Term of Award

Summer 2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Ronnie Sheppard

Committee Member 1

Diane Zigo

Committee Member 2

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 3

Margaret McLaughlin


The purpose of this study was to determine how struggling readers in 11th grade Applied Communications classes responded to literary texts that are typically taught to college-prep students. Differentiation of literature for college-prep and techprep students began in the early twentieth century; since then, noncollege-bound students have traditionally studied literary texts that have been rewritten on a lower reading level to accommodate struggling readers in these classes. In this research project, I taught 11th grade Applied Communications students the same literature that college-prep students read; using a qualitative research design, I analyzed the impact of this literature on these students. By observing, interviewing, and analyzing the work of six focal students of varying reading abilities, I attempted to answer the research question:

How do struggling readers in 11th grade Applied Communications classes respond to literature that is typically taught to college-prep students?

a. What approaches to teaching such texts are most engaging?

b. What approaches to teaching such texts are least engaging?

c. To which selections of literature do students respond most positively?

d. To which selections of literature do students respond most negatively?

e. What factors influence students' positive and negative responses to literature and literature instruction?

The instructional strategies that were most successful included conducting Paideia discussions, having regular class discussions, reading portions of text silently and then discussing them, watching videos, having their classmates read aloud, using graphic organizers, and making predictions. One instructional strategy that failed to engage the students was listening to an audio tape and following along with the text. Several works that successfully engaged most of the students included Of Mice and Men, A Raisin in the Sun. "Self-Reliance," "A Worn Path," "The Story of an Hour," and the two Scope stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "The Fog Horn." Four of the students' least favorite works included "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "Huswifery," and "Walden." Three other themes that emerged during the study that impacted student's experiences with literature were teachers' attitudes toward tech-prep students and classes, students' feelings of control and choice in their placement and education in general, and students' attitudes toward workplace literacy.


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