Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership (Ed.D)


Teacher Leadership for Learning

First Advisor

Dr. Marie Holbein

Second Advisor

Dr. Alice F. Snyder

Third Advisor

Dr. Binbin Jiang


The purpose of this study was to investigate teacher talk during elementary reading instruction. The study was designed to gain insight into existing discourse patterns and to attempt to understand how change in these patterns might be facilitated. The design of the study evolved after a review of existing literature on the topic of teacher talk indicated a lack of widespread, intentional focus on classroom discourse and its potential impact on student learning.

Qualitative methods were used to capture the language used by third-grade teachers during read aloud instruction. Data sources included audio recordings of lessons and teacher interviews. These methods were used to identify common communication patterns in the participating classrooms. After the initial analysis of discourse, the two most commonly used types of teacher talk, questioning and feedback, were investigated with more depth. The goal was to determine not only the types of questioning and feedback used by teachers but also the purpose of these two types of discourse.

Data were analyzed using a sociocultural lens based on the work of Vygotsky. The study was built upon theoretical and empirical evidence that effective teacher talk promotes student learning. The participating teachers were involved in data analysis as they reviewed transcripts of the read aloud instruction and responded to questions related to their use of discourse in the lessons. Results from the study highlight the need for an intentional focus on the discourse used by classroom teachers and provide insight into social and cultural factors that inhibit productive discourse.