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«JOHN-PAUL HATALA MINIMIZING DETERRENTS TO RE-TRAINING OR RE-EDUCATING LAID-OFF AND UNEMPLOYED ADULTS: AN INTERVENTION STUDY. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM ...»

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These data are important because they reveal that deterrents to participation are likely to be differentially experienced by groups varyingly influenced by dispositional and situational factors. Adult populations differ substantially in, for example, age, race, gender, social economic status, employment status and prior education and such differences have implications for gauging the potency of specific deterrents. In the case of unemployed and laid-off adults, job loss may have resulted due to poor economic conditions, technological change, or other factors that are not connected with the laid-off persons motivation or ability to work (Amundson & Borgen, 1987). The multiple factors deterring adult participation and their varying impact mean that a number of different approaches are needed to encourage adult involvement in educational activities. Taking into account past research, understanding demographic and nondemographic variables for the unemployed and laid-off adult will help to identify and ameliorate the perceived deterrents to participation in an attempt to re-enter the workforce.

Although deterrents, to some extent, are population specific, Darkenwald and Valentine (1990) have identified “time constraints” as a universal deterrent to participation and suggest that education can become more accessible for adult learners through scheduling flexible educational activities, distance learning, and provisions for self-pacing (1990). But the identification of situational deterrents such as time constraints, suggest little about alleviating the powerful deterring influences of dispositional and institutional factors.

Given that the factors identified by Darkenwald and associates have received substantial theoretical and empirical support they will serve as a guide to the present investigation. The present study will extend our prior knowledge by moving beyond the focus on identifying deterrents and assessing their generalizability. It introduces an intervention component which will enhance our understanding of the tractability of deterrent factors and the promise of strategies designed to assist adults in overcoming obstacles interfering with their likelihood of participation in systematic educational opportunities.

Intervention Studies Intervention studies designed to ameliorate the negative influences of deterrents to participation have been few in number, of limited quality and specific to distinct segments of the population. An early example was a model re-entry program for disadvantaged women (Prichard, 1982). The purpose of the program was to aid disadvantaged women who were interested in gaining employment in nontraditional career fields. Two workshops were offered focusing on nontraditional work for women. The workshops included guest speakers and role models, field trips and the compilation of career resource material (Prichard, 1982). A severe limitation of this project was the lack of mental preparation by the participants concerning their exposure to career related information. Also, as with most other intervention projects in this domain, the effectiveness of the workshop was not evaluated in a systematic way.

In a second example a U.S. project called “Career Assessment, Remediation, Education, Employment, and Reentry (CAREER)” was mounted and reported (Pierre, 1989).

The project served Hispanic persons who were economically disadvantaged, displaced, unemployed, or underemployed, as well as Hispanic females who were seeking nontraditional occupations. Of the 144 people participating, 64% successfully completed the training.

The objective of the project was to deliver a series of intensive, short-term job training programs using competency-based instruction. Again, no outcome measures were available to determine the effectiveness of the workshops. These studies leave many unanswered questions not the least of which is what are the short- and longterm impacts of the workshops on participants’ decisions to re-enter into other training or educational programs?

Did the workshops mentally prepare individuals for future programs? Were specific deterrents identified and strategies designed to overcome them? Did the interventions ultimately lead to improved participation in educational opportunities? Are the interventions generalizable to other populations?

An evaluation of an American college re-entry workshop (Hatala, 1993) concluded that structured, deterrent-oriented interventions have great potential as a practical approach for developing strategies to overcome deterrents to participation in adult education.

The workshop enabled adults contemplating returning to school the opportunity to identify and deal with the deterrent forces that keep them from participating in education, and provided them with support for their reentry decision process. The deterrents identified in the workshop were in keeping with those identified in the research literature. Re-entry workshops designed to address the deterrents can provide participants with valuable information (e.g., financial aid, support services, and exposure to adults with similar circumstances) that could be useful in confronting and overcoming obstacles to re-entry into the educational setting. Participants surveyed, revealed that the reentry workshop aided them in confronting their inhibitions regarding their return to school by providing them with the opportunity to share their concerns with a group of adults in similiar circumstances and school officials who were in a position to answer specific educational questions (Hatala, 1993). Seventy percent of the respondents returned to school after they attended the re-entry workshop. Although the evaluation design was relatively weak, it was concluded that the re-entry workshop can be used as a means for reducing and even eliminating deterrent forces, thereby increasing the potential rate of adult participation in organized educational opportunities.





An important feature of re-entry workshops of this sort is that they provide a nonthreatning forum for adults to deal with perceptions related to re-entry, which then enables administrators and program planners to identify deterrents adults face. This knowledge can then be used to improve the curriculum and support services which facilitate the planning process and ultimately, contribute to increased enrollment, more regular attendance patterns and deeper levels of engagement and participation. At the same time, such interventions could serve as a means for aiding the transition of adults returning to a training or educational program.

While the Hatala (1993) data are promising more tightly controlled research is needed to substantiate these claims.

Summary Although empirical research on deterrents to participation has increased in recent years, it is deficient in at least five respects. First, most studies are limited to surveys of large samples of adult populations. While such studies have helped to identify deterrent factors and to validate in different populations methods for measuring and detecting them (e.g., the DPS scale) they do not further our understanding of how to ameliorate these deterrents.

Second, most of the research has been quantitative selfreport using instruments such as the DPS-G and findings have not been cross-validated with qualitative research data. Third, while different groups of learners have different deterrent profiles and deterrents experienced by learners may be differentiated in terms of their dispositional and situational profiles (Darkenwald & Valentine, 1990), deterrent scales have not been used to determine adult changes in perceptions regarding deterrents to participation in adult education. Fourth, almost no empirical work has targeted interventions designed to ameliorate deterrents to participation as obstacles to further education. Finally, almost no studies have examined the impact of deterrents to participation in education as an obstacle specifically confronting unemployed and laid-off workers to successfully re-enter the work force. Any related work that has been reported has been highly descriptive and less than empirically rigorous in generating conclusions about intervention efficacy.

The present study is an attempt to overcome the deficiencies of prior research through the implementation of an intervention “re-entry workshop” designed to pave the way for unemployed and laid-off adults to enter retraining or re-education opportunities. The population for this study has a high need for such an intervention and is demographically highly varied. Rapid changes in technology and in business economics mean that these would-be workers must upgrade their existing skills and acquire new ones throughout their working lives. As individuals seek career related information they must be ready to receive it or they will be incapable of retaining relevant information (Robbins & Tucker, 1986).

The present study employs a sufficiently sophisticated design as to rule out competing, non-intervention effects on perceived deterrents to participation. The specific

research questions are:

1. Can perceived psychosocial deterrents to participation in adult education for unemployed and laid-off adults be ameliorated through a re

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Sample For the purpose of this study, a local employment agency in a moderately large urban centre in eastern Ontario, Canada, was recruited and 30 volunteers were randomly selected from the client groups. The agency provided lists of adults who were unemployed or laid-off at the time of the study. Candidates who were randomly selected from the lists were invited to participate on a voluntary basis. Once the adult had agreed to participate in the study, he or she was randomly assigned to early and delayed treatment groups. On average respondents were 40-49 years of age. They were 40% female and generally married with children living at home. Most respondents had completed high school without having achieved a higher educational credential. The groups were highly representative of those who normally solicit the help of the employment agency. According to data provided by the agency the average age of people soliciting help was 49, males 66%, female 34% and the average highest educational credential was completion of

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The principal measurement device was a version of the DPS-G (Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985) (see appendix 1). The instrument was used due to its documented psychometric properties and generic form which could be easily adapted to the unemployed and laid-off adult population. Deterrent items were rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from “not important” to “very important”.

In addition to the DPS-G items, sociodemographic information (e.g., gender, age category, marital status) was collected in order to enable comparisons with findings from prior research.

Design and Analysis A delayed-treatment comparative group design was used in this study. This enabled the delayed treatment group to serve as a control group while at the same time not denying any participants treatment.

Early and delayed treatments were identical. The DPS was administered to each group at three intervals (baseline, interim and posttest). The posttest data collection interval was followed by telephone interviews with a random sample of participants in each group. The purpose of the follow-up interviews was to further investigate attitudes toward deterrents and determine if individuals had re-entered or planned re-entry into a training or educational program. A short interview guide was developed (see appendix 2) and used to solicit further information from participants regarding the effectiveness of the re-entry workshop. The interview guide consisted of questions relating to the usefulness of the workshop and whether or not it helped to identify and diminish perceived deterrents to education.

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multivariate analysis of variance with repeated measures.

SPSSpc was employed to analyze the data. The between group factor was treatment group (early, late) and the within group factor was observation interval (baseline, interim, posttest). Six dependent variables for the

analysis corresponded to the subscales of the DPS-G:

lack of confidence, low course relevance, time constraints, low personal priority, cost and personal problems. Subscale scores were calculated by computing linear combinations (averages) of the items shown to load on respective factors in prior studies (Darkenwald & Valentine, 1985).

Treatment The re-entry intervention was a one and a half day workshop (see appendix 3) administered to the early treatment group first. All workshops were given by the investigator at no cost to the participants or the supporting agency. As the workshop began, participants were required to fill out the DPS-G prior to introductions of participants, facilitators, and current and former adult students. The delayed treatment group filled out the DPS-G but did not receive the re-entry workshop until one month later.

A paper/pencil assessment was distributed, including a ‘Goal Achievement Form’ and ‘Student Needs Assessment’.

This assessment was used by both the participant and the workshop director to gain a better understanding of individual needs. Each workshop group was divided into smaller groups which discussed their feelings in an attempt to reduce the stress associated with meeting new people. Participants were then asked to brainstorm about personal obstacles and barriers associated with returning to a training or educational program. Deterrents to participation in education were reviewed and a discussion of “dealing with these identified deterrents” took place.

Panel presentations by former and present adult students were made. These individuals shared their experiences of returning to school, followed by a question and answer period. Finally, information regarding returning to a program was presented to the participants (financial aid, different types of retraining, benefits, etc.). A discussion of the misconceptions “of what it takes to return to a program” and personal action plans were developed and remaining concerns of the participants were addressed (e.g., “What are the chances of finding employment once the program is completed?” “What perquisites are required before I take the course?” “What is the difference between a private institute and a public one?”).

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