ERIC Number: ED317796
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Dec
Functional Literacy of Clerical Workers: Strategies for Minimizing Literacy Demands and Maximizing Available Information.
An ethnographic study of five clerk-typists and five applications clerks in a large federal agency included observations, interviews, and a 3-week job literacy program. Both in their performance on job tasks and in the tests and exercises in the literacy program, the clerks demonstrated a number of strategies by which they quickly locate information: sorting, avoiding, searching, relying on oral information, and using manuals. In sorting, checklists (that were developed by another group of employees) that bore little resemblance to the tasks were reorganized by the clerks. Avoidance strategies included making sure all necessary information was included before starting a task, looking for key words, and looking for the expected sequence of documents. In searching, the use of key words, of the sequence of papers within a file, and of format clues enabled the clerks to locate and verify information effectively. The clerks relied on asking for help orally rather than attempting to use manuals, as they learned their jobs by the trial and error of doing them, not through formal instruction. Homemade "manuals" were more widely used than agency manuals. The importance of ethnographic studies of literacy, which illustrate the degree to which people exceed others' expectations of their literacy skills, was identified. (A nine-item reference list is included, along with eight examples of clerical tasks.) (CML)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (New York, NY, December 28, 1981). The sample form on page 16 is illegible due to filled and broken type.