Date of Award

Spring 1991

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Donald H Graves


Because of its relation to thinking processes, writing has been used "across the curriculum" to promote learning in different subject areas. Writing allows for revision and reflection, forces authors to be more specific because of its different context, and imposes organization through conventional forms. Writing has not been used extensively however, in second language teaching. It is viewed, rather, as a skill to be practiced and its potential to catalize language learning has remained largely untapped. Writing has been used in cross-cultural training, but generally this use takes the form of journals kept in the native language, which, while valuable in terms of reflection, do not encourage development of an insider's perspective on the culture.

This qualitative study follows four case study informants who began training as Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic in August of 1989. Their progress in language learning (Spanish), their cross-cultural transition and the formation of their identities as Peace Corps volunteers was tracked through in-depth interviews, observations and through their writing about their experiences in the Dominican culture. All informants began with none to very limited knowledge of Spanish. A new genre, the LLE (life learning experience) was introduced. The lle is a brief account, written in Spanish describing an experience and the meaning taken from the experience.

The four case study informants were followed throughout the three-month training period. Follow-up interviews were conducted at their sites and their progress was monitored throughout their first year of Peace Corps service.

Literacy as a way of making meaning in the world was found to be an integral part of their language learning and transition process. Approaches to the language mirrored approaches to the culture. The focus of the writers shifted from the language itself to the meanings they were conveying through the language. Initial application of English structures allowed them to express whole meanings and did not interfere with their learning of conventional forms. The lle was found to be a useful tool in language learning.

Implications for language learning programs are discussed.