Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Reading and Language

First Advisor

Dr. Sophie Degener

Second Advisor

Dr. Susan McMahon

Third Advisor

Dr. Terry Jo Smith


As a result of reform efforts, national standards and assessments set the stage for teaching and learning in many classrooms. This establishes a particular classroom environment and often leads to behaviorist instructional methods, such as recitation. Utilizing a formative experiment design, this research integrated constructivist modes of learning and explored how these modes could be adjusted to help six struggling readers construct meaning. This study took place in a third grade classroom during the teacher’s daily scheduled comprehension instruction time. The classroom environment, as perceived by the teacher, as well as the effects of national standards and assessments on comprehension instruction were also examined. Finally, this study investigated the self-identity of the struggling readers in this class and how their identity related to their participation. Qualitative data were collected over the course of twelve weeks and six mixed-ability discussion groups. Analyses revealed that three factors impacted teaching and learning: student variables, such as reading and language ability; the teacher’s perceptions and pedagogical stance; and, school and district mandates derived from national standards and testing. The data gleaned from this study provides insight about how teachers can use discussion to help students negotiate meaning about text. For students who struggle, these social modes of thinking can assist in moving from surface-level understanding to deeper thinking.