Dr. Wendy Baker-Smemoe, Department of Linguistics and English Language and Dr. Brad Wilcox, Department of Education
- Melissa Young, Graduate Student, TESOL
- Candice Snow, Graduate Student, TESOL
- Rita Ma, Gradate Student, TESOL
- Judy Ma, Graduate Student, TESOL
- Tanisha Jensen, Undergraduate
- Bradley ELders, Undergraduate, Linguistics and English Language
- David Grant, Undergraduate, Accounting
- Stephanie Stallings, Undergraduate, Elementary Education
The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of adult illiteracy in Utah County Utah and the factors that contribute to it.
The first year of the project we developed the research questions, survey and the mechanics of how to collect data. The plan at that time was to have the graduate students work on developing the project and then have undergraduate volunteers collect the data and help with analyzing the data. One of the graduate students, Melissa Young, was working as the head student and was planning to use some of the data for her master’s thesis. This all proceeded at the anticipated pace.
However, we ran into several problems while attempting to collect data. First, because of the IRB requirement that all student researchers take the IRB tutorial (which takes sometimes 6-8 hours to complete), we had most of our undergraduate students drop out. The graduate students became busy and overwhelmed with their own master’s thesis topics and also dropped out. This discouraged Melissa and she also asked to no longer work on the project.
For that reason, we began hiring undergraduates to collect the data. We started hiring students in April 2014 and this has worked very well. Since that time, we have collected most of the data needed for the project. It is anticipated that the data will be completely collected by the April 2015.
Evaluation of how well the academic objectives of the proposal were met
In our proposal, we set a goal to complete the following academic objectives. These are listed along with completed or anticipated completion dates:
- To publish at least three paper on the results of the study. At this point we are planning on publishing the following:
- The results of the study—the percentage of adults in Utah County who are functionally literate and their demographic characteristics. If they are functionally illiterate, what impedes them from seeking help? October 2015
- How literacy is related to health—we have gathered data on whether they smoke, exercise, eat healthy, etc. September 2015
- The challenges of collecting this type of data (this paper will be a “how-to” for conducting a similar survey in another part of the country) August 2015
- Present the results to Project Read, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving adult literacy: June 2015
- Present the results at academic conferences: We have presented preliminary results at a conference in October 2013 and have submitted a proposal to present the final results at a conference in September 2015.
Summary of how well the academic objectives were met
Because of the setbacks discussed above, we have only met one of the academic outcomes so far—presenting at a national linguistics conference. However, we have set a date to present the findings to Project Read and to present the final results at a national conference. The undergraduate students employed now are very interested in helping with these presentations and are also interested in writing up the results for publication.
Evaluation of the mentoring environment
Besides helping with the above academic objectives, the students have also helped or are planning to help with the following:
- Attended consistent research meetings where we read and discuss literature on adult illiteracy, helping students to understand the issues involved (graduate students listed above)
- Helped develop the research questions (graduate students listed above)
- Helped develop the survey and how to administer it (graduate students listed above)
- Helped administer the survey (this is ongoing) (all students listed above)
- Helped analyze the findings, including learning statistical analyses (this is ongoing) (this will mainly be the undergraduate students listed above)
- Present the findings at a major national conference (the graduate students have presented at SLRF and the undergraduates will help present at a national literacy conference)
- Write up the results, help with statistical analyses (undergraduate students listed above)
- Present the findings at Project Read (undergraduate students listed above)
- Interviewed by Humanities College and Center about this research, which was highlighted on their website (Fall Semester, 2014)
Summary of the Mentoring Environment
Despite the setbacks with collecting data and the discouragement that Melissa felt, I think this has been a very positive and good experience for the students. The graduate students gained valuable experience creating and designing a study with professors. The undergraduates have really enjoyed collecting and inputting the data and are excited to present the findings and write up the papers for publication. It has been a great experience for me as a mentor as well.
Description of the results/findings of the project
As stated above, the results of the study are not yet completed since we are still collecting data. However, we did present some preliminary results at a national conference SLRF (Second Language Research Forum) in October 2013. At that time we had collected surveys of 25 people. Since then, we have collected approximately 150 more. Based on a perusal of the data, we have found that approximately 15% of the population of Utah County is not literate at a 5th grade level. Most of these participants are non-native English speakers. They have struggled to integrate into the society. We have also found that literacy does in fact affect one’s health, even in Utah county where a large portion of the population is LDS and adheres to a strict health code.
Description of how the budget was spent
We have spent approximately $4250.00 on gift cards for the community participants who have taken the survey.
I have spent approximately $13,000 on wages for the undergraduates and graduates.
Summary of Budget
170 gift cards at $25 for survey participants: $4250.00
Wages for 6 students at $15.00 an hour: 13,000.00
Total spent so far: $17, 250.00
Because I am committed to finishing this project, despite the setbacks we have had, I have and will continue to use some of my own research funds. We still need to collect about 50-100 surveys to complete the data collection.