Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



Major Professor

Colleen P. Gilrane


The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate teachers' perceptions, knowledge, and teaching practices of phonological awareness. Sixty-four kindergarten and first grade teachers in a rural East Tennessee school district volunteered to participate in the study. The survey instrument was a mailed questionnaire in the form of a two-part written interview. The written interview contained six demographic and general information questions and eight open-ended questions designed to reveal teachers' understandings of phonological awareness and their instructional approaches within the classroom context. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. This study found that most teachers perceive phonological awareness and its constituent skills to involve letter-sound relationships rather than the segmental aspects of oral language. Generally, teachers did not believe phonological awareness to be an essential component of reading instruction; however, approximately one-third of the teachers perceived phonological awareness to be causally related to reading. The conclusions of this study were that most teachers have limited knowledge concerning the meaning of phonological awareness, how it relates to reading acquisition, and of the ways to instruct it in the classroom context. All but a few of the teachers are conducting phonics lessons rather than instructing children to identify and manipulate various segments of speech. It is also evident that many of the teachers in the present study have actively sought information regarding phonological awareness through professional development programs, the Internet, and collaborating with colleagues; thus, it appears that their limited knowledge of phonological awareness is not attributable to their disinterest, but to inadequate sources, which often fail either to clearly differentiate between phonological awareness instruction and phonics instruction, or to deal adequately with the complexity of the construct.

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