Date of Award

Spring 1998

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Jane Hansen


In this study I explore what classroom conditions a master eighth-grade language arts teacher created in order to become a more effective listener. I defined effective listening as a deep receptivity that leads the listener to create responses that satisfy the other's needs. Responses must help students move their ideas and work progressively forward. Conditions that promote effective listening, then, serve two purposes: they (1) enhance teacher receptivity and (2) help students better articulate their interests, knowledge, and needs.

During the 1996-1997 school year I conducted a qualitative study that drew heavily upon ethnographic methodologies. As a participant-observer I took extensive field notes; conducted surveys; collected student writing and other documents, audio- and videotaped writing conferences and class sessions, and conducted interviews with the teacher and students. I analyzed my data for patterns that provided "structural corroboration" (Eisner, 1991), cataloguing aspects of the teacher's practices that promoted or inhibited her ability to provide effective response. My analysis included a component of the teacher's own self-reflections about her pedagogy.

My findings suggest that two fundamental conditions enhanced the teacher's literacy instruction. The first was her rigorous and long-term development of consistent classroom organization and procedures. A resultant increase in efficiency gave her more time to listen to students. Commensurately, it offered students easier reception of her instruction. The instruction (based on modeling and sharing authentic literature and literacy practices) in turn gave rise to student stories that became the basis of their writing.

The second condition was the teacher's establishment of rapport with students--a mutual sense of comfort, trust, and affinity that promoted open, effective communication. Rapport allowed students to discuss freely issues of personal relevance. It also engendered in the teacher a more receptive attitude toward students and their words. That this rapport had an affective as well as an intellectual component suggests that we need to address students in terms of their emotional and social lives as well as their academic ones in order to help them further their own literacy growth.