Date of Award

2-12-2008

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Dana L. Fox - Chair

Abstract

Literacy expectations on elementary classrooms are intensifying with each outcry for accountability by the public and by educational policy makers (Hoffman & Pearson, 2001). Many states, including Georgia, have developed new performance-based curricula in response to expectations for academic performance (Georgia Performance Standards, 2005). However, few researchers have focused on how teachers interpret these performance standards in their local classroom settings. This collective case study research, established within a social constructivist theoretical frame (Vygotsky, 1978), provided an in-depth examination of how the mandated language arts policy of the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) influenced teachers’ thoughts and decisions about daily literacy instruction. Specific guiding questions for the study were: (1) What literacy expectations do three second-grade teachers have for their students’ literacy development? (2) Where do these expectations originate? (3) How do these three teachers craft and implement instruction in light of their expectations? (4) How do the state mandates constrain or provide opportunities for these three teachers to develop their expectations and implement instruction for their students’ literacy development? Multiple data sources included interviews, classroom observations and field notes, verbal protocols, classroom artifacts and documents, and the researcher’s journal. Data analysis utilized constant comparison and grounded theory analysis within and across cases (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Trustworthiness and rigor were established through credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Guba & Lincoln, 1985). This study was designed to give voice to the teachers at the forefront of increasing accountability measures in Georgia’s public elementary school classrooms. Findings revealed that study participants used different funds of knowledge in complex ways to establish literacy expectations and implement instruction and that a fund of knowledge related to mandated accountability measures was influential in the participants’ instructional decision-making processes. When the delivery model of training for the GPS included opportunities to discuss student learning outcomes and reflect on instructional practices, the GPS directly influenced writing instruction. Implications for action from this study are grounded in the study’s key findings and conclusions and hold relevance for the fields of preservice teacher education, professional learning for teachers, school and county administration, and state and federal educational policy making.

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