Of the ten people interviewed, six were female and four male. Six were single while working on their goals (four of the females) and four were married.
Location of study covered a broad spectrum. Four studied in rural towns (population under 5,000) in their homes, two in rural areas in their homes, three in the Newport Learning Center (small city, population slightly over 5,000), and one in a learning center in a rural town (<5,000). It should be noted that six out of the ten were met at home and eight out of the ten worked with only one tutor.
The researcher was interested in exploring the possibility that length of time elapsed before a goal was reached or time spent actually working on a goal may affect persistence. This was posed as two separate questions. The first attempted to determine how much time passed from the point when the student first entered the ABE program until he/she achieved his/her goal. Many students come into the ABE program and exit a number of times before they actually reach their goals. This question attempted to ascertain how much time passed between first entry and achievement. By asking how many times a student had left the program and the duration of stay each time they enrolled (double-checked with file information), it was determined how long they had actually worked on their goal(s). Of particular note, in this study group of goal completers, seven out of ten hadnt exited the program before completion. Also, seven out of ten spent less than a year actually working on their goals. (One spent a year, one a year and three months, and another two years and two months). Of the seven, less than a year elapsed from the time they entered the program for the first time until their goal(s) was achieved. One woman enrolled three times (three year time span) but only spent ten months actually working on her goal.
A few areas didnt yield conclusive results. Ages seemed fairly well distributed (see sample section). Five were raising a family and five werent (three males and two females werent). Five were not employed as they pursued their goals (three females, two younger males), three were employed, and two were working part-time.
No pattern seemed to exist between either the last grade the student completed in school or the last grade his/her parents completed. One student completed the 7th grade, one the 8th, two the 9th, two the 11th, and two had attended school for twelve years but missed graduation by either just one credit or a fraction of a credit. The grades that their parents completed was equally distributed. No pattern appeared to exist between the grade the parents completed in school and the grade that their children completed (One student that dropped out in 8th grade had parents that graduated from high school; another that dropped out in 9th thought that both parents were college graduates). Mothers and fathers seemed to have either the same educational level or the woman had a higher level. It was interesting to discover that four students had no idea what grade their fathers completed in school and two had no idea what grade their mothers completed.
Five of the ten participants in the study had a prior negative school experience (three said "no," one "not really," and one "so-so.") Of those five, three felt that kids picked on or made fun of them and three couldnt get along with their teachers (see Appendix B, page 1 for list).
This question yielded some interesting insights. Participant # 4 had the following comments:
I had really low self-esteem as a child.I felt like I couldnt do it. Because I felt so low about myself. My self-esteem was so low I felt I couldnt learn. I wasnt smart enough to learn. It was all in my head, but thats what I felt at the time.
Participant # 5 said:
I had quite a negative experience, the way they dealt with education was more centered around discipline than it was about the learning. (I disliked) the material they were working with. I got picked on a lot and that distracted me from what we were there for.I was an emotional basket case in junior high.
Participant # 6 responded she couldnt get along with the teachers, didnt do well in math and found it hard to fit in ("My parents are kind of hippies.") After being home schooled in 7th and 8th grades, she went away to a boarding school. Having come from a small family farm, she found it difficult to fit in with the other kids: there were a lot of really rich kids that didnt have any respect for anything really. Everything was disposable to them. It made it kind of hard to come form a farm, to come from the Northeast Kingdom and go to where people were all from Boston and New York. Kids didnt have respect for farms.I know how hard it is to farm and everything. Kids are like, Ooh, you smell like cowshit. It rubbed me the wrong way, but I learned a lot from the negatives. I think even if I were in school right now, it might be hard for me to be there and not want to drop out. I'd still be learning. I feel like I have to look at things with that attitudeÉ No matter what it is, I have to learn something
Participant # 7 also had negative school experiences:
I couldn`t see well. I was never given any extra help.There was an obvious preference for the boys and the richer girls. I was a poor child from the wrong side of the tracks. I was passed along because my English, my language skills were so great...I should not have been. I figure I was at the third or fourth grade level math-wise. I was reading Shakespeare and stuff in the fifth grade, but I couldnt multiply.
Participant # 10 said :
I really don't see too much negative or positive tipping on either side. I just went to school. The only difficulty I had in grade school was when I started in first grade, I couldn't speak English. That gave me a difficult first year. My first grade teacher was very . . . not mean, but . . . I guess you could say that was a negative experience in first grade. It was a bad start to school. I stayed back a year in third and fourth grade. The language was a definite barrier, sure. I couldn't communicate with my first grade teacher
Five of the ten participants said that they had a prior positive experience, one had no positive experiences, one responded "some," and three responded "not really" (see Appendix B, page 1). Two of the five with positive experiences also had had negative experiences and one that had "some" positive experiences had also had negatives ones. Two with both positive and negative experiences mentioned the impact of special teachers. Of the three that had either a positive experience or "some" as well as a negative experience, two mentioned the importance of creative writing, and one said that she loved reading and working with words (see appendix for list of positive experiences). P7 commented as follows:
I wanted to keep on learning more words. I wanted to quit school when I was fifteen because I was so embarrassed about my math. I was in basic math for like four years in a row. In the same little rut I was in, and not getting any one-on-one help, it takes me a while to get over something that scares me, but once Ive got it, I got it. Just give me some help. I loved reading so much. Lots of good books in school! If you quit school, you dont get to read.
Its interesting to note that those that enjoyed or excelled in the language arts needed help in math before taking the GED test. Another person also needing math help mentioned that he did very well in reading.
Of the ten people involved in this study, none were formally diagnosed with learning disabilities while in school. When asked if they felt that they learned differently than the other kids, six responded "no," one thought she was too dumb to learn, one commented that it took her longer to learn if she wasnt interested in the material, and only two felt they learned differently. P4 said:
I felt like I was too dumb to learn. That was my own feelings; nobody made me feel that way. I had really low self-esteem as a child. I felt like I couldnt do it. Because I felt so low about myself. I felt like I was dumb. Too dumb to learn. (She now has her B.A.)
P5 responded affirmatively to this question:
I was considered one of the brighter kids in the school. I felt that I learned differently. I felt that everyone else was learning more by rote. Before I even knew what to call it, I felt that I learned more in a creative way and more hands-on. Everyone else was like a machine, just another number. I'm number five, right? It's hard for me to explain exactly how I learn differently. I always felt different from the crowd. I always stayed on my own, anyway. So I had an original way of going about things. I liked to just delve into it. I liked creative writing, where we'd all get together and brainstorm ideas. Not just like, you get up to the blackboard and "Two plus two is this, now repeat after me . . . " like that stereotypical public school teacher. I just liked the more creative style in learning experience.
P6 said "no" initially but added that she might learn math "a bit differently" and "have to pay more attention than other kids in math."
Seven of the ten participants in this study had medical problems as a child. One had scarlet fever and undiagnosed asthma. Another person had tubes in his ears in 1st and 2nd grade (P8): "I had to get tubes in my ears because I couldnt hear words properly. Id hear sounds and pronounce them different." Participant # 7 had trouble with her eyesight:
If you cant see the blackboard, you dont do well. My mother was finally forced to bring me to get glasses, because the schools had said, "She needs glasses." It took her about a year and a half to finally get me the glasses I needed. It was the summer before I went to fourth grade. I had major problems: headaches, dizzy spells. I would put my head down on the desk and rest because squinting and writing and squinting and stuff will give me a headache trying to focus and I was right up at the front of the class.
None of the participants were medicated as children. Two were on medication when involved with the ABE program (one had oxygen for asthma and took heart medication, another took medication for diabetes). One person responded, "I dont think so" when asked this question.
The question on self-determination, along with its two follow-ups yielded somewhat ambiguous results. Originally these questions attempted to address the issue of locus of control, but based on analysis of the responses and further consideration of the questions, it was determined that they actually dealt with self-determination. Six considered themselves more individuals designed to set their own course than followers. One considered herself more in charge of her own destiny, except when it came to math (P6). Another stated that she used to be a follower but was now more of an individual (P7): "I used to be a follower, but I am no longer insecure in who I am. Number 7 is a very strong individual determined to set her own course!" P9 considered herself more of an individual but mentioned that she can follow as well. P2 wasnt sure: "I like to do for myself, but Im not so sure. If I didnt have Frank, I dont know. Id be lost without him."
Five people stated that theyd prefer to try a task on their own first, then ask for guidance if needed. Four said that it would depend on the task. One definitely preferred to try it on his own. P6 responded as follows:
Some of each. Usually I do something better if I do it myself, if I figure out how to do it myself. A lot of times its hard for me to start a project on my own, get the confidence to say, "OK, I'm going to build this thing." I was to build a hot box to put spinach and lettuce in. I had this old window, and the window had this junk taken out of it all the way around three sides and one side didn't. I said, "OK, one board has to be higher than the other one." I got really frustrated, "Mom, how do I make this?" I felt like I really should of made it myself and not had her help me, but I didn't. Little things like that I would rather do it myself, but sometimes I fall back on people.
P7 agreed that shed rather try it first on her own:
I would rather have the chance to figure it out for myself and then ask for help when I need it. I'm a firm believer in you ask for help when you need it. There's nothing demeaning about asking for help . . . when necessary.
P9 had the same approach:
I usually try to do it myself, and then if I can't do it or if I have a problem, I have someone show me how to do it. I start out on my own. Like my last test, I went on my own and I went through the book and I took the test and I passed it!
P10 said that it depended on the task:
It would depend on how sure I felt about the situation. If I have some experience even close to the task at hand, I would probably undertake it without any help. It depends on if I felt I could do it than I would try it. If it felt overwhelming, then I would ask for help.
P2 also stated that whether or not she asked for help before approaching something would depend on the task:
That depends on what the task is. I don't know quite how to answer that. If I was talking about regular work, I don't like a list, because if you gave me a list a mile long, I'd break my neck trying to get it all done. Like when I did the housework. They'd bring me a list and say, do what you have time to do. I'd always pick the extras first, then I'd have to have time to do the regulars. That's what did me in. And I'd work right out straight. I'm not good with lists. I might be on schoolwork, but I certainly wasn't on regular work.
I have to confess, in late years, my husband . . . everything that comes in he tends for me. Partly because of my shakiness and partly because of my eyes. Some things, I'd rather do myself. It's easier. Now, if I could do my own work now, it's easier for me to do my own work than to sit here and ask you to do this or do that. I hate giving orders. If I'm working with somebody, that doesn't bother me. If Frank says, "I think you should do it like this, you should do it like that," which he did once, I told him, "Why don't you get out of the kitchen and go sit down?" I don't like somebody to tell me how to do things just because they're bored. If I'm getting paid, fine.
People clearly had a little trouble answering this question. This may have had to do with the wording of the question or confusion about what the question was really asking.
The second follow-up to the self-determination question asked if they preferred to have assignments or determine for themselves a set amount of work to accomplish. Seven preferred no set amount and three liked flexibility within certain parameters. P6 preferred to be told, "Heres what Id like you to do. Do of that what you can." P4, echoing the sentiments of those who didnt like a require amount of work to be done by the next time said:
This last question and its follow-ups did not seem to clearly address locus of control as anticipated. If anything, they showed a slight preference for self-direction in approaching tasks as opposed to seeking guidance at the onset.
Indeed, the entire concept of what is meant by locus of control and how it can be measured needs to be looked at in future research.