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ERIC Number: ED526370
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 453
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1245-3527-2
Constructions of Literacy: A Study of Reading Instruction in Middle School Content Areas
Thomson, Louise Elizabeth
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Today's adolescents are expected to read and write well at highly competent levels and the content area literacy skills they will acquire in adolescence are necessary for academic achievement as well as life-long learning. In the middle grades, content area literacy skills are perfected through work in various curricular areas, which are housed in the context of specific school cultures. Content literacy instructional practices shape the learning strategies needed in order to read and think critically about abstract ideas as a result of their reading skills. Understanding the ways content area teachers support the development of adolescents' literacy skills in the context of specific school cultures will do much to help us to improve young adolescents' literacy learning environments, and thus, their literacy achievement. In this qualitative comparative case study, I sought to answer the question: "In a selected middle school, how are young adolescents instructed in content area literacy in three disciplinary areas and how does the context of that middle school shape the delivery of this instruction?" This research study was conducted in a suburban public middle school in Southeastern Massachusetts with three content area teachers in three specific disciplines- social studies, science, and mathematics. During the course of a four month case study, approximately sixteen weeks, I collected data in the form of demographic surveys, three classroom observations per content area teacher, two on-site interviews, and visual data in order to document the literacy instructional practices found among these teachers within the same middle school. Through the use of these standard qualitative research tools, I documented the instructional practices and perspectives of these middle school teachers with the aim of better understanding the essential qualities of literacy instruction teachers implement in their content area courses and how that affects young adolescents' literacy opportunities in these classrooms. Throughout the course of the study, I organized and analyzed data utilizing the QSR NVivo 8 qualitative data analysis software program. The NVivo 8 software facilitated the structure and coding of data as well as my ability to determine relationships. There were several critical findings that emerged from this study. First, I found that the classroom teachers and administrators in the school shared congruent values about adolescent literacy instruction, and these shared values provided the basis for a cultural context for instruction. Second, I found that in this school, teachers were implementing a blend of the traditional and current research-based content area literacy instruction that has been identified by researchers as being successful in promoting the development of adolescent literacy. Last, I found that the school's infrastructure was supportive of content area literacy and provided professional development and opportunities for faculty to collaborate around literacy instruction which reinforced the implementation of content literacy across the curriculum. Understanding the ways content area teachers support the development of adolescents' literacy skills in a specific school culture as presented in this study provides information on the extent to which the school context helps the advancement of literacy skills. The work and dedication required for establishing an integrated literacy approach across content areas is substantial requiring conceptual changes and a new awareness among all administrators and staff of how a general school culture can advance or undermine the growth of literacy skills. Thus, integrating content area literacy instruction in the middle schools is a complex process that will require teacher education, collaboration, and a commitment to change. Overall, extended literacy instruction in the content area is necessary so that adolescents can handle the demands of our knowledge-based society as well as acquire positive experiences in school, at work, and in the global economy. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A