Title page for ETD etd-12122005-101609

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kazembe, Manuel Boyd
URN etd-12122005-101609
Title Retracing Footsteps of the Literati: Towards Understanding Literacy Development through Stories of Malawian Teacher Educators
Degree PhD
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kelly, Patricia Proudfoot Committee Chair
Barksdale, Mary Alice Committee Member
Niles, Jerome A. Committee Member
Tlou, Josiah S. Committee Member
  • literacy development
  • teacher education
  • learning
  • print-limited environment
Date of Defense 2005-11-14
Availability unrestricted
Retracing Footsteps of the Literati: Towards an Understanding of Literacy Development through Stories of Malawian Teacher Educators

Manuel B. Kazembe


If there is a single song in which nations, governments, human rights organizations, communities, and parents harmoniously blend their voices, it is that being literate is valuable and valued. Being literate entails one's access to and interaction with text in one's environment (Harris & Hodges, 1995). However, in developing countries, print is hard to come by due to several factors. What is of significance, though, is that despite the absence of readily available print environments that are prevalent in the developed world, one still sees highly literate persons emerging from poor developing countries.

This study sought to investigate how those who become literate achieve literacy despite growing up in places where print is not readily available. It was a search for factors that supported and enabled the participants to become literate persons. This investigation searched for an answer to the umbrella question: What are the conditions that promote literacy development in a print-limited environment? In order to answer this question, six postgraduate degree holding Malawian teacher educators were interviewed. The interviews generated six to literacy autobiographies, i.e. stories of how they acquired literacy skills in English, a second language, when print resources were limited. From an analysis of those stories, themes emerged that indicated prevailing commonalities in the study participants' literacy developmental paths. The major themes that emerged were parental involvement in children's literacy development, influence of teachers on developing literacy, the role of peers and siblings as learners develop literacy, presence of text in the environment, literacy practices of participants as they grew up, and participants' perceptions of literacy and its development.

The study showed that literacy acquisition is a complex developmental phenomenon (Luke, 2002). It is a process that emerges from a combination of complementary factors. What emerged from the study is that, even in print-limited environments, there are facilitating conditions that enhance an individual's literacy development. The facilitating conditions were various people who helped learners acquire literacy, the availability of text, the meaningfulness of texts and tasks, the learners' intrinsic motivation, and the differences that evolved over time in the relationships between the learners and those with whom they interacted.

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