Volunteer Tutors: Agents of Change or Reproduction? An Examination of Consciousness, Ideology and Praxis

  • Annie Luk Ontario Institute in Studies of Education, University of Toronto
  • Judy Perry Ontario Institute in Studies of Education, University of Toronto


 Volunteer tutors play a significant role in delivering adult literacy programs. It is estimated that up to 60% of all instructors in adult literacy programs in the United States are volunteers (Ziegler, McCallum, & Bell, 2009). However, volunteer tutors’ work or experience are rarely the subjects of research. Volunteer tutors’ contributions to adult literacy are significant because they have personal relationships with learners while being expected to deliver ministry guidelines. In this paper, we examine the narratives of three volunteer tutors from a program in Ontario, Canada, to understand whether and how volunteer tutors act as agents of change or reproduction. Using a Marxist analysis, we review the consciousness, ideology, and praxis of the volunteer tutors in this study. We delve critically into the work of volunteer tutors to illustrate the potential and the limitations of volunteer tutors’ role in bringing about social transformation in the field of adult literacy.