Radical Conversations: Part Two--Cultivating Social-Constructivist Learning Methods in ABE Classrooms

Muth, Bill; Kiser, Madeline
December 2008
Journal of Correctional Education;Dec2008, Vol. 59 Issue 4, p349
Academic Journal
In many U.S. prisons an overuse of individualized instruction silences literacy learners and reinforces oppressive notions about what knowledge is and whose knowledge counts. In these classrooms, methods that invite learners to tap their background knowledge, reflect on their worlds, and dialogue with others to construct meaning-commonplace in K- 12 education and even corporate HRD practices--seem radically at odds with top-down prison cultures and output-based programs. Interviews with six prisoners and on-line discussions with 25 American educators shed light on this national problem, and on the possibility of engaging U.S. prisoners in classroom activities that center on their views, interpretations of life-experiences, and day-to-day literacy needs. In Part One of this report (Author, in press), the case for social-constructivist methods was made, and prisoners' dispositional barriers and funds of knowledge were discussed. Part Two of this report makes additional theoretical arguments based on the work of Lev Vygotsky and presents views of select U.S. correctional educators. By attending to the ideas of correctional educators and prisoners, the authors strive to model social-constructivist methods in our study just as we advocate for them in prison classrooms.


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