Exploring conceptualizations of reading engagement
Ward-Goldberg, Alessandra Elisabeth
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This dissertation study, which comprises a series of three articles, addresses the following overarching research questions: 1. How have reading motivation and engagement been conceptualized in the research literature? 2. How do educators, particularly teachers of the primary grades, conceptualize reading motivation and engagement? What sources of information do they draw upon to construct their understandings? 3. How do educators, particularly teachers of the primary grades, enact literacy instruction in support of student motivation and engagement? In the first article, I explore different theoretical approaches to the study of reading motivation and engagement through the creation of a continuum model of the extant literature. I advance an approach to the study of reading engagement that is primarily sociocultural, while also drawing on insights from research that is more cognitive in orientation. To accompany that approach, I present a new definition of reading engagement that draws on insights from various theoretical traditions. In the second article, I consider how 31 first-grade teachers at public schools in the Midwest and Northeast who were involved in focus groups to imagine what it might be like to implement project-based learning in their settings conceptualized students’ motivation for and engagement in literacy under the imagined curriculum. The analysis balances an approach in which the concepts from the extant literature are applied directly to participants’ comments with an actor-oriented approach (Penuel, Phillips, & Harris, 2014) that privileges practitioners’ perspectives and considers what participating practitioners were attending to in articulating their understandings. I explore in depth the complexities around the social and cultural dimensions of engagement experienced by participating teachers, and how they made sense of those complexities. Finally, in the third article I offer a case study of how two third grade teachers at an urban, public charter school conceptualized reading motivation and engagement, including what sources of information they drew upon to construct those conceptualizations, as well as what those teachers actually did in their instruction to support and promote students’ engagement in reading. Findings indicated that, while both teachers conceptualized engagement as social, the ways in which they enacted that understanding varied based on the principles around which they organized their literacy instruction. At the conclusion of each article and at the end of the dissertation as a whole, I discuss implications for research and for practice, including teacher education and professional development.