Change in early literacy practices in an urban /suburban school district through the use of a dialogic model

Gaeton Francis Stella, Fordham University


The purpose of this narrative case study was to describe and analyze the changes that took place over a 4-year period as a school district, a school, and more specifically 11 K–3 teachers went through the process of implementing a new research-based early literacy approach. The implementation process was supported by a new paradigm of professional development and by dialogic change structures. The research was ethnographic in nature. Data were gathered through a study of archival records, the field notes, and written reflections of key district personnel, and interviews with 37 K–3 classroom teachers representing each of the district's 9 elementary schools, district staff, elementary principals, and 17 elementary reading teachers. In addition, a process of triangulation through the use of interviews, artifact analysis, and classroom observations was used to study the changes in literacy practices specifically of 11 K–3 teachers at 1 particular school in the district. ^ Several conclusions were drawn from the analysis of the data, including the following: (a) successful implementation of this district-wide early literacy initiative depended on the ability of the district to involve key constituents in recognizing a need for change, identifying research-based practices as a model of change, utilizing research-based strategies of change, and using a dialogic model to initiate and sustain the change process; (b) significant changes in the instructional practices of classroom teachers took place; (c) ethnographic research provided a rich source of insight as to the progress and efficacy of the implementation process; (d) district-wide change in the implementation of the early literacy model occurred as the result of a combination of top-down (district) leadership and bottom-up (school-based) leadership; (e) interconnected learning teams of people, representing different constituent groups, promoted communities of trust, sharing, caring, open communication, and constant reflection, thereby contributing greatly to the transformation process. ^ The study's conclusions implied that dialogic structures and new paradigms of staff development are important elements of a district-wide implementation process. In addition, the study demonstrated the efficacy of a shared vision, based on a moral need, which evolves from the dialogue among all key constituents of the district community. ^ This case study provides a model of how ethnographic field research can contribute to the implementation of district-wide initiatives. Further research is needed on how this model can be applied successfully to change teacher practices in large urban districts where there are high levels of student failure. ^

Subject Area

Education, Early Childhood|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Stella, Gaeton Francis, "Change in early literacy practices in an urban /suburban school district through the use of a dialogic model" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3056161.