Bringing it all together

In the closing sessions of the Second International Women and Literacy Conference participants worked in small groups to address the following broad questions. Each group recorded their notes on chart paper and reported to the full group. The following is a consolidation of those notes.

How are issues of domestic violence, health, ethnicity, and welfare-to-work related to women and the field of adult literacy? 

All four of these issues can be viewed as intertwined, in terms of social structures, and can be direct sources of low literacy for women. As such, it is important for educators to address these issues directly as they arise, before or while addressing literacy. Ignoring the underlying problems can make moving toward literacy a difficult task for the learner. Shame and isolation can grow, inhibiting the learning process. Educators need not think that such social issues are out of their realm. These issues can be dealt with on the individual level, as well as on the classroom or group level. The educator must be aware of resources in each area and network with professionals across disciplines. Most importantly, the educator must address the learner as a whole person, as these issues affect every aspect of her/his life. If the educator works with the learner toward empowerment, liberation, and self-esteem, learning and literacy will develop.

How do issues of health, ethnicity, domestic violence, and welfare-to-work influence the educational needs of our female learners?

All these issues are barriers to women's education and they all need to be addressed in the adult literacy setting. This implies that staff development should be enhanced to incorporate such issues, and that the instructional atmosphere should be open to discussing such situations. Because these are also community issues, many see the need to draw people together and work toward enhancing community ties, as well as establishing links between literacy programs and the communities they serve. The adult literacy classroom can be a place to provide support as a space to decompress from life's turmoils as well as a place for the adult learner to increase self-esteem. When addressing issues such as health, ethnicity, domestic violence, and welfare to work, it is critical to hear and respect voices from all cultures. People need to be heard and responded to. We need to change the instructional atmosphere to acknowledge the issue that silence is oppressive. People need to go from self-empowerment to community empowerment.

What are some unique and successful instructional strategies for our female adult learners that address the needs created by ethnic identities, domestic violence, health issues, and welfare-to-work regulations?

Many strategies were suggested, such as talking circles or culture circles, journaling medicine wheel, project-based learning, and having professional guests (e.g. authors, actors) read with adult learners. Specific approaches and issues appropriate for a literacy setting were also suggested and include trust building, peer participation in curriculum development, critical problem solving, applying real life issues to learning concepts, helping students become informed consumers and political participants in their community, and developing self-empowerment. Participants pointed out that professional conferences and dialogues help in generating and disseminating effective instructional strategies.


What are recommended research and policy priorities in the areas of welfare-to-work, health, ethnicity, and domestic violence for women in adult literacy?

Participants suggested that teachers and learners should work together in advocacy networks to analyze and challenge current policies. In addition, establishing connections between literacy advocates and community agencies, businesses, and advocates in other social fields would be advantageous. Participants also recommended research to address the relationships between various issues. Some participants want to use existing knowledge to form policy; others wish to document the undermining effect of welfare-to-work on educational practices and literacy development. Still others suggested implementing training practices for medical professionals which address the literacy differences in their clients

back to women

LR/RI home