Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Literacy instruction is supported by educational theories of teaching and learning that put students at the center of the curriculum. In learner-centered classrooms students are actively involved in authentic reading and writing that allows them the autonomy to read and write for their own purposes. In these settings teachers share the responsibility for learning with students and create learning environments that support student ownership.

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate what happened in an elementary classroom when students were given literacy choices. This qualitative study provided an in-depth picture of literacy in a fourth grade classroom. It described the planning and organizational structure used by the teacher, as well as her perceptions of how she influenced and facilitated choice within the curriculum. Student interviews provided insight into their perceptions of literacy choices.

Data for this study came from classroom observations, classroom artifacts, and teacher and student interviews. Observations in the classroom were conducted for four months and occurred during reading, writers' workshop, social studies, sustained silent reading, and while students were at the school library. The student and teacher interviews were all completed at various times throughout the study.

As the data were analyzed, common themes emerged that resulted in the conclusions of this study. Three major assertions came from the data: (1) Choice is woven throughout the curriculum and does not lie solely in students' book choices; (2) when students were able to make choices in their learning, off-task behavior was minimal; and (3) students rely on the teacher's knowledge of good literature as they make their personal book choices.

This study has direct educational implications for literacy instruction. As teachers reconsider their role in the classroom they make a commitment to creating a balance between teacher support and guidance and student ownership. As they make this paradigm shift they create conditions that permit students to assume responsibility for their learning and make choices in reading to suit their own needs and interests.

Included in

Psychology Commons