Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational & Clinical Studies

First Committee Member

Joseph Morgan

Second Committee Member

Catherine Lyons

Third Committee Member

Jeff Gelfer

Fourth Committee Member

Richard D. Tandy

Number of Pages



The extent of phonemic awareness knowledge and skills early childhood teachers bring to beginning literacy instruction lays the foundation upon which reading success is built for preschool children in their care. A significant number of preschool children receive their first literacy instruction in community-based or Head Start preschools. Phonemes are the individual sounds that make up spoken words and developing the ability to attend to the sounds that letters represent is the first step in learning to read. No published studies were found assessing the ability of teachers in these two settings to provide effective instruction in phonemic awareness.

The Survey of Teacher PhAKS (Phonemic Awareness Knowledge and Skills) was administered to Head Start and community-based teachers using a pencil-and-paper format. Additional survey responses were received from an online survey sent to community-based teachers. From a random sampling of completed surveys received, 32 surveys were chosen from each setting. Data were compared to determine the level of knowledge and skills preschool teachers possessed to provide effective phonemic awareness instruction.

Even though there were a small number of participants, which precludes drawing any definitive conclusions, there were characteristics within the data that can inform future research. The mean of correct responses made by each group was statistically very nearly the same, with each group answering approximately one third of questions correctly. Variety within the responses to individual questions was noted. For instance, Community-based preschool teachers demonstrated more knowledge with instruction-related questions while Head Start teachers scored higher with questions about definitions and learning activities. Neither group of participants used the response choice of "I'm not sure" with any frequency.

Phonemic awareness is the first step preschool children traditionally take toward learning to read. The similarity of limited knowledge and skills about PA observed in the responses to the survey instrument by both community-based and Head Start preschool teacher supports the need for more research on this topic within these two settings. Community-based preschool teachers are much more difficult to access than Head Start teachers, but the need is very nearly the same. The efforts required to survey a meaningful number of community-based preschool teachers and the limited knowledge and skills demonstrated by the teachers who have completed it, indicates that much more attention and research is needed for both these teachers and for Head Start teachers as well.


community-based preschools; early childhood literacy; early childhood literacy instruction; Head Start; phonological awareness; survey research


Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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