Title page for ETD etd-08212008-101525

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Norman, Mary Ann
URN etd-08212008-101525
Title Looking Through Their Lens: The Decisions about Reading Instruction Made by Experienced 2nd, 3rd and 4th Grade Teachers
Degree PhD
Department Curriculum and Instruction
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Barksdale, Mary Alice Committee Co-Chair
Graham, Richard Terry Committee Co-Chair
Doolittle, Peter E. Committee Member
Smith, J. Carroll Committee Member
  • teacher decision making
  • elementary education
  • teacher education
  • reading instruction
  • instructional focus
  • strategies
  • grouping
  • literacy
  • effects of state mandated testing
Date of Defense 2008-06-30
Availability unrestricted

Classroom teachers determine how reading is taught and their decisions are influenced both by the policies instituted by local, state and national agencies and the beliefs teachers hold. Teacher decision making strongly influences the teaching of reading in classrooms. Marzano (2003) stated, “… all researchers agree that the impact of decisions made by individual teachers is far greater than the impact of decisions made at the school level (p. 71).

Snow, Burns and Griffin (1998) state “quality classroom instruction in kindergarten and the primary grades is the single best weapon against reading failure” (p. 343). Research on teacher decision making developed in the early 1980’s, yet little current research focuses on decision making concerning reading instruction. Often studies examine primary level reading instruction and if grades beyond primary are investigated, comprehension is the center of the examination (Durkin, 1978).

The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the decisions 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade experienced teachers make in their reading instructional practices. A case study approach was used with an analysis of data from field based observations and semi- structured interviews of 7 public school classroom teachers in one school. Artifact analysis from teacher samples and an analysis of reading instructional policies within the school and schools system were used to expand the analysis of data.

Three major themes were identified: (1) grouping; (2) instructional focus; and (3) strategies. Major differences were found between second grade, where students did not take the state mandated testing (SMT), and third and fourth grades where students were required to take the state mandated testing (SMT). Second grade teachers focused their reading instruction on the aesthetic components of reading with the purpose of developing readers who found enjoyment in reading. Third and fourth grade teachers focused their reading instruction on preparing students for test taking. This dissonance in reading instruction created a gap, or chasm in the decisions made about reading instruction in these grades. The chasm appeared to be based on the dissonance of purpose for grade levels. The emphasis on passing the SMT greatly affected the purpose of teacher decisions on the third and fourth grade levels, and this purpose is influenced by local, state and federal policy of accountability by high-stakes testing.

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