Date of Award

Winter 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Literacy Leadership

Committee Director

Robert Lucking

Committee Member

KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson

Committee Member

Joyce Neff


The purpose of this study was threefold: (1) to examine the epistemological stances of the two teacher participants, that is, to determine their attitudes toward student literacy and their beliefs about the purposes of English as a discipline; (2) to describe the interplay between their epistemological stances and their pedagogical practices, in particular with respect to their use of research-based literacy strategies; and (3) to arrive at a means of supporting them in their use of more effective pedagogical strategies, in this case including more in-depth discussion in their classes for the purpose of furthering their students' critical literacy. The study used a combination of qualitative and formative research methods to accomplish these aims. As a result of multiple interviews with the teachers and observations of their classes, I concluded that they had similar epistemological stances with respect to literacy and the purpose of teaching English; that is, both felt it important to instill both functional and critical literacy in their students. Despite these beliefs, however, both teachers neglected a strategy shown by extensive research to be an effective means of fostering higher level thinking skills in students: having them engage in meaningful, in-depth discussion of the processes and ideas engendered by their studies. Thus, I chose urging the teachers to include such discussion as the intervention designed to help improve their literacy pedagogy, and I supported their efforts to do so by offering my help with both planning and instruction. Nevertheless, neither teacher seemed able to implement the suggested intervention to a considerable extent. Both teachers cited curricular restraints and classroom management issues as obstacles to doing so. Based on my observations of their classes, I concluded that it was not so much the nature of their epistemological stances that precluded their use of research-based literacy strategies as it was the contextual constraints of curriculum, administrative policy, and certain cultural features of the school and surrounding community.