Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Director

Judith Dunkerly-Bean

Committee Member

Angela Eckhoff

Committee Member

Jihea Maddamsetti

Committee Member

Jarrett Brunny


Specialized literacy professionals (SLPs) are an integral part of schools, serving as interventionists, coaches, coordinators, and more. They are called on to guide reading and writing in their schools, helping to build academic success for students. However, these individuals are asked to do so much in schools that they have difficulty meeting the expectations set for them. The International Literacy Association has spent decades creating and revising standards for literacy professionals helping to delineate roles for SLPs so that they have set responsibilities that they can focus on. Despite these efforts, SLPs continue to serve a multiplicity of roles. During the COVID-19 pandemic this was exacerbated as SLPs took on more roles and responsibilities than they have in the past. Further, research has failed to dig deeply into how SLPs perceive their role and their identity in schools. To help move SLPs toward the standards set forth by the International Literacy Association, we must first work to understand their current experiences.

This phenomenology investigated the lived experiences of SLPs working in elementary school settings during the COVID-19 pandemic using dialogical self theory. Dialogical self theory acknowledges that individuals take on multiple positions in their lives and seeks to understand how those positions are negotiated within the self. Nine SLPs working throughout the United States participated in this study. Each participant completed an entry survey, two

individual interviews, and six participants participated in focus group interviews. Data were analyzed using the guidelines set forth by Moustakas (1994). Results revealed that all participants had a professional and personal identity that they attempted to separate; they also used coping strategies to navigate their positions within their identities. All participants’ experiences were influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the changes it created in their personal and professional identities and the positions within them. Some participants also experienced power differences and were influenced by the reading wars. A few participants’ experiences were influenced by taking on a new role during a pandemic. Findings from this study can be used to inform practice in elementary schools and SLP preparation programs in institutions of higher education.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).