Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Barbara Christina

Committee Member

Shery Bennett

Committee Member

Kimberly Durham


English language learners, foundational literacy, literacy, secondary, SLIFE, teacher knowledge


English language learners (ELLs) are a diverse student group that continues to grow within schools all throughout the United States and those students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE) continue to lag behind their peers in academic achievement, particularly in literacy. Although there have been several studies to explore this complex phenomenon, a gap in the research continues to exist on specific conditions needed for academic success for SLIFE such as beginning/basic literacy instruction in secondary educational contexts. The purpose of this research study was to determine the extent to which teachers’ perception and knowledge of basic literacy skills impacts the teaching of these skills for secondary SLIFE students.

The researcher surveyed 32 secondary ESOL teachers in a large urban District in South Florida who taught a variety of courses such as English Language Development (ELD) for SLIFE students. The survey contained items to determine teacher perception in regards to basic literacy skill instruction for secondary SLIFE, demographic data, and a section to determine the knowledge and skills of secondary ESOL teachers in regards to basic literacy skill concepts. Basic literacy skill data from high school ESOL students was analyzed and compared to the knowledge, skill level and perceptions of teachers.

Teacher self-perception of their knowledge of phonemic and phonics skills correlated to their knowledge of these literacy concepts. However, no correlation was found between teachers’ self-perception of their ability to teach literacy skills and their knowledge of overall basic literacy skill constructs. Of note, teachers’ self-perception of their vocabulary knowledge did not correlate to their ability to perform morphological skill related tasks. The basic literacy skill concept of phonological awareness (such as syllable counting) was the strongest for secondary teachers, with the area of morphology being the weakest, indicating a strong lack of knowledge of morphological principles. Overall, teachers’ implicit knowledge and ability was stronger than their ability to apply explicit knowledge, such as, the phonics rules which govern language.

Implications of these findings and recommendations for educators at the secondary level serving SLIFE are presented. Specific resources for developing literacy for secondary ELLs are provided, as well as, recommendations for future research.

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