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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed.D.

Department

English Education

First Advisor

Karen Feathers

Abstract

ABSTRACT

FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE TEACHERS’ USE, OR NON-USE,

OF SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION

by

JULIANNE SNIDER

August 2016

Advisor: Dr. Karen Feathers

Major: Reading, Language, and Literature

Degree: Doctor of Education

This qualitative study explored teacher answers to one question: What factors influence teachers’ decisions to use, or not use, small group discussion. Research supports a variety of small group discussion approaches to meet a range of curricular goals. Despite the philosophical move to student-centered discussion approaches, and research supporting small group discussion as an effective literacy approach, teacher led whole class discussion continues as the dominant approach. An online teacher survey about teacher use of discussion generated fifteen teachers, grades two through eight, who were interviewed to gather data on their perspectives about student discussion.

Three themes emerged from the interview data: (1) Teachers’ perspectives about their philosophy of education differed between teachers who used small group discussion and whole class discussion, (2) Teacher’s talk about students differed between teachers who used small group discussion and whole class discussion, and (3) Teachers’ talk about the teacher’s role or purpose differed between teachers who used small group discussion and whole class discussion.

Based on the findings, the implications suggest that teachers who are successful at implementing small group discussion have reading related advanced degrees, they have adopted constructivist philosophies, perhaps through their advanced degrees in reading, and they benefit from administrative and collegial support. Without the reading education and the philosophy to support student-centered approaches, teacher comments revealed that even when school-wide literacy programs, designed to engage students in small group discussion, were implemented, teachers manipulated the program activities to fit their teacher-led style.

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