THE ADULT ADVENTURE
This event was described as the "first and the best" province-wide ABE conference in Saskatchewan by conference coordinator Lily Stonehouse on the eve of the conference: The conference was an organizational masterpiece! Over 185 delegates were present including some 'outsiders' from as far away as Newfoundland and Inuvik, N.W.T. Participants were faced with a choice of 42 workshops covering the ABE gamut from "Reaching the Adult Illiterate", to "Teacher Effectiveness Training". We could attend 7 workshops in 6 different time slots over a 3 day period.
Moreover, this array was only part of the smorgasbord! The keynote address was given by Dr. John Roueche from the University of Texas at Austin. The first day of the conference offered a working lunch which was hosted by the Saskatchewan Department of Consumer Affairs. Later that same day, there was a wine and cheese party and a tour of the Mendel Art Gallery hosted by the Saskatoon Region Community College. A banquet and dance were held the next night with musical entertainment: and a Chinese tower dance performed by members of the local Chinese community.
In his keynote address, Dr. Roueche said that the fastest enrolling courses in American Colleges are Developmental English, Developmental Reading, Developmental Mathematics and Developmental Skills. He went on to say that the skills of high school graduates now are probably no greater than the students who have enrolled in ABE courses because of lack of prior opportunity.
Drawing from his own experiences as a student and educator, Dr. Roueche spoke in a warm, stimulating and humorous vein. He stressed the importance of creating a personal learning environment, of attitudes to students, of the importance of the relevance of instruction to students' needs and of emphasizing the affective domain in the learning transactions.
If we can draw analogies between these elements of an ABE setting and the organization of an ABE Conference, all the elements for success were there. The learning environment was warm, friendly and relaxed. Participants and presenters were well prepared and enthusiastic. The workshops provided relevant material on 1) content in a series of consumer workshops, in literacy and communications, in mathematics and science; and 2) resources to aid in the preparation and presentation of content. Two parallel series of workshops were devoted to ESL concerns and native students. The affective domain was represented by a series of workshops on counselling, life skills and other tools from a variety of psychological schools which may aid the ABE practitioner.
The conference was sponsored by the Department of Continuing Education and Saskatchewan Community Colleges. The host was Saskatoon Region Community College. This event was certainly the first and best conference to date! Many people are already looking forward to the second and best conference!