Unearthing literacy conceptions of middle school students: A qualitative exploration

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy in Education


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Contemporary views of literacy treat it as a set of technical skills. Once mastered, the economic rewards can be gained. However, the socio-cultural model of literacy believes that contextual and cultural dynamics have a considerable effect on literacy acquisition. Using principles of grounded theory, this research study sought to explore how middle-school students in an adopted government school in Karachi, perceived and conceptualized literacy. Preliminary interviews and sessions were conducted with participants to explore their conceptions and beliefs about literacy. The sessions were loosely structured sought to explore what participants had deemed important as per the ethos of grounded theory. The interviews and sessions were coded in ATLAS.ti, a software for coding qualitative data. Axial coding was employed to ascertain micro and macro themes. Findings indicate that participants' definition of literacy is fluency of verbal English. Participants were cognizant of Urdu's status as a national language but believed that English superseded Urdu in importance. They associated social and economic gains with being literate and idealized complete fluency in English communication (their conception of literacy). Their emphasis on literacy's potential of communication indicates a need to reorient literacy instruction accordingly. Overall, the participants' view of literacy as English fluency was fluid, integrating tenets from both socio-cultural and autonomous theories of literacy.

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