Date of Award

Fall 1996

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara E Houston


This research was a follow-up investigation of a federally-funded literacy program which was established to assist its participants to achieve self-sufficiency through employment. The program was designed and implemented in response to the federal legislative law, the Family Support of Act of 1988 (FSA), which mandated that states provide Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) programs to "assure that needy families with children obtain the education, training, and employment that will help them avoid long term dependency" and "assist recipients to become self-sufficient." The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the characteristics of the program that were valued by the program participants.

The basis for conducting the research and interpreting the data is located within the methodological literature of feminist interview research and interpretive interactionism. In seeking to understand the impact of a federally-funded program on the everyday lives of the female participants in this program, I conducted multiple interviews in which I gained data about their biographical histories, their participation in the program, and their current lives. I framed their reflections on the program within the context of their life events because I wanted to understand who they believe they have become within the context of who they believe they were. I asked a group of women for permission to enter the domain of their private lives and to hear their stories as a shared investigation of the value of an educational experience.

The women in this study have identified the important characteristics of an adult literacy program as those which allowed them to believe that they had a right to claim prestige within their particular worlds and that they had the capacity to change the conditions of their lives. Their current sense of self-sufficiency is grounded in their belief that they are intelligent and capable human beings. Their evaluation of their literacy program offers makers and administrators of public policy, as well as educators in both public schools and adult programs, an important rationale for designing and implementing educational experiences that will be valued by participants.