Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Administration and Supervision

First Advisor

Dr. Elliot Ostler

Second Advisor

Dr. Kay Keiser

Third Advisor

Dr. Tamara Williams


This comparison study examined differences in knowledge, beliefs and instructional practices regarding early literacy instruction between first grade teachers (n = 17) who received extensive content specific professional development (n = 13) and teachers who did not (n = 4). Participants were from 14 elementary ethnically and socioeconomically diverse schools in a large, urban school district in the Midwest United States. By using a comparison research design, this study was able to determine that significant differences in teachers' concept and skill knowledge (p=.000) can be explained by the precision of content specific professional development, with differences in teacher contextual early literacy knowledge approaching significance (p = .06).

The use of a contextual knowledge survey in this study allowed for comparisons between teacher belief ratings and self-report of practices that teachers would elect to use in given situations. Similar to other research studies, this study found that overall teachers have positive beliefs regarding code-based instructional practices. However, teacher self-report on the contextual teacher knowledge survey surfaced inconsistencies between belief ratings for code-based items and the instructional practices of teachers who did not receive content specific professional development. First grade teachers who received content specific professional development generally demonstrated the most consistency in their concept and skill knowledge, belief ratings and self-report of practices on the contextual knowledge survey. In general, first grade teachers in this study reported negative beliefs regarding the use of meaning-based instructional practices with the exception of a few meaning-based items, indicating that their beliefs regarding meaning-based instructional practices may or may not be related to knowledge. If improving reading achievement is a primary goal for a school district, it is important for district leadership to consider how to provide content specific professional development such as the one from this study for their teachers. Results from this study indicate a knowing-doing gap between teachers who have not received extensive content-specific professional development. In general, teachers possess positive beliefs regarding code-based instruction, they lack the knowledge necessary to execute that instruction effectively without extensive professional development.