Date of Award

1-11-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Dana L. Fox - Chair

Abstract

Historically, English language arts educators have strongly disagreed about the role of grammar instruction in students’ literacy development (Weaver, 1996; Mulroy, 2003), and despite the importance of teachers’ beliefs and the continuing controversy over grammar instruction, few studies have explored teachers’ beliefs about the role of grammar instruction in English language arts education. The purpose of this qualitative, interpretive research was to investigate six middle school English language arts teachers’ beliefs and practices related to grammar and the teaching of grammar. Social constructivism (Fosnot & Perry, 2005) and phenomenology (Schutz, 1967; Seidman, 1998) served as theoretical frameworks for the study. Four questions guided the research: (1) What are teachers’ definitions of “grammar” as related to the teaching of English language arts? (2) What are teachers’ beliefs about “grammar” and the teaching of grammar in English language arts? (3) What are teachers’ reported sources of knowledge for grammar and the teaching of grammar in English language arts? (4) How does a professional development course on grammar instruction influence teachers’ beliefs? Data collection and analysis for this study occurred over a ten-month period. Data sources included an open-ended questionnaire; three in-depth, phenomenological interviews with each teacher (Seidman, 1998) before, during, and after the professional learning course; teacher artifacts and emails; field notes and transcriptions from videotaped course sessions; and a researcher’s log. Constant comparison (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was used to analyze data, and richly descriptive participant portraits (Merriam & Assoc., 2002) report the findings. Trustworthiness and rigor have been established through adherence to guidelines for establishing credibility, confirmability, dependability, and transferability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The participants defined grammar in terms of rules, correctness, communication, and in relationships with various forms of literacy. They believed that students gain power through a mastery of Standard American English, grammar instruction is necessary to bolster students’ performance on standardized tests, and both traditional and innovative methods for teaching grammar are valuable. They found the collaborative professional learning course to be worthwhile and useful for developing innovative approaches to grammar instruction. Finally, they reported a need for more easily accessible Internet resources for teaching grammar.

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