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Adult basic education (ABE) students' self-esteem is a surprisingly under investigated subject. Beder (1991) and Quigley (1997) suggest that public adult literacy policy is based on the presumption that the culture of those with limited literacy skills is inferior to the mainstream culture. As a result of negative schooling experiences in the past, adult learners often dislike school.
To address the lack of empirical evidence on the self-esteem levels of adult literacy students, I designed a study that would investigate the self-esteem levels of a group of adult literacy students.
The survey I planned to use was one I created, based on a Russian survey (Panteleev, 1993). Our instrument consisted of a total of 25 items (see sample, above) that measured global self-esteem, defined as feelings of general satisfaction with oneself and affection for oneself; and academic self-esteem, defined as attitudes towards the learning process, a sense of direction, and self-expectations for academic performance. It has been commonly accepted that it is inappropriate to use questionnaires with people who have limited literacy skills.
The reliability of the survey instrument was high, as measured by Chronbach's alpha coefficient. To understand better the self-esteem level of adult literacy education students, I compared their level to those of the graduate students. Finally, it is believed (Stolin, 1985; Panteleev, 1993) that self-esteem is partly a product of how a person believes others see her or him and how he or she is compared to others. Overall, these findings, if confirmed by further inquiry, have significant implications for the practice of adult literacy education. More girls than boys were found to have low self-esteem in a survey of Glasgow secondary schoolchildren. Individuals failing in life or accomplished people with enough energy to add schooling to their list of responsibilities?
However, despite presenting strong arguments about the importance of self-esteem, almost none of the existing studies has closely examined it. Adults with low literacy levels are viewed as unintelligent, unproductive, and deficient (Quigley, 1990).
However, this should not automatically lead to the conclusion that their self-esteem is low.
The first group was comprised of 219 adult literacy students attending classes in the National Labsite for Adult Literacy Education, a partnership between the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) at Rutgers University and the New Brunswick Public Schools Adult Learning Center. Since, as far as I know, it has not been used in the United States, self-esteem norms for the general US population were not available for comparison. We used a data collection method called assisted self-completion with the adult literacy students.
Our research team believes that this denies a voice to the very people who are supposed to benefit from adult literacy research.
Reliability means that "repeated measurements of the same thing give identical or very similar results" (Vogt, 1993, p.
Therefore, the main research question that guided this study was whether the self-esteem levels of adult literacy and graduate students differ.

Even though doctoral students and adult learners are at different educational levels, they had to believe they could succeed when they joined the program. This study provides solid evidence that neither the academic nor the global self-esteem of adult literacy students differs significantly from a comparison group of doctoral students.
She has a master's degree in counseling psychology from Rutgers University and a master's degree in psychology and education from the University of Minsk. As this survey was only carried out in Glasgow schools it is not possible to compare the results with other areas in Scotland. Scanlan (1986) provided a review of the literature on barriers to participation in the adult literacy classroom, and named lack of self-confidence as one of the six major categories of deterrents.
Researchers who did look at self-esteem often treated it as an outcome measure of the adult literacy program, and measures of this complex construct were based on self-report, usually elicited through one or two questions on a survey or interview. In fact, none of the references above presents empirical evidence in support of this assumption. In assisted self-completion, the data collection team monitored the students as they completed the questionnaire and provided literacy assistance as necessary.
In the course of a week-long data collection marathon, the researchers answered all questions students had by paraphrasing, providing examples, and explaining word meanings in detail.
We used a statistical procedure known as analysis of variance (ANOVA); the results indicated that the self-esteem of adult literacy students was not significantly different from that of doctoral students. It means that a specific frame of reference significantly influences individuals' self-perceptions.
Teachers' perspectives and beliefs about their students' self-esteem, which might affect their teaching styles, should be re-examined in the light of these findings. Results of several of Quigley's (1997) studies confirm the finding that a lack of confidence appears to be a major deterrent, and usually relates to a negative attitude towards school in general. Although these studies provide evidence that self-esteem is important to adult learning, they do not offer insights on how its levels might influence learners' achievements in the adult literacy classroom, nor do they present a detailed picture of individuals' self-esteem. Mezirow, Darkenwald, and Knox (1975) state that "lack of participant self-confidence was thought to be widespread" (p. The classes include adult basic education (ABE), adult high school (AHS), preparation for tests of General Educational Development (GED), and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). To solve this problem I invited doctoral students from several programs at Rutgers University to participate in a Web-based administration of the same survey; 47 participated.
This method breaks the rules of standardized survey administration: it relies on teachers and data collectors to help students understand the specifics of taking a survey as well as the language used in it. A teacher or data collector translated the survey for those students with extremely limited English.
It is believed to be affected by many factors, but from the researcher's point of view, the three most important factors are the length (total number of questions), the quality of the questions, and the fit to the group being measured. Pairwise comparisons were run and they showed no differences in either global or academic self-esteem levels among adult students enrolled in the ABE, AHS, GED, and ESOL classes. First, Steele (1988) proposed a self-affirmation theory that may be helpful in supporting the finding of adult students' normal levels of self-esteem.

Similar problems, fears, and motives shared by the two groups should make us revise our assumptions about detrimentally low levels of adult learners' self-esteem. Graduate students consistently comparing themselves to more successful peers may have lower self-esteem levels than basic-literacy students who are doing better than others in their classroom. McGivney (2001) notes that a key issue in increasing learners' participation in adult literacy classrooms is helping students see themselves not as academic failures but as successful learners.
No solid link has been established between low literacy and low self-esteem, yet all the literature I encountered on the subject presumes low self-esteem levels in adult literacy students.
Some educators believe that their students have lived lives of failure, that failure has resulted in poor self-concepts, and that until their deficits get fixed, the circle of failures will repeat. 62, italics mine) when referring to teachers' views on the students in adult basic education classes. These research participants were awarded a $10 honorarium for answering the survey questions.
Our justification for the use of this method is that it enables us to collect responses from learners with very limited literacy skills. Anecdotal evidence suggested that survey completion turned out to be a valuable literacy task. The high reliability of the present instrument suggests that the unusual survey administration procedure has been warranted during the data collection, and provided good results. This theory suggests that people cope with negative outcomes in one domain by focusing on their achievements in other, unrelated domains. Columbus, OH: The ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, The National Center for Research in Vocational Education, The Ohio State University.
Because the role and importance of academic success are taken for granted in modern society, this assumption is further generalized from the academic domain to individuals' overall self-esteem. This brought the total number of participants to 266, with 38 percent enrolled in ESOL programs, 17 percent in ABE programs, 16 percent in the AHS programs, 10 percent in GED programs, and 18 percent in PhD programs. Students used dictionaries to look up the meanings of unknown words, wrote down new words and expressions in their note books, and explained unfamiliar words to each other.
With careful design and help, it is evident that basic-skills students can validly complete a questionnaire. This may mean that low-literacy adults who have failed academically but succeed in other aspects of their lives may have a high general self-esteem that will allow them to lead full lives and fuel the self-confidence necessary for their coming back to school.
Teachers focused on providing positive feedback may treat actual academic achievement as secondary to building up self-esteem and establishing trustful, reassuring environments (Beder & Medina, 2001).
Not only was their school task uninterrupted but taking the survey was also an excellent literacy exercise for them. The average highest grade students had completed before coming to the Center was 9.6, with a range of grade 3 to 18.

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