117).Â” Clark explains integr ating circumstances as Â“indefinite periods in which the person or pe rsons consciously or unconsciously
128 search for something which is missing in their lives; when they find this Â‘missing piece,Â’ the transforma tion process is catalyzed. (p. 117)Â” Imara either consciously or uncon sciously thought of getting the opportunity of being involved in a literacy program but it was not Â“an acute and personal crisis (Taylo r, 2000 p. 298).Â” Taylor further supports this view by saying that Â“generally they (referring to integrating circumstances) do not a ppear as a sudden, life-threatening event; instead they are more subt le and less profound, providing an opportunity for exploration and clar ification of past experiences (p. 299).Â” In relation to ImaraÂ’s transfor mational learning experiences dimensions, in the psychological dimension, her personality was altered as an assertive and confident person emerged. She had a newfound power that was not eviden t prior to becoming part of a literacy program. She found her vo ice and no longer considered herself, Â“a shy personÂ” or Â“having no voice.Â” The convictional dimension is displayed by new understandings of herself. She displays a type of feminism that is generally not found within her culture. Women in her culture generally speak through the significant men in their lives i.e. husbands, brothers or fathers. She spoke of her husband consulting he r for important decisions and she could voice her opinion in such ma tters. This change in her belief
129 system on the role of women is in my opinion passed on the women she interacts with namely those she teaches sewing. She mentioned to me talking about her experience to other women brought me to this conclusion. Finally, transformation in the be havioral dimension was a change in her lifestyle. No longer was sh e only a mother, homemaker, and wife but she was now a feminist in her own right. Note that she never used the word feminist but her conversation alluded to this. In addition, my personal knowledge of how women in that particular culture are treated brings me to th at conclusion. Very recently, women in ImaraÂ’s culture have become invo lved in community activism. This is displayed by the women who are now participants in womenÂ’s group such as the one Imara belongs. She articulated her involvement in the community as a way of taking re sponsibility for their lives (the womenÂ’s lifeÂ’s). In her words: Because whenever some wo men visit and come to my house I try to explain to them how they should live. I encourage them and explain ho w much better is for me.Â” In speaking about her change d relations with her husband she confidently said, Â“When we are at home now we think equal. That is what he told me, that both of us have equal
130 rights. That is what he told me, but before he didnÂ’t think that way but because he sees th e interest I put into it now, he doesnÂ’t tell me anything again. Summary of Transformative Learning Experience of Participants The transformative learning expe riences of the women in this study are similar in two specific ways First, I do not believe that any of my participants experienced a dramatic disorienting dilemma but rather they were influenced by what Clark (1991) refers to as Â“integrating circumstances.Â” The data indicates that no dramatic event triggered these womenÂ’s involvemen t in an adult literacy program. Rather, the participants had a seri es of integrated circumstances which, involved conscious and unconsci ous reflection allowing them to explore and prepare themselves for th e process of transformation. It is not really known how long these inte grating circumstances occurred as it will vary from individual to indivi dual. The reflection takes place as they think of what is missing in their lives and prepare themselves either consciously or unconsciously fo r the change in th eir lives. In the case of these women, they all unc onsciously contemplated the idea and opportunity to change the way they saw and experienced the world. These integrating circumstances were preparing the women with the ability to cope with the chan ge in their lives; taking them to a fuller understanding and restruct uring of their meaning schemes.
131 Secondly, transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions (Mezirow, 1991, 2000). This shift of consciousness dramatically and irreversibly alters oneÂ’s way of bein g in the world. Such a shift entails understanding ourselves, our self-l ocations; our relationships with other humans and with the natural world. Furthermore, it also gives rise to an understanding of the relations of power in interlocking st ructures of class, race, and gender. For the participants in this study th ere was an awareness of alternative approaches to living and a sense of possibilities that took into account their socio-cultural context. Cross Case Analysis The transformative learning expe riences of the women in this study shared several similarities. Out of the data emerged 15 themes that were later trimmed and integrat ed into seven themes that support my original assumptions that transf ormative learning can be studied and that the participants in the st udy had experienced transformation thus a shifting of their meaning sch emes. The integrated themes were always compared back to the raw data and to the memos that were created during the analysis.
132 The substantive theory that emerged from the raw data was related to Metamorphosis as it rela tes to a permanent change similar to a caterpillar transforming into a butterflyÂ—irreversible (Mezirow, 1991). The metaphor includes the st ruggle of the pupa as it forms itself into a butterfly. This is a ligned with the personal sacrifice, previous financial situation, world of not knowing and ignorance of each participant as they blossome d with emotional maturity. They became self-regulated and had more control over their live. I further added that given the opportunity to shift frames of reference, one has the innate capacity to alter ones life and impact oneÂ’s socio-cultural context. I further validated the substant ive theory with individuals not related to the study to interpret th e substantive theory. This was done informally. I also presented the co -coders with the substantive theory and asked them to evaluate the th eory based on the interviews they had coded. The consensus arrived collectively related to a change in perspective. Some terms used were change in mindset, paradigm shift, becoming a different person mentally, improvement in life, and opportunities lead to better things. Th e validation is critical as it adds credibility and trustworthiness to the substantive theory.
133 The following analysis supports th e substantive theory, giving it depth, power, and consistency. Co rbin & Strauss (2008) stress that a theory grounded in data can be valid ated by comparing it with the raw data. It should further apply to all the large concepts. Above all, this study suggested that individuals with low or no formal education when given the opportunity manifest the core values of the societyÂ—education as a means of restructuring the self and their relationships; understanding the ch ange in their belief system and those of their relationships and unde rstanding their change in lifestyle and supporting others to understand their change. Finally, it extended the notion that the transformative experience does not follow a rigid format beginning with a disorienting dilemma but rather that it is dynamic. It also opened up the qu estion of whether a Â‘disorienting dilemmaÂ’ is absolutely necessary. After codes had been collapsed and categories created the following themes emerged from the data (see Figure 4.1 and 4.2). The 15 categories included (1) discove ry of self, (2) great personal sacrifice, (3) development of se nse of possibilit y for family & community, (4) construction of id entity and self, (5) discovery of beliefs and values, (6) increased spirituality, (7) becoming assertive, (8) becoming self sufficient, (9)bec oming a role model, (10)improved
134 economic condition, (11)improved und erstanding and ability to handle tense situations, (12)impact of cari ng teachers, (13)recognizing value of education, (14) improved comm unication skills, and (15) social action awareness. GidaÂ’s return to formal school, AudreyÂ’s determination to attain the highest education possible, Ja ynaÂ’s confidence in business and ImaraÂ’s quest to improve her familyÂ’s lifestyle are all encompassed in the above fifteen themes. Each displa yed all of the above descriptions. For example, each of them clearly explained how they would become irritated and upset at situations th at did not merit getting upset over. On reflecting, I can best attribute this to what Mezirow (1991) calls Â“premise reflectionÂ”. Each questi oned why they behaved in that manner and each was able to under stand why. They are all very conscious and sensitive of others an d have a deeper understanding of attitudes and behaviors.
135 Figure 4.1 Themes Emerging from Phase 2 with Sample Dimensions
136 Figure 4.1. (Continued)
137 Figure 4.2. Themes Emerging from Phase Three Mezirow (2002; 2004) and Merri am (2004) contend that a certain level of education is required to participate in discourse necessary to experience transformational learning. Paolo Freire's (1973) work with illiterate peasants in Brazil refutes this prerequisite as well as the participants in this study. Mezirow (2000) pointed out that not everyone can participate in rational discourse requisite for the transformative process as Â“precond itionsÂ” of Â“maturity, education, safety, health, economic security, and emotional intelligenceÂ” (p. 15) need to be present. Correspondingly, Mezirow (2003) was
138 unequivocally clear, as he was in Mezirow (2000) about Â“hungry, homeless, desperate, threatened, si ck, or frightened adults are less likely to be able to participate e ffectively in discourseÂ… (p. 15-16). I counter this view and illustrate it by referring to Gida, as she was essentially homeless and desperate. She exemplifies the concept of transformation learning as sh e engaged both consciously and unconsciously to an analysis of her si tuation, concluding it as socially and politically created. In our in terview, she emphasized that her change subsequently her transfor mation had involved Â“a massive questioning of herselfÂ” after she be came conscious that she had been thinking of this all along. This unq uestionably is parallel to Brookfield (2000) espousal of MezirowÂ’s concept of transformative learning: Â…transformation is a transforma tion in perspective, in a frame of reference, in a pers onal paradigm, and in a habit of mind together with its resu lting points of view together with its resulting points of vi ew. For him (referring to Jack Mezirow) transformation ther eby involves a fundamental reordering of assumptions (p. 139). Pursuing this further there ha ve been several studies on transformative learning that incl uded participants for whom the transformative experience was effe cted without conscious critical
139 reflection. Taylor (1994), using interc ultural competency studied adults who had lived and worked in a cultur e different from their own, and McDonald (1998), investigated how people become ethical vegans, reported that some participants had transformed their perspective without being aware of the change process. Also, Kovan and Dirkx's (2003) study of environmental activists found that their transformations "rarely indicate(d) a strong reliance... on critical reflection and self-analysis.... The inner work that characterize(d) this approach to transformation is gr ounded in affective, emotional, spiritual, and transpersonal dimens ions of life (Dirkx, 1997)" (p. 115). Merrill (2006) studied Mexican women from low-socio-economic settings who found resiliency through a literacy program. All participants were from low soci o-economic levels and through participation in a literacy program have increased their self-esteem and confidence. Likewise, JaynaÂ’s experience with literacy transitioned her to being a businesswoman today. She ex plained to me her desire to be able to read an analog watch. Wh en she started the literacy program that was the first thing she aske d to learn. Like all the other participants, she attributed her success to the caring and dedication of the teachers. She described the teac hers as understanding of adults and not treating them like children.
140 The profound experience of th eir participation in a literacy program has influenced their i mmediate family and the other relationships outside the home. For example, Audrey uses her experience of growing up in poverty in an inner-city area as motivation for her students to aim for the high est standards. She also, stands as a role model to her sisters and to the members of her youth group. The great sacrifice of her mother is a major influence as she aspires to one day attain a Ph.D. Imara, often talks to other women of the transition she made. She attempts to influence other women to seek a similar life changetransformation. She was so proud that now she Â“she had a voice, could talkÂ”. It is not surprising th at she did not have a voice before since her cultural upbringing would not have encouraged her to speak out. For her it is a not a pebble thro wn into the water but a large stone that made a huge splash since her influence will be everywhere. Women in her culture are encouraged to be submissive and quiet in particular in the area of domestic violence. Gida, based on her experience is now very active in advocating laws dealing with guns. She is part of a movement to educate against the use of violence. She spent a lot of time on the streets where most of the gun violence takes place, can relate to their norms, and is able
141 to reach out with the confidence sh e now has. She aims to get a law degree and with her determination, it is possible. Finally, all participants reported cr itically reflecting often as they engaged in activities that they di d not have the opportunity before. Many opportunities were created after their participation in the literacy program. These are findings that one would expect to see of individuals who have participated in a literacy program. However, it is not guaranteed that participation le ads to a change in perspective. I conclude that these women are empo wered and have bigger waves to make yet. Discovery of their identi ty coupled with the challenges of their transformation has made each woman display an increased spirituality.
142 Chapter Five: Conclusions, Insights and Recommendations for Future Research Within every difficulty lies opportunity Anonymous This chapter first provides a re view of the purpose, procedure and research questions related to the reported lived transformative experiences of the four participants who participated in this study. Finally, a discussion regarding the lim itations of these findings and recommendations for further research end the chapter. This research study investig ated the extent to which participation in a literacy program affe cted the lives of its participants and how the change was manifested. In addition, it assessed the affective impact as felt in fam ilies, relationships, work and the community the participants participate according to the participants. Using a critical ethnographic case st udy approach, this study sought an understanding of the experiences of its participants as they moved toward finding their voice and iden tity, and overcoming barriers as they significantly shaped their soci o-cultural, economic and historical context. Data was collected us ing semi-structured open-ended interviews and my reflective jour nal. A grounded theory approach
143 using a critical inquiry stance was adopted for the data analysis. The critical inquiry stance was included so that issues of power, privilege and gender would be considered in the final analysis. The overall focus was to gain an understanding of the transformations in the participants Â’ own lives, their experience of personal change and its extension to their socio-cultural context. This is important, as their experiences, knowledge and perspectives are the most valuable and valid in gaining insight on ho w participation in an adult program affects them. More specifically, the study addressed the following research questions: 1. What conditions and circumstances foster the transformative learning process? 2. What critical incidents have enhanced transformation? 3. How does participation in a program transform the participants to create chan ge in their lives? How is this change manifested? 4. How have the transformations influenced participantsÂ’ relationships at home, school/work and within the larger community?
144 Summary of Findings of Study I believe that it is fitting to present the definition of transformative learning th at guided this study: Transformative learning in volves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic pr emises of thought, feelings and action. It is a shift of co nsciousness that dramatically and permanently alerts our wa y of being in the world. Such a shift involves our un derstanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our relation ships with other humans and with the natural world; our und erstanding of relations of power in interlocking structures of class, race and gender; our body-awareness, our visions of alternative approaches to living; and our sense of possibilities for social justice and peace and personal joy (OÂ’Sullivan, Morrel & OÂ’Connor (2002, p. xvii). The findings revealed a deep stru ctural shift within the last 5-8 years. The findings suggest that participants are now consciously aware of the impact of participatin g in a literacy program. This was indicated as they confidently relived their experiences and reflected on the personal sacrifice, shift in con sciousness that made them a better person. They indicated a vision th at was not evident before. Using reflective inquiry, participants were able to look back at the risk taken
145 and hear themselves on the impact they are making. The findings are closely aligned with OÂ’Sullivan et alÂ’s definition of transformative learning. Participants have a bette r understanding of the political and social structures that affect women in particular. Without talking about politics, participants were aware th at without the opportunity given to them they would not have broken out of the Â‘cocoon stageÂ’ to be able to move in different directions making an impact. Substantive Theory Metamorphoses (Changing paradigm s): Given the opportunity to shift frames of reference, one has th e innate capacity to alter oneÂ’s life and impact oneÂ’s socio-cultural cont ext creating possibilities for self and others. The data collected has discovere d a substantive theory based on changing paradigms which I call Metamorphoses This Metamorphoses or Changing paradigms applies to contexts where individuals have been involved in what Mezirow ( 1991) terms Â“premise reflectionÂ” (p. 107). Premise reflection claims that individuals engage in awareness and questioning of oneself in relation to why they perceive, think, feel or act in a particular way. The new paradigm replaces old assumptions, values, goals, beliefs, expectations, theories, and the like with its own. The themes that em erged from this study support the substantive theory as they indicate a change in perspective
146 transformation yet going beyond as the data supports that their sociocultural context was impacted. Implications of the Study According to Mezirow (1991), transf ormative learning theory is particularly suited for adult learning as it enables learners to critically reflect. Likewise, one of the goals of adult education is to create new possibilities for adult learners. The fi ndings of this study support the depth of the new possibilities and potential of transformative learning The implications of the new sugge sted way of thinking about the transformative learning process are that: 1. There are elements that must be in place in order to be ready for transformation. 2. Adult educators can enhance pe rspective shifts through the conscious use of strategies th at foster transformation. 3. With this understanding, adult educators may be able to better understand how to foster transformative learning as well as why transformative learning occurs in some situations and not in others. 4. Additionally, there are far reachi ng implications related to the responsibility of adult educator s in providing individual as well as social change.
147 5. Thus, this study will info rm program and curriculum developers as well as policy makers about the potential impact of adult literacy education programs for individual and societal transformation. This is as it relates to individuals of low socio-economic status, littl e or no education, lack of economic security (Mezirow (2004). Recommendations for Future Research Based on the findings of this stud y, I propose further research in the following areas with programmatic implementation of their findings to better facilitate and foster transf ormative learning experiences and environments: 1. Longitudinal research of partic ipants in this study as they continue to engage in transformative learning experiences. 2. Replication of this study us ing men as participants. 3. Replication of the study consider ing ethnicity as a factor in determining participants. 4. Replication of study leading to a grand theory. These recommendations are important as it relates to the purposes of adult education. Acco rding to Beder (1989) the overall purpose of adult education is to facilitate change. One way of doing this is to foster transformative learning. If adult educators are to become engaged in the practice of fostering transformative learning
148 then more research needs to be cond ucted in particular for populations that are at the margins and th ose from under-developed and developing countries. In this way adult education will be fulfilling its overall purpose. The Last Word The dissertation process was a transformative experience for me as I delved in the raw data and discovered the deep meaning it held. My own life is different not necessar ily because of having written the dissertation but because of the impact of the experiences of these four women. I was under the assumption that there existed a change in their lives and that it could be stud ied. While I was aware of this, little did I know that the depth of the re structuring reached out so far and deep. The interviewing process was es pecially transforming for me as it gave me the opportunity of reflecting on my own transformation. While not having faced the lack of resources to the extent of my participants, there was a similarity in that aspect as I grew up on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. I like my participants, was thankful to that greater being for giving me the opportunity to be where I am today and for what the future holds. As an adult educator, I am mo re aware today that I have a responsibility to foster transfor mation. At the same time, I am
149 conscious that there will not always be a transformative experience, yet I must make every attempt to promote it. Like a caterpillar, they have metamorphosed into colorful butterflies discovering the endless possibilities their wings can generate. The findings underscore the importance of education for social change and enhancing family life. The wings of the butterfly transcends, fostering transformative learning experiences. Mezirow (1991) claimed that the transformative learning experience was irreversible. I suppo rt this assertion as the four participants began their transforma tive journey within the last 5-8 years. As the findings indicate, they have not reversed and all have a vision for the future. A suggestion for future rese arch is to investigate the participants in the next five years to see whether the transformation has held. The in tensity and profoundness of the findings is a transformational experience. I want to conclude with this quotation from Dirkx (1997): If we want to learn about fo stering transformation among our learners, the most importan t way to begin the work is with this particular, common, and sacred life one has been given. It is a simple and humble, yet incredibly profound, place to begin transformation among our learners, the most important way to begin the work is with this
150 particular, common, and sacred life one has been given. It is a simple and humble, yet incredibly profound, place to begin.
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167 Appendix 1: Interview Protocol for First Interview
168 Appendix 1 1. Life history and details of experience a. Demographic information: All responses are open-ended (i.e., allowing for elaboration). Survey items are (1) age (2) gender (3) ethnicity (4)present socioeco nomic status, and a brief socioeconomic history; (5) geographic place of origin, and a brief history (6) the length of time th at the participant was in the adult education program. 2. Do believe you have changed as a result of taking part in this program 3. How are you behaving differently in response to the change you have experienced? 4. Tell me a story about yourself.
169 Appendix 2: Interview Prot ocol for Second Interview
170 Appendix 2 Reflection on the meaning: Past to present 1. From your early experiences to the present, how would you describe the overall process of transformation in your life? 2. In what ways do you believe the program has provided opportunities for this change to occur? 3. Are there deeper meanings be hind this process for you? 4. What does the term empowerment mean for you now? In addition, does it hold deeper meanings for you personally? 5. How has your transformation influe nced your relationships at home, work, social environment etc? What kind of discourse takes place in these significant relationships? 6. Given what you have reflected on during this interview, where do you see yourself going? 7. As a last question in the intervi ew, I will ask: Can you think of any other questions that you would add to an interview like this one? In addition, how would you answer it?
171 Appendix 3: Typical Ketchi home and WomenÂ’s group project
172 Appendix 3 Typical Kekchi home Women participating in income-generating project
173 Appendix 4: Adult Consent Form
About The Author Aline E. Harrison received a BachelorÂ’s degree in English Education from the University College of Belize, Belize; and a MasterÂ’s in Education degree in Curriculum an d Instruction with concentrations in Literature and TESOL, from th e University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL. Her Doctor in Philo sophy from the University of South Florida (USF) is in Curriculum and Instruction in the Department of Adult, Career and Higher Education. Her focus has been in the area of language teacher education, literac y and technology. Aline has spent 25 years teaching at various levels. More recently, she taught courses at USF, designed to prepare pre-prof essional (pre-service) teachers to provide linguistically and cultura lly appropriate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners (ELLÂ’s). She is originally from Belize and was recipient of a fe llowship from the Organization in American States (OAS) in 2004.