Term of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Elizabeth Carr Edwards

Committee Member 1

Stergios G. Botzakis

Committee Member 2

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 3

Michael Moore

Committee Member 3 Email


Committee Member 4

John A. Weaver

Committee Member 4 Email



This study presents a view of reading instruction based on investigating motivation and engagement related to adolescent literacy practices through graphic novels. A case study utilizing the graphic novels grounded in the theoretical approach of critical literacy demonstrated increases in motivation toward reading from a more critical social lens. Participants in this case study were chosen from a set of ninth grade literature classes in a rural high school. The students were placed as a result of the random selection of heterogeneously mixed student abilities providing a rich mix of perspectives and motivational levels among the students. Allowing students to view character experiences in graphic novels through both graphic and traditional text opened possibilities for opportunities in improving reading comprehension by increasing motivation and engagement. A change from traditional viewpoints that focus on mastery of skills to a critical view about text has the potential to allow adolescent students to question, to challenge, and to seek the unknown which in turn motivates this same learner to read. The primary findings include: (1) a positive connection between student attitudes toward reading and their engagement with text; (2) the reaction of students to elements of popular culture that included graphic novels created a bridge to traditional literature and improved student relationships with reading standard text; (3) challenging students to view text whether from a traditional standpoint or through the medium of sequential comic art supported the students' ability to redefine reading from critical perspectives; (4) critical readings of traditional text and graphic novels gave voice to the students as direct agents of their own learning particularly as it related to real-world social issues; and (5) student motivation toward independent and academic reading was improved by teacher passion and commitment to the understanding and connection of text and graphics to the literature formats. Further study is recommended in the areas of the impact of the teacher on student motivation. Additional study is recommended related to the use of popular culture to enhance learning and motivation.

Research Data and Supplementary Material


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