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Volunteering literacies: an ethnographic approach to exploring the literacy practices of adult volunteers on a vocational further education programme and a social media networking site in an aviation-centred uniformed youth group

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Siu Yee Ho
Publication date23/05/2016
Number of pages247
Awarding Institution
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The first aim of this research is to better understand how the dominant and vernacular literacy practices of adult volunteers at an aviation-centred uniformed youth group in Hong Kong co-exist through a newly launched continuing education programme – a vocational qualification programme – and various types of texts in the volunteering context. Another aim is to explore how these volunteers’ self-generated literacy practices are shaped by new technologies, with a particular focus on a social networking site, Facebook.

The study is grounded in the framework of literacy as a social practice (Barton and Hamilton, 2012) and the community of practice (CoP) learning theory (Wenger, 1998). Literacy as a social practice theory reveals that reading and writing practices are purposeful and embedded in broader social goals and cultural practices. Taking a CoP perspective, this thesis also views the uniformed group as a community sharing common knowledge, ideas and practices.

The research was conducted using a linguistic ethnographic approach. Based on the analysis of written texts, including assignments and texts related to volunteering work and multimodal texts on Facebook, interviews and participant observation, this study first reveals how the social practices surrounding these digital and print-based texts constitute the professional practices of volunteers and bring formal education into a nonformal education context. Furthermore, this thesis contributes to the understanding of new practices in social media and other technologies, which will become more prevalent in volunteering and further education environments. The significance of literacy practices cannot be considered in isolation from their unique sociocultural context.