Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

David Backer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah Lightner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diane Santori, Ed.D.


This qualitative study used a constructivist approach to better understand how students in one sixth grade classroom participate in dialogic discussions while making sense of texts. Participants in the study attended a suburban, public, high-performing middle school in Pennsylvania. Drawing on Sociocultural Learning Theory and Transactional Reading Theory, the researcher observed one English Language Arts class. Nine students participated in five reading events over a period of two months. Data collection, informed by linguistic ethnographic methods, included audio recordings, transcriptions of reading events, fieldnotes, and transcriptions of one on one and small group interviews. In Vivo coding of the interview data helped to honor the voices of the participants, while initial coding of the dialogue led to the development of four themes centering on the talk moves students made when making sense of texts through dialogue: affirming ideas, testing ideas, teaching ideas, and holding onto ideas. Focusing on the perspectives of the students participating in the dialogue, the study revealed specific instructional frames and practices such as carefully constructing questions, providing access to discussion norms and sentence starters, and providing frequent opportunities to engage in dialogue, that enhance the ethos of the classroom community. The classroom culture was further enhanced by an understanding of how to engage in collaborative discussion and a sense of value in the group. The discussion includes implications for future educational practice based on these key findings.