Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Heather Schugar, Phd

Committee Member

Sarah Lightner, PhD

Committee Member

Kevin Flanigan


The reading wars in American education have raged on with the most recent Science of Reading movement, with the discussion centered around phonics. This qualitative case study examined a real first-grade class as they experienced explicit phonics instruction within the context of a classroom environment in public elementary school in northeastern United States. Participants of this study included eight first-grade students and one first-grade teacher, in one first-grade class. Data collection was broken down into two phases that were rooted in Social Constructivism’s Zone of Proximal Development and Ehri’s Phases of Word Learning Theory. Phase I consisted of classroom observations during explicit phonics instruction over the course of six weeks. Phase II consisted of a narrative interview with the teacher and task-based interviews with the students. Baseline and benchmark quantitative student data was obtained to compare with data from interview tasks. Data was transcribed and analyzed using inductive coding to allow for themes to arise from the data and to better understand the metacognition, understanding and the case’s experiences with explicit phonics instruction. Findings included how the teacher approached and implemented phonics instruction with autonomy and integrity for the students, while how students experienced and applied their knowledge from their individual phase of word learning.