• topic;
  • theoretical;
  • constructivism;
  • sociocultural;
  • sociocognitive;
  • methodology;
  • qualitative;
  • discourse;
  • field;
  • ethnography;
  • family;
  • community;
  • intergenerational;
  • home;
  • motivation;
  • self;
  • affective;
  • learner;
  • adult;
  • type;
  • article


Adults bring with them a wealth of literate experiences into adult education classrooms. And yet, they and the programs they enter often do not see such experiences as significant to their learning. This is surprising because it is often in the out-of-school experiences where the adults demonstrate the greatest sense of agency and ability with literacy. To date, there are no systematic studies of the relationship between literate subjectivities and contexts in the adult education literature.

An interview study was conducted with 15 adult literacy students enrolled in Adult Education and Literacy (Adult Basic Education [ABE] and General Education Degree [GED]) programs in a Midwestern city, to answer the question: What is the relationship between literate identity and contexts for adults enrolled in literacy programs? The interviews were divided into three domains: past and present school experiences, home and community literacy practices, and involvement with children's education. This article analyzes the interviews using Critical Discourse Analysis and documents the linguistic markers the adults used in each domain, the shifts across domains, and the relationships between and among adults.

To foreshadow the conclusions, adults' ideas about learning and literacy shifted across the contexts. Further, their sense of self shifted with changes in the Discourses of learning and literacy. Three themes emerged from the interviews, and I describethe linguistic changes in literate self across the three domains. This research has implications for developing models of learning in adult education that take into account the learning and literacy experiences adults bring with them into their programs.