Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Exceptional Student Education

First Advisor's Name

Linda Blanton

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Elizabeth Cramer

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Joyce Fine

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Joan Wynne

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


disability and equity in education, educational leadership, elementary and middle and secondary education, junior high, intermediate, middle school education, special education and teaching, urban education

Date of Defense



Adolescent literacy rates for students who struggle, particularly those with disabilities are alarming, especially in light of increased educational standards. As higher standards place a greater emphasis on reading and writing, addressing students’ literacy needs in the content areas has become a topic of interest in reading education. Although there is much debate about how to address this need, it is clear that content area teachers need support addressing literacy in their subject areas.

An exploratory case study design was used to examine the responses of high school content area teachers to an EIE (exploratory, investigative, and experimental) professional development (PD) program. Specifically, the researcher sought to describe what the teachers considered to be valuable and useful aspects of the different components of the experience as it related to their practice, the outcomes they anticipated for struggling students, and their knowledge of literacy in the content areas. Ten content area teachers participated in 21.5 hours of professional development over a period of two months. Data about their PD experiences were collected during focus group discussions, individual interviews, observations, and completed questionnaires.

When discussing the teachers’ descriptions and observations of their literacy practices, teachers reported an increased awareness of their practice as it pertained to literacy implementation. In the analysis of the outcomes teachers anticipated for struggling adolescents, including those with disabilities, teachers reported increased sense of control over the academic outcomes of struggling students. When addressing questions in reference to the effective components of the EIE PD experience, the teachers favored equally: (a) applicability of information, (b) exposure to literature, (c) autonomous systems, and (d) collaboration. Lastly, support emerged as an integral component of a constructivist EIE PD approach. All teachers in the study reported that support played a pivotal role in how they learned about and implemented literacy practices in their content area.

Based on the findings, the researcher recommends that PD address and validate the current perceptions and concerns among content area teachers in relation to literacy implementation. PD should support teachers as they reflect upon their reported instructional limitations in relation to their needs and their students’ needs. Second, literacy PD for content area teachers must provide systematic support for teachers to explore, investigate and experiment with literacy in their content. Lastly, PD designed to support content area teacher’s use of literacy strategies in the content areas should provide teachers the opportunities to drive the literacy PD content in order to address needs specific to their classroom and school communities.





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