Student writing at the Reading Center grew out of a similar dynamic that shaped the small group-tutoring program. That, to recall, was a process-oriented learning climate nurtured by a concept of “growth” defined as the enhancement of experience through the exercise of critical intelligence (Dewey, 1916/1944, 1938/1963), mediated by an empathetic interpretation of the “literacy myth.” On this reading, what was fundamental was not so much the achievement of learning outcomes. More critical was the nurturing of a climate that enabled the expansion of critical intelligence to emerge through a “scaffolding paradigm” (Demetrion, 1999) where students and tutors worked together to move through successive stages of learning development as perceived by program participants.
This emphasis on growth is particularly important in adult literacy where sense of “failure” in formal educational settings is pervasive. An outcomes orientation not grounded in this manner places an external standard of achievement both upon the program and upon emerging literacy learners that may not appear realistic within a given time frame, typically within a fiscal year upon which most standards of measurement are based. This is not to deny that easily measurable outcomes are not achievable, whether within a year’s framework or longer, nor that they are not valuable. It is to argue that the more enduring phenomenon is the emergent sense of potentiality within the formation of an adult literacy “life-cycle” (Fingeret and Drennon, 1997), which provides the underlying platform for the development of student capacities.
A parallel with program development may be instructive. During the Moylan period, I sensed the potentiality of what a literacy program could become. Yet I also realized that if I attempted to push factors beyond their continuously emergent development at this early stage, a too literal sense of “reality” might have set in. This, I feared could have interfered with what might have been interpreted as an unrealistic claim, given the then “realities” that shaped the program as determined by the leadership of the LVA-CT and LVGH agencies. Working more “internally,” I was seeking both to create and build upon the force field of growth progressively nurtured through the construction of the “literacy myth” as an underlying operational dynamic of the program. In Dewey’s terms this dynamic was “the moving force” (Dewey, 1938/1963, p. 38) or “guiding idea” (Dewey, 1933/1989, p. 203) of my operational strategy. The critical factor was to keep alive the sense of potentiality in the program among its key stakeholders at each and every stage of the program’s development. My methodology was to proceed one step at a time, with an overall, but not highly specific vision in the expectation of creating certain critical masses that would propel the program forward in some visibly pronounced ways. Such a force field of potentiality characterized not only the modus operandi of the program as a whole, but also the more specialized effort of fostering student writing.
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