Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Amy Seely Flint - Chair

Second Advisor

Joyce E. Many

Third Advisor

Dana L. Fox

Fourth Advisor

Caitlin M. Dooley


Students in every classroom construct a (D)iscourse of literacy that reflects not only who they are but their environment as well. (D)iscourses are more than just dialogues, rather they integrate not only the cultural values and norms of that situation, but also the specific language needs (Gee, 2001). Additionally, (D)iscourses reveal the internal narratives of individuals as they present themselves within context to others (Bruner, 2002). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) introduced new influences on school and classroom environments. NCLB implemented standardized, high-stakes testing to measure student, teacher and school performance, attaching serious consequences to not meeting appropriate norms (Allington & McGill-Frazen, 2004). Thus the tests, and the need for specific results, frequently influenced classroom practices (Valencia & Wixson, 2004). This research explored these influences upon students’ (D)iscourses during classroom literacy events through three research questions: (1) What are fourth-graders’ (D)iscourses of literacy in a standards-based/testing driven world? (2) What or whom mediates those (D)iscourses? (3) What do the (D)iscourses reveal about the fourth-graders’ developing identities as literacy learners? Data sources included classroom observations by the researcher, audiotaped classroom dialogues, participant student and teacher interviews, as well as student artifacts. Constant comparative analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) viewed through the lens of critical literacy theory (Giroux, 1990) was used to analyze the data. Methodological rigor was established using the criteria of trustworthiness (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The students’ (D)iscourse was found to be personal, pragmatic and particular. It was mediated principally by their teacher through her role as the filter of knowledge in the classroom. Her role as filter shifted with different classroom requirements (such as standardized testing) to become a project manager, a coach/trainer and a gatekeeper. The students were found to have detached themselves from school literacy, developing self-reliant or ambivalent stances toward literacy. These results illustrate the collision between traditional and progressive philosophies in many schools today.

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