Toward a New Pluralism in ABE/ESOL Programs: Teaching to Multiple "Cultures of Mind"

Kegan, R.
Broderick, M.
Drago-Severson, E.
Helsing, D.
Popp, N.
Portnow, K.
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This brief describes the results from a one-year study examining the learning and changes that took place in 41 adult ABE/ESOL learners enrolled in "long term" programs. Researchers were specifically interested in understanding whether learners perceived a change in their selves and how learning supported those changes. The results demonstrate that learners can significantly change their "way of knowing" in a short period of time, the crucial role a cohort plays in the learning process, that formal education is not linked to complexity of thought, and that the learner’s developmental level affects preferences, experiences, and choices made during the learning process. This brief is a quick read and provides only an overview of the complete report. The report, which more fully describes the research process, population, and findings, can be accessed at (see report #19).

Please note that the full report has not been externally reviewed by LINCS experts, but reviewers note that the Executive Summary at this link provides information that enhances the brief.

What the experts say
The brief summarizes several key points of value to educators -- namely how learners define and make sense of their own educational experience in an ABE program. The study examines the perspective, changes, and transformations of the adult learner and the implications for instructor development and methods of instruction. This is a critical topic and one that is rarely explored in adult education literature.


The brief clearly and briefly defines the informative, transformative and acculturation changes that may take place in learners during the learning process. The two page brief itself can be difficult to understand since it reduces complex concepts into what could be construed by a novice to the adult education field as jargon. It would have been helpful if some of the concepts introduced were broken down more clearly. While the methodology is not very clear, the key findings are succinctly stated. However, the referenced research report is a very rich and provocative work. If the brief provides an entrée to this work, as it did for me, its shortcomings should be overlooked.Methods the resource used to collect and analyze the data for the research: This was a mixed methods study which used qualitative open-ended interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, and surveys. Data was analyzed, taking each participant as an individual case, for changes or transformations that had occurred during their learning at the school. Data was hand-coded. A developmental perspective and Grounded Theory principles guided the analysis.