Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Literacy Education


Jeffrey Wilhelm

Second Committee Member

Brenda Power

Third Committee Member

Janice Kristo


In the past ten years, reading comprehension instruction has received significant attention from educational researchers. Drawing on studies from cognitive psychology, reader response theory, and language arts research, current best practice in reading comprehension instruction is characterized by a strategies approach in which students are taught to think like proficient readers who visualize, infer, activate schema, question, and summarize as they read. Studies investigating the impact of comprehension strategy instruction on student achievement in reading suggest that when implemented consistently the intervention has a positive effect on achievement. Research also shows, however, that few teachers embrace this approach to reading instruction despite its effectiveness, even when the conditions for substantive professional development (i.e. prolonged engagement, support, resources, time) are present. The interpretive case study reported in this dissertation examined the year-long experience of one fourth grade teacher, Ellen, as she leanled about comprehension strategy instruction and attempted to integrate the approach in her reading program. The goal of the study was to extend current understanding of the factors that support or inhibit an individual teacher's instructional decision making. The research explored how Ellen's academic preparation, beliefs about reading comprehension instruction, and attitudes toward teacher-student interaction influenced her efforts to employ comprehension strategy instruction. Qualitative methods were the basis of this study's research design. The primary methods for collecting data included pre- and post-interviews, field notes from classroom observations and staff development sessions, infonnal interviews, e-mail correspondence, and artifacts such as reading assignments, professional writing, school newsletters, and photographs of the classroom. Transcripts from interviews, as well as field notes, e-mail, and artifacts, were analyzed according to grounded theory's constant-comparative method. The results of the study suggest that three factors were pivotal in Ellen's successful implementation of reading strategy instruction: Pedagogical beliefs, classroom relationships, and professional community. Research on instructional change generally focuses on issues of time, resources, feedback, and follow-through. The research reported here recognizes the importance of these components, but expands contemporary thinking by showing how, in Ellen's case, a teacher's existing theories, her relationship with her students, and her professional interaction with peers impact instructional decisions.