First Advisor

Marjorie Terdal

Term of Graduation

Winter 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

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


Applied Linguistics




English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, Adult education



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 82 pages)


The development of literacy in English is facilitated by second language students' ability to read in their first language, particularly if that language employs a Roman alphabet. These students' literacy abilities may also influence their development of oral proficiency when their primary instructional environment is the classroom. Yet there have been few successful studies of non-literate students' progress, behaviors and learning preferences in classrooms with literate students. This is primarily because the transient nature of non-literate students' attendance in formal learning environments results in sample sizes too small for experimental research with reliable generalizations.

The purpose of the present study was to determine if, in the classroom environment, differences existed between literate and non-literate students not only in terms of gains in oral proficiency skills, but also in their short-term memory capability of newly learned material presented orally, the behaviors they exhibit in the classroom, and their preferences for particular classroom activities.

Six non-literate and eight literate students from a community college adult beginning ESL classroom participated in the study. All had little or no previous exposure to English and came from various cultural backgrounds. The students were given the BEST Oral Interview Short Form as a pre- and post-test, and an aural vocabulary quiz of newly learned material. Their behaviors in the classroom were observed at four different times, and they completed a questionnaire of their activity preferences.

The BEST scores indicate that the literate students made greater gains in oral proficiency than the non-literate students, which is consistent with previous research using that instrument. The results of the aural vocabulary test reveal no differences in the oral short-term memory capabilities of the students, indicating that both literate and non-literate students respond well to teacher-directed, controlled oral activities. This is consistent with the results of the activities preferences questionnaire, where non-literate students preferred controlled activities, while the literate students' responses showed no preference for any particular activity.


In Copyright. URI:

This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.

Persistent Identifier