First Advisor

Marjorie Terdal

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Teaching English as a Second Language




English language -- Study and teaching -- Oregon -- Foreign speakers, Employees -- Training of -- Oregon, Functional literacy -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vi, 139 p.)


This study investigates the strategies and resources a group of non-native English speakers with limited reading ability use to fulfill literacy functions work. The nineteen study subjects are employed as production workers in a large electronics manufacturing company. Using in-depth interview data, limited testing and document analysis, the study addresses three major research questions: 1) For what functions are reading and writing actually used in the workplace? What level of reading and writing do these functions assume? 2) How do these literacy functions relate to the rest of the work system? 3) How do limited readers fulfill these literacy functions? What kinds of individual literacy skills, social networks and alternative approaches do they use? How can findings be applied to workplace, ESL, job training, and employee communications? The findings show that the primary function of literacy in this workplace is to maintain process quality and flow. Secondary functions include maintenance of the social organization and the use of literacy for learning the job or learning English. The study finds that limited readers can accomplish literacy functions even if they cannot read documents connected to the function. They use extensive social networks as one strategy for accomplishing literacy functions. They also use job aids, watch processes being performed, or memorize processes. English verbal skills are necessary for many alternative strategies. The study illustrates systemic relationships among work process design, individual literacy skill, and alternative literacy strategies such as using help networks. The study also finds that participants take ESL class as a means to advance as well as to succeed on the current job. The study suggests that employers support ESL instruction as a long-term skill-improvement strategy, but look at redesigning work systems, job training, and employee communications to solve immediate performance problems with limited readers. The study recommends that workplace ESL instructors balance student and employee needs by using workplace materials as one part of a wider curriculum; it also suggests that ESL instructors may have an important role to play in the workplace by acting as performance consultants. going beyond the classroom to recommend changes in the entire work system as they affect English and literacy learning. Because of the small sample size, more research is needed.


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