Literacy acquisition and diffusion among preliterate adults: effects of two methods of instruction in non-industrialised communities in Papua New Guinea

Statement of Responsibility:
Stringer, Mary D

This research examined the efficacy of two different methods of literacy instruction, in which community participation and control were emphasised, in two programs for preliterate adults in rural Papua New Guinea. A comparison was made between the relatively new Multi-Strategy method, previously applied in literacy for children, and the Gudschinsky method which has a long history of application in adult literacy in non-industrialised countries. The main focus in the two studies was to examine the applicability of the Multi-Strategy method curriculum to adult literacy: in terms of the complexity of the language structure and in terms of sustained motivation of learners to gain fluency.

The Gudschinsky method is "eclectic," has a strong linguistic base, is highly structured, and builds from the identification of syllables in key words to higher levels of sentence and text reading. The Multi-Strategy method has a dual emphasis where the instructional procedures are divided between 1) holistic exposure to how written language works, including activities in meaningful reading and writing, and 2) direct, systematic teaching with attention given to the phonological structure of the language, including activities in analysis and synthesis of words and sentences in the context of short texts.

Preliterate speakers of two languages, Urat and Tok Pisin, from communities in the Dreikikir district of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea, were the participants in the two programs. A baseline survey was conducted initially to establish equivalence between the classes in participating villages. In the Urat program, classes in four villages were instructed in the Multi-Strategy method and one class in the most northern village was instructed in the Gudschinsky method. In the Tok Pisin program, one class in each of two villages was instructed: one in the Multi-Strategy method and one in the Gudschinsky method. Tests in reading and writing were scored on four occasions: after 11, 15, 20, and 24 weeks of instruction.

The quantitative data collected on the four occasions were supplemented with some qualitative information gathered from audio-taped interviews with teachers throughout the programs and from teachers and ex-students two years after the studies were completed. These quantitative data were analysed with multivariate and univariate analysis procedures showing differences between the two treatment groups in each program. The results from these analyses were supplemented with summaries of the transcripts from the taped interviews, which helped to confirm and explain differences and trends revealed.

In the Urat study there was strong evidence from the quantitative data, and from the evidence of sustained literacy in the qualitative summaries, that the Multi-Strategy method was effective and sufficient for teaching adults to read and write. In the replication in the lingua franca, Tok Pisin, the quantitative results were not so clear-cut. There was strong evidence, however, in the qualitative interviews that the Multi-Strategy method of instruction showed long-term gains in maintenance and diffusion of literacy.

Implications from the results were discussed in relation to theories of methods in cross-cultural traditional contexts, and teaching practice and policy and administration decisions in such contexts. Issuing from these discussions, suggestions for future research were presented.

The present book is a revision of the author's Ph.D. thesis, submitted to the Division of Education, Griffith University, Brisbane, 1995.

289 pages
Literacy methods
Literacy materials
testing instruments
multi-strategy Method
literacy acquisition theories
adult learners
Papua New Guinea
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