Success Stories: Adult Learners Co-Constructing a Learning Context and the Implications for Identity Development

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Using Foucault's conceptualisation of power and Bahktin's theory of dialogism, the research data presented in this article show how three ‘successful’ learners and their instructor in one computerised GED programme that relied on standardised curriculum materials co-constructed the learning context. The nature of interaction between the instructor and learners and between learners and the curriculum is analysed using survey, interview, observational methods, and curriculum materials review. Although the focus is limited in scope to one context, one educator, and three learners, the description and analyses demonstrate how through the dialogical interaction of the learners with the curriculum materials, the disciplinary power of the materials are perpetuated and the learners' identities are shaped. Learners who successfully participated in the programme took up notions of knowledge, learning, and literacy promoted by the computerised curriculum materials and supported by the educator's pedagogical choices. Ultimately, while learners identified gains in some skill areas and spoke highly of the programme as a safe place to learn, the programme perpetuated the autonomous theory of literacy and failed to engage learners in critical types of learning experiences. The article concludes by suggesting that dialogic interaction does not necessarily facilitate resistance and emancipation but can serve the goals of monological dominating discourses. Thus, the challenge for educators is to facilitate consciously critical dialogical discourse that moves the focus from the individual to the social.