"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Final Reflections

Susan's presentation
It has taken me some time to digest the feedback and understand the missed opportunities in my presentation.  I have given a lot of thought to the presentation format we used and how it worked to enhance or diminish the meaning of my material.  While I  thoroughly enjoyed assembling a multi-media text to share my work, I think I relied on "readers"  to make too many inferences from pictures and arrows.  In addition to information I omitted (by choice or ignorance), many ideas were implied but not explicitly stated.

 I believe a written paper would have served me better, allowing me to see the gaps in my work; however, I think there was an important purpose in sharing our work with the class.  Through multi-media presentations, classmates were afforded the opportunity to learn from each other in a way that exchanging written papers would not have allowed.  We interacted with the presenter, and each other, by completing an activity and posing questions.  In this way, we learned more than if we had completed our projects in isolation and / or simply read each others' papers.

Now we have the opportunity to use this blog as a tool to reflect and address feedback on our work,.  Maybe we can continue learning from each other.  For example, Susangale's post expanded my knowledge of validity,  Annie's post helped me better understand teacher-student power relationships, and Joyce's post helped me understand how literacy is viewed/valued by our society.   In that spirit, I'm asking for help to better understand and describe stakeholders I overlooked, hinted about, but did not explain or describe explicitly in my presentation.  I'm struggling for words that will describe rather than other or vilify this group.  Please allow me to explain.

In my analysis of an ideology that treats literacy as an independent variable (Street, 1984), I described a linear model that positions learners as objects.  Literacy is added, measured, and studied.  This model is contrasted with the socio-cultural model (Purcell-Gates, Perry, Briseno, 2011) that treats literacy as an embedded  practice.

I further described how I did not challenge the linear ideology; I was blind to my position in it, not realizing my part or the way I benefited from it.  I actually put my little picture at the end of the equation, but I did not explain further.  What I missed was describing the stakeholders in this model--the group that is threatened, or fights the war on illiteracy.  This is the group that benefits from the status quo (like a teacher who needs a job), and therefore does not question this ideology.  This is the group that holds power and is threatened by change.  This is the group that defines a point between literacy and illiteracy and, around it, constructs enough scientific data as to forget the underlying assumption: literacy is treated as neutral thing that is isolated and measured.  Brian Street (1984) describes this group as follows

From the point of view of many States, who badly needed such investments, literacy programs represented an input factor whose success was to be assessed in terms of the economic return.  This meant that ultimate determination of the programme lay with financial and commercial interests, with governments acting simply as mediators and providers of the 'risk capital' in terms of the infrastructure of education and training.  The subjects themselves were a form of 'plant' whose effectiveness could be maximised by the employment of new 'educational technology' in the form of 'literacy skills', thereby enabling greater surplus to be extracted from them (p. 184). 

It was easy to describe these anonymous stakeholders as capitalist villains.  It was too easy to build my case.  True, this was a simple, student  representation of a complex ideology, but I did not provide another perspective in addition to my own.  My project lacks validity without another point of view.  This was my other critical omission.

In the few lines remaining on this post, I can add that the linear ideology serves a purpose.  Without it, we would have chaos. By conducting more interviews and showing data that support this model's successes, I could build a case for the need to measure and quantify literacy in some way.  The linear model exists to provide accountability to stakeholders such as governments and taxpayers.  The linear model provides a much needed service; many people realize success in its programs.

Thank you for reading this long post.  Reflecting via this blog has helped me better understand how to improve what I presented to you in class.  I would love to hear your thoughts on my project.  Susan 


  1. Susan, I really do not know what you mean about relying too much on readers...I thought your presentation was super coherent and visually clear. I do appreciate your feedback about the plus and minuses of doing a presentation versus a paper...I'm thinking that next year I may ask for a short paper be handed in after the presentations that ties the findings back to theoretical themes from the class. What do you think?
    I am glad you are thinking about the wider network of stakeholders. (I appreciate your willingness to consider their positions as legitimate ones and LOVE the validity insight that the oppositional perspectives might improve the "truthfulness" of the whole project. Very cool tie in to some of the ideas the other Susan was talking about. Now...this does not mean you have to be neutral, of course, but transparent and fair. If the writing reveals injustices and a compelling case for one stance over another, so be it!
    Finally, I think a study as emblematic of the bigger picture taking place in the US these days as yours, that one way to save your soul and sanity would be to go long in terms of stakeholders. E.g., What stakes do the Council of State Governors have in this? Or I.C.E.? Or even the VALRC? In this way, you align your project with others in time and space. Hmmm. maybe Tami Sober will have something to say about this on Tuesday? Thank you, Susan, for all your energy and leadership with this blog this semester!!!

  2. Susan, I enjoyed your presentation and your post. Since I am currently taking courses to be certified to teach ESL I found your presentation reflective as I begin this journey for myself. I did ask myself what I was getting into? Was I as committed as you? You say you were blind to your own position, but I suspect we are all a little blind to what we know and do each day. Viewing those who don't support us as villians seems natural too. I support your fight, your position... don't give it up.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.