AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

The Goldilocks of Variability and Complexity: The Acquisition of Mental Orthographic Representations in Emergent Refugee Readers

by Heather Smyser

Institution: University of Arizona
Year: 2016
Keywords: Language Acquisition; Literacy; Print Learning; Refugees; Resettlement; Second Language Acquisition & Teaching; Illiteracy
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2124805
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10150/621067


Refugee adult language learners in the United States need alphabetic print literacy in English in order to successfully integrate into their adoptive societies and find meaningful employment. Accurate spelling and word recognition are important for completing forms about medical history, school paperwork, job applications, and social benefits. To aid in their integration, adult refugees are often enrolled in English courses targeted to those with low levels of education and alphabetic print literacy. However, many leave without having achieved a level of print literacy necessary for economic or social purposes. Current teaching approaches for alphabetic print literacy are either social- (Bigelow & Vinogradov, 2011) or skills-based (Burt, Peyton,& Adams, 2003; Haverson & Haynes, 1982) approaches. They are ineffective for meeting student learning needs within the six-month time frame for self-sufficiency imposed by U.S. refugee resettlement (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 2015). The purpose of this project was to see if using two principles of implicit learning: variability and complexity, would help low literate refugee English learners enrolled in English classes to accurately spell and perceive words in their curriculum. Specifically, the use of high variability visual input was contrasted with high and low linguistic complexity. Stimuli with high visual variability and low linguistic complexity proved the right combination for successful word learning for this population. Advisors/Committee Members: Alt, Mary (advisor), Alt, Mary (committeemember).