The “ofcourseness” of functional literacy: Ideologies in adult literacy

Kristen H. Perry, Donita M. Shaw, Lyudmyla Ivanyuk, Yuen San Sarah Tham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We used metastudy and metasynthesis techniques to conduct a discursive review of 101 recent publications on the topic of adult functional literacy (FL). Our purpose was to understand the ideologies shaping current definitions and conceptualizations of FL, as well as how and why FL is researched and assessed as it is. Using discursive review techniques, we analyzed instances of legitimation, dissimulation, reification, and “ofcourseness” to explore the ideological underpinnings of the field. Close analysis of three passages related to theory, research, and assessment illustrates ideological patterns in what “counts” as FL. These patterns are grounded in ideological divisions between cognitive and sociocultural perspectives on FL—the effects of which we traced through our findings on what “counts” as FL, the logics of inquiry that undergird the field, and the ways in which these ideologies shape adult literacy assessment. Our discussion considers the larger implications of these ideologies: What is legitimated or reified, and what is ignored, dismissed, or subsumed, by these ways of conceptualizing FL? We offer future directions and raise important questions that arise from these conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-96
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Adult literacy
  • Functional literacy
  • Ideology
  • Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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