- The purpose of this study was to understand the individual
experiences of four adult literacy practitioners, Anne, Bill, Candy, and Emily,
in the first cohort of the Oregon Field-Based Cohort Master's Program. This
program, which Oregon established in 1993 as one venue of professional
development for adult literacy and English as a Second Language
practitioners, was developed jointly by the Office of Community College
Services of the state Department of Education and Oregon State University.
The inquiry proceeded from three assumptions. First, effective
professional development must be grounded in understandings about how
practitioners learn. Second, an understanding of practitioners' learning is
attainable only through intensive examination of individual experiences.
And third, practitioners' accounts of their learning experiences are
legitimate sources of knowledge; they are, in fact, the only accessible
avenues for investigating individuals' learning.
Transcripts of in-depth interviews and participants' cumulative
portfolios were coded and analyzed in the first phase of data analysis to
produce stories which integrated Anne, Bill, Candy, and Emily's own words
with metaphors they created to frame their experiences. Each story
reconstructs a practitioner's construction of the emotional, intellectual, and
material experience of learning in a cohort. Together, they represent the
uniqueness and complexity of adults' learning.
In the second phase of analysis, the stories were compared to reveal
relationships of similarity and difference among them. The cross-case
analysis generated five themes around the self as learner, the contribution
of dissonance to reconstruction of meaning, personal transformations in an
academic setting, increased confidence as an outcome of graduate study, and
stance as a contributor to the variability and complexity of adults'
experiences of learning in a formal setting.
The final chapter drew directly on the themes to make suggestions for
planning and practice and pose questions which might be used to focus
conversations or frame future research about adult learning, graduate
programs, or staff development for adult educators. Specific topics included
authentic learning situations, reflection, graduate cohorts, collaborative
learning, adult learners' stances toward learning situations, distance
delivery and professional networks for adult literacy practitioners, and
evaluation of professional development programs.