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

Curricula|Teaching|Preschool education

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.