ABE, ESL, adult literacy, and family literacy programs are typically
evaluated by measurable outcomes such as increased standardized test
scores or student job placement. However, there is growing evidence
that learners-particularly women who are poor and socially
isolated-value not only the academic but also the social aspects of
their educational experiences. Educators, too, recognize the
psychosocial dimensions and benefits of participation in adult
education, but seldom have opportunities to document them.
This discussion will focus on what are often considered peripheral or
serendipitous aspects of adult education, including access to and
expansion of social support networks, the social meanings learners
attach to education, and the psychosocial benefits of participation.
To orient the discussion, we will review a recent research study that
explores how family literacy programs provide a supportive social space
for women in poverty and enhance their psychosocial well-being. We will
then open up the discussion to questions and comments. Participants can
read the Adult Education Quarterly article (for subscribers only) or the
Goodling Institute Research Brief (see below).
Prins, E., Toso, B., & Schafft, K. (2009). "It feels like a little
family to me": Social interaction and support among women in adult
education and family literacy. Adult Education Quarterly, 59(4),
Blaire Willson Toso coordinates the English Language Acquisition
Collection for LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System), is
a doctoral candidate in the Adult Education Program at Penn State, and a
researcher for the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy.
Her interests are literacy, gender, student leadership, and family
Esther Prins is an assistant professor in the Adult Education Program
at The Pennsylvania State
University and the Co-Director of the Goodling Institute for Research
in Family Literacy. Her research explores the social context of adult
and family literacy; gender, racial, and class inequalities in adult
education; civic engagement; and participatory approaches to education,
community development, and research.
Kai A. Schafft is an assistant professor of education in the Penn State
Department of Education Policy Studies where he directs the Center on
Rural Education and Communities and edits the Journal of Research in
Rural Education. His research focuses on the relationship between
spatial and social inequality, particularly within rural settings.