Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

J. Nicholls Eastmond

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to study a sociocognitive “student/parent/peer authoring community” called Traveling Books (TBks) in kindergarten and second grade in a public elementary school setting. TBks are teacher-made vehicles for involving parents in peer-based literacy environments. The study was based on Epstein's theory that increasing overlap of students' spheres of influence, home, school, and community, creates a greater likelihood that children will learn what the parents want them to learn. The aim was to locate essential elements that triggered learning processes to occur and to discover research-based fundamentals still missing from TBks.

This qualitative inquiry incorporated the framework of Dr. Elliot Eisner‘s Educational Criticism with five distinctive dimensions (intentional, structural, curricular, pedagogical, and evaluative) to guide the analysis of TBk procedures. A purposive sample of six Utah teachers from rural and inner city classrooms participated with 251 students in 12 groups for 2½ years. Data were gathered from interviews, classroom observations, surveys, and artifacts. My role was researcher and participant/observer.

What I found was that motivation for authoring increased when parents (or parent figures) contributed simple family knowledge to the TBks. Most parents indicated that their child‘s “favorite” TBks were those that had required the most parent involvement. A few parents, however, described frustration with their role in facilitating TBks with their child. Seven vignettes described the complex and subtle qualities found in TBk sociocognitive environments and its effect on struggling, average, gifted, and behaviorally handicapped children, and longitudinal effects on former students. Despite increased commitments, most teachers reported a lighter workload overall using TBks to augment their existing literacy programs.

A sense of urgency to proceed with internet development for TBk facilitation was expressed. Options were explored for developing internet assisted training for teachers and parents. Twelve essential elements were identified and a TBks instructional model was developed. A clearer understanding of the educational philosophy behind TBks resulted in the design of a prototype tool to engage parents in TBks through interactive home writing. This study raised important questions about characteristics of optimal support for facilitating TBks and about fundamentals still missing for broader implementation.