The objective of this thesis is to investigate the use of computers with artificial intelligence methods for the teaching of basic literacy skills to be applied
eventually to the teaching of illiterate adults in Brazil.
In its development many issues related to adult education have been considered, and two very significant approaches to the teaching of reading were focused
on in detail: Phonological Awareness (PA) and Generative Themes. After being
excluded from literacy curricula for a long time during the ascendancy of the
"Whole Word" approaches, activities for the development of phonological awareness are currently being accepted as fundamental for teaching reading, and are
being incorporated in most English literacy programmes. Generative Themes, in
turn, were first introduced in Brazil in a massive programme for teaching reading
to adults, and have since then been used successfully in a number of developing
countries for the same purpose. However, these two approaches are apparently
conflicting in their principles and emphasis, for the first (PA) is generally centred
on the technical aspects of phonology, based on well controlled experiments and
research, whereas the second is socially inspired and focused mainly on meaning
and social relationships.
The main question addressed in this research, consequently, is whether these
two apparently conflicting approaches could be combined to create a method
that would be technically PA oriented but at the same time could concentrate
on meaning by using thematic vocabularies as stimuli for teaching. Would it be
possible to find words to illustrate all the phonological features with which a PA
method deals using a thematic vocabulary?
To answer this question diverse concepts, languages and tools have been developed as part of this research, in order to allow the selection of thematic vocabularies, the description of PA curricula, the distribution of thematic words
across PA curricula, the description of teaching activities and the definition of
the teaching strategy rules to orient the teaching sequence.
The resultant vocabularies have been evaluated and the outcomes of the research have been assessed by literacy experts. A prototype system for delivering
experimental teaching activities through the Internet has also been developed and