English, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Frances V. Condon. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 Charise G. Alexander


This thesis explores the impact of institutions and the systems and communities of which they are a part on literacy instruction, practices, and rhetoric at a community literacy organization in Lincoln, Nebraska. A majority of students served by this organization are adult English Language Learners, many of whom receive instruction from volunteer tutors. In this unique context, a number of factors affect literacy learning, particularly the perpetuation of conservative, hegemonic discourses about literacy by the organizations which fund literacy education programming at this site.

The power dynamics at work in these granting organizations and in larger systems that control and govern literacy (including its definition(s), practices, and instructional methods) influence the ways in which literacy is appropriated in the literacy organization’s rhetoric. However, these dominant conceptions of literacy do not fully take into account the learning needs, style, and attitudes of the diverse, dynamic populations of adult English Language Learners in contemporary Lincoln. This thesis seeks to expose the gaps in current scholarship on adult basic education and English Language Learners that limit the potential for understanding adult ELLs learning in nonacademic contexts.