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Doctoral Student Wins Award for Contributions to Adult Literacy Research

photo of Lyudmyla Ivanyuk
Lyudmyla Ivanyuk

Lyudmyla Ivanyuk, a doctoral scholar at the University of Kentucky College of Education, won the Literacy Research Association’s 2019 J. Michael Parker Award for contributions to adult literacy research. She will graduate this month with her D.Ed. in Literacy Education.

Ivanyuk’s study focused on understanding how context and genre shape the choices adult English learners make when they learn to write in the essay genre.

“My research interests are inspired by the challenges faced by English learners and the goal of educators to link instruction with the real-life experiences of their students,” Ivanyuk said.

For her study, Ivanyuk followed four international students taking English composition courses in a community college in the U.S. The students, all of whom were English learners, provided unique social and cultural perspectives.  Ivanyuk conducted in-depth interviews with each participant, produced observation notes based on in-class and out-of-class observations and reflections after each visit, and collected and analyzed the participants’ artifacts produced during the period of data collection.

“As my study showed, the essay genre, along with context, played a significant role in contributing to shaping participants’ agentive capacity.  The essay genre, in particular, shaped the kind of competencies the participants had to demonstrate; contextual influences shaped the types of resources they drew upon and their access to them.  Understanding this interaction and, in particular, how genre helps students make purposeful choices and act as competent writers contributes to a more holistic understanding of learning to write as a sociocultural act,” wrote Ivanyuk.

For instance, participants lost significant relationships with people when they arrived in the U.S.  Those losses deeply impacted their experiences as writers in the essay genre in the English composition course.

“They could no longer turn to people they used as resources to help them with essay writing in their home countries,” Ivanyuk said. “Instead they only had access to people who did not have cultural and language competencies to assist them with essay writing in the new context.”

The losses they experienced were shaped by the realities of the new environment, she said. They were not able to make choices about people they could ask for help with essay writing outside of college,as they were able to in their previous contexts. Those choices were already made for them.

Acknowledging the sociocultural limitations faced by adult English learners is crucial, Ivanyuk said.  This understanding sheds light upon the roots of the successes and challenges that adult English learners face as writers in the essay genre.

Ivanyuk grew up in the small Ukrainian town of Novi Sanzhary in the Poltava Province. To begin college in Ukraine meant she was required to be able to read and speak English. She had spent years preparing, studying English in school as well as with a private English tutor, once a week for one hour.

“Those years taught me that learning a language was a gradual process and required a lot of patience and effort,” Ivanyuk said.

That lesson would remain with her as she became an English teacher, always with an eye on how to expand her skills as an English speaker and an educator. After a few years, a private scholarship opened the door for Ivanyuk to begin work on her master’s degree in the U.S., studying educational leadership at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho. After completing that program, she began teaching English to international students at Campbellsville University in Kentucky, where she began work on a second master’s degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

From there, she went to work at the UK Center for English as a Second Language. In that role, she gained experience in working with students from other areas, particularly the Middle East.

“Those students further ignited my desire to grow as a literacy professional,” she said.

Ivanyuk soon sought a D.Ed. in literacy from the UK College of Education. She was mentored by Dr. Kristen Perry, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Ivanyuk plans to become a researcher, studying how literacy development evolves among adult learners, especially second language learners.

“When I look back at my life, I realize that I have grown in my literacy skills due to the support of my parents, as well as many others who provided opportunities for me,” Ivanyuk said. “Their guidance and support have contributed to broadening my horizons and shaping my vision of a professional life. As a professional, I strive to be a teacher, professor, and researcher who, in collaboration with other colleagues, serves students and helps them develop their literacy skills in order to reach their potential.”

To learn more about the literacy doctoral program at the UK College of Education, visit https://education.uky.edu/edc/literacy/edd/.