U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Radical Conversations: Part One Social-Constructivist Methods in the ABE Classroom

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Education Volume: 59 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2008 Pages: 261-281
Bill Muth
Date Published
September 2008
21 pages
This article provides the educational views of Adult Basic Education (ABE) learners and educators on the use of social and social-constructivist methods in prisons.
The work indicates that for the past 40 years, adult learning theory has stressed the need for adults to share in the planning of their own learning and socially construct new knowledge by building on their background knowledge and life experiences. The authors note that despite growing acceptance of social-constructivist pedagogies in community-based literacy programs and even corporate settings, much literacy instruction in U.S. prisons remains individualized, and prison classrooms are not perceived as safe places for conversations about life experiences and personal literacy needs. Two parts are provided in this report which explores reasons for this silencing and the potential for change. In the first part, the case for social-constructivist methods is made, as are attempts to address the issue of why mainstream adult learning methods are perceived as radical in prison, primarily by looking at barriers to social learning from the ABE learner’s and teacher’s perspective. The second part of this work provides practical suggestions for engaging ABE students in the interesting and identity changing process of socially constructing meaning. Notes and references