Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wilkins, Elizabeth A.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


This study examined how secondary English language arts teachers determined, selected, and planned how to use complex text. Another aim was to detail what resources and instructional activities they found successful in assisting students with diverse, academic, and sociocultural needs. Finally, this study shows the need for additional resources and scaffolding currently absent in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The conceptual framework for this study was based on the RAND™ reading comprehension model.

The descriptive design employed both quantitative and qualitative methods. Participants included secondary level ELA teachers from the Denver Public School system. The teachers took a survey, and then seven of them were chosen to complete a think-aloud protocol (Ericsson & Simon, 1980) to gain a deeper understanding of what criteria they considered prior to selection of text for instruction, how they determined the text complexity of instructional materials, and how they utilized that information to plan tasks and instruction. After the think-aloud, each of the seven teachers participated in a semi-structured interview to reflect on how and why they chose text and instructional materials.

Two major themes emerged from the collected data. Text as consideration for instructional planning was the more significant theme. The teachers all noted that determining a

text’s complexity is not an easy task, even though there are many tools available to help them with this process. They considered the importance of vocabulary during the instructional planning phase of teaching complex text and used scaffolding and graphic organizers rather than isolated worksheets when teaching a piece of complex text. The second major theme was differentiation. The majority of the teachers noted that using cooperative learning strategies and purposeful grouping kept the students engaged and better able to grapple with the complex text and increase engagement.

The study yielded two significant insights: 1) the accessibility of texts and 2) the importance of scaffolding complex text for student success. Recommendations are included for secondary English-language arts teachers as well as professional development suggestions for Secondary ELA teachers.


235 pages




Northern Illinois University

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