Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Ellen B. Scales


To increase students’ reading achievement, the assistant superintendent of a school district in the Northeastern United States recruited an expert for a 1-day workshop on independent reading. The problem was that little was known about teachers’ experiences using independent reading in Grade 5 through Grade 8 English language arts (ELA) classes, despite current researchers’ recommendation that students spend time independently reading in school to develop learned reading skills. The purpose of this study was to explore Grade 5 through Grade 8 ELA teachers’ experiences using independent reading. The study, framed by Vygotsky’s theory of social and cognitive development, examined ELA teachers’ implementation of instructional activities that lead students to develop reading independence, how teachers scaffold student reading levels of growth, and the use of assessment data as an informant for teachers’ instructional choices for supporting student growth and independence in reading development. This qualitative case study included 9 participants who taught ELA for 2 or more years at the local middle school who were selected for semi-structured interviews. Inductive data analysis of the interview transcripts and descriptive analysis of ELA meeting minutes were grounded in elements of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, use of data, and scaffolding. The results of the study provided insight into teachers’ lack of understanding of the use of student data and scaffolding to provide instruction in independent reading in the ELA curriculum. A professional development training using these constructs in planning and instruction was developed as a project from the results. Successful independent reading implementation may enhance student learning, increase reading achievement, and may contribute to focused, long-term professional development for teachers.