Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Farris, Pamela J.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Literacy Education


Middle school teachers; Literacy--Study and teaching (Elementary)


Over the last few decades, as teachers have implemented response-based approaches to literature instruction, there has been an increase in research focused on reader response. Much of the research conducted focuses on understanding the role of the student in reader response. Based on this observation, the purposes of this study were to investigate how middle school literacy teachers utilized dialogue journals and the processes they used to respond to their students' written responses. To accomplish this, the researcher employed a grounded theory research study to explore an area of inquiry about which little was known. The participants were three middle school literacy teachers and 53 middle school students. Dialogue journals were the primary data source. Data collection also included transcripts of interviews with the teachers and of their classroom observations and notebooks to record the researcher's thoughts, questions, and ideas during data analysis. Open coding, axial coding, and selective coding were used to develop a theoretical model explaining the teachers' response process in dialogue journals. Literary conversation between teacher and student was conceptualized as an ongoing scaffolding process within dialogue journals. Teachers used “response facilitators” including visual aids, modeling, questioning/requesting, and feedback independently and in combination with one another to scaffold literary conversation with individual students. What is gained from analysis of the teachers' responses is an awareness of the complex and changing role of the teacher in dialogue journals. Every response from a teacher had a place on a response continuum, fluctuating between instructional responses and conversational responses. There were times when the teachers' role called for direct scaffolding, focusing on developing students' literacy understandings, and other times when the teachers joined the discussion as an equal, giving students more freedom to experience literature. Although the full potential of dialogue journals has yet to be realized, this study suggests dialogue journals provide an effective means of individualizing the literacy development of young adolescent learners.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [195]-211).


xii, 240 pages




Northern Illinois University

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