Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Chyllis E. Scott

Second Committee Member

Howard Gordon

Third Committee Member

Sophie M. Ladd

Fourth Committee Member

LeAnn G. Putney

Number of Pages



Teachers have historically been faced with extrinsic factors, such as federal, state, and local mandates, that leave them feeling disempowered (Slattery, 2006; Spring 2018). In response to low reading proficiency, many states have adopted Read by Grade Three laws, some of which require or make optional retention of students that are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Laws such as these, though well-intentioned, provide another external force that leave teachers feeling stressed and chained to practices they are told to implement. Effective professional development that targets both strong early literacy pedagogy and the empowerment of teachers may help to mitigate many of the feelings that teachers are experiencing in response to these extrinsic forces, while also improving reading proficiency.

This interactional ethnographic case study centered on a first grade Professional Learning Community (PLC), specifically exploring how reflective practice through the Freirean Model (Ickes, 2011), a model based on empowerment and praxis, transformed their literacy pedagogy. Additionally, this study explored how the culture of the PLC was built and maintained. This dissertation sought to answer two research questions: (1) How does reflective practice transform the early literacy teacher’s pedagogy; and (2) How does a group of reflective practitioners establish a culture for learning and sharing related to their literacy practices?

The participants in this study were four first grade teachers: Maya (9 years of experience), Wendy (6 years of experience with an 18-year gap in work experience), Emma (2 years of experience), and Hannah (a first-year teacher). Using Vygotskian and Freirean lenses,

the purpose of this study was to better understand how reflective practice transforms the early literacy teacher’s pedagogy. This knowledge can better help teacher educators and school leaders support the pedagogical development of teachers.


Early literacy instruction; Professional development; Professional learning community; Reflective practice; Teacher empowerment; Teacher-student reciprocity


Education | Liberal Studies | Teacher Education and Professional Development

File Format


File Size

2.3 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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